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My recommendation is stay clear about the milestones you have to achieve and do not stress people. You do not need heroes because heroes usually died trying to achieve the objective. Stress people is a very short time solution that will put you in the same (or worst) place in the short time. Mainly in situations like created by covid-19.
Sergio made a good point.
You probably need more resources. So add resources and try to do the tasks concurrently.
It is perhaps too simplistic, but the classic "Iron Triangle" of Time-Budget-Scope is a great metaphor. If you need to shorten your schedule, you will need to either reduce your scope or quality, or increase your budget.
- If COVID-19 has disrupted your supply chain, perhaps you need to settle for different materials that are more readily available. (Scope)
- If your project team cannot keep up with the work on schedule, perhaps you need additional team members (beware of the Mythical Man Month). Management may be able to temporarily allocate additional people, or may have a reserve to hire temporary workers. (Budget)
One point I want to make as to increasing effort in order to catch-up on your project through additional resources (crashing) - this is short term at best. Production goes up for a limited time while productivity drops drastically. More resources through additional staff or longer hours reduced effectiveness and efficiency. Two or three weeks later you are no longer gaining ground but actually going backwards.
As to contract solutions, can be messy and typically no one wins. What you gain in time may cost in good will and cooperation.
The answer is to identify delivery concerns early in the project allowing time to review and adjust the strategy through resource assignment and critical path network revisions. Also allows you to identify parts of the project that may be delayed without significant impact and provides an opportunity for the client to adjust for a later delivery - minimize damages.
I agree that crashing (more bodies) and asking the team to perform heroics are not a recipe for long term success. In my experience, this is a situation where the PM must focus on managing the critical path.
Telling everyone to complete tasks in less time doesn't work. They will take what they take. They may have been scheduled with float however so the first thing to do is to strip out your schedule reserve.
Tasks are also often scheduled in series rather than parallel as it is the conservative approach and reduces the impact of errors. Challenge the assumptions. Are Finish to Start constraints required, or ideal but not absolutely necessary.
When I've managed projects that require extensive compression, I worked closely with my scheduler every day. They are the experts in the scheduling tools, and I am the expert in the underlying work they are putting into the tool. The critical path changes regularly as things finish early (hopefully) or later than planned so at the end of every day we had to figure out where we are now, so that first thing in the morning I could gather the required team members and adjust the plan accordingly.
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