Why your project needs a predictive project schedule

Have you ever been frustrated because you were sitting in a status meeting and the project schedule indicated you would be finished yesterday?!  Whatever happened to “truth in scheduling”?  A predictive schedule is one of the most powerful tools a project manager has. It provides essential information on status, flags conflicts before they happen, and provides backup when requesting resources.

Believing this, I am frequently baffled at the reluctance of some PMs to create or maintain a project schedule.  I remember years ago in the research lab hearing a senior developer say, only somewhat tongue-in-cheek when requested to provide a schedule for his project, “If I knew how long it would take, it would not be research”.

Maybe what I have seen is the reaction of PMs being burned by schedules that were imposed from “above” or were regarded as meaningless paper exercises required to fulfill contractual obligations with no apparent conformance to reality.  Does this sound familiar to you? Whatever the reasons, some PMs choose to steer clear of real predictive scheduling.

For those who spurn developing a project schedule, I can assure you that you are missing a key ingredient in managing your project effectively. Project schedules are your friend—not your enemy.  And yes, I have heard the people who say I don’t have time for project management and schedules – it gets in the way of my real work.  I call those people “one man projects!”

Here are some of the reasons I believe predictive project schedules are important:

  • A project schedule requires that you identify tasks and their relationship to one another—this is important for risk management, staffing, and sequencing.
  • Project schedules provide the only picture of what has happened (actual) and what is now planned. (assuming they are accurately updated)
  • Project schedules help forecast resource requirements and provide a visual representation of task dependencies that will help you sell your needs to senior management.
  • A project schedule gives everyone on the team insight into where the project is going and how their efforts impact outcomes.
  • A project schedule helps you keep track of accomplishments, needs, and compliance with requirements.
  • A project schedule gives you an easy to use method to evaluate the impact of changes and requirements creep.

I collaborated with my colleague John Rigoli on this subject in 2008 to help him prepare for a presentation at NASA.  Check out John’s presentation at NASA PM Challenge 2008 or download it at http://www.slideshare.net/NASAPMC/johnrigoli .

I feel so strongly about the importance and utility of predictive schedules to project management, that in coming posts I plan to talk about: the characteristics of a good project schedule, getting schedule buy-in, building meaningful dependencies and constraints, identifying risks and accommodating them, how to monitor status, schedule-based reporting, and using tools to build, maintain, and share project schedule information.
So what do you think?  Feel free to reply or suggest topics of discussion for the BLOG.

Many of you have asked if there is a video on the subject.  John and I collaborated on re-doing the presentation so – Here is John’s Video:

The Lazy Project Manager's Blog

The Home of Productive Laziness Thoughts


Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

A Girl's Guide to Project Management

Project Management musings for one and all

LeadingAnswers: Leadership and Agile Project Management Blog

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

Project Management Hut

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

Herding Cats

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management


Pushing the Edges Out ...


Just another WordPress.com site