The Resource-Loaded, Dependency-Linked Schedule: Where’s the Love?

I’ve been on both sides of the scheduling tool:

I’ve been the Program Manager working with a Project Controls Specialist who’s trying to pull together a project schedule from multiple teams.

I’ve been a Scheduler who has worked with teams to put together that release level schedule.

In both cases, we’ve always had the same problem:

How do you communicate what’s described in detail inside your scheduling tool to the team in a way that:

  • Is succinct
  • Communicates critical milestones
  • Shows dependencies to the relevant teams

In spite of the hours you spend reviewing durations, checking predecessors and successors, and making sure every activity is linked, no one else seems very interested in looking at the Completed Schedule.

Even a brief walkthrough of the schedule can be sleep-inducing. You know you’ve lost them when their eyes glaze over and you suddenly see yourself as Charlie Brown’s teacher explaining the homework assignment: ‘Mwah, Mwah, Mwah.’

In a Waterfall environment, having a formalized schedule is unavoidable.  To help minimize some of the zoning out, I’ve used a few of the following ideas with varying degrees of success:

  1. Milestone Table
    This is the most obvious way of breaking free of the Gantt chart and showing critical dates.  Unfortunately, you lose the ability to literally see the dependencies.  In longer schedules, however, Gantt charts fail here too.
  2. Powerpoint slides or Excel spreadsheets
    While it’s more labor-intensive, pulling the dates into a picture that can show dependencies and risks can be helpful in eliciting more response from the team. The problem here is that you have a static view that never changes; unless you repeat your original effort to pull the live dates from a schedule that runs in the background.
  3. Visio Chart
    Using Visio to pull together a dynamic view of the schedule can help solve your rework problem. Someone has even devised a way to link it to your Microsoft Project schedule.  Unfortunately, I have always used another project scheduling tool, so updating the dates was always required. The good news with this option is your visual milestones move when you update the dates.

In an Agile environment, the schedule seems to have disappeared.  While it may be maintained at a higher level to communicate program dates, at the sprint-level, it’s been replaced with what seems intuitively obvious: a sprint plan that is simple enough to show where people are and what work is remaining.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the schedule and have even grown to love maintaining its links and dependencies. As a project manager, I enjoy generating the reports and running Monte Carlo analysis to understand whether we’re anywhere close to hitting our end date.

It’s just that no one else seems to be all that interested. And as a communication tool, it’s a big FAIL.

Where’s the love?

Disagree with me?  Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.


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