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Stage 3: Plan the Project


What it is How to Templates/
How to: Develop Project Schedule

Recommended actions and strategies
The table below lists the steps for developing a project schedule:


What to do

How to do it


Determine the tasks to be placed in the schedule

Refer to the tasks identified in the work breakdown structure.


Determine the relationships among the tasks

Identify tasks that must be completed before other tasks can begin. Identify tasks that can be done while other tasks are being performed.

  • A network diagram (a precedence diagramming method) can be used to diagram the dependencies.


Assign each task to specific staff

This establishes ownership for the task.

Assigning the right person to the right task is one of the most important factors in a project’s ultimate success.


Estimate the amount of effort required for each task

Work with individual team members or others who have experience with this type of project.

Base the estimate on an assumed level of skill.

Document assumptions used in estimating.


Consider the other variables that go into building the schedule

Example variables to consider:

  • Project Constraints
  • Assumptions
  • Lead and lag time (delay) of materials
  • When, where or how the task must be performed
  • Project risks
  • The realities of vacations, meetings, discussions and staff interactions and any ongoing responsibilities team members may have.
  • Staff Training time


Build a time reserve into the schedule for contingencies and unforeseen events

A contingency is a specific provision for unforeseeable elements that could cause schedule delay.

How much time contingency to allow can depend on:

  • The degree of acceptable risk for delays
  • The completeness of the project definition
  • How well the work will be managed

A good rule of thumb for schedule contingency is 20%, but a project can include more or less based on the factors above.


Identify the project’s critical path

The critical path is a project management technique that analyzes what activities have the least amount of scheduling flexibility (i.e., are the most important) and then predicts project duration based on the activities that fall along the “critical path.”

Activities that lie along the critical path cannot be delayed without delaying the finish time for the entire project.

If the critical path exceeds a required deadline, review methods to shorten the critical path.


Check to see if staff is over-allocated

If staff is over allocated, figure out a way to level the staff so they are allocated the right amount of work.
Possible actions:

  • Modify the schedule to accommodate the constraint
  • Provide additional resources for the task
  • Reduce task or project scope
  • Make any adjustments to the staffing plan

Caution: There is an overhead cost for bringing new staff up to speed. Not all staff is truly interchangeable. The skill level of the new person may affect the time to complete and the quality of the work. Contract staff may need more oversight.


Repeat steps 3 and 5-8 until a baseline is established.

Developing the project schedule is an iterative process.


Place the schedule information in a Gantt chart

Place the tasks, milestones, relationships, staff assigned, durations and work estimates in a Gantt chart to show the detailed timing of the project.

A Gantt chart graphically represents a project by showing each task as a horizontal bar whose length is the time needed to complete the task.
Various project management tools can generate Gantt charts.

Other formats can be used to display the schedule information based on the needs and preferences of your customer.



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Updated February 1, 2006 - v1.0