Project Scheduling Methods – One size doesn’t fit all

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I have been involved in scheduling projects for the past 46 years. In that time, I have witnessed various approaches to project scheduling. Each have their pros and cons depending on the type of project you are scheduling. Issues generally arise when team members have conflicting approaches.  It is important that whichever method is used all people in the project use the same method. Therefore, the type of project needs to be identified before the project starts.   In 1994 Eddie Obeng identified the various types of projects in his book The Project Leader’s Secret Handbook – All Change!, Pitman, London

Obeng‘s project types and descriptions below give us an insight into the methods used by various project managers when planning projects.

Project Types

Project management process and tools not well developed

Project Types

Project management process and tools well developed

[1] Obeng, E (1994) The Project Leader’s Secret Handbook – All Change!, Pitman, London

From the diagram and table above, it is easy to see that all types can use a combination of approaches. However, the Paint by Numbers and Movie projects lend themselves to a process and workflow approach, while the Fog and Quest projects lend themselves to an iterative or Agile approach.

The methods used for tracking these schedules have also developed over the years. The process and workflow projects use Gantt charts and Network diagrams and the iterative projects use Kanban boards and swim lanes. As computers developed, the number of software packages linked to these methods has grown. Capterra lists over 1200 project management related software packages.  These packages provide varying features related to the process and workflow approach or the iterative/Agile approach. Some packages are attempting to blend both.

Which method is chosen and what software is used, often comes down to personal or organisational preferences and discussions. Deciding on what is the most effective is often split on deep-routed, ‘historical’ grounds.

Somehow the software that uses the most effective methods of scheduling has been passed over. Especially project flowcharts (network diagrams / PERT charts  / Critical Path diagrams /Critical Chain Diagrams / execution plans) that use logical connections to develop project schedules. The Project managers dedicated to these methods continue to plan projects on manual project boards and then transfer that information into project software. 

With input from all your subject matter experts (SMEs), flowcharts identify cross-dependencies between project deliverables more effectively than any other approach.  They produce a work breakdown structure that fits the process, identifies an accurate workflow approach and task boards that fits in with the iterative approach. A flowchart will create realistic and accurate execution plans, while cataloguing all the task data into your spreadsheets.

After 10 years of development, a new type of software has been developed. It creates logic driven diagrams and is based on the most effective method of project scheduling.

By Wayne Greenwood

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