How to Perfect a Project Schedule with Quality Time Management Techniques

Time Management Techniques for Project Managers









The effect of time management on project schedule

Successful project management relies on a number of factors. Cost and quality, of course, are two of these, but without a workable and balanced project schedule there will be little chance of on-time and on-budget completion. Schedule overruns impact on both cost and reputation, so good project management requires the adoption of good time management techniques. Here we look at some of time management strategies, and how they come together to create a quality project schedule.

The starting point of a project schedule

A couple of weeks ago we discussed the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), the method by which all tasks and responsibilities are identified and assigned. The WBS helps project management to split a large complex project into smaller, manageable work packages (WPs). It also acts as a great aid in the time management of the complex project.

The WPs required within the project scope can be planned effectively as to time and resources required, and scheduled to run smoothly as a whole. However, good project management realises the necessity for inclusivity in this scheduling process. All relevant stakeholders will need to be consulted, working in collaboration to build a workable project schedule.

The importance of stakeholder involvement in the time management of project schedules

Though the project manager will have overall control and responsibility, it is impractical to micro-manage WPs. There will be a reliance on contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers, etc. to deliver on time and within budget. These stakeholders will be able to identify constraints which may cause delays, as well as negotiate with other stakeholders to dovetail responsibilities, work, and supply schedules. After all, it is only they who know their current and future schedules, employee availability, and the complexities of their work.

In other words, these project stakeholders are invaluable to project management, and are integral to the time management of a project schedule.

Techniques used in resource and time allocation

Time management techniques used in project management fall into the two broad categories of qualitative and quantitative estimating. Qualitative estimating uses the prior personal experiences of stakeholders (and considered expert judgement), as well as brainstorming. Qualitative estimating uses a variety of techniques, including:

  • Estimation by comparison to similar past projects (analogous estimation)
  • Estimation by the relationship of variables (parametric estimation): for example, if it took two hours to lay 25 yards of lawn last week and 50 yards of lawn need to be laid this week, the time requirement can be reasonably estimated as four hours
  • PERT (Program, Evaluation, and Review – three point) estimation, by which a weighted estimate is made using the most pessimistic, most optimistic, and most likely outcome
  • Unit rate estimation

Putting it all together

With all stakeholders involved and providing input, best practice project management will follow four basic stages when producing a workable project schedule. At every stage, care must be taken to utilise the time management techniques outlined above. In brief, these four stages are:

  1. Defining the WPs
  2. Sequencing the WPs
  3. Estimating resource and time requirements
  4. Developing and managing the project schedule

It follows that the project manager must be a good time manager, and this includes helping others to identify constraints and manage their time effectively in order to perfect the project schedule.