Project Management

Understanding Schedule Delays

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at [email protected]. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

I’m not going to suggest that there has never been a project that didn’t experience some kind of delay in the schedule. But I am going to tell you that I am highly suspicious of any PM who tells me that they are on track to the day. It happens so rarely that alarm bells immediately go off in my head, and I might not be getting the full story. Maybe that makes me cynical, or maybe it just means that I’ve seen a lot of projects.

With schedule delays being so common, it’s reasonable to assume that new project managers will have to deal with a few of them on their first projects. They’re going to be one of the first challenges that a new PM will have to overcome—and if they do so effectively, that PM will get a big confidence boost.

But before we can manage a schedule delay, we have to understand what caused it.

It's not always obvious
Schedule delays seem easy to understand: A task is supposed to take X days, yet it takes X+Y days—so something caused the work to be delayed, or take longer than planned.

Well, yes…but there’s a bit more to it than that. Is the problem that the work took too long, or is it that the allocated time was too short? I could write a plan that requires a new piece of software to be designed, built, tested and approved by the end of the week, but that doesn’t mean that it’s …

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"One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important. "

- Bertrand Russell