Don’t just change
the schedule because
someone tells you to
do it. You should
make sure the
changes are logical
and the reasons
for the changes
—Joe Lukas, PMP, PMCentersUSA,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
and pad the schedule accordingly. At
IntraSolve in Newcastle, Australia, the
company is working on a new railroad
control system in New South Wales.
But there are only a limited number of
contractors in the country capable of
doing the work. Not surprisingly, that
makes them a scarce commodity—
which impacts the schedule, says
Gerald Forbes, senior project manager
at the company.
And when Ms. Staley was working
on construction projects in Aruba, she
had to factor in whether equipment
could be procured locally or she’d have
to look overseas.
KEEP TO IT
Planning and building a schedule both
require collaboration and flexibility.
Managing a schedule, on the other
hand, requires discipline. Once the final
sign-off is secured, the schedule becomes
the roadmap for a project—and that
means it can only be modified when
necessary and always with caution.
But not everyone follows the rules.
Sometimes, a project manager may
feel pressure from “on high” to modify
the schedule, though it’s not a decision
to be made lightly.
“Don’t just change the schedule
because someone tells you to do it,”
says Joe Lukas, PMP, vice president
of PMCentersUSA, Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, USA. You should make
sure the changes are logical and the
reasons for the changes are documented, he explains.
Project managers shouldn’t expect
software to magically solve their schedule woes, either, Mr. Lukas warns. Some
project managers simply input dates
into software, throwing off calculations
and causing deviations.
Mr. Arivazhagan says project managers sometimes focus solely on the critical path and “expect the project to be
completed on time.” He advocates
looking at the near-critical paths as well.
Many activities have a one- or two-day
total float, so they aren’t considered
critical and project managers ignore
them. But if those activities are delayed,
they end up on the critical list.
ROLL WITH IT
Even with the best-conceived schedule,
change is inevitable.
“The schedule is never cast in stone,”
Mr. Forbes says. “No matter how much
time and effort you put into it, the
schedule is guaranteed to change.”
That’s where a little buffer can come
Brett Hillcoat, managing director at
IntraSolve, says his company’s schedules
usually contain “a bit of fat to allow for
If problems crop up, though, give an
early warning. Stakeholders prefer to
“know sooner rather than later if anything
is going to affect the schedule,” he says.
Occasionally, it’s the stakeholders
who dictate schedule changes by cutting
resources or compressing the schedule.
The timeline can often still be achieved
by asking team members to put in some
extra time. Alternatively, scheduling
tasks can be run in parallel, but both
options will only work for short-term
periods, says Javier Mordcovich, manager
of PM-JAM, a project management
company in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
To secure buy-in, he turns to team
members for their input.
“When I ask my people to contribute
[during] the planning phases, they will
generally agree to work more than they
were originally asked,” Mr. Mordcovich
says. If that means 16-hour days, they will
rise to the occasion because “they feel they
are the ones who came up with the solution, so their commitment is greater.”
But if the scope changes significantly
or a project reaches the point where the
project manager knows the end-date
will never be met, Mr. Simko says it’s
time to rebaseline the project.
Starting from scratch may cause
stakeholders to balk, but project managers can set them at ease by reminding
them of the big picture—or the big