Four Challenges When Managing the Project Plan and Schedule during Execution

In our last series, we covered the challenges and solutions to project strategy. This series will cover the challenges and solutions to execution in project management. Today, we will discuss the challenges around the plan and schedule.

Project execution is where the rubber meets the road. Some organizations even have a dedicated project execution manager for this critical part of the process.

For a project manager, the brunt of project execution is plan and schedule management. The project manager should spend the duration of the project tracking variances and adjusting the plan and schedule accordingly.

Here are the top 4 challenges to doing so:

1) Using the Right Measurements

The first difficulty in tracking project progress is defining the appropriate level of detail and key measurements (e.g. labor, cost, and schedule) to enable effective measurement of progress. The more detailed and more frequent, the more able the project manager is to identify and communicate the potential gaps between the original expectations and the present reality; however, daily tracking is generally too granular to provide useful information on the larger picture of a project. One the common challenges in this stage is the lack of time many Project Managers have when managing multiple project and multiple stages of the project management execution phase. One of the keys to this stage, then, is finding just the right level of control that is responsive while being realistic and actionable.

2) Tracking the Critical Path

Tracking the critical path is central to project scheduling in project management, yet not all organizations put a premium on it. Many project managers also have difficulty identifying and managing the critical path. When a project manager does not recognize where slack is in a project, they either become inflexible with their schedule or they make changes to the tasks that have an outgrown impact on the project as a whole.

3) Resource Leveling

Project managers must fight an ongoing battle to ensure that plans are resource leveled, while actual work betrays expectation, people take vacation, tasks get delayed, and so forth. A single project delay among any of the projects could have a significant ripple effect that requires the teamwork of multiple managers to resolve. The interrelatedness of different projects—which share resources and deliverables—complicates things even further.

4) Communicating with Stakeholders

As we covered in the post on “Meeting the Original Business Case,” ongoing communication about project progress with stakeholders is critical. Project managers must communicate project milestones and budget performance in real time or else the project status is not credible, the opportunity to control the project through effective communicating is lost. Organizations that do not require this communication dilute the responsibility of the project manager by not know when and why projects have gone off track.

Click here to read our last post, where we discuss the challenges around having all the necessary skills to deliver the project.