Plan Stage: How It Works
Scheduling Your Project
The trick to completing any project is to map out what needs to be done and when to do it. There are lots of ways to make a schedule. The Project Plan outlines one way that uses "schedule cards" that you can move around as you create a schedule. (Check out the Program Handbook for more details.) We recommend following these steps to building your schedule:
Step 1: Establish Milestones and Tasks
Milestones are statements of what will have been accomplished. Milestones are points in the project's timeline that help you monitor whether your project is on schedule. Tasks are the "to do" items you need to complete to accomplish each milestone.
Think About It
- What milestones are needed to complete each deliverable? Example: Before we can complete our City Model, one of our milestones is to complete the City Map activity.
- What tasks are needed to complete each milestone? Example: To complete the City Map milestone, we need to do these tasks--understand the concept of scale, complete the Future City scale activities, and choose an appropriate scale for our map and model.
Tip: Write the milestones and tasks for each deliverable on index cards or sticky notes. This will allow you to move them around as you begin to schedule.
Step 2: Determine Sequence
Sequencing is the process of deciding the order in which things should be done. An independent task can be completed at any time and is not related to some other thing being done. A dependent task must be completed before the next one can begin.
Think About It
- Which deliverables are dependent and which ones are independent? In other words, does one deliverable need to be completed before the next one can begin? Example: All of our deliverables are dependent on the research that we do about city infrastructure. The City Model is the only deliverable that is dependent upon us collecting recylced materials.
- Does one task need to be completed before another one can begin? Example: Before we can build the City Model, we first need to determine the scale.
- When should each task and milestone be completed? Example: To complete our City Model in time, we should start researching scale as soon as possible and choose an appropriate scale by the end of the month.
- Which tasks can happen at the same time? Example: As we work on X, we can also do Y.
- Arrange the task and milestone cards for each deliverable in a logical order.
- Review tasks. Feel free to move them around to make sure they are in the right order so the milestones will be met.
Step 3: Estimate Time
Estimating time includes thinking about work time (how long it will take a person to do the work) and elapsed time (how long it takes for a task to be completed.)
Think About It
- How much work time and elapsed time would it take to glue trees to your city model? Example: It may take 30 minutes of work time for us to glue trees to our model, but it takes 24 hours of elapsed time for the glue to dry.
- Where and when can you overlap tasks to get more work done in less time? Example: While some team members are doing research for the City Essay, other members can collect materials for the City Model.
- Write the estimated time to complete on each task/milestone card.
- Be realistic with your estimates. You may need to rearrange cards once you see how much time different tasks take.
Step 4: Assign Roles
Assigning roles is about distributing the work farily and matching the best person with the task.
Think About It
- What are the strengths and skills of each team member? What roles relate to their strengths? Example: One of my strengths is that I am really comfortable speaking in front of people. I will be in charge of outlining our presentation notes and I will take the lead when presenting. One of my teammates is super creative and can draw just about anything. He will be responsible for our City Map layout.
- How will the work be divided? Is it distributed fairly among all team members? Example: I won't be able to start the presentation outline until we really solidify our solution. While my workload is light right now, I will help my teammates experiment with different scales, help draft the City Essay, and be in charge of gathering as many recycled materials as I can.
- What do good teams need to succeed? Example: To be an effective team, members must be respectful of one another, understand the importance of interdependence, and be motivated to help each other reach a common goal.
- Volunteer for roles you would like to do; share those tasks that may be less appealing or unrealistic for you to take the lead on.
- Write the names of the team member(s) responsible for each task/milestone on the card.
Step 5: Make a Schedule
After you've gone through the steps above, you're ready to put your schedule together. One quick way is to gather all of your task and milestone cards, assign them a due date, and organize them. Some teams tape all of their cards to a giant calendar on a wall, while other teams use an online calendar.
Think About It
- Which type of schedule would work best for you team?
- How will you make your schedule available for all team members to review? Example: We could post an electronic calendar on Google Drive or hang our wall calendar on our Planning Wall in the classroom for everyone to see.
- Who will be in charge of monitoring the schedule to make sure deadlines are met and to make changes as needed? Example: For a small team, one person could be in charge of overseeing the entire schedule; for a larger team, small groups or individuals could be in charge of schedules for each deliverable.
Tip: Keep in mind that things might change along the way--be sure to review and revise your schedule as needed. You may need to add new milestones, reorder tasks, and revise due dates.
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