The DCMA 14 Point Schedule Assessment

I like checklists.  Well constructed, they give confidence and a logical structure to our analysis.

So I thank Glen Alleman (again) for making me aware of the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) 14 Point Schedule Assessment.  The DCMA is a Division of the US Department of Defense (DoD) and their assessment is a checklist of 14 components of a project schedule, with criteria to indicate where that schedule may be weak or strong.

It is clearly well thought-out for theDCMA’s domain, and may not be wholly apporpriate to other project contexts.  For your project, it may miss some checks, some of the checks may be less valuable, or some of the levels at which the assessment fails may be inappropriate.

But surely, a rigorous assessment of your schedule using an assessment tool like this is of great value to any project.  I commend it to you.

The 14 Points of Assessment

I am indebted to Ron Winter Consulting and Mohamed Hegab writing on the ICPM Blog for getting me up to speed on this.  Refer to the links below for more information.  This is my summary of what I learned from them:

Review your project schedule against these 14 items:

  1. Logic Check
    Dependency relationships
  2. Leads Check
    DCMA deprecates leads (negative lags) you may want simply to assess each on its own merits
  3. Lags Check
    Too many lags (5%) flags a risk
  4. Relationship Types Check
    Expect most dependencies to be “finish-to-start”
  5. Hard Constraints Check
    Too many fixed dates in your schedule creates risk
  6. High Float Check
    Too many tasks with high (DCMA uses 44 days) float suggests poor logic or control
  7. Negative Float Check
    Ron Winter’s paper gives examples of when, counter-intuitively, negative float may be appropriate, but DCMA deprecates it and it must, at the very least, ring big alarm bells
  8. High Duration Check
    Long duration tasks and the risk they pose is a hobby horse of mine.  DCMA again choose 44 days.  I deprecate any task exceeding 10% of remaining project duration (except, of course, in the final months!)
  9. Invalid Dates Check
    A simple logic check on stated dates
  10. Resources Check
    Are the tasks properly resourced (and budgeted, I would add)
  11. Missed Tasks Check
    Have tasks been dropped from one version of your schedule to another?  If so, this could suggest erroneous omission.
  12. Critical Path Test Check
    Does the software correctly handle extensions to critical path activities?
  13. Critical Path Length Index (CPLI)
    My reading of this is that it is another check that remaining float on the CP is positive
  14. Baseline Execution Index (BEI)
    This is a check on progress to date against baseline

For far better informed discussions, see:

The “so what?”

If you are not reviewing all elements of your planning critically, then as a project manager, you are subjecting yourself to hubris, you are exposing your project to additional risk, and you are, arguably, falling down on your job.  Adapt the principles of this check to your needs, but do carry out a review.

Risk Happens! by Mike Clayton“Risk Happens! Managing Risk and Avoiding Failure in Business Projects” is published on 15 July.  Learn more, on the Risk Happens! website.

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2 thoughts on “The DCMA 14 Point Schedule Assessment

  1. Mike,
    Ron provides a nice background. But he left off some products. For MSFT Project SteelRay (http://www.steelray.com/index22.php) is one we use on our defense programs. John Krahula’s Schedule Detective is another. John works for us once in awhile as a Master Scheduler.
    The principles of the 14 points are straight forward, the DCMA’s excel macro is OK, but a pain to use, hence the external tools. But there are other metrics we use for managing the performance of the IMS.
    1. Late Start / Late Finish graphs
    2. Margin burn down
    3. DID 81650 mandated Monte Carlo simulation of the IMS
    4. Technical Performance Measure compliance
    5. Monte Carlo simulations of the cost baseline
    6. Probabilistic critical path

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