Thursday, January 26, 2023

Managing schedule: who's in charge?

I written this before: "The critical path (CP) and the most important path (MIP) are different more often than you might think."
  • We all know the definition of the CP: the longest path from project inception to project ending. 
  • The MIP is the path, long or short, to the most significant value-producing project outcome. This might be the actual project ending, but more often it is not. Sometimes a small item, required but not critical to success hangs out as the CP. 
Two protocols
The standard protocol for resourcing a project is to provide the CP with all the resources necessary -- and in the right sequence -- in order to prevent a slip-to-the-right of the end milestone. In this wisdom, all other requirements are subordinate to the needs of the CP.

But a protocol centered on value-production would not necessarily fall in line with subordination to the CP. Indeed, the 'value managers' will argue that their needs are superior and primary. (*)

Management needed here
Thus the question is begged: who makes all these decisions about resources assigned to the schedule, and whether or not the schedule is to be managed with CP or MIP protocols?

And, who manages the buffers, and who manages the constraints (roadblocks)?
The 'standard answer': The buck stops with the PM, of course. 
Well, not exactly! Not all the time.
The user group, the sponsor, the business team all have a influence on the MIP vs the CP choice.
Influence: yes, but that's strategy thinking. Tactically, and ultimately, the PM is the decider.
Confound it!
So you've got your strategy: MIP or CP; and you've got your tactics about buffers and sequence. But, sometimes there is a confounding factor (**), described this way: 
You've got a job to do; the protocol decision has been made. From that point, you've sequenced and scheduled it, taking into account the resources made available to you.
But, in the middle of your schedule 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 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!


(*) I wrote a couple of books on this topic: Managing Projects for Value

(**) An influence that is in the background of two or more plans or events that correlates or connects between them

Like this blog? You'll like my books also! Buy them at any online book retailer!