Thursday 3 February 2022

Useful techniques for fine-tuning your project's schedule

Are there any employees on your team who sit idle while others are busy with business? This situation suggests that the schedule of your project needs additional adjustment.

One of the most frequent problems that project managers talk about is unrealistic deadlines - a common consequence of the client's high expectations even before the start of the project. 


But there are times when, during a project, someone on the team sits idle and waits for their colleague to finish and they can start their work. Should a manager blame other people in such a situation? In fact, as a project manager, he should reconsider the project schedule.

But what should you pay attention to in order to accomplish this?

The foundation of project management is to create an efficient and realistic project schedule. During project planning, the project manager has a chance to tweak the plan a bit. This is the best time for his creativity as he determines the best strategy for completing the project. Given that many projects are not aimed at too long a time, the task of the project manager is to create the shortest possible plan, while maintaining scale and quality.

Critical path

Knowing the critical path of the project significantly increases the quality of the schedule definition. If you want to deliver the goods on time, or even ahead of time, you should focus on a critical path. When the critical path is shortened, the project will be completed in advance. When a critical path is taken into account, projects are completed on time, and in cases where it is ignored, projects are delayed. It can be noted that the tasks that the project manager must pay close attention to are usually those contained in the critical path.

Identifying the critical path of your project requires discipline and maturity. Its accuracy depends on how it is composed. It's also worth noting that some project managers simply add time to all the blocks in the Gantt chart so that they all end at the same time, but this will not help the schedule in any way and does not provide any information to the manager. Developing the right tasks and executing them correctly are two important components of the successful implementation of a critical project.

Here are some correct tasks performed correctly:

Perform the assessment individually for each assignment. To get started, create a list, but you shouldn't immediately enter it into the Gantt chart as this will affect your predictions once you start plotting. In your list, you should only make predictions based on the work required to complete the task.
Define dependencies between tasks. Some tasks can't be started until others are complete, because it's pretty obvious that you can't install a roof on a house that doesn't have walls yet.

  • Create your own Gantt chart. When creating a Gantt chart, you should make sure that you use the original forecast (from the first step) and modify the task based on the dependencies (from the second step). At the same time, you should not do everything in parallel, you do not build a wall and a roof at the same time.
  • Identify critical paths. Find the longest critical chain of tasks in the Gantt chart. This will determine the critical path of your project. Take note that you may have more than one critical path, but not all tasks may belong to a critical path.
  • So how do you use a critical path to customize your chart?


Downtime is when an employee can rest, postpone a task, but the project will be completed on time. A more formal concept given by the Project Management Knowledge Set (PMBOK) is "the amount of time a particular task can be postponed, and the task that goes on will not be postponed." Downtime is such an unpleasant-sounding phrase that managers try to remove this time from the schedule and want to surprise their bosses with a schedule that does not have such downtime. Although, at first glance, it looks good, however, the exclusion of such a time is the wrong step, as it can have unpleasant consequences.

Beginners should take into account the fact that downtime is a normal phenomenon in the project schedule. The role of the project manager is to determine and minimize the amount of such time. By determining downtime, the manager will be aware and will be able to make accurate forecasts and dependencies. Once the schedule is approved, you can start thinking about reducing downtime to improve productivity. Determining the best strategy distinguishes an experienced leader from a beginner, but one of the standard ways is:

  • Assign new tasks to those who will be waiting.
  • Ask the employee to help others deal with critical tasks.
  • Share a resource\employee with another project.


Reduction is the process of setting up your project schedule, leading to a shorter delivery time. This solution is possible when customers ask to complete the project as soon as possible, without reducing the scope of work. So how does this method work? It's simple – you need to reduce the time allocated to tasks that are part of a critical path. Note that the reduction will only work if the tasks are included in the critical path, since reducing the time of non-critical tasks will not affect the delivery time of the goods. Don't waste time cutting down on non-critical tasks – instead, cut down on critical tasks to get faster results.

There are several ways to shorten the task. You can allocate more resources for parallel work, and then the task will be completed twice as fast. Or you can assign more productive resources to help you finish your job faster. There are tasks that cannot be performed by two people, such as installing software or hammering a nail. Also make sure that you do not overload your best employees with work, since their productivity can be a maximum of 100%, and everything above the level will only be disastrous. The best employees will never be able to work 16 hours a day for 3 weeks in a row.


Another way to shorten the time frame is to speed up. Acceleration is the process of rebuilding a schedule so that tasks that should have been performed alternately are now executed in parallel. Like the reduction method, acceleration works with tasks that are included in the critical path. If you restructure the schedule of two tasks, and now they will go in parallel, then you can almost 50% reduce the time to complete the task. Similar to the reduction, acceleration can bring complications to the schedule - for some tasks you will not be able to make a parallel execution. After all, you can not paint 1 wall in parallel twice. Re-painting can be performed only after the first. Fortunately, there are tasks that can be performed in parallel, such as building a wall and treating the floor – all of which are doable with the right approach.

When setting up your project schedule, you should be creative, but just make sure that you have calculated all the risks in advance.

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