The three major failings of project scheduling

Major problem areas affecting scheduling practice

The first is most organisations and managers simply choose to ignore the project schedule, in part because they have never worked with a good schedule produced and maintained by an effective scheduler (they don’t know what they are missing!) and in part because of lax governance from the executive levels allowing the bad practice.

The second is the inverse of the first: managers and lawyers failing to understand the purpose and limitations of scheduling and setting unrealistic expectations.

The third is schedulers who know how to develop massively complicated files in various software tools, but have no idea what purpose and limitations of scheduling should be.

I will briefly look at each of these issues below.

Managers ignore scheduling and project controls.

This is a combination of ignorance and bad experience. The only real solution is to fix the other two issues. One of the symptoms of this problem and a major destroyer of value is the approach adopted by many managers of setting ridiculously short timeframes for projects ‘to put pressure on the team to perform’ without the benefit of a schedule analysis. The consequences are inevitably reduced scope and quality and increased costs resulting in massive reductions in value.

Managers and lawyers set unreal expectations on the process.

The schedule is a model of what may happen in the future; it is not a statement of what will occur. A good schedule is based on a sequence of activities that are reasonable and importantly agree by the project participants as the optimum approach to accomplishing the work, based on what they know at that time the schedule is developed.

While it is reasonable and legally supportable to hold a contractor to a promise to complete a project within a specified time (the contract period) it is ridiculous to expect anyone to be able to determine in detail, exactly how they are going to achieve this outcome months or years in advance when many of the people who will be responsible for elements of the work are unknown.

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