#PM Time Management—What are Your Options to Shorten a Schedule?

One of the problems that a project manager can be faced is when the project duration is estimated to be X number of months, but you are told by management that it must be done according to a shorter schedule, i.e., X minus some number of months. What are your options?

Well, the basic iron law of constraints says that if one constraint, in this case, time, is affected, then this will affect the other constraints. Some techniques for shortening the schedule affect one constraint, while others affect other constraints. Sometimes you are faced with a situation question on the PMP exam that gives you information about the project, says that the scheduled must be shortened somehow, and asks you how would do it. The answer depends on what changes in the other constraints can be most easily accommodated by the project, and this in turn depends on the information given about the project.

1. Options to Shorten a Schedule





1. Crashing ↑ costs No ↑ risk Crashing involves adding extra resources to get the same activity done in less time with no appreciate rise in risk.
2. Fast-tracking ↑ risk No ↑ costs This takes activities which are sequential and makes them concurrent; increases risk.
3. Reestimating ↑ PM management time to do reestimate ↓ risk Reviewing risk assumptions inherent in time/cost estimates is a way to reduce risk and therefore reduce time estimates.
4. Scope reduction ↓ customer satisfaction No ↑ costs, risk, time You can reduce the scope as a last resort, but customer may balk at reduced scope.
5. Quality reduction ↓ customer satisfaction No ↑ costs, risk, time You can reduce the quality level to save time/money, but customer may not be satisfied.

There are two options which are NOT recommended by PMBOK® Guide or the PMP exam prep text by Rita Mulcahy. These are a) stand your ground and insist on the original schedule, because you do not have authority to do so as a project manager vis-à-vis the sponsor; b) work overtime. Working overtime in an emergency is one thing, but working overtime on a regular basis on a project is a symptom of poor planning.

2. Example

If the question talks about few resources on a project, then fast-tracking may be the best bet. For fast-tracking, one more requirement is that the activities have a preferential dependency, meaning that they CAN be made concurrent (with higher risk). If the dependency between activities is mandatory, and therefore they MUST be sequential, then fast-tracking is not an option because they CANNOT be made concurrent.

If the question talks about abundant resources and low risk, then crashing is okay.

If the question talks about high risk on a project, then reestimating is a good choice because this will involve lowering risk.

If the questions talks about how there are fewer resources (and so crashing is not feasible) and the activities cannot be made concurrent (and so fast-tracking is not feasible), then you may have to consider reducing scope and/or quality on a project.

3. Summary

The purpose of this post is to give you confidence in answering situational questions about a compressed schedule.

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