Who Reads a Project Plan Schedule, Anyway?
Project management masterpiece! Every last detail of the project plan schedule is now accounted for, every project activity, every project task, every deliverable.
Each resource utilized to perfection so much so your critical path looks like a walk in the park. You just know that this project is going to be a huge success and you can’t wait to get started! Everyone is familiar with the project plan schedule and the project starts off on the right foot. There’s enthusiasm, excitement, dare we say even a little bit of joy associated with working on this project. Everything is going just as you planned.
A little time passes and it’s no surprise that your project veers a bit off course. No big deal. Someone is just running behind in one department and the deliverable they were working on needs to get caught up. You jump into the project plan schedule and throw another resource at the task and peace and harmony have been restored to the universe again. Or so you thought…the problem is that nobody read the project plan schedule.
The resource that was assigned the new task is clueless that it is now their assignment. The executive who is sponsoring the project is up in arms around the fact that he just heard that the project was running behind. You’re left there scratching your head because you had clearly spelled out everything in the updated plan.
Does anybody read these schedules? In a word…No, at least not with the focused attention that this level of detailing requires. It’s understood that you’ve put a lot of work and effort into the schedule yet frankly, your project team don’t care all that much. Just like you there are a lot of project activities that they’ve worked very hard on as well that go unnoticed too, activities that you probably don’t have time or the inclination to appreciate either. Evidently understanding and working to the project schedule is key to the projects success yet when people don’t read your plan, what can you as project manager do about it?
Why People Don’t Read Project Plan Schedules
There are a number of reasons why people don’t read a project plan
They are busy with other project tasks.
This is the one that is the easiest to understand. People are just busy. Their plate is already way too full.
They get to work early in the morning, put in a long day at work, and then leave late in the afternoon or early evening to go home and many times finish up their day on their laptop at home. They people or not going to proactively search out changes that have been made to the project plan schedule to see how this affects them.
They don’t care
They have their blinders on to the world outside and stay within their own little world. They’ll do what they want to do when they want to do it. These are the resources that have a tendency to put things off until the last minute for the purpose of making everyone a nervous wreck. They then swoop in and save the day at the last minute. This person is not go
ing to go out of their way to see how their activities fit into the project plan schedule or if there have been any adjustments made.
They feel as if they are above the plan
This is an interesting breed. This person is typically at an executive level and certainly is busy. However, unlike the person above, they do care about the success of the project. They may be sponsoring the project, their bonus rests upon the completion of the project, or a combination of a number of things. However, they also feel that because of their position within the company they are “above the plan”. They know the project plan schedule exists. They realize they may have some involvement in making the plan work, but they also feel as if everyone else can make accommodations in order to work around their schedule. It’s no surprise that in any company you are going to end up with some of the above types of personalities. Sure, there are those that do keep up with what’s going on with the project plan schedule. Usually these people are newer to the company and have that type of time to devote to keeping up with changes. Or, they may in a junior role without the type of stress and pressure that others in the company are experiencing. Regardless, there are some things you can do to make sure your masterpiece is given the respect it deserves.
How to Get People to Read Your Project Plan Schedule
The following are some suggestions you can implement that may help with the visibility of your project plan.
Keep it updated
This one sounds obvious. If you want people to keep up with your updated project plan you need to take the time to update the project plan! This is what happens on a project. A project starts out gung ho and everyone is falling in line and getting the work done. It’s easy to keep the project plan schedule updated because you are just marking things off as complete. How fun is that? But, then the project falls on hard times and the planning gets ugly. Your day can be spent in meetings talking about what options exist to get the project back on track. At the end of the day you are exhausted and tell yourself you’ll get around to updating the project plan schedule in the morning. Well, that doesn’t happen. Then, another day goes by. And then a week and then a couple of weeks. All without any update to your project plan. You have effectively trained those people that came and looked for an updated project plan schedule that it’s just not that important to you. You need to have the same respect for your plan as you expect everyone else to have.
Talk about the changes at your weekly project meetings
Talk about the changes at your weekly meetings, and then talk about them again. Mention the changes to the team member your just passed in the hallway. Bring the changes up to the developers that are playing foosball in the kitchen. Become a broken record. “Hey, you know that we had to change this around on the project, right?” you ask. “Sure, sure,” they reply. What’s interesting is that these are the same people that an hour from now will say they never heard of such a change. Busy, don’t care, above the plan? Who knows…but, it’s in your best interest to talk about the change in the project plan schedule until you know for a fact that everyone gets it.
Walk the executive through the changes
Find a small slice of time on their busy schedule (maybe about 10 minutes) and hold their hand through the change that was done on the project plan schedule. Of course we’re not talking literally, but you figuratively have to walk them through your thought process, why this works, when it will be done, and other relevant information about the plan. It’s not that these people are stupid. They’re not. They’re intelligent and bright and have very successful careers. They’re just busy. They’ll appreciate the time you spent walking them through the project plan schedule and you’ll benefit from the clarity that results. Don’t take it personally that nobody reads your project plan schedule these days. Everyone is being trained to think and process 140-character bite size chunks on Twitter and a project plan is just not that easy to understand. Rather than get frustrated, implement the three suggestions above and once your next project is done you’ll have something to tweet about!
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