How many times have you been in a project kick-off meeting where someone starts the meeting by saying, “we need to have this done in four weeks”? How do they know it can be done in four weeks? You haven’t even asked me how long my piece of this project will take and by the way, I leave for a two-week family vacation tomorrow.
The reality is that most projects fail before they even start due to a bad schedule, period. It’s not very exciting or energizing to be a part of a project that you know will fail before it has even begun. To know that no matter how hard you work or how many late nights you pour into this project – its all for not.
How do bad schedules get created? Well, that’s a bit of an oxymoron – they don’t get “created”. Usually, a business champion or executive throws out a date and a project manager or IT leader just accepts it as gospel. Most executives are perfectly fine with you saying, “Let me get back to you on the date, I would like to discuss this with my project team and ensure we can meet your timeline.” Come back to them with a real date that is achievable and everyone will be much happier – especially your project team.
Don’t get me wrong – sometimes a hard completion date is required for a project. In this case, just make sure you are communicating the resources you need to achieve that date. If Mike, your Exchange Engineer will be on vacation for two weeks than you may need to bring in outside resources to achieve the target date, which in turn may increase your budget. In short, communicate clearly and manage your customer’s expectations.
To make your project schedules ten times more accurate and achievable, do one simple thing: overlay “reality”. Take your original four week schedule to “Upgrade Our Email System” and add the following items to it and see how it changes:
- Your project teams PTO, vacations and holidays
- Put time in to receive new hardware, software, etc.
- Make sure you seek out any dependencies – if you are waiting for more storage before you can install a new Email system then most of your tasks will be contingent upon that projects finish date• Get input/feedback from your resources (what other projects/priorities do they have)
- Put time in for user testing and validation
- Insert time for knowledge transfer (especially since Mike will walk back into a new email system after vacation) and documentation
- User training
Your original four week schedule is now probably 8-9 weeks BUT it is realistic! Your business champions and executives will be much happier because you will deliver on time (or earlier). Your project team members will hope that you lead the next project they are on…
“Yeah but our executives or business champions don’t understand….” You are right, they probably don’t understand. They are waiting for someone to explain the logic behind why this is a 9 week project. You know who that someone is? You.