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Project Master Schedule   In conversation with a couple of colleagues the other day this simple question was raised.  Initially there was disbelief that the question could even arise.  After all who used a Project Master Schedule these days? Responses ranged from :

  • “We analyse the detail to pick up issues and concerns and address them at the lowest level of the schedule”;
  • “We only produce one at the early stages of the project to give us a high level idea of the project durations and then it gets put into someone’s drawersomewhere”;
  • “Its hard work keeping it up to date”;
  • “We extract only activities from the month before and month after the status date to report on”.

I was rather taken aback at these responses as I have always used the Project Master Schedule on projects I have worked on to give me a quick overview of how the project is doing.  If I pick up an anomaly I then delve into the detail to find the problem that needs to be addressed.

So what is a Project Master Schedule?

To me it is a one page summary of the total project indicating the various phases, key milestones / deliverables which ties together Front-end Loading and Implementation (Engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning) in such a way that it addresses the business need-by dates.  It is a schedule that reflects planned, actual, forecast and status dates. Of course there can be variants to this but in its simplest form that is it.  

Key features of a master schedule include:

  • Simple to read, ideally one page only, used as a communication tool for senior management and the team;
  • Is a dynamic document for the duration of the project; and
  • The lowest level of the schedule and the highest level of the schedule must resonate with each other.

  In summary it is one of two critical documents I use to determine if we are in control of the project.  The other is the Earned Value graph but more of that later. What do you use on your projects ? Is it something similar ? Do you use one at all ?  Please share your thoughts. Remember, if you are a member you can download your own copy of our  practical guide on how to implement a project master schedule from OTC Toolkits at