Join Bonnie Biafore for an in-depth discussion in this video Adjusting the level of work over time, part of Project Management Foundations: Schedules.
Work contours help you even out people's workloads, while improving your schedule's accuracy. When you first assign people to task, the typical model is the tasks start and stop abruptly. But how much someone works on an assignment can vary day by day. Work contours put this varying work level into your schedule. They do a better job of modeling how people work on their assignments and they don't lengthen the schedule as much as delays or splits do. Work levels can vary in several ways over the duration of an assignment.
However you've probably experienced a work contour like a bell curve. Work starts off slow as someone gathers the info they need and gets used to their assignment. Then they hit their stride and they're completely productive through the middle of the work. Finally, the effort tapers off near the finish while they tie up loose ends. Another common contour is the late peak. This is the one for people who work well on adrenaline. The work starts slow and continues to build to a peak as the deadlines grow closer.
These are just a few examples of work contours. Some scheduling programs have work contours you can apply to tasks. If the hours people spend on a task vary day by day, find the contour that best reflects those varying work levels, and assign it to the task. If you're unfamiliar with the type of project you're working on, ask other project managers or your team members which work contours make sense. Not every task needs a work contour, you'll get better at deciding whether to use one and how to choose as you gain more experience.
A contour does increase the length of a task, because the person doesn't work 100% from start to finish. For instance, a task might go from five days to eight days with a contour applied. However, the less than full time allocations mean that the person assigned can ramp up on one task, while they wrap up on another. Contouring work helps even out workloads without lengthening the overall schedule too much. The added advantage of work contours is they provide a better picture of how work really gets done.
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- Identifying the work that needs to be done
- Adding milestones
- Delaying or overlapping tasks with lag and lead time
- Assigning resources
- Balancing workloads
- Adding buffers and baselines to the schedule
- Uncovering and correcting out schedule problems<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.