Just as Finance personnel can put a spin on the numbers, so can a Scheduler. A scheduler needs to show for all the necessary work associated with project completion. However, a schedule can be shown in many different ways, with different levels of detail and assumption. Below is a checklist rundown for identifying a quality schedule.
A schedule can have up to 4 or 5 levels of detail. According to the stakeholder that needs to know the plan, an established layout can be provided for their understanding. For example, here are some hypothetical scheduling levels:
- Level 1: Milestone / Executive Summary – (least detailed) measurable milestones according to the master contract
- Level 2: Summary Master Schedule / Management Summary – expands the schedule by including major activities for the milestones/deliverables
- Level 3: Publication Schedule / Project Coordination Schedule – contains the CPM
- Level 4: Working Level / Execution Schedule – display all activities resource loaded
- Level 5: Detail Schedule – provides for daily workarounds and forecast of at least a couple weeks
The higher the level, the more granular the schedule becomes. A schedule should be able to portray a required level depending on who needs to see the expectations. An executive would be more interested in the big picture of what is due while a foreman is more interested in the day to day duties of what needs to be done. The more stakeholders that a schedule can communicate to, the more valuable it becomes.
The team needs to have faith in the plan. If the schedule says that an activity needs to be done by Friday, then the activity manager should have high regard for the completion date. Otherwise, keeping the completion date only as a guideline would throw off successor activities that need completion time standards. Contingencies or Buffers should be included for those activities with more risk. For example, does rain throw off the construction time? If so, build in some extra time to do the work in case it does rain.
To instigate is to urge, provoke, or incite to some action or course (Dictionary.com). That’s what your schedule can do for you. That is important because, as humans, we can tend to wait until the last minute to throw together the deliverable. A schedule can be a methodical way to keep the team on their toes. The schedule, for example, should reflect that a deliverable should be done a little earlier than the customer expects to have it. Further, the more milestones to work towards, the more accountable the team should be.
The schedule should be loaded with resources. But, what if some of the resources need to be used on another program for the company? The schedule needs to coordinate with company prerogatives. If an engineer needs to spend a half day helping another program on the day he is scheduled to work eight hours on a specific task, then there should be a way to 1) identify that and 2) find replacement. By connecting the resources to a company-wide bucket, communication is much easier and workarounds are planned better.
Forecast that goes even beyond the due date
Sometimes the schedule is not capable of being built all the way through and it needs progressive elaboration, such as rolling wave planning, to define activities more and more as the project continues. However, a schedule can still show for future activities in summary level planning packages and milestones will still happen after the contract due date comes. Clients and vendors will probably want to call and summary meetings will be held. These activities should also be built into the schedule.
We show schedules in order to visually project a planned methodology for what is going to happen. How well does the schedule support what is going on? If it can coordinate expectations, then there is probably a lot less to worry about. But remember, if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail!
Author - Gregory Morrow