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Project Schedule Control through the Good and the Bad

Control Project Schedule via Three Strategic Focuses

A project schedule is a work plan set up to drive predetermined operations to complete deliverables by a preset date decided at the onset of the project initiation and planning phases to fulfill business requirements. A project schedule stumble might cause the deliverables to miss the market window to possibly endure profound business impact. A collection of recent project execution statistics, published by Emily Bonnie in July 2015, showed that 72% of project teams could not maintain their schedules even when they already abide by project management methodologies, and that figure jumps to 79% when they shun project management procedures. Hence it is obvious that a project schedule has to be administered rigorously and astutely all over the projects’ life cycles to avoid becoming another project failure statistic. To accomplish this feat, a successful project scheduling strategy incorporating three distinct tactics needs to be in place to tackle these situations respectively:

  1. When a project is progressing well
  2. When a project is slipping
  3. Throughout the entire project life cycle.

Pull in Project Schedule When Project Is Progressing Well

When projects are performing well, it is very important for the project teams to try to pull in their schedules to compensate for potential push-outs because project delays have become the norm, not the exception; the statistics of over 72% project schedule delays is the testament to this necessity. There is no better way than shrinking the schedule to make time to accommodate future setbacks that are very likely destined to occur regardless. Thus project teams should peruse every chance possible to earnestly shorten their task execution times when a project is running on course. Generally there are two ways to quicken a task culmination without increasing headcount or other financial investment: Work harder and work wiser. Project teams interested to heighten project effectiveness to reduce task times might want to implement pull planning or some other drivers like these to improve project execution efficiency and effectiveness to condense execution cycles to allot for the rainy days.

Crash or Fast-track a Project When Schedule Slides

The aforementioned study also revealed five most common project threats: organizational silos (49%), process misalignments (44%), inaccurate project info (42%), unclear on resource (40%), and inadequate project management skills (39%); they all incite scope creeps that usually stretch the schedules besides breeding many other unpleasant consequences. Since project schedule missteps are prevalent, project teams should apply mechanisms like fast-tracking and crashing to minimize or recover from schedule deferments. However, these instruments, albeit can work wonders to rescue project schedules, are costly and hard to fully recuperate the time loss in all occasions particularly when they are applied late. It is therefore logical to always be on the lookout to detect schedule ailments right when they emerge so that the project teams can maximize the gain from and simultaneously minimize the cost of crashing and/or fast-tracking to absorb, eliminate, or alleviate their schedule distresses.

Apply Any of 3 Staple Tools to Manage Project Schedules

Although businesses recognize the benefit of project management software and numerous organizations deploy them in general, still many organizations do not like the tools that can help them to manage project schedules. According to the study, companies want project management software that are reliable, ease of integration into their processes and ease of use. Any apparatus failing one or more of these attributes is prone to be put into the dismissal list. Sadly, the three most valuable schedule control tools – Gantt chart, Burn Down chart, and Earned Value Management (EVM) – are casted by many into their waste baskets for these reasons. Countless people see Gantt chart as overly complicated and difficult to maneuver when a project is complex and full of interdependent tasks. Waterfall style project teams customarily neglect Burn Down chart because it was deemed catering to and favored by agile project crews although it is simpler than Gantt chart and just as valuable as it is for agile projects. EVM is good for the disciplined and for those projects that do not need much effort to assess their earned values and actual attained values which in reality might not be straight forward to compute. These tools, if used properly, allow the project teams to understand where their schedules stand to enable them to make educated and timely schedule amendments like rescheduling, pull planning, crashing, and fast-tracking. These tools should be embraced to guide executions and decisions no matter how uncomfortable the teams are with them.

Coda

Project schedule delinquencies can be caused by uncontrollable external maladies as well as internal ones. These afflictions must be tamed as soon as they are discovered because schedule postponements may cause the deliverables to miss the market windows and damage business health. Therefore project schedule control mechanisms must exist to safeguard schedules in every part of the project cycles. This target can be realized by establishing a project schedule strategy to guide project activities in three conditions: punctual operations, derailed operations, and the overall project operations. In essence, project teams should endeavor to compress schedules when they are executing on time to budget for future push-outs which are highly likely to happen. Additionally project teams should crash or fast-track their projects to get maximum schedule recovery from schedule slippages. Last, but not least, they should also suppress their dislike of complexity and difficulty of the top project schedule governance tools and employ them to shepherd project executions to minimize schedule disorders. With over 72% project push-outs, a schedule strategy excelling in these three circumstances offers the best chance to overcome schedule challenges and accomplish project goals.