Project Scheduling: Theory Matters
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Project Scheduling: Theory Matters
Jim Bratsakis Posted by Jim Bratsakis

Jim Bratsakis relishes sharing knowledge and ideas that result in productivity gains for individuals and corporations.

Having a solid grasp on theory is a crucial prerequisite to building successful project schedules.

A real-world example

Alexis, my wife, is an awesome musician. She has won several music competitions, is the official organist for the Gary South Shore Railcats, and played at halftime for the RKO-produced 1988 SuperBowl. She is also an experienced music teacher, and when she conducts lessons, she uses the “classical” method of teaching. The classical method includes teaching young children how to read music, theory, mechanics of piano, scales, and the like.

It is how music has been taught for centuries. Her emphasis on the classical method, and the importance of theory, is her key to success. At first, this challenges the young students, who initially sound awful. There is so much for the student to learn. The violin students in particular sound like they are gutting a cat at first. Arrgghh! Progress seems to take forever, but eventually they improve. For this, eardrums everywhere are grateful.

Many of her students eventually win music awards, earn “first chair” in the high school band or orchestra, participate in a play, or compete in a local talent show. At the same age her students started music lessons using the classical method, many of their friends were taught the Suzuki method by other instructors. The Suzuki method does not start out with theory lessons—instead, students listen to a tape and relate the music to numbers and colors. Although these children sound much better at an early age, they often drop out before they ever learn music theory. The Suzuki method doesn’t stress theory until much later in the learning process. Ultimately, these students who were taught using the Suzuki method struggle or quit, because they did not initially learn the theory behind the instrument.

So, theory’s a pretty big deal.

Theory comes heavily into play when building a project schedule. Typically, a project schedule’s discussion centers on adding activities and building a bar chart. Creating the bar chart is the easy part once you’re finished gathering information. Anyone can build a bar chart without much study of theory. However learning the theory behind project scheduling is important to completely and fully understand your project’s schedule. Understanding how schedule dates are generated is the key to understanding float. Understanding float is the key to properly manage a schedule. Once you start communicating the schedule and giving project team participants solid information, they have a basis upon which make decisions.

Where do you find theory to be important in project management?

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