The secret is to KISS

A veteran scheduler once said that the science of scheduling involves tasks, resources, activity relationships, critical-path analysis and percentage complete statistics, amongst other things. But he said the art of scheduling is communication. I couldn’t agree more.

To paraphrase Lynda Bourne1, a significant challenge facing schedulers is to recognise that their primary role is communication.

Why is it that so many project schedulers get caught up in the science – capturing every minute activity, making their schedules complex – and in turn seemingly ignore the art of communication?

It seems to me that they forget the one thing that is taught in almost every training program, including project management: the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Sir!

Sometimes schedulers become overly excited about the power they perceive at their fingertips and assume that the person interpreting the data is going to want to document every single little thing. That’s where it pays to remember the KISS principle – the output should not be clouded with detail simply because it’s available.

Fundamentally, a project schedule should provide the information a project team needs to make informed decisions. That means inputting the right amount of data necessary to extract the information required to support the decision making process. Nothing more.

Pare it Back – KISS

While some people find constructing a schedule daunting, it doesn’t need to be. With careful thought, a project scheduler can set up the schedule so that the client can focus on updating 20 activities per week instead of 200. After all, the aim of the game is to make tracking performance easier, right?

When building a project schedule, there are three key questions to ask:

  1. Why are we doing this?
  2. What output is required?
  3. Who requires the information?

Remember, data is meaningless unless it’s relevant and can be presented in a format and at a level of detail (or summary!) that everyone understands.

Project scheduling tools have come along in leaps and bounds since the advent of scheduling in the US Navy and Oracle Primavera is one of the most powerful available. It provides endless options for business managers to measure, evaluate and forecast performance. However, it is most effective when its users maintain the mantra “Keep It Simple, Sir!”

So, design the schedule with the end-user in mind – remember it’s all about aiding communication. Ask yourself, or better still ask your client, if it’s really adding value – and remember to KISS.

1Project Controls and Communication, Project Management Institute’s Voices on Project Management.