Scheduling For Effect

A few thoughts for every scheduler’s New Year resolutions.

  1. You can’t change the past, the present is being managed by the project workforce, the only thing you can influence with your schedules is the future. To achieve this, the schedule needs to be an effective communication medium that can be easily understood by the project workforce if it is going to have any impact on their future actions.
    Resolution #1 – I will make my schedule reports easy to understand!
  2. Useful schedules are useful because they are used! For a schedule to be used, the scheduler needs to design it so that the right information can be given to the right person (stakeholder) at the right time.
    Resolution #2 – I will set my schedules up in such a way that it is easy to extract focused reports for each of the key stakeholders that are easy for them to use.
  3. There is no point in communicating with someone if you don’t want then to act on the communication. Communication without expecting an action/reaction simply wastes everyone’s time, particularly yours.
    Resolution #3 – My schedule reports will be focused on communicating useful information that will encourage relevant action on the part of the receiver.

I will leave the other resolutions such as establishing a better work/life balance, doing more exercise and losing weight to you.

Two things triggered this blog, one was reading a post from ‘Ask E.T.’ (Edward Tufte) on Project Management Graphics (or Gantt Charts) – see  Tufte is one of the leading thinkers of the graphical presentation of data and has a few neat ideas.

The other was finishing off two papers for presentation next year:

  • Scheduling in the Age of Complexity (undergoing peer review)
  • Improving Schedule Management (available for download)

Both can be downloaded from

All of the above have a common underlying theme – we need to make our schedules more useful in 2009 if we are going to improve project delivery.

Wishing you all a great New Year.

2 responses to “Scheduling For Effect

  1. Yes, Tufte has the next step, but he has it backwards. The Integrated Master Plan / Integrated Master Schedule (IMP/IMS) paradigm manadated by DoD 5000.02 for program greater than $20M anchors the “maturity assessment” events (milestones can sometime be called these), first, then defines the Significant Accomplishments, and the Accomplishment Criteria that describe the exit criteria for the Work Packages.
    The toplogy of this “Integrated Master Schedule” flows from Right to Left, not Left to Right.
    “Done” is defined by the Program Events, and the work activities in Work Packages that produce the Accomplishment Criteria that define the Significant Accomplishments flow backward from the Program Event.
    This Right to Left flow defines “down” not in terms of work effort – although work effort must certaintly take place. But in the tangible physical assessment of the increasing maturity of the delivered product or service.
    A good place to look for guidance is

    Click to access IMP_IMS_Guide_v9.pdf

    Glen B. Alleman
    Program Planning and Controls
    Aerospace and Defense
    Denver, Colorado

    • So true Glen, but unfortunately 99.99% of the projects world wide don’t have the disciplined reporting systems required by the DoD. Unfortunately in most organisations that run reasonable sized projects (say $2 million plus) the concept of the ‘schedule’ is a single multi hundred (or multi thousand) line heap of data and whilst the planner may understand the full implications of the schedule no one else can or does. As a direct consequence, the schedule is not used to proactively manage the project, merely to sort out problems and claims after the event.

      My mission is to try to move scheduling from a data accumulation and management process to an information communication process that can actively assist project managers in their efforts to positively influence future decisions and actions on and around the work of the project.

      Thanks for the comment and link – your web site looks like a great information resource.

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