Why You Need A Project Schedule
Two of the most defeatist words in any language are ‘why bother’ you may just as well give up at this point. My father always promoted the work ethic that “hard work kills no man” and yet I still cringe at the thought of working harder instead of smarter. When life or work gets difficult it can be to easy to wonder ‘why bother’. You may be thinking about a new or better way of doing something at work, the only potential problem is that you have to run this by your boss and it is going to require budget funding. You go from being excited about your idea to realizing the budget may not be forth coming and so you resort to ‘why bother’. Why invest your time pursuing an idea that you already doubt will be entertained because it “costs money”?
Or perhaps you do not see eye-to-eye with a particular co-worker. You decide that today is the day that you are going to make peace with this person yet as you walk toward their office you decide it’s going to go down the same path it has gone down a dozen times before. Trapped by your own doubts, you resort to ‘why bother’ make a U-Turn and head back to your desk.
Or, there’s that diet you want to start. In life and work there are certain things that do not seem worth the effort and you give up before you even start. What if you feel that it’s just not worth the effort to put a project plan schedule together? Who reads the project schedule anyway? “why bother?”
When a Project Schedule becomes Ineffective
As a project manager putting together a schedule is a big investment of your time. Interviewing people, asking the right questions and defining deliverables, clarifying scope, creating phases of the project and then putting it all together for everyone to reference. The project team, clients and stakeholders initially they’re excited about the project schedule and are ready to start work on the project. Then a funny thing happens. The schedule begins to atrophy for a number of reasons:
It is no longer referenced
A project schedule is referenced nearly every day while it’s fresh and hot. Time passes and the novelty of the plan begins to wear off. People get busy on other priorities and the schedule begins to cool. People begin asking questions about when deliverables are due or who is working on the next phase of the project. Questions that frustrate the project manager who is now repeatedly reminding the team that answers to these questions are all right there in the schedule! “Did you check the schedule?” “No…” they didn’t read the project plan. They are no longer referencing it as they did at the beginning of the project.
It becomes hard to update
Part of the reason why the document may not be referenced as often as it used to be is that it becomes hard to update. The reason that it may be hard to update and keep current is that there are too many changes happening on the project to keep up with in any predictable manner. A particular deliverable may be late that negatively impacts the schedule of another deliverable. The second deliverable was then tied into another deliverable that crosses over into a new phase and impacts a different team. Sure, project plan software is designed to keep up with these types of dependencies and scenarios, but a high volume of ever-evolving changes can test the mettle of even the most software proficient project manager.
It gets out of sync
A project schedule that is not routinely updated or has no version control applied to the various updates can quickly become out of sync. There may be one group that is working off the prior version and another group that is working off the most recent version. This introduces huge problems because there may be a deliverable that was either introduced into the project or removed from the project that the other team may not even know about. This leads to outdated and orphaned project plans that are no longer relevant and can inflict much chaos and confusion into the team.
The above three reasons may cause someone to ask the question of why even bother with a project schedule. But there are definitely reasons why it’s worth the effort.
The Importance of Putting a Project Schedule Together
While there are a number of things that can go wrong after a project schedule has been put together, there are also a number of very good reasons to make the effort. The following are some of these reasons:
The very nature of a project schedule introduces some form of control and governance into a project. At the very least the project team will know what is next on the schedule that needs to be performed. Is it perfect? Of course not. Are there going to be changes to the schedule? All the time. Yet the fact remains that having a schedule in place establishes a certain amount of comfort and predictability for the project team to follow. Without one there would be trouble.
It can get better each time
There are lessons learned each time a project plan is executed that make the schedule better each time. Rather than throwing up your hands and asking “why bother” a better approach may be to ask what went wrong (or right) and make sure that is carried forward to the next project. Over time, all of the things that went wrong on each project can be identified and eliminated. This will result in a rock solid project schedule that the entire team can place their utmost confidence upon.
A project schedule informs decisions about project scope
A project schedule brings to the fore the reality that time is limited. There are only so many features or deliverables that can be packed into a limited time frame. A schedule will help identify whether the desired outcome of the project is even possible. This planning process creates conversations to ensure the project goal is attainable.
A project schedule helps business make decisions
Finally, a project plan schedule can help management make informed business decisions. For example, the number of hours, resources and other tangible and intangible costs can be calculated from the schedule. These numbers can then be monetized as to how much it will cost the company to complete the project. Management can use these numbers to determine if the project is something that should even be started based upon the projected return on investment.
Putting a project schedule together is worth the effort. The benefits of putting one together far outweigh the risks of not having a schedule for your project.. You should never put the important task of putting a plan together in the same category as a conversation with your boss, co-worker, or even starting a diet. Make the effort and you’ll be glad with the results.
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