Project Management

Start Date Set in Stone? Schedule Using the Work-Forward Timebox Model

Lonnie Pacelli is an Accenture/Microsoft veteran with four decades of learnings under his belt. He frequently writes and speaks on leadership, project management, work/life balance, and disability inclusion. Reach him at [email protected] and see more at

In the Rough-Cut Timeboxing: The Work-Back Model article, I addressed the scenario of the project manager being given an end date and having to work backward to derive when the initiative should start (or should have started). But what about the scenario where a project manager is able to provide a start date?

My experience has been more about being given an end date, but I’ve also had situations where I was able to forward-schedule work—or where I used forward and backward scheduling together to develop a rough-cut plan. In this article, I want to focus on that scenario using the rough-cut work-forward timebox model.

As I mentioned in the work-back article, I am a huge fan of timeboxing work. Not only does it remove some (not all) of the variability in scheduling work with limited information, it also allows the PM to set delivery expectations with arm’s-length internal and external teams.

Let’s use the analogy of a general contractor building a house. The GC ensures the plumber, electrician, carpenters and drywallers understand what needs to be done, and when they need to start and complete their work. The GC doesn’t manage details of what the contractors need to do, just that the work is completed on time, on budget, and to specification.

The same concept applies to the PM working with arm’s-length internal and external teams. …

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