Monday, September 5, 2022

All that time! Who manages it?

You've no doubt read here and elsewhere that the critical path and the most important path are sometimes different, sometimes). 
How so?
The 'critical path' is a technical term arising from precedence scheduling techniques wherein a path is 'critical' if any stretch of that path stretches the very last milestone of the project.

The 'most important path' is a matter of business priorities. It's the path that gets you to the most important operational milestone for the business.(*)

For success on either path, resources are needed; schedule reserve (slack and elasticity) arising from  buffers are needed; and myriad constraints need to be overcome (see: Theory of Constraints). 

Thus the question is begged: 
Who makes all these decisions about resources assigned to the schedule, and who manages the buffers, and who manages the constraints (roadblocks)?

The buck stops with the PM, of course. 
Well, not exactly! Not all the time.
There's this problem
You've got a job to do; you've sequenced and scheduled it
But, in the middle of your critical path there is another independent project (or task) over which you have no control. In effect, your schedule has a break in its sequence over which you have no influence.

This is all too common in construction projects where independent "trades" (meaning contractors with different skills, like electrical vs plumbing) are somehow sequenced by some "higher" authority.

So, what do you do?
If you have advance notice of this critical path situation, you should put both cost slack and schedule slack in your project plan, but there may be other things you can do.
Cost slack is largely a consequence of your choices of schedule risk management. 
Schedule risk management may have these possibilities:
  • Establish a coordination scheme with the interfering project .... nothing like some actual communication to arrive at a solution
  • Schedule slack in your schedule that can absorb schedule maladies from the interfering project
  • Design a work-around that you can inexpensively implement to bridge over the break in your schedule 
  • Actually break up your one project into two projects: one before and one after the interposing project. That way, you've got two independent critical paths: one for the 'before' project and one for the 'after' project

 At the end of the day: communicate; communicate; communicate!

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