Schedule Management

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Location:  PMKI > PMBoK Knowledge Areas > Schedule Management. 
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This subject covers the processes required to plan, estimate, manage and control the work of the project to achieve its timely completion. This page focuses on topics needed for the PMP examination, more advanced scheduling information is contained in the Project Controls & Scheduling section of the PMKI.

Topics included in Schedule Management:

- Schedule management overview
- Planning the planning
- Develop the CPM schedule
- Control the schedule
- General scheduling information
- Useful External Web-links & Resources.

Other related sections of the PMKI:

- Project Controls & Scheduling
- Resource Management 
- The History of Project Controls 

Schedule management overview

Schedule ManagementThe purpose of a project schedule is to define how the product will be created based on the resources available to undertake the work. This process traditionally occurred once at the beginning of the project. In iterative and adaptive projects it is more common to have a general overall schedule for the work and then to develop detailed schedules for each phase or iteration. Regardless of the method actually used, the three fundamental elements of good schedule are:

  • Understanding the intended sequence of work, and the resources required to accomplish the work of the time available
  • Providing guidance to the project team work to be done ‘today’
  • Providing information to the project managers on how work is progressing and projected completion date based on current progress.

Project Schedule Management in the PMBOK® Guide covers:

  • Plan schedule management - deciding on how the schedule will be developed and managed, the tools and techniques to be used, and the policies and processes to be applied. Some projects have are free to choose what they feel is best, others are constrained by either organizational policies and guidelines or contractual requirements.
  • Define activities - developing a complete list of activities that covers 100% of the work to be accomplished at an appropriate level of detail. Typically, this is a further decomposition of the work packages defined in the WBS.
  • Sequence activities - to determine the best way of accomplishing the work
  • Estimate activity durations - based on the amount of work in the activity and the available (or planned) resources that will undertake the work.
  • Develop schedule - putting all of the foregoing together to determine the optimum way to complete the work of the project and achieve the project's objectives.
  • Control Schedule - statusing, updating, reporting, and analyzing actual progress to create information and insights that can be used to inform management decisions.

The GuideGuide to Good Practice in the Management of Time in Major Projects: Dynamic Time Modelling, 2nd Edition. A practical treatise on the processes and standards required for the effective time management of major projects, including real life case studies dealing with strategic time management and high-density, resource-based scheduling. It is the definitive handbook for any project and program management professional seeking to manage time effectively on major projects. See more.

DP: A Guide to Scheduling Good Practice. Describes the work undertaken by a scheduler to create an effective schedule.

PP: 5-STEPS, Five Steps To Ensure Project Success. A proven process designed to focus the thinking of the key stakeholders onto the parameters required to achieve a successful project outcome.


Planning the planning - Schedule design & Project strategy

Schedule design

The Schedule Management Plan is a sub-plan in the overall project management plan. It documents the project control limits, thresholds and tolerances for time variances that will be left for the project manager to control, and those that will require authorization through the change control system or escalation to higher authorities. It also specifies how the schedule will be developed and controlled, what code fields will be used, how the schedule will integrate with other control tools, and the software to be used.  Planning the planning is a vital step in setting up a controls system that works.

Art: Scheduling For Effect. Three simple things anyone can do to make their project schedules more effective.

WP: Timeboxing. Timeboxing is a simple process used to measure the complete of a defined amount of work in a fixed period, plus or minus an allowed variation (the 'time box').

WP: Rolling Wave Planning. Rolling wave is a form of progressive elaboration, increasing the detail in a schedule as more information becomes available.

Project Strategy

Planning how the work of the project will be accomplished, what methodologies will be used to undertake the work and how the schedule will represent these decisions. The schedule for a project being developed using an 'Agile' methodology will be very different to one using a traditional 'Waterfall' approach (even though the deliverable to be produced is the same). Similarly a decision to outsource or contract most of the work of a project will require a very different management approach to a project where most of the work is planned to be done 'in-house' and the schedule needs to reflect these differences.

WP: Project Planning -v- Scheduling. Planning is focused on optimizing the sequencing of the work and the methods to be used as a precursor to scheduling which focuses on how the method will be implemented.


Develop the CPM schedule

Duration and Resource Estimating

Schedule ManagementThe process of estimating activity durations combines the activity’s scope of work, the required resource types, estimated (or available) resource quantities, resource calendars, anticipate resource knowledge/skills and the resulting productivity factor to assess a likely duration. The constant that does not alter is the scope of work included in the activity. The variable is the resources assigned to do the work. The outcome of the estimating process is the duration.

WP: Duration Estimating. The challenge of assigning an accurate duration to a task.

PP: The Cost of Time - or who's duration is it anyway? The multiple factors that should be considered by competent planners and managers when determining a duration for an activity.

Prs: Estimating Fallacies - excessive detail does not help. Detailed is not synonymous with accurate! Excessive detail can reduce accuracy, devalue the estimate and create unrealistic expectations leading to failure when the project fails to achieve the impossible.


Links, Leads, Lags and Ladders

Activity sequencing involves the identification and documentation of dependencies (logical relationships) between activities. It is needed to support the development of a realistic and achievable schedule. Properly sequencing (connecting) the activities is also crucial for maintaining the integrity of the schedule. This is particularly important when assessing the impact of change and the addition of information from progress reports when the schedule is no longer running to the original plan.

When developing a logic network the key questions for each activity are:-

  • What has to be completed to allow this activity to start?
  • What cannot start until this activity is completed?
  • What can happen at the same time as this activity?

The resulting logic is the road map showing the sequence of work from the beginning to the end of the project.

DP: Links, Lags and Ladders - the subtleties of overlapping tasks. Focuses on the issues, problems and challenges of overlapping tasks in a schedule using various link types.

Art: Hammocks, LOE and Summary Activities in Schedules. Hammocks, LOE and Summary Activities are three completely different types of activity – the differences are defined.

DP: Dynamic Scheduling. Describes the benefits derived from developing a logically linked schedule.


CPM Calculations

DP: Schedule Calculations. A detailed guide the Time Analysis and Float calculations used in PDM schedules.

Blg: Schedule Calculations – Old and New. The difference between old manual calculations starting from Zero, and the correct calculations used by modern computers.


Resource Optimization

Prs: Resource optimization - a new paradigm for project scheduling. This paper looks at ways to reverse the paradigm that makes the activity duration central to scheduling. The work is the constant, the resources used, the variable and the duration the outcome.

Analyze and adjust the schedule to meet project objectives (particularly any required completion dates).

Schedule development is focused on determining realistic start and completion dates for all of the activities in the schedule. The process may be iterated (along with earlier ones) before baselining the agreed project schedule. It involves Schedule development brings together all of the outputs from previous schedule management processes, and analyzing the information in a holistic way to create the schedule model used for managing the execution of the overall work of the project.

WP: Defining the Critical Path. There are many different descriptions in regular use, this WP provides a concise and accurate definition.

DP: Schedule Float. Discusses the various calculations and definitions for Free float and Total float.

PP: Why Critical Path Scheduling (CPM) is Wildly Optimistic. The biases built into the CPM methodology that underestimate project durations.

Blg : Critical confusion – when activities on the critical path don’t compute…… The use of Finish-to-Finish and Start-to-Start links (particularly in combination) can cause significant issues in calculating the overall project duration.


Control the schedule

Schedule ManagementStatusing and updating the schedule to reflect actual progress. Analyzing the information generated.

Schedule control is concerned with:

  • Determining the current status of the project
  • Understanding what has caused the status (particularly if there are negative trends)
  • Influencing the factors that cause change to enhance positive influences and reduce negative influences
  • Determining the extent of change, and
  • Managing changes when they do occur.

PP: Managing for Success - The power of regular updates. Updating a schedule should be more than a clerical process - well managed updates motivate and direct the work of the project.

WP: Schedule Compression. This WP focuses on the techniques and risks associated with schedule compression, including 'fast-tracking' and 'crashing'.

Art: Assurance for high risk projects. High-risk, high reward projects that have the potential to transform an organization require a robust, independent assurance function!

For papers on delay and disruption claims see: Claims and Forensic Analysis

Prs: Projects controls using integrated data. The future of project time management as an integrated part of an overall project information system.

Reporting, to stakeholders and helping to inform management decisions.

PP Understanding the Schedule. The challenge of informed consent. “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” [George Bernard Shaw] presenting a schedule does not mean the recipient has understood the information!

Prs: Communication in organizations - making the schedule effective. The challenges associated with communicating controls information in a way that is understood and appreciated by stakeholders (particularly senior managers) so they can use the information to make informed decisions.

PP: Communications Control? Schedules cannot control anything - they are inert sources of information! These papers look at the challenge communicating the information to influence decisions and behaviour.


General scheduling information 

The different aspects of project management, planning and scheduling:

Prs: Project management vs Project scheduling. The different roles and responsibilities of project management, project planning and project scheduling.

Prs: Time management -v- Contract administration. A contrast between the static approach to scheduling in many contracts and the need for proactive time management to complete a project successfully.


Useful External Web-links & Resources

Scheduling  StandardPMI's Practice Standard for Scheduling is available free of charge to PMI members, see: 
- Australian sales only from our web shop


The GuideCIOB's Guide to Good Practice in the Management of Time in Major Projects.
- International sales
- Australian sales only from our web shop


GAO GuideDownload the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Schedule Assessment Guide.




Communication TrainingDeveloping an Effective CPM Schedule. This workshop focuses on how to develop an effective schedule in any software tool. Attendees will understand the importance of implementing effective schedule planing and control techniques in a structured way that directly involves the project stakeholders. (view course details).


Self-paced PMI-SP Training

Risk management template

Self-paced EVM Training

Communication management template

Self-paced PMI-SP Training

Self-paced EVM Training

Self-paced PMI-SP Training

Communication management template