Tips for Project Scheduling – Keeping it on the Rails

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Your project’s schedule is actually part of its scope – one of your main considerations when planning, launching, monitoring and concluding a successful project. However, if your scheduling isn’t up to par, you can face some serious problems, both immediately and in the longer term. It’s vital that you start with the right approach to scheduling – a basic timetable for completion is not enough to guarantee success. In fact, basic scheduling might just encourage failure, either outright or in a lack of returned value at the conclusion of the project. Here are some important tips to ensure that your project stays on the rails.
From the Beginning
Long before your project actually launches, you need a full schedule laid out from beginning to end. This schedule should include an overall timeline for the project, when key milestones will be completed and should also contain data about individual tasks. Take this down to as granular a level as possible. You will also need to detail what resources will impact the overall schedule of the project, as well as any individuals who will be pivotal.
Take It a Step Down
Now that you have a full schedule laid out, it’s time to dig even deeper. Break your schedule down into individual milestones (A+B+C=D). Within each of those milestones, list what individual tasks must be accomplished for milestone success. Each task needs to be laid out sequentially, in a logical order. Again, each task will build on the one before and eventually that chain will culminate in the successful attainment of the milestone. Then the process begins again with the journey to attain the next milestone within your schedule. Make sure you have an accurate timetable laid out for each task, as well as for each milestone and then make sure those timetables are realistic (this will involve feedback from your team).
Flexibility and Adjustments
While you might think that your schedule is set in stone, it’s imperative that you maintain some flexibility and the ability to adjust on the fly. If you’re tied into a set-in-stone schedule with no room for deviation and adjustment, you’ll find the going tough indeed. There will be snafus and problems that force you to adjust things as you go. A supplier might be late. A team member might be out for a week with a serious illness. An executive might fail to approve a budget change. Be flexible and willing to make necessary adjustments based on external and internal forces.
Monitor
In order to be flexible throughout your schedule, you need to constantly monitor progress. This monitoring needs to be in-depth, as well – you should monitor progress toward task completion, not just milestone attainment. With accurate, ongoing monitoring, you’ll be able to anticipate some of the problems that will require you to make adjustments (not all problems can be anticipated, though, so stay flexible).
The right mindset and approach to scheduling can have a dramatic effect on whether your project succeeds.

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