Teaching Scheduling to New Project Managers
By Johanna Rothman
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?
Johanna Rothman consults, speaks, and writes on managing high-technology product development. Johanna is the author of Manage It!’Your Guide to Modern Pragmatic Project Management’. She is the coauthor of the pragmatic Behind Closed Doors, Secrets of Great Management, and author of the highly acclaimed Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People. And, Johanna is a host and session leader at the Amplifying Your Effectiveness (AYE) conference (http://www.ayeconference.com). You can see Johanna’s other writings at http://www.jrothman.com.
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