3 Project Scheduling Best Practices

When creating a project schedule for the first time or revisiting a schedule for updates, project managers should fall back several best practices.  However, understanding the best practices for project management can be trivial at best.

Fortunately, the majority of best practices focus on identifying certain relationships in the project schedule, assigning reasonable values, and determining major milestones for a project. Take a look at how these three best practices can be used to maximize efficiency and effectiveness in your schedule.

1. Watch For Predecessor-Successor or Start-To-Finish Relationships

In project management, you have a duty to ensure the successful completion of a project to the specifications of the owner or company. Unfortunately, this tends to lead to a sense of urgency, and you are more likely to develop a project schedule with strict predecessor-successor relationships. This is otherwise known as assigning start-to-finish relationships throughout the project.  Although this seems like a common, acceptable means of creating your schedule, it opens up the potential for missed deadlines.

For example, if you plan to finish tasks by a certain date, your subsequent tasks may easily fall behind, which could impact the overall delivery time of the project.  Avoid creating these relationships when creating or editing the schedule. As a rule of thumb, add a bit of extra time to each task if you are required to create this type of relationship in the schedule. This will help account for delays in smaller tasks.

2. Assign Reasonable Values For Tasks

Sometimes, certain tasks, activities, or resources may have huge values within the project schedule. Higher values will inherently make a project’s tasks and activities more complicated and difficult to manage.

When assigning time durations, resource allotments, or other values in the project schedule, always trying to break larger values into smaller increments. For example, try to keep all tasks within an 8- to 40-hour duration for completion.

3. Create a List of Milestones

Milestones are used in project management to identify when a significant portion of the project has been completed. Although you should work in smaller chunks in the schedule, you need to know when a major completion point occurs. This is the milestone.

A milestone could be used to signify the completion of all concrete-related work, electrical work, or plumbing work. However, do not overuse milestones in the schedule, i.e.  a milestone should consist of at least 10 tasks or activities.

Project management is filled with hundreds of best practices, and creating your schedule is tantamount to operating on the beating heart of the project. Each of these best practices is comprised of smaller actions, which help to improve the efficiency and accountability of your project schedule. As a project manager, you need to use these three best practices in every project schedule.

 Key Takeaway

  • Do not use start-to-finish relationships when creating the schedule unless required by upper-level management.
  • Assign reasonable values for parts of the project, such as an 8-hour time duration for a task completion.
  • Add milestones in the project schedule to help keep the overall scope of the project in mind.