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Taming Chaotic Project Management - 8 Training Tips for how to develop project schedules

Posted Oct 05 2009 10:02pm

One of the key drivers to success is a successfully developed project schedule. How to develop a project schedule is a great skill which all project managers need to master. Let's discuss some of the coaching tips which can help a new pm in a chaotic project management environment.

The recommendation for taming your chaotic project management organization is to provide a training and mentoring program for the colleagues in who you would like to grow the project management proficiency. Here are 8 training tips to help your project managers develop project schedules:

  1. The great need to give a date of completion There is a time and place to give an anticipated completion date. Providing tools and techniques to assure the date is credible and realizable is a key training point. For instance, when sitting across from the CFO in a meeting discussing the possibility of a new system for the first time is not the time to say "We will have that baby installed on February 3rd" The truth of the matter is, this is a time to state "What a great idea, who should we work with to flesh this project out?" (Only if it is a great idea) Giving individuals tools and techniques for being comfortable if it was the senior executive will also work when dealing with directors and managers.

  2. Do NOT take the vendor's project schedule as gospel It is a good starting point in using that with the workbreakdown structure to develop a schedule, but the vendor's project schedule is generic and for every organization. Although every organization is not the same. Use this in the team setting, with the vendor at the table to derive a project schedule.

  3. Clearly identify the risks to the schedule as it is being developed Add those risk to the register, and utilize the risk management process. Once the schedule is fully developed and if that risk is in the critical or high risk category, include that risk whenever discussing the completion date. We should be in good shape achieving the October 2nd date, given that our financial programmer is available in June, July, and August for these tasks.

  4. Teach project managers on how to work with the team to develop the sequence of activities Quite often schedules and sequences are developed in a pm silo. Walking though this in a team setting has many benefits. There is the shared vision the team realizes, and some may see dependencies they were not aware of beforehand. Additionally is it among the project managers first experience in a leadership role. Preparing the project manager for success in this role is well worth the time spent.

  5. Beware of technical estimates We in technology have the ability to give the same estimate 8 different ways. Additionally if you ask 8 different individuals, you will get 8 different estimates. Confused yet? In a chaotic project management environment, the sophistication is not there. This impacts effort commitments and duration commitments. I like to obtain in a team setting from the individual accountable for the work a duration commitment for how long the task will take given all the work on the individual's plate. Additionally what is the work effort, it is 80 hours of straight coding spread over 6 weeks of time?

  6. Create a schedule at the level of detail you need to manage the schedule My favorite illustration is the construction of an old fashion point to point interface. I start out with the developer mentioning to me well, my tasks are I open up visual studio, take a copy of the IDX BAR professional billing file, update the references, as you can see too much detail for my schedule. However, perhaps in this organization having a couple of gates is critical: The agreement on the fields, configuration and construction of the interface file, connectivity testing, unit testing and system testing. This will give me good progress, I can track the schedule.

  7. When it comes to tracking the schedule, do not go by the gut. If the effort is 80 hours, check the time committed to the task in the individuals time reporting. If the programmer has stated 80 hours of effort, and has placed 12 hours of work, the programmer may say 90% complete. However, as pm report the task at 15% complete. Use this method until the programmer actually signs off on the task being 100% complete.

  8. How to create different views of the schedule for different audiences The project manager will be using the schedule continuously for whether items are on target, what is needed this week, next week, 6 weeks from today. However this information may be a bit too detailed for the sponsor and definitely for the executive sponsor, training the project manager to have a schedule for the audience is a good technique to share.

I'm sure there are a many other tips we could share for others. All suggestions are welcomed in the comments below!

Further Readings on Taming Chaotic Project Management:

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