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Five Project Management Mistakes, Mistake 3

Mistake #3: Not Keeping Schedule Up-to-Date

Many project managers create an initial schedule but then don’t do a good job of updating the schedule during the project. There are trouble signs that the schedule is not being updated.

  • The project manager cannot tell exactly what work is remaining to complete the project.
  • The project manager is unsure whether they will complete the project on-time.
  • The project manager does not know what the critical path of activities is.
  • Team members are not sure what they need to work on next (or even what they should be working on now).

It is a problem when the project manager does not really understand the progress made to date and how much work is remaining. When this happens, the project team is not utilized efficiently on the most critical activities.

There are a couple other common scheduling problems.

  • Infrequent updates. Sometimes the project manager updates the schedule at lengthy intervals. For instance, updating the schedule every two months on a six-month project. This is not often enough to keep control of the schedule. The schedule should be updated every week or two.
  • Managing by percent complete. All activities should have a due date. As you monitor the work, keep focused on whether the work will be completed by the due date. It is not very valuable to know that an activity is 70% completed. It is more valuable to know if the due date will be hit.
  • Assigning activities that are too long. If you assign a team member an activity that is due by the end of the week, you know if the work is on-track when the week is over. However, if you assign someone an activity that does not need to be completed for eight weeks, you have a long time to go before you know if the work is really on schedule. Keep the due dates within a reasonable timeframe. 

It is not easy to catch up a schedule once the project is started. Typically, by the time you realize you need to update the schedule, your project is already in trouble. Updating the schedule at that point only shows how much trouble you are in. The much better approach is to keep the project up-to-date, and ensure that it contains all of work necessary to complete the project. 

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