Hidden Assumptions in a Project Schedule

I got an important insight while reading the book, Roundtable on Project Management. The book contains conversations between practitioners about project management that was compiled from discussions in Jerry Weinberg’s SHAPE forum. The book filled with pragmatic advice from people who understand the challenges of project work.

The book talks about assumptions underlying a single line in a project schedule. A single line on a project schedule describes a task that needs to be accomplished, along with the planned time to complete the task and who is responsible for the task. Some of the assumptions hidden in this line are:

  • The Project Manager or Technical Lead understand the “scope” of work for the task and this understanding is also shared by the person responsible for completing the task. Team members have clarity on what needs to be accomplished to complete the task.
  • The person assigned to the task has the capabilities to perform the task and can successfully drive the task to completion.
  • The planned hours assigned for the task is credible.

If any of the assumptions are incorrect, we have a problem! This reminds me of the message from Max DePree about Defining Reality. Preparing a credible project schedule is a good first step to define reality on a project. Without a credible project schedule, we are defying reality and not defining it (and defying reality seldom leads to desired outcomes or results!).

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