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The Art of Project Management by Scott Berkun

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2.5. What must happen for schedules to work

Now that we understand why schedules are so difficult to maintain, I can offer advice on how to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits of any project schedule. These approaches and behaviors cut across traditional roles or backgrounds, which I think reflects the true nature of scheduling. Because the schedule represents the totality of the project, the only way to use schedules effectively is to understand something about all of the things that must happen in order to make the project successful. It's an interdisciplinary task, not just an engineering or management activity.

  • Milestone length should match project volatility. The more change that is expected, the shorter the milestones should be. Small milestones set the team up for easier mid-game adjustments. This gives management shorter intervals between reviews, and it reduces the risks of making changes. The team can be prepped to expect change at milestone crossovers, so they will expect change instead of resist it.

  • Be optimistic in the vision and skeptical in the schedule. A major psychological challenge for scheduling is to make use of proper skepticism, without deflating the passion and motivation of the team. Unlike the creation of a vision document, where spirit and optimism about the future must reign, a schedule has to come from the opposite perspective. The numbers that are written down to estimate how long things should take require a brutal and honest respect for ...

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