Schedule Planning and Execution Management

How to design a project with the highest likelihood of meeting schedule goals?

Project Design

  • How the project implementation is designed, the approach that is selected, will determine a large measure of schedule resiliency (consider alternative scenarios).
  • Commitment by each functional manager for essential resources and time priority for duration without interruption (Every leadership decision has impact.)
    • Impact Analysis may be difficult to quantify accurately due to complexity of resource skill set, work required, multi-tasking effect, and dependencies.
    • Reach shared understanding of project or organizational tolerance for schedule risk
  • Task list and scope development based on clear requirements definition with qualifiers
  • Carefully designed work packages with clear definition, feasibility, and risk analysis by WP or subsystem
  • Assumptions stated and clear to everyone for testing
    • Techniques to avoid group think risk
    • Assumptions log, a periodic process check, to track initial and additional assumptions that are made during the project lifecycle
  • Examine plan for signs of  overconfidence, areas that may not have received adequate scrutiny (intrinsic to almost every project)
  • That all project or subsystem interfaces have been examined for critical information, process, or material flow requirements by time and resource
    • Context diagram
    • Interaction, State Matrix models
  • Match skills to task and motivation and current/future opportunity
  • Team work space: secure a positive space in advance that supports everyone in a common area
  • Select, train, and develop competency on all necessary tools
  • Gain clear agreement on and document what the end of the project looks like: done, done.

Activity Estimates: Creating Feasible Schedules

  • Take the time required to fully understand what is required (work-hours, skills, facilities, tools, supplies, etc) to produce each deliverable.
    • Be decisive on what activities are not feasible with the given cost, time, and resource constraints
    • Consider Iterating the design, requirements, or other parameters as practical to match the project environmental limits
        • Review design trade-offs developed during solution design
        • Simplify or combine functions
        • Exit criteria may be flawed, can be changed or re-framed to become acceptable
        • Substitute material, skills, process, etc.
        • Introduce new supporting function
  • Call-out uncertainty, parameters with limited information (progressive elaboration)
  • Document accurate resource calendar for project period.
  • Gantt chart (<30 activities or summary level work packages for large projects)


  • Information about dependencies can be communicated with a matrix format representation
  • Can be organized by team (deliverables by team responsibility document)
  • Make manual adjustments to stagger task start times so no individual or team is scheduled to work on more than one task at a time (minimize multitasking where possible)
    • What work can potentially be done early or in advance freeing up resources to fill-in later for unexpected needs in project?
    • What work can potentially be done in parallel?

Best Practice: Don’t always/only focus effort on the critical path to meet the project deadline on time.

 Weighted Early Milestones

  • Determine best fit execution model or models, Waterfall, Agile, etc.
  • Some Suggested key milestones:
    • Requirements
    • Design Review and Validation
    • Schedule and Execution Management Plan
  • Demonstrate measurable progress early
  • Define milestone criteria and process clearly, e.g., Design Review for Validation
    • Design Review process and description materials, sketches, matrices, templates
    • Validation Criteria
  • Establish cadence of work, meeting schedule, reporting (format) (team agreement at start)

 Limit complexity of work

  • Limit WIP where practical
  • Have swarm model in reserve for unexpected or difficult problem resolution Must sustain project and team visibility through effective communication plan
  • Show value early and often
  • Recognition early and for outstanding contributions
  • Recognize teamwork, extra effort, creativity, overachievement

Plan for change

  • Changing Critical Path Management-Is the entire organization aware of this phenomenon and the implications?
    • Resource re-allocation
    • Productivity loss through multi-tasking
    • Techniques to crash (add) or fast-track (adjust) the schedule
  • Change management process and expectations clearly defined, and communicated
  • Staff
  • Customer demands
  • SMEs and outside SMEs identified and available to contribute

Best Practice: Regularly communicate to key stakeholders and SMEs when (scheduled date) they (or their resources) will be needed and what they will need to be prepared to do or deliver. This work will ensure stakeholders have critical dependencies in the forefront of their minds and will minimize risk of key resources being allocated elsewhere.

 Develop a comprehensive schedule plan

  • Training planned into schedule
  • Procurement:
    • Examine the details behind supplier commitments (validate the supplier has order the materials, and monitor their processes
    • Other issues such as vendor release schedule, software licensing, work permits, regulatory factors, etc.
  • Cost management plan
    • Accounting process and staff member time overhead (simplify)
    • Overtime
  • Quality, gates, and testing milestones
    • Adequate time for integration testing
  • Include in WBS work to create post project support plan, repair process, update process, etc.