Schedule for Project Managers
© 2004 by Diana Lindstrom, PMP
This time of the year, one of the most important aspects of project management becomes magnified – SCHEDULE. Vacation time, holiday time, sick time all become very important factors in any project schedule.
As a project manager, you’re expected to juggle all of this – AND your personal time requirements. Your life has certain scheduling requirements, whether it’s making the time to visit with relatives on Thanksgiving, going to the kid’s Christmas play, taking the family to a special production of The Nutcracker Suite, attending more choir practices for the big concert, or attending both your company’s Christmas party and your spouse’s company’s Christmas party. How are you supposed to keep track of all that PLUS your projects?
I think it means that you have to do more than put it all down on paper. Of course, you have to have all of this time included in any project that will span the holiday season. Have you included enough slack time to cover a bad flu season? Have you negotiated your milestones for after the holiday season? Do you have the holiday time scheduled in? And have the members of your team let you know when they’ll be taking vacation days?
But do you also monitor and manage the schedule every day? By that I mean do you know exactly who should be doing what on any given day in each of your projects? If not, your schedule is danger of being blown. Especially this time of year.
Project managers need to learn how to motivate people to stay on schedule. Some people respond to rewards; other people respond to attention. As a project manager, you need to learn what your team members respond to – and then give it to them.
One of my most validating moments was when a physicist came to me a week before a major milestone in our project - an important client presentation which would determine if the project proceeded or was killed. He asked me why I wasn't freaking out like the other project managers would be. In response, I asked him if he remembered how I stayed on top of him to meet his schedule for this presentation? After he said yes, I told him that keeping everyone on schedule was my job so that no one - especially me - would have to get really stressed right before the presentation. I suggested that the presentation would go much better because the entire team would be relatively relaxed and completely prepared. He thought about that for several days.On the day of the presentation, the team arrived rested and prepared. We had used the time usually devoted to freaking out to instead get more practice for our respective roles in the presentation. The client was impressed with our presentation, the project was given the green light, and our boss was overjoyed! I didn't know until that evening that our company's cash flow was so tight that this project actually would pay our next payroll.
The day after the presentation, the physicist came to me and told me that he’d learned several lessons from this experience. The first lesson was that his schedule actually made a difference in the success of the project. The second lesson was that meeting that schedule would keep the project manager off of his back. And the third lesson was that getting the work done on time allowed him more time to prepare for the next step – in our case it was usually a presentation.
About a month later, this physicist came back to me and said that he’d found one more benefit to meeting the project schedule. He was able to write and publish a paper in the time since the presentation because he wasn’t working overtime to catch up on the schedule for our project.
At the time of that project, I was also managing 6 other projects. All equally important to the bottom line for the company. And all of my projects were completed on time, or a little early. Now you’re probably wondering how I did this.
I kept all of the schedules for all of my projects in front of me every day. Using MicroSoft Project, I built a multi-project schedule. Using that schedule, I put my daily To Do list together every evening before I left work. The first thing I did every morning was review my To Do list for that day.
If you have someone on your team who’s responsible for the schedules, then have that person give you a daily schedule of all your projects. If you don’t have someone like that, then you’ll need to spend time to put all the schedules together into one master schedule. Use whatever project software you normally use – the software is the tool, not the goal.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And yet in the hectic blur of every day, it can become almost overwhelming to do. Try it for a week and see if you experience any of the benefits. If you do, then keep doing it.
For more information, please visit http://www.shipwreckedproject.com .