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:
- Logic Check
- Leads Check
DCMA deprecates leads (negative lags) you may want simply to assess each on its own merits
- Lags Check
Too many lags (5%) flags a risk
- Relationship Types Check
Expect most dependencies to be “finish-to-start”
- Hard Constraints Check
Too many fixed dates in your schedule creates risk
- High Float Check
Too many tasks with high (DCMA uses 44 days) float suggests poor logic or control
- 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
- 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!)
- Invalid Dates Check
A simple logic check on stated dates
- Resources Check
Are the tasks properly resourced (and budgeted, I would add)
- Missed Tasks Check
Have tasks been dropped from one version of your schedule to another? If so, this could suggest erroneous omission.
- Critical Path Test Check
Does the software correctly handle extensions to critical path activities?
- Critical Path Length Index (CPLI)
My reading of this is that it is another check that remaining float on the CP is positive
- Baseline Execution Index (BEI)
This is a check on progress to date against baseline
For far better informed discussions, see:
- Ron Winter’s Paper on the Assessment (in pdf format)
- Mohamed Hegab’s blog on the ICPM website
- Schedule Cracker’s “Is your schedule ready…” paper (in pdf format)
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! Managing Risk and Avoiding Failure in Business Projects” is published on 15 July. Learn more, on the Risk Happens! website.
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