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Schedule Development and Reviews

As we all know, one key aspect of all projects is time. Every team member is responsible for delivering certain components of the project on time. When it comes to schedule development, companies and individuals have different methods of developing the project schedule. Hopefully, the preferred method isn’t the project manager sitting in the office alone developing it. It is important for all stakeholders involved with the project to be part of the schedule development process. It is important to capture all the critical interfaces between other functions, companies, contractors, and activities. When the team comes together for a planning session, they get a better sense of these interfaces along with the project scope and business objectives. There is a better sense of ownership when the people responsible are actively involved with schedule development from the beginning. Some companies have a formal procedure to get the team together to conduct a planning session. After the session, the planner/scheduler goes off to develop the first pass of the schedule. The planner/scheduler will never get the first pass of the schedule correct. A good planner will have many follow-up questions about logic ties, scope, durations, and execution methods. This is where the process typically goes wrong. The project manager and functional leads will think that they have satisfied the requirements of the company’s required planning session and the schedule is ready for use. The truth is that schedule development is an iterative process and could take many sessions with the team to finalize the plan and baseline the schedule. A large complex schedule may take many development and management reviews before it is ready to be baselined. This process could take months. The PM should check that the schedule accurately reflects the scope, the float looks reasonable, the critical path makes sense, and there is a set of milestones to actively monitor and control.

After the first activity starts, the schedule must be frequently updated and reviewed when the project commences. If the schedule is not constantly reviewed, it can quickly become disconnected from the reality of what is happening on the project. Activities will need to be modified, added, or deleted depending on unanticipated events on the project. Change orders and trends need to be reviewed and added to the schedule where appropriate. Durations or resources may have been underestimated leading to delays to the original plan.

It may be surprising how many project managers and leaders don’t spend the required time with the team to review and hold team members accountable for the schedule. This may be due to a lack of experience or different leadership approaches. Some of the best projects have been when leaders stress the importance of the schedule to the team. The PM must make it clear that the planner/scheduler is a respected position and can access the appropriate information to make the schedule as accurate and realistic as possible. Schedulers should be included in discussions and project decisions. After all, we must remember that the scheduler’s role is to maintain and issue the updated schedule to the team. They know all the details of what is happening weekly along with critical future milestones that are months away.

A practice that I have implemented is to sit with my planner before the weekly group meeting to add or update activities impacting the schedule. In the meeting, I give the planner scheduler 20 minutes to walk the group through any issues and important upcoming activities. This enforces the fact that the schedule is vital, and the planner is a respected position on the team. All team members who are responsible for tasks should spend some one-on-one time with the planner to ensure the durations, resources, and logic make sense.

In closing, project managers are accountable for delivering a project on schedule. Team members need to know that it is essential to project success and they will be held accountable for their tasks. To be a success, team members must be involved from the schedule development phase to create a sense of ownership. The planner/scheduler is a key resource for the project manager and team members. They can see the big picture as to how events will impact tasks months into the future. PMs and functional leads should include them to ensure the schedule is as accurate as possible and can accurately predict key milestones along with the end date. Set up a formal weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly schedule review with your team to review the schedule.

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