This is the end of my deep dive into the PMBOK Guide®-- Sixth Edition, and what it covers about Project Schedule Management. I’ve looked in detail at the major changes between the Fifth Edition and the current version.
One of the biggest changes in the Sixth Edition is the inclusion of information on trends and emerging practices, tailoring and Agile. This is long overdue and it’s helpful to have some specific guidance around how we can adapt the sometimes dizzying amount of information in the PMBOK® Guide to our own organisations.
To recap, here is the rest of the Project Schedule Management deep dive series:
OK? Let’s take a look at what you need to know about adapting this process for your environment.
Trends and Emerging Practices
Scheduling techniques have pretty much stayed the same for many years, but there are some new thought processes at work. We have to be able to manage in a competitive environment where everything seems to be needed much more quickly. There’s a business advantage to being able to compress schedules and deliver things in a shorter timeframe, so the emerging practices covered in the PMBOK® Guide relate to those.
First we have iterative scheduling with a backlog. This is a common way of managing work in an Agile environment and supports rolling wave planning. In other words, you have a big bucket of requirements (user stories) that are prioritised as you come to the end of a time box, for delivery in the next time box. This works really well when you can or need to be flexible about what features get released when.
The major benefit is that the customer gets to see real progress on an iterative basis. This is great for building loyalty, delivering benefits more quickly and ensuring user adoption over time.
However, when there are lots of dependencies between tasks or requirements, it can become difficult to manage.
On-demand scheduling is based on the theory of constraints. It limits the work in progress for a team so that you can balance demand against what the team is capable of doing. As someone who is not a fan of multitasking (although I do it every day), limiting WIP is a great idea.
Kanban is where you will see this approach in use most commonly. In practice it works because instead of building a schedule based on requirements, you plan around the team’s availability and they take work from the queue to work on it immediately.
This is a good approach in environments where you have people doing a mixture of BAU and project work, and their project work does not have hard deadlines. I have no project experience of on-demand scheduling, aside from using something similar for my own To Do lists, so share your experiences in the comments below – I’d love to hear more.
The PMBOK® Guide talks about the need to tailor the approach to scheduling because every project is different. For your project, think about:
The life cycle: what life cycle are you using for your project and is it the best approach for getting to a detailed schedule?
Resource availability: You might have to switch up how you manage the schedule because of difficulties securing the resources you need.
The project itself: Big, complex projects need a different approach to scheduling to a small, easy project. There might be constraints within the project environment that lead you down one scheduling path compared to another, for example being required to use earned value as a stipulation of a particular contract, or using a particular scheduling software tool because that is what the client uses. That leads us to:
Tech support: What tools are available to you? If you don’t have access to modelling tools, for example, it’s not appropriate to build your schedule on the basis that you can use them. If you don’t have virtual Kanban boards and yet your team is virtual, then perhaps a scheduling approach that relies on specific software isn’t the best way to go.
Considerations for Agile
Adaptive project methods are those that use short delivery cycles. You do the work, review the outputs and make changes as necessary before the next delivery cycle kicks off. We’re seeing more and more projects use agile approaches like this because they work.
However, in my experience, and that of the many project managers I mentor, a lot of companies have project teams doing agile and project teams who don’t use agile. Sometimes we use Agile and non-Agile techniques on the same project (for different aspects of the same project). There’s a recognition now that this is OK. If it works and you get results, then it’s OK.
The PMBOK® Guide talks about hybrid approaches and being able to combine scheduling techniques from different approaches to get where you need to get. As a project manager, you have to make or support decisions around the tools and approaches you are going to use, and it helps to have some experience of these. If you find yourself suddenly managing an Agile project with no prior experience, you’ll be fine, but get familiar with the approaches as quickly as you can!
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