As often as possible I work back-to-front to draft my ideal network diagram, beginning with the end date of the final deliverable and working backwards to identify prerequisite (predecessor) activities and deliverables, time requirements, and event deadlines, based on required, procedural, and logical relationships (Portny et al., 2008).
I then compare my ideal network diagram to what I call “probable reality,” which is a consideration of my experience with:
- Projects in general
- Similar projects
- What I know about this client
- What I know about this project team
- My own schedule and workload
Probable reality reflects my best guess of project limitations and unknowns (Portny et al., 2008) and their anticipated impact on the project. For example, let’s assume that my project team has 21 days to submit a deliverable of a module outline with instructional objectives. I consider my experience with projects in general and similar projects, and determine that I need 14 days (span time) to complete the deliverable.
In my ideal network diagram I allow 3 days for the client to review and approve the outline (17 days). However, I know this client is slow to review and approve materials, so I build an extra 2 days into the activity phase (19 days). That leaves the team only 2 days to review client feedback, make revisions, and re-submit the outline to the client.
If I know the project team is highly organized and on point, I may take a risk and go with that. But if I don’t know the project team well, or if I know them to be slow or unorganized or very busy, I will decide that it’s not enough time and I need to cut some time somewhere else in the process.
Every activity eats up time (Laureate Education, Inc., 2012), and when time is tight, my first choice is to cut time on my end where I have the most control. I then consider my schedule and workload to find a way to complete the deliverable in less than 14 days.
Freelance work can be very patchwork, and I sometimes function as ID, writer, and PM all in one. In those situations I can track everything with a simple Word document and an Excel spreadsheet. When working with a team, however, project management software is almost essential (Fabac, 2006). It facilitates consistent communication and sharing of timelines, milestones, progress, and changes between team members and clients.
Project work is a wild ride every time. It can be stressful, but the feeling of success is a rush!
Fabac, J. N. (2006). Project management for systematic training. Advances in Developing
Human Resources, 8(4), 540–547.
Laureate Education, Inc., (Producer). (2012). Creating a project schedule. [Multimedia Program]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E.
(2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.