Successful projects need to have a successful project schedule to start with. When you are given a project to manage, don’t be tempted to get on with work right away and delay the schedule for later. Making a schedule is one of the first (and the most important) tasks to be done as it will serve as a gauge for the success of the project throughout its life.
Below are a few basic steps to follow in order to create a successful project schedule:
1. Include your team
Including other team members will make the schedule more effective as it will ensure the ownership by all the members. Things that you may have not previously accounted for or miscalculated will be corrected by this collective approach.
2. Cover everything in the project scope
Use the scope statement from the Charter to ensure that every request from the customer is included. It is also a good idea to list all the activities at this point. Look at the order of activities and their dependencies. It is usually best to start with the most difficult/ important tasks.
3. Create milestones
Milestone is the end of a phase in the project, the point where work needs completing. They also provide a great occasion to check to see if the project is on track and how it is progressing. Milestones allow the project team to stay focused and motivated.
4. Take your time for time estimates
While assigning time estimates for each task/activity it is best to use historical information and/or other people’s experience. That is also why it is important to tackle the task of creating the project schedule as a team. When a consensus is reached through the discussions within the team members, it will provide a better time estimate and it will be harder to challenge it later since the input from all team members will have been factored in.
5. Foresee time for scope creep
No matter how meticulously the scope has been created and finalized at the beginning of the project, it is safe to assume that there may be changes on the specifications down the road. So in order to accommodate these potential scope creeps, it would be wise to foresee some contingency time to be used when necessary while respecting the project deadlines.
6. Allocate your team members
Now that a schedule has been set, it is time to distribute your team members to the tasks. It shouldn’t be expected that the people are productive 100% of the time. Tasks that are not directly contributory to the project on hand (Such as administrative duties, meetings, paperwork, etc.) take time so it is best to include them in your calculations.
Once the people are assigned, the entire schedule should be reviewed to see if there are any conflicts, and also to make sure that the effort expected from each member corresponds to his availability and his motivation in this project.
Throughout the project’s life cycle, it is also important to regularly update the schedule with team members to verify progress and make necessary adjustments. 20 minute Scrum style meetings are useful, where each team member explains the status of their work and any potential problems they see in the future. Don’t forget that it is your job as project manager to help remove any road blocks and smooth out the path ahead.