In my experience working at Remontech for the past 9 years I had the opportunity to participate in over 50 projects. Only one of these projects had a well formulated schedule. That’s right, one. Some of the other projects did not even have a schedule at all.
This apparent disregard for good practices when creating schedules was illustrated during an interview I had when applying for a teaching position at a prestigious University here in North America. During the interview, I was told that they had a position opened for a professor, but were reserving that position for a field which would bring prestige to the department, and that they did not want to spend the resources in a minor field such as Project Management.
It is obvious how this attitude contributes to project failure and needs to change.
So here are ten things you must do to create a successful project schedule. For more detailed information, click here.
1- Understand the project
It is common today to hear that project management is industry-agnostic, meaning you do not need industry specific knowledge to successfully manage a project. This could not be farther from the truth, specially in a field such as construction. Understand what it is that the project is aiming to achieve, read whatever project documentation is available, etc. Knowing your project will help you in many ways, but especially when creating a schedule.
2- Understand the constraints
As much as possible, create a list of constraints you believe will impact the performance of the activities of the project. These can be local laws, weather, holidays, and many other issues.
3- Create a list of activities
Using methods such as decomposition, break the project down into simpler deliverables or work packages. Then break down the lowest level work packages into activities and create a register for them. It will be helpful at this stage to describe these activities in more detail once they are listed. Do not create a list of 10,000 activities. If the project is extremely large consider breaking it down into smaller sub-projects.
4- Sequence your activities
Think about how the activities need to be physically sequenced. For example, you cannot backfill a trench that has not yet been dug. Create a sequential list including what kind of dependency applies to each sequence. As an example, these dependencies can be
5. Determine the unit of time you will use for the project.
Depending on the length of the project, this unit of time can be an hour, a day, a week, a month, or a year. For example, if a project is to be performed in 5 years, an adequate unit of time is the month.
6- Determine activity durations
Using your chosen unit of time, your sequenced activities, and your constraints, determine how long each activity will take. This is when knowledge of your industry and project will really make a difference. Specially in construction projects, there are ways to determine activity duration that go beyond the scope of this post. Click here for more info on that.
7- Understand what is the expected date of completion
By talking to the project sponsor and other stakeholders, make sure you understand and know clearly when your project is expected to be completed.
8- Determine milestones
Again, by communicating with stakeholders such as the sponsor and owner, determine what are the milestones along the duration of the project.
9- Generate the gantt chart
The gantt chart is the outcome of a critical path analysis. Ensure you do it properly; this is absolutely not a guessing game. For a complete, step by step description on how to properly perform a critical path analysis, click here.
10- Remember accountability
And finally, keep in mind that you and/or your client will be held accountable to this project schedule as it becomes the pivotal document on which all future disputes and claims will hinge.