Scheduling: Walk Before You Run
People are constantly on the lookout for new techniques. Guilty as charged, I have the tendency to use sophisticated tools to bring more knowledge to my work—this is always good. But we always have to consider that project management is all about communication. More often than not, a complex tool is harder to explain. If you have a simple way to show your point, do it. If you don’t, well…be sure to prepare for the audience you’re talking to and be ready to deliver your message in a minute.
This article comes from the realization that you cannot do advanced tasks before covering the basics. I will try to demonstrate that by talking about scheduling. Most people I know want to do PERT analyses and critical path sensitivities, Monte Carlo simulations and applications of earned value techniques. Those tools can be helpful in providing guidance for better decision making; however, a lot of ground must be covered to enable the use of such tools.
The First Step: Planning
You have to guarantee your schedule is indeed a schedule. That is, you need to have your whole work breakdown structure. You must have resources allocated. You must have tasks sequenced and a close network model. Tasks with no successors (other than the last one) need not be done to complete the project, and tasks with no predecessors (except the first one) are lost in the schedule.
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