Project Schedule

How to Compress a Project Schedule

A project manager often sees a completion deadline looming and has a sinking feeling that the project will not be finished on time.

Should you motivate your team to work faster, overlap tasks, work overtime, add more resources, or reduce scope? The most important thing in choosing which compression method to pursue is to find out why the schedule is slipping.

There is not always a single answer to this question. It could be resources, lack of clarity or constantly changing requirements. But until you know why, you won't come up with the right answer to get the project back on track.

Just adding more people to a team with low morale, could exacerbate the problem. Fast-tracking a project which is experiencing a lot of unidentified risks triggering could push the project over the client’s risk threshold.

Understanding why the project is behind schedule is important. It's critical that you communicate the issues to relevant stakeholders as soon as possible, and involve them in the problem solving process.

To understand the cause of the delay, it is often useful to get another opinion. It is advisable to consult with a turnaround artist at times like these. The first place to look is governance issues and here the project sponsor could advise you. Poor governance is one of the main issues leading to project failure. If not governance, look at planning issues. If not planning issues, look at unaddressed risks. If not unaddressed risks, look at project team competence. Whatever you find to be the root cause, this must be investigated and addressed with a fine balance of discretion and transparency in order to take corrective action to haul in the slippage.

Another place to look when searching for the reason a project is late is requirements, particularly ill -defined requirements and understated estimates leading to scope creep.

It is important to convey to clients how change requests affect time and resources. Communicate with the clients to buy more time, in case the project is delayed due to change requests. If a client isn't in a position to give more time, then you can deploy more resources and turn around the project in the stipulated time.

It's vital to understand the fullest capability of your resources. Since haste makes waste, it's always better to give people the time to perform at their peak potential. Too much time is unproductive, too little is overwhelming. But finding the sweet spot is knowledge that becomes the muscle that gets things done on time.

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