Project Planning and Scheduling

The Guide to Good Practice in the Management of Time in Complex Projects (The Guide)  will be published at the end of this year. One of he key messages in The Guide is the need to separate planning from scheduling.

Project planning focuses on creating the project development strategy. It requires experience, vocabulary, communication and imagination and, at its highest level, provides the formula for the logistic strategy for the project construction. Project planning involves decisions concerning:

  • the overall strategy of how the work process is to be broken down for control;
  • how the control is to be managed;
  • what methods are to be used for design, procurement and delivery;
  • the strategy for subcontracting and procurement;
  • the interface between the various participants;
  • the zones of operation and their interface;
  • maximising efficiency of the project strategy with respect to cost and time;
  • risk and opportunity management;
  • the design for the schedule and its reports/communication plan.

Scheduling is a mixture of art and science to create the project manager’s time-allocation tool within the chosen software. It involves the interpretation of the results of project planning to ascertain, amongst other things, the start and finish dates of activities, their sequence and the required resources.

It is not good practice to plan the work whilst attempting to schedule it. Starting to develop the schedule before planning the project is unlikely to produce a satisfactory project-planning solution or an effective schedule.

This is not a new idea! James Kelley and Morgan Walker, the inventors of the Critical Path Method of scheduling in the very first paper published on the subject had the following to say:

A characteristic of contemporary project scheduling is the over-simplification which stems from the inability of unaided human beings to cope with sheer complexity. Even though we know that a detailed plan is necessary, we also know that management need only act when deviations from the plan occur. To resolve this situation we undertook to develop a technique that would be very simple but yet rigorous in application. One of the difficulties in the traditional approach is that planning and scheduling are carried on simultaneously. Our first step was to separate the functions of planning from scheduling.

This is an extract from the paper entitled Critical Path Planning and Scheduling delivered to the Eastern Joint Computer Conference in March 1959, by Kelley and Walker less then 2 years after they had invented CPM. Why is it 50 years later so many planners continue to ignore the wisdom learned from past projects and focus on entering data into computers before they have worked out the optimum way to deliver the project?

For more on the history of scheduling and an abstract of the Kelley and Walker paper see: A Brief History of Scheduling

5 responses to “Project Planning and Scheduling

  1. I’m always fascinated with the “delay and disruption” notions of the building industry. In the space and defense business delays occur and there are rare disruptions (hurricanes for example). But those delays are usually caused by major changes in the baselined requirements. This may occur when the mission changes. There are certainty cost and schedule overruns, and rarely there is litigation that results.
    But the notion that scheduling as a litigation support tool is unheard of.
    Look forward to the book, to see if there is anything we can apply to our domain.

    • There are three factors at work in the construction industry (particularly the USA, UK, Australia):

      1. Very low margins typically under 2%. See: Construction – A Risky Business @

      2. Very poor record keeping allowing different perceptions to be genuinely held by the parties. This tends to encourage claims and disputes…..

      3. A culture supported by an industry of consultants that focuses on ‘making claims’ to offset the effect of the first two items.

      The problem is not new, one of the leading ‘cases’ is Wells -v- Army & Navy Cooperative Society from the UK House of Lords in 1902……(see:

      The Guide has been written to help improve the practice of scheduling, eliminate point 2 above and hopefully assist in the culture change towards negotiation and collaboration that is starting to emerge in parts of the construction industry. I also believe The Guide has a much wider application across most industries.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Project Planning and Scheduling « Mosaicproject’s Blog --

  3. On the issue of the schedule being used in delay claims. The NSW Government standard form of contract, GC21 only allows a delay claim when there has been a delay to completion date. This has got rid of a lot of claims that used to be mounted based on arguments about schedule float, and changes to the critical path, etc.
    And (tongue in cheek) when we talk about managing time we of course don’t it just keeps running at 24 hours per day; what we do manage is delivery.

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