I know that I’m not the only one who has been asked to do a project quicker than I really think I can get it done. There are times when we must put a project into overdrive due to extenuating circumstances. However, often part of our jobs these days is to carry out projects in addition to our daily tasks. To do this successfully we need a realistic schedule.
There are several steps you can take to help determine a schedule.
Previously I wrote about documenting all the steps or tasks in a project. Next we need to determine the relationships between the steps. Doing so will help us determine the order in which we need to perform them.
As a reminder, here are the steps that we previously determined to help us with our example project for moving locations:
1. Check out new location.
2. Speak with IT and arrange a site visit with them.
3. Visit new site with IT.
4. Make adjustments to new location.
5. Have Internet added to new location.
6. Have four new phone connections put in.
Whenever we have a series of tasks, some items will need to be done ahead of others. The order is determined by the relationship between the tasks. Some tasks have predecessors (items that need to be done before the particular task can be done) and some can be done concurrently.
Looking above we could not switch the order of the tasks because, for example, we have to speak with IT before we can determine where the phone connections need to be installed.
Looking at the list below you can see what predecessors are required. Also, all non-action items have been removed.
1. Check out new location.
2. Speak with IT and arrange a site visit with them. (requires step 1)
3. Visit new site with IT. (requires step 1 and step 2)
4. Have Internet added to new location. (requires steps 1,2,3)
5. Have 4 new phone connections put in. (requires steps 1,2,3)
Most project management software programs have a place for you to list the predecessors and how many days each item will take to complete. We will talk about this in a future article. Don’t skip this step!
Next we need to determine how long each task will take. This step, combined with knowing the relationship between each task, will determine the length of the project.
In step 1, you are simply checking out your new location, so select a date and make it the start date for your project.
Next you need to speak with the IT director to arrange a site visit. You may figure it will take three days to complete this task. You now have a project that is four days long.
Step 3 is your actual site visit. I allowed seven days for this task so that your IT person has a week where he or she can chose a day to go with you. Now you are up to 11 days for your project.
Steps 4 and 5 can be done together once you have completed step 3. This means you cannot schedule them in the first 11 days. The Internet and phone lines can be contracted and done simultaneously as they don’t depend on each other. You call and find out the approximate wait time to have something installed and you find you need two weeks. So now you have 25 days in this project for these steps.
Continue this process for the remaining steps to determine the total length of your project. Next month we will talk about calculating the complete initial schedule for a project.
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