When it comes to managing the project schedule, fast tracking is an established technique, used to shorten the time it would otherwise take to complete a given project. In the simplest sense, a fast tracked project schedule necessitates "doing many things at once". This article examines all the risks and benefits, showing you how to make the most out of every "fast tracking" opportunity. Read on for more.
"Same Project, Shorter Schedule"
That sounds so appealing, but it's not really that simple, and it's certainly not without risk. Fast tracking of the project schedule is appropriate and even essential under a number of key conditions and circumstances. But, in the real world, fast tracking is a nuanced process. As a schedule is fast tracked, previously sequential tasks (one finishes, the next begins) are re-arranged to allow for concurrent execution (when dependencies allow), thereby shortening the overall project timeline. This concept is illustrated in the simple example below:
Fast Tracking Risks and Rewards
There is no doubt that the fast tracked schedule is harder to manage (in light of all the concurrent activity). And, fast tracked schedules may also experience problems of greater intensity. In addition, if concurrent work is to be properly executed, it must be carried out without sacrificing quality, scope and budget. In other words, fast tracked scheduling is a powerful, albeit risky, tool that must be used carefully and with discretion. Decision making begins with one key question --- when will "fast tracking" be most appropriate? The list below summarizes the usual circumstances:
- To realize maximized productivity for project scheduling and resource utilization.
- To complete the project within the shortest time possible to meet specific priorities.
- To complete the project sooner than expected due to changing circumstances.
- To make up for lost time and/or other deficiencies.
When appropriately applied, the fast tracked schedule can solve many problems and offer multiple benefits. But, it has to be approached carefully, and with a lot of planning. Otherwise, the risks can greatly outweigh the rewards.
How to Fast Track for the Best Results
When faced with the need to fast track a project schedule, the first instinct may be to add resources, or even more likely, to put in more work hours. But these options are not always productive or viable. The use of additional staff resources, even when it is a possibility, is often not a solution. Under some project circumstances, certain tasks can only be completed by a finite number of resources, in a finite period of time. In these cases, extra resources will only add cost, cause confusion, and in fact, may even impede, rather that promote progress. Overtime is also a tricky proposition. While additional work hours may shorten an otherwise lagging schedule, excessive overtime may backfire if burn-out sets in. As with most management techniques, it's all about striking the right balance between needs and capabilities.
Fast tracked scheduling begins with an examination of five (5) key assumptions, and continues with the seven (7) step planning process:
- Do you have realistic schedule, with all tasks and activities properly identified?
- Are you sufficiently aware of all task dependencies (tasks that must end before others begin)?
- Do you have a solid grasp on project requirements, objectives and priorities?
- Do you have a good working relationship with your project stakeholders?
- Do you have established, tested practices for governance, oversight and problem management?
If you can answer "yes" to these questions, then you are ready to "fast track" your schedule (in whole or part) and it's time to move on to the seven (7) steps of fast track scheduling:
- Determine Your "Fast Tracking" Goals and Capabilities
- Examine the Project Schedule to Identify Dependencies
- Find "Fast Track" Opportunities in the Project Timeline
- Identify all the Viable Alternatives to Make Schedule Adjustments
- Make Informed Decisions (Based on Identified Alternatives)
- Seek Consensus for all Fast Tracking Decisions
- Monitor Progress and Track Problems
Learn to Fast Track
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