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Scheduling work

From: Managing Small Projects

Video: Scheduling work

The Project Schedule is where all your project planning comes together. You figure out the order in which work has to be done. Using your time estimates you determine when tasks can start, how long they will take, and when they should finish. And you assign people to the tasks if you haven't done so already. The order in which you do things can make a big difference in how smoothly your project runs. Some work has to be done before you can do other tasks. For example, the construction has to be complete before the building inspector comes out.

Scheduling work

The Project Schedule is where all your project planning comes together. You figure out the order in which work has to be done. Using your time estimates you determine when tasks can start, how long they will take, and when they should finish. And you assign people to the tasks if you haven't done so already. The order in which you do things can make a big difference in how smoothly your project runs. Some work has to be done before you can do other tasks. For example, the construction has to be complete before the building inspector comes out.

In project management speak the order is called a Task Dependency or Task Link. For example, a finish to start link is when one task has to finish before the next one can start. You can link tasks backwards or forwards depending on how you like to do it. For many people, working backwards is easier. You can start with the final deliverable for the project, maybe scribbling it on the right side of the piece of paper. Then ask yourself, what has to be done before I can deliver this? For instance, the final milestone for the relocation is that the new space is open for business.

So, what has to be done before you can open the studio for business, or you have to set up the fitness equipment and unpack and set up the other areas? Write down the task or tasks to the left of the final deliverable, in this case, set up equipment and unpack. Then, look at each of those tasks, and ask a similar question, what has to be done before I can start this task? Write down the task or tasks you think of to the left. In this case, it's move the office.

Repeat these steps until you're back at the beginning of the project. You can also start from the beginning and work to the end. With this approach, you ask yourself, what comes first? For the relocation, that's find a new space. Then, you ask, once that's done, what's next? In this example, it's negotiate lease. You might run into other types of dependencies such as tasks that start at about the same time or finish at the same time. But, most of the time, one task finishes before another starts.

Once you've ordered the tasks, then you can start scheduling them. When work starts and how long it takes depends on two things; the time estimate and when people can work on the task, which I'll talk about later. On small projects, you often know who is going to do a task as soon as you identify the work. For example, you know that the construction will be done by contractors even if you don't know the specific contractor. For these situations, you can make the assignments even before you build the schedule.

If you need to find people to do work, it's better to assign them after you've built the schedule, so you can get people who are available when you need them. When you have tasks in the right order with dates scheduled and people assigned, you have to go over the schedule to see if it really works. That's the topic of the next movie.

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Managing Small Projects

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Bonnie Biafore
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