In project management, schedule control determines how time gets distributed to the various tasks within your project plan. Suppose you’re running into problems with your schedule and deadlines. In that case, it’s probably due to one of these reasons:
- You have inaccurate estimates for each task.
- You’re not monitoring your progress well enough to spot schedule shifts early.
- You don’t have strict controls to govern how time gets allocated during the execution phase of your project.
After reading this article on mastering skills through project management certification, you’ll be able to recognize the problem and fix it quickly!
Level 1: Understand How Schedules Work
Once you’ve got a good grasp of how schedules work and how to write a timeline for your project, it’s time to figure out all those confusing acronyms and technical terms. Here are some basic definitions that will get you up to speed quickly:
RACI—this stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed, and describes who is accountable for each step in a schedule. Milestone—an important date or event during a project; milestones can be used to track progress toward completion.
Critical path method (CPM)—the critical path method uses CPM scheduling software to identify which tasks must be completed by when in order for other tasks to be completed by their deadlines as well.
Float—float refers to extra time allowed for tasks or activities; with float built into your schedule, you have more flexibility if things go wrong or take longer than expected.
Early start date—when one activity begins before another activity has been completed.
Early finish date—when one activity ends before another activity has been completed. This can happen because something was not done on time, or it may be intentional because a team member finished early.
Late start date—when one activity begins after another activity has been completed.
Late finish date—when one activity ends after another activity has been completed.
Level 2: Implement a Planning Technique
Use templates, algorithms, and other tools to gain control over your projects. As you start to take on more complicated projects, you’ll need methods for scheduling tasks, tracking progress, and ensuring that tasks get done in a timely manner. Learn how to use a variety of planning techniques like Gantt charts, PERT charts, and critical path analysis. If possible, work with an experienced project manager who can help guide you through these processes. You should also ask team members to complete a project plan so they have a sense of what needs to be accomplished. At least once every two weeks, schedule time with your team members so you can discuss their progress, identify any issues and make adjustments as needed. And remember: In most cases, people are happier when they know exactly what is expected of them—and if there are consequences if they don’t meet those expectations. When it comes to managing employees, be clear about your expectations and communicate regularly. The clearer you are about job responsibilities, performance reviews, and employee goals, the better everyone will understand his or her role in helping achieve success.
Level 3: Use Online Tools
Task management software can help you organize tasks by status, group them with other tasks and add relevant files, images, or links. It’s an online to-do list that allows you to work remotely. If you’re planning a big project for your company, use project management software as a way to divide up individual responsibilities among team members. Consider buying a subscription if you plan on using it frequently. Many offer multiple tiers of subscriptions based on features (like storage space or the number of users).
There are hundreds of mobile apps available, like Todoist, and Any.do and Producteev. For even more ideas, take a look at our list of popular project management tools for home offices. If you want to improve your writing skills: Grammarly will do all these things, plus provide insight into how well you write.
Level 4: Create Standard Protocols
Although each project and team is unique, there are some tasks that you’ll need to accomplish on all projects. For example, most projects involve creating a new deliverable or artifact. You can create a simple protocol for handling that task on all projects. As another example, many businesses find it useful to have standard protocols for setting up a new client or employee account or for entering data into your customer relationship management (CRM) system after a sales appointment. Standard protocols make sure that everyone does these things consistently, which streamlines operations and makes them more efficient. The next time you face a recurring task on one of your projects, consider whether there might be value in creating a standard protocol for handling it—and if so, write one up!
A Standard Protocol for Setting Up New Client Accounts: A Sample Procedure
Setting up a new client account is an important step in managing your business effectively. Without an active client record, you may not know what projects they’re working on or when their contract expires. An easy way to ensure that all clients get set up quickly and efficiently is with a standardized procedure for doing so. These are some things you can do:
1. Verify that there is no existing client record for the company.
2. Create a new project plan under New Client Projects (or whatever name makes sense for your business).
3. Add any relevant details about project status, deliverables due, etc., as needed.
4. Add contact information to the People You Work With a section of the CRM system (if applicable).
5. Add the project manager as the primary contact.
6. Enter estimated hours worked into time tracking software (if applicable).
7. Update the job cost sheet to reflect the amount billed out at beginning of the month (if applicable).
8. Update the job cost sheet to reflect the amount billed out at end of the month (if applicable).
9. Enter invoice numbers into Invoicing module of the accounting software package (if applicable).
Level 5: Optimize Your Team’s Performance
Be a good project manager and coach your team to be their best. The job of a good project manager is not only to complete projects on time and within budget but also to make sure your team is doing their best work. With that said, you are now empowered with scheduling skills that are useful for effectively managing your team’s time. Effective coaching will help maximize productivity from each member of your project team as well as maintain morale high enough to ensure they remain engaged with their work. So how do you optimize your team’s performance? Here are some tips for optimizing your team’s performance:
#1 – Use Gantt Charts: Gantt charts provide an excellent way to visualize what needs to get done, when needed, and who’s responsible for getting it done. They can also be used to track progress toward these goals so that everyone involved knows where things stand at any given point in time.
#2 – Create Milestones: Milestones serve two purposes. First, they help you manage scope creep by giving you a point at which to say, Okay, we’re done with that feature/phase/whatever for now. Second, they give your team something to strive for. It can be easy to get bogged down in work and lose sight of how far you’ve come; milestones keep everyone focused on what needs to be accomplished next.
#3 – Make Meetings Productive: When used correctly, meetings are an excellent way to keep everyone on track and informed about what’s going on with their projects. Just make sure that you have a good reason for calling a meeting—if it isn’t something that can be handled via email or IM, don’t bother holding one.
#4 – Use Burn-Down Charts: Burn-down charts provide a visual representation of how much work is left to do at any given point in time; they also help you identify where bottlenecks might exist to address them accordingly. The best part? They’re easy to create using Excel or Google Sheets, and they don’t require too much maintenance once you’ve set them up.
#5 – Hold Weekly Meetings: If your team works remotely, it may be difficult for everyone to get together regularly.
Project managers need to be able to control the schedule to ensure that the project remains on track. This includes setting deadlines, organizing tasks, and monitoring progress. In order to control the schedule in a project, managers need to establish a baseline schedule and track actual progress against it. They can also use tools like critical path analysis to help them stay on track.