Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.
On completing my recent series on the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), I promised to continue the series on project management fundamentals with The Schedule. In this post, I’ll discuss the basics of a well-formed schedule, to be followed in future posts with advanced scheduling techniques and best practices.A schedule is more than just a timeline. Most “schedules” that I see are actually timelines. That is, they are a graphic representation of what the PM wants the schedule to look like, how the PM wants the project to flow. A well-formed schedule, in contrast, is how the PM plans for the project to flow based on a given level of certainty (probability). It is for this reason that a (time) schedule (and equally a cost schedule) can only be done integrally with appropriate risk management.
A well-formed schedule is built in these steps and, if any steps are omitted, it is not a well-formed schedule and therefore is not reliable:
- Dependency chain
- Task effort estimates
- Resource assignments
- Resource leveling
- Risk buffers
One final thing before I close this post: If you follow these steps and develop a well-formed schedule, will that guarantee a good schedule? The short answer is: No. Ignoring the obvious path that “good” is subjective and the pitfalls that leads to, my point is that following the “process” or steps of producing a schedule does not compensate for experience or fate. That is, if an experienced PM produces a timeline without resource leveling, they will not have a reliable schedule. On the other hand, if an inexperienced PM follows all of these steps, they still may not have a reliable schedule. There are lots of ways to produce an unreliable schedule. And sometimes God just laughs.Other references on scheduling:
PMBoK v4, chapter 6 (Project Time Management)
The Practice Standard for Scheduling v2