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 www.otctoolkits.com