Scheduling: Project Management Flashcard

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Gantt Chart.

This is a scheduling tool that represents tasks graphically as bars. It could have several levels and presents a schedule in a simple manner for easier evaluation of project stakeholders or sponsors who are concerned with finish dates, time periods, and pre-defined activities that serve as milestones. Most project Gantt Charts are represented via spreadsheets or Microsoft Project as timetables or project schedules. These charts are useful for projects with template activities or those that follow a process, system, routine, outline, or set method usually specified in terms of references (TOR) or request for proposals (RFP).

Gantt Charts are usually encountered for projects with specified activities, schedules and personnel.Precedence Diagramming Method/ Critical Path Method Networks. The PDM is a scheduling tool that represents tasks or activities graphically as boxes or other shapes that are connected through arrows. It clearly shows the interrelationship of each and every task. It can give a birds-eye view of a complex project through shapes and arrows.

On the other hand, the CPM requires an inventory of all possible activities. It categorizes these activities into work packages or work breakdown structures, completion times, and the dependencies of those activities. A careful blending of the PDM and CPM equips the project manager with an insight into the possible problems that may delay certain activities and identify those activities that are most critical to the entire project. It also empowers the project manager to design alternate methods, what-if scenarios and other tools to fast-track the project, cut resource requirements, manage the cash-burn rate and other considerations that are important to project sponsors.

The PDM/ CPM Networks require analysis and creativity. These are usually encountered for projects that require alternative methods of implementation for cost efficiency and effectiveness, or sensitive time and resource constraints.Gantt Chart Versus PDM/CPM Networks. A project manager is essentially an integrator of people, resources and systems. Contrasting a scheduling technique versus another gives a project manager an overview on the limitation of any one particular technique. This enables the project manager to blend many techniques into an arsenal of hybrid tools that are superior compared with stand-alone techniques.

For one, Gantt Charts can be deceiving in the representation of resource-intensive tasks and those tasks that are highly important or critical to the project since these may be represented uniformly with other bars of lesser important or less resource-intensive activities. Secondly, project completion time percentages could be misrepresented. The project may be ninety percent (90%) complete yet the remaining ten percent (10%) could represent the essence of the entire project as it has more value substance-wise. For instance, consider an entire vehicle without its unique engine since the engine is still under development.

On the other hand, PDM/CPM Networks could appear complicated to the non-technical project sponsor or stakeholder although the activities are represented as simple shapes. Another drawback is that the PDM/CPM Networks present more complex decision-making as many options can be presented to the project sponsors.Preference. As a project manager, I prefer a blend of the Gantt Chart and the PDM/CPM for a complex project. I will use the Gantt Chart for simplification while the PDM/CPM for risk management and problem escalation prior to the project’s implementation.

For a simple project, I will still blend both techniques for different reasons. I will use the PDM/CPM to identify opportunities to fast-track completion times or maximize resources. Meanwhile, I will use the Gantt Chart for monitoring and progress reports for project stakeholders or sponsors. In fact, even most project management software use a blend of various scheduling techniques and methods.B. Analysis of Uncertainty:Contrast the statistical and simulation methods of characterizing the uncertainty in project completion times.

What information can each of these methods give you? How easy or complex are they? Where would you use one or the other?Statistical Method. Rosandich and Erquicia note that ninety percent of the time, NASA uses probability to calculate its project completion times. Of course, most organizations do not have the technical and financial resources that NASA has or is capable of tapping or employing for a specific project. However, what is common to all projects is uncertainty.

Uncertainty can occur in resources, outside events or factors, or even project support. Several uncertainties can be mathematically computed or calculated and this makes the statistical method feasible. But in areas of subjective uncertainties, employing the statistical method can be very complex. Consider those uncertainties caused by people thru their decision or capacity to decide and their preferences, objections or support, actions or inactions. In this regard, handling complex mathematical computations or theories can divert the project manager from the real essence of project management. Since projects are mainly about cooperation and collaboration with other people and hence, basically about good relationships, the extra time spent for complex statistics should be carefully weighed against the time lost for project visibility, people work and good relationships building.

The project manager is more of a manager and less of a statistician although a construction project manager can choose to employ a statistician to calculate for the probability of rising steel prices amid certain economic policies or conditions for instance. We must note however that some uncertainties cannot be predicted to occur at a definite time through the use of the statistical method. The savvy project manager simply prepares for that uncertainty by winning support for a special project or activity to address a major risk than waste time calculating probabilities.Simulation Method. The simulation method is useful for program management where several inter-related projects are needed to complete a highly complex undertaking that may take a long time to complete. Say, for instance, designing a new fighter plane, building the prototype, perfecting the aircraft design by correcting the prototype’s flaws, designing the mass production facility or facilities, mass producing the aircraft, and finally, training personnel that will fly and maintain the new fighter plane.

Simulations are needed every step of the way as well as statistical models to compute for data that can be easily gathered or those data that are not subjective.Statistical Versus Simulation Method. The statistical method is useful for certain project uncertainties but can become too complex for subjective uncertainties that require predictive accuracy. Meanwhile, the simulation method is useful for program management and highly technical projects that require the gathering of data and statistics so that a simulation can be designed, constructed and analyzed. Its drawback is complexity and heavy demand for technical expertise and financial resources.Preference.

Depending on the nature of the project, both the statistical and simulation methods can provide useful information that can make the project implementation more efficient, less costly, more palatable to project sponsors, or on time. Statistics can provide insights on the feasibility of certain actions while simulations can lessen the costs of an actual activity or nullify the possibility of an actual damage or lessen the effects of an actual error. The project manager’s job is to execute good cooperation and collaboration to complete the project. Presenting complex concepts in an easy manner or reducing a complex project into an easily understandable presentation through persuasion via statistics or simulation is a very desirable skill from a project manager. It helps one gain good cooperation, collaboration, and continued support from all project stakeholders, staff, and workers. These are essential areas where the statistical and simulation methods could be very useful in managing a project.

C. Scheduling:Discuss your own project scheduling experiences in your job or personal life. What worked and what didn’t?Due to the popularity of project management software, my project scheduling experiences usually consist of a fusion of several scheduling techniques that have already been integrated by commercial-off-the-shelf software, freeware, or open source software provider into the product. Some scheduling techniques work best for simple projects while complicated projects are best managed with a combination of several techniques. Exposure to several techniques equips the project manager to: a) consider several aspects of a project; b) analyze activities, resource requirements, and scenarios from several angles; c) design alternative implementation methods, execution processes, and resource usage; and d) experiment with possibilities, probabilities, uncertainties, and forecasted outcomes to better manage project risks, opportunities and challenges.

I would say that the integration, combination, or improvisation of several techniques enable a project manager to skillfully complete a project on time, within budget and with great satisfaction by all project stakeholders. Of course, since all projects require cooperation and collaboration and humans by nature are the most cooperative and collaborative creatures on the planet, scheduling techniques are just tools so that better cooperation and collaboration can be achieved. Scheduling tools or the software that uses these tools have not enamored me more than the need to build good relationships with people that are essential to the completion of any project. I think spending more time with people works better than spending more time with the tools after the plan has been made.Incidentally, a good plan should consider several aspects of the project such as available resources, outside events and factors that may affect the project and various constraints.

It should also have a careful analysis of activities, the other resources that will be needed in the project after considering those that are available and possible resource alternatives, possible scenarios that could happen, and the contingencies that should be put in place in case such scenarios occur considering available resources and other constraints. A good plan should also contain built-in alternatives of implementation, execution, and use of resources. Most importantly, a good plan should present all possibilities, probabilities and uncertainties. It should also have a forecast of the expected outcome based on certain scenarios.

This is to better manage project risks, opportunities and challenges.I think the thing that works best for me is a well-considered project plan that uses the most applicable features of several scheduling techniques combined with good people skills. A well-considered project plan prevents surprises, possible delays, and cost overruns. It also minimizes slack times and maximizes resource usage. Several scheduling techniques also provide wider perspective, better insight, and greater data for consideration and decision-making.

I think better decisions are made when greater data are available and when analyses are more rigorous. Most important of all, I think good people skills enable project managers to better convey instructions, persuade staff, assign tasks, meet expectations, escalate and resolve problems, or even gain support on the use of resources amid competing demands.I think what does not work for me is lack of information, lack of perspective, lack of improvisation or creativity and/or lack of good people skills. Lack of information can lead to bad decisions, bad actions, and trial-and-error reactions. Project management then becomes a reactive rather than a proactive undertaking. Meanwhile, lack of perspective or limited insight can lead to resource and requirement mismatches, timeline and technology mismatches, or task dependency mismatches.

Moreover, lack of improvisation or creativity can lead to failure in adapting with the evolving and improving standards of project management. Finally, lack of good people skills can antagonize project sponsors, project staff and ultimately project workers. 

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