Corporate Culture & Productivity

3 Tried and True Techniques for Establishing Project Timelines

David Spence
November 8th, 2016
team working on a project timeline

Facilities management often includes overseeing projects and the teams assigned to them. Creating project timelines and schedules can be especially challenging due to the many variables involved. Limited resources, conflicting personalities and unexpected emergencies can cause issues when you’re trying to establish a timeline that’s both effective and realistic. Fortunately, there are well-developed methods that can help managers navigate the uncertainty of project timelines. Here are three proven techniques that can help you ensure your team stays on track.

Bottom-up planning

team members planning project timeline

Although time-consuming, bottom-up planning offers a detailed understanding of a project’s tasks and required time. As opposed to the top-down approach, which relies on managers identifying the project goal and breaking it down into smaller tasks, the bottom-up method involves team members identifying the tasks and organizing them into groups.

Taking the time to follow this technique can identify potential problems and yield more accurate timelines than the top-down method or basic appraisals.

Team involvement is crucial for accuracy—each team member will be able to provide better time estimates for their own responsibilities.

Most effective for: First-time projects with potential unknowns.

Critical path method

A key tool for project planners in various industries, the critical path method uses a Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) chart to visualize all the required activities in a project, the time each one takes and any dependencies in between them.

The critical path specifically refers to the set of activities that allow a project to be completed in the shortest time possible at minimum cost.

This allows facility managers to avoid potential delays and setbacks, and assign their resources accordingly.

Most effective for: Any large project with well-defined requirements.

Iterative planning

project timeline schedule

Large, multi-faceted projects like office renovations might require complicated schedules and timelines that are often founded on basic estimations. An effective way to ensure that your timeline is accurate is to take an iterative approach. Establishing a reporting and updating process allows you to continually check the progress of your project. By gathering feedback from team members, recording how long certain tasks took, and analyzing this data, facility managers can create more definite estimates for future projects. Compare this data and progress against your original timeline and adjust the plan accordingly.

This method helps you adapt your timeline to change consistently while collecting relevant data for use in future estimates.

Managers will have to pay special attention to team communication in order to ensure that they receivable useful data from their employees.

Most effective for: Complex projects that may involve last-minute changes.

Project timelines can be difficult to implement accurately. The key is to create an adaptable workforce and schedule, keeping in mind that timelines are estimates at best. Facility managers who can employ clear expectations, record valuable data and adjust their plans accordingly can reduce risks of project failure. As a result, they’ll be able to build strong, reusable processes for future projects.


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