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Tips on Scheduling, Part 1

Scheduling is often times at the heart of project management software. The project schedule drives so many other things such as task assignments, resource loading, reporting, status, etc., etc. Often times the fundamental processing of scheduling is difficult for organizations to adapt successfully. I see three primary reasons for this: 1) the wrong people are scheduling; 2) people are not adequately trained; and 3) there is not a clear process to follow.

Let me hit on these one at a time.

First, I have often seen organizations that want everyone to schedule projects. I have rarely seen this work effectively (not never, just rarely). Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Some people "get it" in regards to scheduling. Others have a hard time just with the concept of scheduling. In addition, some people are analytical enough to create a good project schedule while others try to get by with the bare minimum or do not want to do it at all. Some people keep them up to date while others have no problem letting them stagnate or changing them too much (in other words they don't manage them). The bottom line? Unless you have a lot of people that understand project management and are analytical and disciplined, don't have everyone schedule your projects. There will be a wide disparity of project quality out there. Instead, select a few people that understand the principles and will manage them correctly.

Second, people cannot simply be thrown in front of a computer and start scheduling. Especially if they have not had a lot of project management software experience before. There are concepts in play to schedule effectively that must be understood regardless of what software is being used. These include dependencies and dependency types, constraints, predecessors and successors, and duration vs. effort (work). These must be understood. After that, they can be trained how to incorporate those ideas using the actual software.

Also, training is not a one time deal. Train them in the beginning, let them use the software, then hold another session to reinforce the principles and answer questions. Repeat this process. That will be far more effectively.

Third, make sure there is a clear process to follow. Don't simply turn people lose without a process. Even those with experience in project tools will schedule and do things differently. Do you want them to use a template? Do you want them to use dependencies? What do you want them to do when changes occur? Etc. Etc. Document the scheduling process and communicate that effectively so that everyone is on the same page. You want to be sure that scheduling is done in a way that will drive value and will cause you to achieve your objectives.

I am not saying that you can't effectively get people to schedule, it just takes the right kind of work and preparation like anything else of value.

In our next post, I'll offer tips more on the technical side of scheduling...


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Nice post. I think any project stakeholder would be very happy to see this advice put in to play. A plan/process with contingency and resiliency built in is not hard to appreciate. It provides predictability, and in a world where so much is going sideways, a little more predictability is a good thing.

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