The Art of Scheduling


By Gabe Lopata

Some major projects are fated to fail due to shortfalls in the planning phase, so in this post I thought we’d look at what a good schedule looks like and how it can increase the likelihood of your project succeeding.

A schedule comes from the program’s scope of work and ensures the designated direction is followed without deviation. While schedules for agile projects tend to have a horizon of only weeks (known as “sprints”), waterfall programs plan for the life of a project.

Creating a project plan is no walk in the park – at times it can feel like you’re in the middle of a prolonged bi-lateral free trade negotiation. It’s taken 10 years for Australia to secure a deal with China but the longer-term benefits of that deal for exporters dwarf the effort spent on settling the arrangement.

So too with project scheduling, which you should approach from both top down (strategic objective) and bottom up (practical needs) perspectives in the same way as a negotiation, with each party providing insights and logic until the balance between strategy and practicality meet in the middle.

The top down schedule is often referred to as the Driver Plan since it’s the point of origin for planning and combines the thinking of both senior management and the business owner as described in the strategic objective of the project.

The development of a schedule goes through much iteration, with the pathway becoming clearer as information is added cumulatively. This being so you should make the effort to manage and time the act of ‘iterating’ at logical points.

A logical time to stop for some R & R, (Refining and Re-baselining) in the context of a SDLC, would be at the point that separates high level design and detailed design. Not only is R & R good for one’s constitution but it helps immeasurably with critical activities such as effective cost and contingency forecasting.

Here’s some tips to help you make a better project plan:

  • First, be clear about the project scope
  • Always plan with a view of strategic top-down and practical bottom-up
  • Be aware of dependencies between tasks
  • Be realistic when allocating time and resources against tasks
  • Accompany the plan with change management considerations designed to address key change impacts
  • Make sure team members, team leaders and end users are consulted along the way, understand their role, and are committed in the program’s success

Ongoing evaluation of actual performance against scheduled activity is essential in hitting project milestones. The Certus3 Phase Domain Model can assess if the right level of deliverables are available within the project. It can also assess how a program is currently performing, and is likely to perform, into the future based on the completion level of deliverables.


Established in 2007, Certus3 assists organisations manage large-scale programs of work involving wide reaching organisational change. Offering program delivery and program management consulting services, the team’s growing client portfolio includes successful Australian corporations like Woolworths, Perpetual, Asciano and Myer.


Insights360™ is a survey-based diagnostic tool that guarantees early risk and issue detection for senior executives in charge of large and complex programs of work. The proprietary tool is used by program managers and senior executives interested in understanding the ‘true’ status of their projects.


Melinda Young
Certus3 PR & Communications
M: 0430 433 989
T: @MelCertus3