A good project schedule doesn’t tell you what you want to hear. A good project schedule tells you what you need to know.
Here I show you what makes a good project schedule. Whether you’re a project manager or a project sponsor, you need to know this. Mostly, this post is for the project sponsor.
Project Management and Sponsorship
In What Does Project Management Mean to Me?, I said sponsorship is about holding up an idea or cause as important. You do this because you are empowering the project manager to do the right thing and get the job done.
However, projects are tricky and rarely go to plan. Indeed, this is the nature of projects. They need careful planning, tenacity and management control.
Enter the project manager … A good project manager knows what to do. They know how to plan. And they know when to use a project schedule.
A good project manager uses the project schedule to manage expectations. Therefore, don’t hijack the project schedule to serve your needs. Let it tell you what you need to know!
A Good Project Schedule
A good project schedule will help the project manager get the result you wish. Therefore, understand what makes a good project schedule and why it is needed.
What is a project schedule?
First, let’s be clear. A project schedule is not the project plan.
It is an activity listing of a project’s milestones and deliverables, and usually includes start and finish dates. It is derived from project planning and helps us to track progress.
Why have a project schedule?
A good project schedule is useful because it shows the project manager:
- how all work fits together,
- if the project is going to plan, and
- the impact of an unexpected change on the project.
But the project schedule does not:
- need preparing before work starts;
- have to include every detail; or
- prove anything.
A Good Project Schedule
A good project schedule has three characteristics. They are:
A good project schedule captures the relationships between activities. It shows you how things fit together and how things may change.
Therefore, don’t place too many constraints on the project manager, since fixing dates removes flexibility and the ability to reschedule.
What’s more, a good project schedule should be adjusted when reality changes.
Consequently, make sure there is an up-to-date baseline for tracking performance and expect and allow the project and schedule to change.
A good project schedule shows progress against the plan. It should include the major work streams and critical path, plus interim milestones for tracking progress.
Hence, the foundation of a good progress report is facts. So now you know a good project schedule: it tells you what you need to know.
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