Make sure you
have the whole
team’s input into
the building of
so you can
—Janice Staley, PMI-SP, PMP,
Envision Consultants Ltd.,
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
iming is everything. And in the
current business environment,
project managers are under
increasing pressure to deliver
projects not just within budget
and aligned with expectations,
but also by the deadline—or,
even better, before the deadline.
To do that, project managers need a
schedule they can stick to.
“I believe the schedule tells the
whole story—the who, what, where,
when and how—about a project. If
maintained properly, it helps tremendously in managing and controlling a
project,” says John Simko, PMP, a consultant at PM Game Plan, Sacramento,
Although not every project manager
will take the same approach to creating
a schedule, there are some basic building
blocks that apply no matter what the
project’s scope or context may be.
GO IN WITH A PLAN
When the time to build a schedule
comes around, the first thing Tina
Notosoehardjo Weber does is sit down
with the client or stakeholder to determine
a specific set of goals and deliverables.
Sometimes extracting the exact information she needs takes some effort, so she
has learned to ask questions—sometimes
a lot of questions—to get her clients to
articulate what they have in mind.
“They assume that because they know,
so do you,” says Ms. Weber, project manager at Brightcove Inc., an online video
technology provider in Cambridge,
As the details emerge, Ms. Weber
digs deeper to determine specific milestones, tasks and subtasks. She then uses
that information to create the work
breakdown structure, which establishes
the sequence of activities and allocation
Although gathering all those details
is certainly helpful, too much information isn’t always a good thing.
Project managers and schedulers
tend to think “the more we drill down,
the better the information and control,”
says Ondiappan Arivazhagan, PMI-RMP, PMI-SP, PMP, CEO of the
International Institute of Project
Management, a consulting and training
firm in Chennai, India. “But we do
great harm. We get hundreds and hundreds of minute activities.”
The client or stakeholders might
appreciate that kind of depth, but such
minutia doesn’t necessarily promote the
effective management of a project. And
sometimes, the collection of extensive
detail only eats up time as the project
team processes each bit of information
and churns out new reports, says Mr.
Building a schedule is like creating
a road map for a long trip, says Ted
Garrison, a construction industry consultant, speaker and author who heads
up Garrison Associates in Ormond
Beach, Florida, USA. To that end,
depicting the key highways on the map
is crucial, but including every little
side street is simply a distraction. The
same holds true for project schedules.
SPREAD THE WORD
You’ve nailed down a rough draft.
Now you just have to figure out how
to visualize the schedule in a way that
everyone can easily grasp, says Steve
Pegg, a global project manager in the
research and development department at AstraZeneca, Alderley Park,
And then it’s time to listen up.
“Make sure you have the whole
team’s input into the building of the
schedule, so you can get consensus,”
says Janice Staley, PMI-SP, PMP,
project controls manager at Envision
Consultants Ltd., Charlotte, North
Carolina, USA, and a director at large
for the PMI College of Scheduling.
But that can get rather complicated
on larger projects. For example, Ms.
Staley is currently working on a new
light rail project that involves a wide
range of stakeholders. To facilitate the
feedback process, she usually passes out