Design and development of a schedule management plan

Vice President of Scheduling Excellence, PMI College of Scheduling, Scheduling Community of Practice


It is well understood that the primary guiding document for project planning is the Project Management Plan, which integrates and consolidates a number of subsidiary plans, including the Schedule Management Plan (SMP). This SMP provides initial guidance and tailors general time management planning for specific project use when performing the time management processes. Although A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) does not provide much information about the SMP, development of this plan is extremely important to successful project delivery.

This paper discusses and provides an effective approach to designing and developing this Schedule Management Plan as well as producing a checklist and procedure that can be stored as a library template for future plan use.


Chapter 6 of the PMBOK® Guide, Project Time Management, addresses the processes necessary to develop a project schedule or programme, but does not directly address the plan required to design the basis for these processes. The first process identified in Project Time Management is that of “Define Activities”, which is part of the Planning Process Group, designed to be implemented at the same time as several other processes such as “Create WBS” and “Develop Project Management Plan”.

The reference in the PMBOK® Guide to the Schedule Management Plan includes only a brief comment about the planning effort noting, “This planning effort is part of the Develop Project Management Plan process (Section 4.2), which produces a schedule management plan that selects a scheduling methodology, a scheduling tool, and sets the format and establishes criteria for developing and controlling the project schedule.

Other Industry Efforts

The development of the Schedule Management Plan, while not necessarily known by that name, is common to most planning and scheduling industry associations involved in production of best practices or project controls. Other approaches to the development of the Schedule Management Plan (SMP) in the industry are provided by various industry associations such as the PMI College of Scheduling (now officially the Scheduling Community of Practice), the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International (AACEi), the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA), Planning Planet (PP), and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).

In the PMI College of Scheduling/Scheduling Community of Practice, the Scheduling Excellence Initiative (SEI) is currently finalizing the first draft of the Best Practices and Guidelines for Scheduling to be submitted for peer review at the 2011 Annual PMI College of Scheduling Conference in San Francisco, California, in May 2011. This document provides a chapter on Schedule Design, producing best and recommended practices for all aspects of planning to create the project schedule or programme, which aligns well with the development of the SMP.

The AACEi has published a description of the full project controls process called the “Total Cost Management Framework,” which defines Total Cost Management (TCM) as “the effective application of professional and technical expertise to plan and control resources, costs, profitability and risk.” The development of the SMP may be found within TCM primarily in sections 7.1, “Project Scope and Execution Strategy Development.” In this taxonomy, the work involved in developing the SMP, often called Schedule Design, is a prerequisite to Schedule Planning, similarly to the way the PMBOK® Guide describes it. This process for TCM defines the work that must be performed to deliver the project, the general approach through which the work will be performed, and the schedule architecture needed to support the project management effort.

CMAA publishes the Construction Management Standards of Practice (CMSoP), which subdivides the processes necessary to develop the SMP into several stages; Pre-Design, Design, Procurement, Construction, and Post-Construction. In the Pre-Design Phase, the CMSoP notes that during this phase, the “CM determines the appropriate scheduling systems and procedures for monitoring the schedule…” So, development of the SMP occurs in the Pre-Design Phase for the CMAA standards.

Planning Planet, one of the oldest of the global planning associations, is in the process of developing a body of knowledge for planning and scheduling to be called the “Planners Users’ Guide.” This guide will encompass all aspects of scheduling for global industries that use scheduling processes. The author was instrumental in writing the basic text for the Module under development related to SMP in the Guide, called, “Selection of the Schedule Design/Project Plan.” This module addresses the necessary decisions and assumptions that must be made before starting to create the schedule.

CIOB, a UK based association dedicated to “the promotion for the public benefit of the science and practice of building,” recently published its study, “Managing the Risk of Delayed Completion in the 21st Century”, and does not appear to address best practices in developing the SMP. The publication does identify a small group (approximately 7%) of the study participants that establishes quality control of the programme through review against an ISO9001 certified process; however, it makes no mention of the need for a SMP.

Purpose of the Schedule Management Plan

Starting out developing a schedule by sitting down at the computer and punching in the list of activities without designing the SMP is similar to starting out a project by jumping into the first stage without having thought through any plan or schedule for the project. A properly developed schedule is a guideline and map for a project. If you look at the development of a schedule as a project in itself; it meets all the terms of a project such as having a temporary nature, with a starting date and fixed ending date, specific goals and multiple parties participating in the project. So, if the development of a schedule is a project, what is the plan for this project? Doesn’t it make sense that there should be a plan for any project? What is the plan for schedule development? This is where the SMP comes in.

It is vital that the purpose for the schedule suits the execution strategy, which could include a need to protect time related costs, budget control, change management control, detailed management usage, resource control, owner and third-party coordination and control, accurate predictions and projections, or claims avoidance and documentation. The purpose for a project schedule is organized and focused by the development of the SMP.

So, the purpose for developing a SMP is to ensure that the actual development of the schedule is guided by a well thought-out process that will ensure sufficient organizational structure and an approach to efficiently developing the schedule.

Difference between the Schedule Management Plan and Schedule Development

The SMP includes planning and designing the schedule, from identifying the end users to designing the reports, from identifying the WBS structure to designing the Calendars and Activity Codes, from determining the update frequency to establishing the level of detail, especially deciding on a bottom-up or top-down approach to development of the schedule.

Schedule development is the normal baseline schedule creation that is written up in many, many papers and books, and well described in the industry. It is predicated on having a good SMP so the schedule development is organized and efficiently produced.

Components of the Schedule Management Plan

Just as a schedule has components that help to create a model of the physical construction, the development of the SMP has components necessary to help in the successful achievement of a good scheduling process.

As noted earlier, the purpose for the schedule must suit the execution strategy, so a first step in developing the SMP is to determine the purpose for the schedule so as to allow the design of the schedule to fit that purpose. This is a discussion that often does not happen, to the project’s detriment.

Without a clear understanding of the terminology used in the schedule and schedule reports, communications will be less than ideal, so a lexicon with definitions of any technical terms is vital to a good SMP. Technical construction terms such as tender or programme will dominate when working with international projects while U.S. based projects may prefer buy-out or procurement, and plan or schedule. Specific technical scheduling terms such as Critical Path should be defined so that there will be no questions later about whether the CP is the Longest Path or some Total Float maximum. Good understanding of all terms will help the communications, and after all, what is a schedule if not a communications tool?

Starting schedule development without the necessary information is less than ideal, and can result in slow development or worse, incomplete and inaccurate schedules. The SMP should include a list of necessary documents to allow development to proceed, such as contractual information (when does the project start and end officially?), plans and specifications (what is the scope?), penalties and incentives (what are the risks of performance?), sequencing and area designation plans (how is the project to be handled?), and resources (what are the available resources along with their limits?). It is simple enough to develop a master list of required documents for a specific industry or type of project.

Understanding who will be involved with the schedule development is an important consideration in developing the SMP. These are the people whose roles will impact how the schedule is to be used and what information is both needed and available. On the Owner side, who will actually review the schedules is an important question so that requirements that may be higher or different from the schedule specifications can be ascertained. This is the time to work out the process for schedule submission and approval, including any lessons learned issues that the reviewer will bring to the table. Knowing when the reviewer wants and is able to review the schedule, and what formats are used all help contribute to a more smoothly run operation. Identifying stakeholders and end users (which might be tenants) is an important issue to discuss; if these parties are going to have input into the project or the schedule, it is important to identify them.

Once the team members and other stakeholders are identified, including outside influences on the schedule or project, the actual roles and responsibilities for those members should be identified and clarified. The PMBOK® Guide notes the use of the RACI Chart, correlating tasks with role and individuals by identifying four links; Responsible, Accountable, Consult, and Inform. This covers the major divisions among project management team members in the development and maintenance of the project schedule and will provide clarity to the project team.

With the wide availability of various project management software packages for planning and scheduling, coupled with the different options and limitations of those packages, the SMP is the appropriate time to record the process used to decide on the specific software and platform for use, and how it is to be used, and the specific version required. The issue of Enterprise Scheduling software is addressed in the SMP stage. This includes identifying users, what schedules will be imported or used as a data source, what levels of access for individuals are required, how imported schedules will be validated, and for the use of a master schedule with imported or individually updated sub-schedules, establish the common data date to be used for updates.

The final baseline and update schedules need the ability to produce any reports that will be required, so it makes sense to have an idea of all required reports while designing the schedule. This means that the ability to organize as needed can be set up in the schedule components such as WBS, Activity Codes, Filters, Layouts, and page formats, and can be done one time. It also will help speak to cost and resource loading and what specific reports will be needed for management of the project.

Other components such as intelligent activity identification coding should be established in the SMP so that the codes are designed early and are flexible enough to suit the schedule use.

In projects that are susceptible to adverse weather, the SMP is used to choose the methodology for adverse weather planning as well as the process for tracking actual weather. This benchmark is necessary in order to analyze the effects of any unusually adverse weather on the project performance.

With respect to cost and resource loading and monitoring, this is an important aspect of the SMP since many projects are heavily driven by the resources and others are monitored primarily by costs. Determining what cost information is available and how it will be used will enhance the value of the schedule. If bills of quantities and the estimate are available, the option of using Earned Value Management is on the table. This is one of the better, and perhaps one of the only, ways to manage the non-critical work, that work that has float but if not done, will ultimately become critical. Slippage in this non-critical work has destroyed many a budget due to excess costs incurred in the last month of a project, and has a high likelihood of forcing late completion. So the use of Earned Value Management Systems (EVMS) specifically to monitor this non-critical work will enhance the ability forecast both cost at completion and trade or resource stacking that will likely cause slippage in the completion date, and will provide a range of optimistic to pessimistic predictions. Design of the EVMS should take place during the SMP development so that it will be an integral part of the schedule development as well as producing useful and relevant output reports.

Since the schedule or programme is the primary communications tool for the project, it is vital that the initial submission of the schedule, as well as the updated schedules, clearly explain the contractor’s means and methods for pursuing project progress and achieving timely completion. This explanation is typically submitted as a separate narrative with the technical schedule, generally called the Written Narrative or the Basis of Schedule or Programme. The purpose of the Narrative is to provide a summary of the work, explain the plan for construction, show how the schedule meets the specification and plan contractual requirements, identify potential problems, and summarize the Critical Path.

The risk management process, which should be used in the schedule development and updates, should be identified and formalized in the SMP. This is an area that is often ignored by Contractors and Owners, and one that can produce strong positive benefits to the project. Developing the original plan, identifying the known problems, brainstorming the unknown or predicted problems, and determining the time contingencies and method of carrying these contingencies all improve the end result. Risk planning, both for threats and opportunities, provides a level of planning safety that is not often recognized for the benefit to the project that it provides in completion protection.

Since, as the PMBOK® Guide rightly states, all projects experience change, the development of the SMP is the appropriate time to design the change management process and develop procedures for this process. This includes a system to identify changes, a process of cost estimating for additional costs and a process for analysis of the time impact of the changes, as well as mitigation needs for the Owner. All changes should have an analysis of both cost and time, as well as a review of risks associated with the performance of the change.

For industries that are exposed to delay and disruption disputes, the SMP should design a system for claims avoidance and dispute resolution, based on contractual terms, which can be implemented if and when the change management process stalls or fails.

And the last component of the SMP is one that is emphasized in the PMBOK® Guide; that of the use of the Organizational Process Assets. With a good lessons learned brainstorming process performed early in the project, and routinely during updates, project performance will benefit from the combined knowledge of the management team. Identifying the Organizational Process Assets and documenting them in the Schedule Management Plan will provide a much stronger set of policies, procedures and guidelines for the project team.

Checklist for the Schedule Management Plan (developed by Chris Carson and Patrick M. Kelly)

Development of Controllable Project Scope Definition

images Project Implementation Basis

images Contract

images Notice to Proceed or Release Letter

images Project Drawings

images Area Designation Plan

images Sequencing plan

images Specifications

images Scheduling Specification

images Scope of Work Definition

images Liquidated Damages or Incentive Schedule

images Owner-Provided Items & Scope

images Owner Milestones, Phases, or Master Schedules

images Estimate & Quantity Surveys/Bills of Materials

images Any Existing Internal WBS

images Owner Separate Contracts and Scope (coordination between this and other external projects)

images Value Analysis and Engineering

images Project Historical Information

images Collection of Data from the Project Historical Database

images Actual Schedule Data

images Actual Resource Data

images Project Lessons Learned

images Incorporation of this Data Aids in Development of Execution Plan

images Team Players

images Organizational Chart

images Identify the Schedule Users

images Who has Input?

images Who Updates?

images Who Checks for Accuracy?

images Who Reviews?

images Who approves?

images Identify Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM)

images Other Planning Process Plans

Development of Execution Strategy

images Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS)

images Work Package Development

images By Contract

images As assigned by Client

images Coordination with WBS

images Schedule Design Output (Software Driven)

images Software Identification

images Specific Software

images Required Minimum and Versions Allowed

images Enterprise Specific Issues

images Users Identified

images Schedules Used for Import or Data Source

images Levels of Access

images Validation Process

images For Master Schedules, Establish Data Dates

images Purpose of Work Product

images What the Schedule Can be Used for (purpose)

images Superintendent Work Schedule

images Buyout or Tender Planning Schedule

images Senior Management Reporting Tool

images Justification of Time Requests

images Claims/Dispute Avoidance or Resolution

images Reports Generated from the Schedule

images Who Receives Reports

images List of Reports

images Samples of Reports

images Glossary/Lexicon of Ambiguous Terms

images Level of Detail

images Determine Approach:

images Bottom-up (starting with detailed activities)

images Top-down (starting with summary schedule)

images Both (prepare Top-down, then Bottom-up)

images Identify Frequency of Updates

images Establish Smallest Activity Duration Range

images Codes Dictionary

images For Tracking and Monitoring Work:

images Work Phase

images Structure

images Area

images Floor or Station

images Location

images For Project Management:

images Responsibility

images Work Shifts

images Costs

images Resource

images Specification

images Change Management

images Weather Planning Methodology, if needed

images Choose Methodology

images Define Methodology and Application

images Weather Planning

images Expected Adverse Weather

images Identify Source or Specification Requirement

images Identify Methodology

images Identify Accounting Method for Actual Weather

images Cost & Resources

images Estimate & Correlation to Cost Loading

images Bill of Quantities & Use in Resources

images Resource Crew Descriptions

images Equipment Descriptions

images How Actual Production Will be Monitored

images Resource Limits and/or Leveling

images Earned Value Management System

images Outline Schedule

images Schedule Outline

images Key Activities Being Tracked

images Client Milestones

images Long Lead Items

images WBS Structure

images Coordination with Cost Control Accounts

images Other Contracts on Project

images Narrative Basis and Assumptions

images Procedure Used to Create the Schedule

images Definitions/Lexicon

images Description of Sequence of Work Per Structure

images Risk Analysis

images Risks and Constructability

images Brainstorming of Issues

images Known Problems (threats)

images Provisional Items

images Predicted Problems

images Lessons Learned

images Outside Influences

images Site Condition Concerns

images Opportunities

images Develop Risk Management Plan

images Initial Process During Baseline Schedule Development

images Risk Workshop

images Process for Use During Updates

images Formal Risk Management Steps

images What-If Scenarios for Specific Event Risks

images Monte Carlo Analysis for Duration Uncertainty

images Specific Analysis for Network-Driven Risks

images Time Contingencies

images Amounts

images Specific Trade (from risk management plan)

images Specific Contractor Contingency

images How Carried

images Use Historical Data for Reference

images Definition of Processes

images Update Process

images Frequency

images Data Request and Transmission

images Validation

images Process Flowchart

images Change Management

images Notification Requirements

images Methodology Allowed

images Quality Control Process

images Process Flowchart

images Recovery Process

images Identify what Logic Changes are Acceptable Without Formal Approval

images Identify What Constitutes a Revision Requiring Approval

images Identify Brainstorming and Lessons Learned Discussion Timing

images Process Description or Flow Chart

images Dispute Resolution Process

images Review Program for Claims Avoidance

images Reinforce Planning for Claims Avoidance

images Identify Specific Program for Claims Avoidance During Schedule Updates and Change Management

images Identify Steps if Change Management Process Fails or Stalls

images Follow Specifications

images Provide Time Frames for Stages in Process

images Provide Process Description or Flow Chart


The SMP is one of the most important inputs into the Project Management Plan, and as such, helps design the schedule or programme and provides guidance in the full schedule or programme development. The production of this plan should be a structured and documented procedure so that it encompasses all the necessary information to expedite the schedule or programme development process and ensure that the end result is appropriate for the project needs. This paper provides the detail necessary to develop the SMP that is most appropriate and useful for any project.


Carson, C., & Kelly, P. (2008, June). A Framework for Schedule Design; Planning for Schedule Development. 2008 AACE International’s 52nd Annual Meeting and ICEC’s 6th World Congress on Cost Engineering, Project Management, and Quantity Surveying, North America, Toronto, Canada.

Project Management Institute. (2008). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK®guide) (4th ed.). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

The Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International. (2006). Total Cost Management Framework (1st ed.). Morgantown, WV: Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International.

The Construction Management Association of America. (2009). Construction Management Standards of Practice (2010 ed.). McLean, VA: Construction Management Association of America.

The Chartered Institute of Building. (no date). Managing the Risk of Delayed Completion in the 21st Century. Retrieved on 23January2010 from

© 2010, Christopher W. Carson, PMP, CCM, PSP
Originally published as a part of 2011 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Dublin, Ireland



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