What happens when a project starts with a few unknowns, and those unknowns multiply like bunnies? You get an adorable infestation of unknowns, and they will eat your project out of time and budget. To put a lid on this, Bernadine Douglas introduces the Network Diagram Mentality in a post for Voices on Project Management.
The network diagram is a planning tool that “shows sequences of tasks, dependencies on tasks and impacts on a project.” Douglas provides these three tips for using them to manage the project schedule:
- Count backward.
- Look in other directions.
- Keep the end in mind.
Some tasks are time-sensitive according to their dependency on completing other tasks, so counting backward can actually be a very efficient way of keeping to a schedule. Douglas says float, slack, and critical path times should all be factored into to your backward calculations, and the ultimate effect is that you build a more focused schedule.
Regarding the second point, project managers need to have excellent periphery vision to keep an eye on everything that matters to project success. For instance, you might want to be looking at where you are in the project, while simultaneously watching out for how the project fits into the current overall business strategy. If strategy and available resources are shifting, consider if maybe you should be shifting the project too to account for the change in trajectory.
Finally, about keeping the end in mind, Douglas says:
Encourage team members to maintain a layout of their tasks in a way that identifies and prioritizes what must be done and can be done to reach that goal. Then, inspire your team to approach all tasks with confidence. In a network diagram, after having laid possible connections together, the project manager sets controls in place, giving him or her the capability for more optimal opportunities of project success. Manage your time and your project team’s time based on making it to the finish line.
Use a network diagram to keep those coquettish unknowns where they belong—a thousand yards away from your project. You can read the original post here: http://www.projectmanagement.com/blog/Voices-on-Project-Management/11185/