Teaching Scheduling to New Project Managers


I’m developing a syllabus at the graduate level to teach high tech (if that matters) project management to people without a lot of PM experience. I’m supposed to teach MS Project as the tool project managers schedule the work.

I’ve been rejecting the idea that a scheduling tool can teach a new PM how to schedule. Normally, when I teach PM, I use yellow stickies and explain how to block out a schedule top-down or bottom-up. Inevitably, someone thinks from the inside out, and that person explains inside-out scheduling — all using stickies.

Stickies are great for scheduling because you can stand back and look at the picture of the project. Do you have enough in parallel? Is there too much in parallel? How long is the longest serial chain? Is there a way to make that shorter? What happens under these circumstances? I find that teaching scheduling using stickies is a way to help people understand how to create useful WBS (Work Breakdown Structures).

If I don’t teach a scheduling tool, am I cheating the students? To be honest, I prefer a different tool to MS Project (Fast Track Scheduler) when scheduling smaller projects. However, I know MS has improved Project since the last time I used it, so I’m open to suggestion. My goal is to teach people how to look at a schedule to see if it has a prayer of working, and then to see where the schedule is risky. It’s difficult to teach that with a tool, because you can only see one screen’s worth of schedule. With my technique, you get a wall-full of schedule.

If you were a new project manager, what would you like to learn? Please comment…

One Reply to “Teaching Scheduling to New Project Managers”

  1. As a highly visual thinker, the sticky note approach suits me very well. I have returned to project management after a long sojourn away and find the software tools much too concerned with dependencies. I find it hard to manage to a schedule when I cannot see the whole thing. Your stated approach sounds to me like it would be more responsive to the reality of projects.

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