A schedule that is easily understandable and measurable by all project stakeholders is crucial to a successful project. Yet there is often a disconnect between the key players who create the schedules. While schedulers and project managers (PMs) may be experts in their own fields, they typically don’t understand the needs and requirements of their counterparts’ roles.

Schedulers are experts in dealing with scheduling software, and PMs are experts in developing a project plan, but often these don’t intersect as well as you’d expect, or create the most useful project schedule. Instead, two schedules are usually created: the schedulers create one to meet the contractual requirements, and the PMs make one that includes the working details needed to complete the project. And rarely do these schedules align – except at major contractual milestones.

Both schedulers and PMs need to have a big picture understanding. This is crucial to developing a tight, useful and successful schedule for everyone involved. Combining contractual requirements like critical milestones with detailed project tasks allows everyone involved – from leadership and reviewers to ground-level workers and schedulers – to better understand the project’s scope and its progress.

Typically, schedules take one of two approaches to describing activities and tasks. In one, activity is labeled as “construction,” and in the other, a schedule breaks it into details with multitasks. Each approach has its own pros and cons, which differ from project to project, team to team or company to company, but the key is to find what works best on the detail continuum for your project and team.

Incorporating lessons learned from past projects is extremely helpful when creating schedules for similar new projects. This is especially useful when developing and defining prime and crucial milestones for a project. Combing through data from previous successful projects using detailed knowledge of the new project is a great way to create milestone benchmarks for new projects.

Helpful Steps to Creating Milestones:

  1. Identify Project Parameters/Metrics – Collect basic information on the project, including total GSF, type of foundation, etc. Use this information to find similar projects to use for reference.

  2. Define Prime Milestone 1 (M1) – The M1 is typically scheduled near the middle of the project, usually when a building is turning over from core-and-shell to interior work.

  3. Define Prime Milestone 2 (M2) – The M2 should occur at or near the end of the project. For example, an M2 can be substantial completion, certificate of occupancy or final completion.

  4. Determine Crucial Milestones – Create and assign crucial milestones for each prime milestone. Crucial milestones are phases, stages or subdivisions moving towards the completion of a prime milestone. Also, remember M1 is, technically, a crucial milestone of M2.

  5. Calculate Dates – Examine actual schedule dates from similar past projects to help calculate deadlines for each crucial and prime milestone in the current one.

  6. Create Milestone Display – Put the schedule, including each milestone, into a format like a CPM or a milestone table. This allows for tracking and monitoring of project progress.

Once prime and crucial milestones are defined and created, you can easily develop a detailed schedule that includes all necessary information from both contractual and work standpoints. This allows everyone to work from the same schedule, which will reduce issues of unmatched sequences, workflow and negative scheduling feedback during project reviews. Additionally, using one schedule allows for more easily measurable results in terms of milestones and project progress.

Finding a schedule format that works for your project can be challenging, but don’t be afraid to try a new approach, or to veer away from “how it’s always been done.” Creating a combination of big-picture concepts and detail-oriented tasks may work best for your team. This way, all stakeholders can fully understand the project scope, and what’s needed to hit the expected milestones of an ultimately successful, completed project.