The fundamentals of scheduling are to identify the tasks that need to be done on a granular level and place them in a logical sequence. This provides a basic flowchart - but the timeline will depend on the time required to do each task, the availability of resources, and dependencies among tasks (some may not begin until others are completed).

The primary resource affecting scheduling is personnel: people must act to accomplish a task, there are only so many hours in a working day, and they generally have responsibilities other than the project that will also consume their time.

The key factors in delivering a project "on time" seldom have to do with the project itself: key problems are that resources are not available when expected and the nature of the task changes. However, the most common cause of a late project is an unreasonable deadline.

Unreasonable deadlines may be inevitable (a specific event drives the need to have the project completed by a certain date), but they are often the result of poor management: announcing an arbitrary date of completion without consideration of the task, or setting an overly tight deadline as a way of motivating employees to work harder or longer hours, or being overly eager to reap the benefits of the project.

The author warns against feature-stripping, a common tactic to tighten up schedule. It often means that the project as a whole fails to deliver on expectations.

Various techniques are provided to help plan and schedule tasks and resources. The two most common are PERT and Gantt charts. A PERT chart is simply boxes and arrows that show the steps involved in a task, whereas a Gantt chart also considers resources available to accomplish them and can be used to show progress and changes. The author suggests using them both (PERT for planning, Gantt for tracking)

The author suggests that there is also PM software, but it has become bloated with unnecessary features and may be more difficult to use. Whether the PERT and Gantt charts are developed by a spiffy program or drawn by hand is of little consequence to the task of project management.

Scheduling Tips

The author provides a handful of tips for scheduling:

In all cases, the PM must use a combination of intuition and management skill.