Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Create Sloppy schedules -- on purpose

Be a sloppy scheduler.
Yes, do that.
Because sloppy schedules are schedules that are naturally risk averse; they have risk mitigation built in. With slop here and there, things can move around, expand, contract, and react to unforeseen dependencies.

And so what is sloppy?
Sloppy schedules are those with a lot of buffer between the important events (buffer means unscheduled time boxes, and/or deliberate slack built into durations)

You can be sloppy with milestone schedules, or its close cousin "black box schedules".(*) But you can also be sloppy with traditional task oriented network schedules (like the very old PERT method or its close cousin PDM, as supported in MSProject and other similar tools)

Consequently, with risk aversion built in, sloppy schedules are more predictable and more strategically stable than tight schedules with do-or-die milestones. You can 'prove' this to yourself by building a histogram of possible schedule outcomes with a randomized simulation. On a small scale, the statistical formulas in Excel are good tools for building a a convincing demo. 

The biggie, of course, is that your business imperative which is the underlying driver for your project may require a shorter schedule than that obtainable with a sloppy schedule. 
If so, move on to the discussion below about tools.

Tools you have
So, for this dilemma, you have a few tools to work with:
  • Reorganize the work, or the work flow, to obtain a shorter timeline. I've written about this technique before.
  • Step up the training, tools, and methods for better productivity
  • Shift work to other organizations that can work in parallel, thereby shortening serialized work
  • Avoid the trap of focusing on the "critical path" rather than the "most important" path. I've written about the trap as well. The latter may be a lot shorter than the former, with little loss of business value.

(*) Blackbox schedules are those with elements of work encapsulated in black boxes (internal detail unknown or not visible) and then the black boxes strung together in some type of network.

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