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Schedule Assumptions

Have you ever thrown out an old project schedule? Have you ever had to start from scratch? Have you ever had to look at a schedule with no supporting documents and tell if it is "OK" and be unable to say more than "well, it depends"? If you have been managing projects or schedules then I guess the answer is yes. At least once. And one of the key reasons is that the assumptions made are either wrong or are missing.

This might even be true of some of the schedules for projects you are currently working on. One of the tragedies of scheduling software is that it is rather poor at capturing the basic assumptions on which the schedule is built. Sure, you might have a WBS which describes the work, but the manner in which the work will be performed is not really included there. Further, there is often little documentation about whether the estimated work and durations are based on an optimistic or pessimistic view.

The whole point of this is that the schedule "file" is nearly unintelligible to outsiders without some narrative which describes the basic assumptions which it is built upon. I'm still struggling with determining what the proper amount of documentation for this might be, but at the very least, you should have a page or so which describes what you and your team were thinking when they came up with the schedule. And it is worth reviewing it every once in a while to make sure that the assumptions are still valid. Too bad tools like Microsoft Project don't really have a convenient way of capturing this sort of stuff.

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  • Comments (1)


    There is a difference between a plan and a schedule http://herdingcats.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/03/scheduling_plan.html.

    In the "plan" there would be a narrative of what, why, when, where, how, and who is doing something to move the project forward. As well the notation used in the "plan" could be read from top to bottom (the task name field) as a Statement of Work.

    If you took out the start/finish dates and all the other fields other than the "name" field, the read should be able to get a sense of what is going on and why.

    This is usually not the case I know, but I think that is beacuse the "planners" are actually "schedules" noit realizing they have skipped a step in the project management process.

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