How a giant deliverables schedule creates team commitment
Karen Tate, PMP, President, MartinTate
Project Management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet or exceed stakeholder needs and expectations from a project (PMBOK® Guide). Project Leaders/Managers must coordinate the resources assigned to the project to produce the project deliverable(s). Project Leaders/Managers need more efficient and effective planning methods to use with their project teams to develop a good plan and to obtain commitment to it. Involving the team in creating a Giant Deliverables Schedule to identify the relationships among the key deliverables of the project is a relatively simple and powerful way to develop a master schedule for very large and complex projects, or for all the projects in a department for yearly planning. First, we will describe how to create a Deliverables Schedule, then how to develop a Giant Deliverables Schedule from the individual deliverables schedules.
What Is a Deliverables Schedule?
A deliverables schedule shows the interdependencies between the interim and final deliverables that are created by subprojects. It shows the sequence of deliverables that will be created, from the first to the last, and shows who is accountable for meeting the delivery date for each (Martin & Tate, 1997).
Why Use the Deliverables Schedule?
• To determine when each deliverable will be delivered to its customer
• To map the interdependencies within the project (predecessors and successors or suppliers and customers)
• To identify whom is accountable for making sure that each deliverable is produced on time
• To provide a baseline for monitoring schedule status during Execution
• To help the team understand the big picture
• To prevent the team from including too much detail (individual activities).
How Is a Deliverables Schedule Created?
Each subproject should have a project charter, a scope description and agreement at the project level on the deliverables to be created in each subproject. The subproject teams should meet to determine how they could complete their work before the overall project deliverables schedule is created.
Step 1—Create the deliverables schedule diagram. Place at least 10 feet of banner paper on the wall. Put the subprojects on the Y-axis of the diagram on each end of the paper. Put the project timeline or milestone schedule on the x-axis across the bottom of the paper.
Step 2—Write the name of each deliverable (interim and final) on a Post-it® Note. Prior to coming to the scheduling meeting, each subproject leader should have completed portions of the subproject plan with their subproject team. The subproject teams should have identified the interim and final deliverables, and the durations, and predecessors for each.
Step 3—Place the Post-it® Notes for the final deliverables at the appropriate points on the diagram.
Step 4—Align the interim deliverables with the subproject doing the work and with the timeline. The subproject leaders will map their deliverables on the diagram together, and negotiate the interdependencies and the start and delivery (completion) dates for each deliverable. Connect deliverables with arrows, first in pencil, while adjustments are made. Once a workable schedule has been developed that the subproject leaders believe is achievable and feasible, the interdependencies are drawn in marker so they are visible from a distance.
Step 5—Add start and delivery dates to the Post-it® Notes, per the agreements made during the scheduling process. At this point, these are the best dates the team can estimate, and they are based on current assumptions and information.
Step 6—Review the major milestones, and revise, if necessary. If any on the milestones are not achievable based on this more detailed schedule, adjust the dates, or negotiate new dates if possible. It is useful to know which dates are targets, and which ones are necessary before this scheduling meeting begins.
Step 7—Identify any deliverables that need internal customer acceptance criteria. Some of the deliverables may need further clarification. If the deliverable in question is critical, or non-routine, the customer and supplier of that deliverable should have a discussion to agree upon the acceptance criteria of that deliverable before the scheduling process is completed. The amount of time (duration) needed to create the deliverable may be affected by the acceptance criteria.
Exhibit 1. Deliverables Schedule Diagram
Exhibit 2. Deliverables Post-it® Notes
Exhibit 3. Photo
Step 8—Revisit the risk assessment done for the project. Once the team is satisfied that the deliverables schedule is workable, they should assess the risk of missing the completion date for the project and the delivery dates of the major deliverables. If the overall feeling of the project team is the risk of missing the date is medium or high, the team should try to develop countermeasures to increase their chances of meeting their dates. If this is not possible, the project leader should discuss this risk with the sponsor before moving forward.
What Is a Giant Deliverables Schedule?
A Giant Deliverables Schedule is a master deliverables schedule that shows the interdependencies among a group of projects that should be planned and coordinated together. It is developed in real time in the same way as the deliverables schedule, by mapping interdependencies, and determining completion dates for the deliverables.
What Are the Benefits of a Giant Deliverables Schedule Created?
• A focus on deliverables removes the clutter and helps the team to focus on what was important.
• Everyone on the team could see and understand how the whole project fit together.
• Each person walked away with a commitment to the project and an understanding of what he or she needed to do to make the project a success.
• The efficiency that is realized by developing the master schedule with all the project leaders in the same room at the same time is well worth the effort.
• Most of the questions and negotiations regarding the interdependencies of the deliverables among the project teams can be handled in minutes instead of days.
• Modifications of the master schedule during the scheduling process are easily made and understood by the project teams.
• The schedule network can be easily input into most software programs, once the project teams have finalized it.
Exhibit 4. Photo of Group Discussion
How Is a Giant Deliverables Schedule Created?
Before the master schedule is created, each of the projects in the group or department should have a deliverables schedule to work from. These individual schedules should be posted on the wall around the room.
Exhibit 5. Completed Deliverables Schedule
Exhibit 6. Schedule Risk Assessment
Step 1—The master schedule grid is created and put on the wall. Projects are listed on the y-axis and the milestone schedule for the entire time period to be scheduled on the x-axis.
Step 2—Determine the deliverables from each project that should be put on the master schedule. Each project team does this by identifying interdependencies with deliverables from the other projects. The best way to do this is to have each of the project teams walk around and look at every other project schedule on the wall. Duplicate the Post-it® Notes for the master schedule.
Steps 3-7 are basically the same as the deliverables schedule, and the team should apply common sense in following the steps to complete the master schedule.
Project Leaders need structured and participative methods for developing an understanding of the interdependencies of the project deliverables while minimizing the chaos and confusion that is often associated with consensus and participative decision-making processes. While using a software tool for scheduling is a good idea, you must first make sure that the schedule is really workable, and that the team members who are committing to the schedule truly understand it. When the project manager creates a schedule in a software tool, it might be faster and more efficient, but this is not the only criterion for a good schedule.
• When the team participates in creating the schedule, you are forced to be realistic and the schedule creates is one that everyone agrees is feasible.
• When the team participates in creating the schedule, they understand not only their own pieces of the project, but also how the pieces fit together. They help to identify the interdependencies so they know they are dependent upon and who is depending on them. They see the big picture of the project.
• When the team participates in creating the schedule, they develop a commitment to the project and to meeting the deadlines of the project. This shifts the burden of the project from the project manager's shoulders to the shoulders of the entire team.
Martin, Paula, & Tate, Karen (1997). The project management memory jogger, A pocket guide for project teams. Salem, NH: GOAL/QPC.
PMI Standards Committee. (1996). (PMBOK® guide) A guide to the project management body of knowledge. Newton Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
September 7–16, 2000 • Houston, Texas, USA
Earning a scheduling certification helped three project professionals deliver more precise estimates — and become better leaders.