Project Management: Key Tactics for Optimizing Your Schedule & Tracking Projects | Matt Corroboy | Skillshare
Drawer
Search

Playback Speed


  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Project Management: Key Tactics for Optimizing Your Schedule & Tracking Projects

teacher avatar Matt Corroboy, Projects, leadership, life and mindset.

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Introduction

      1:47

    • 2.

      Scheduling Tactics

      8:53

    • 3.

      Tracking Your Project Schedule

      8:24

    • 4.

      Bringing Scheduling & Tracking to Life

      4:51

    • 5.

      Final Thoughts

      0:35

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.

972

Students

6

Projects

About This Class

Dazzle your team and make the most of your time with software projects director Matt Corroboy! 

As a project manager, you already know that a project can succeed or fail based on the strength of its schedule. Join Matt in an informative and illuminating class that will show you how to build a schedule for your project that makes sense, keeps you and your team on track, and drives forward motion.

Alongside Matt, you’ll learn: 

  • Critical tactics for creating the most effective and efficient schedules for you and your team
  • Best practices for identifying and addressing key risk areas in a project
  • How to track your team’s progress, including guidance on when and how to check in effectively
  • A breakdown of how and when to use different tracking methods

If you’re looking to step up your project management game, this is one class you don’t want to miss! Whether you’re a seasoned project manager or just starting out, this class will give you the tools to build effective schedules to keep your projects on track and your team on the same page. 

Matt’s class is designed to provide valuable insight to project managers of all levels, however all students are welcome to participate and enjoy. 

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Matt Corroboy

Projects, leadership, life and mindset.

Teacher

Hello, I'm Matt Corroboy,

I'm a Software Projects Director in the UK working in the life sciences industry at Waters Corporation and spend my time managing a crack team of amazing project and programme managers spread across the globe.  We fight against the underworld and build amazing software and system solutions that make a difference to the world.  We're very proud of what we do.

In my spare time I write and coach on Project Management, Leadership and mindset.  I'm also author of the greatest book you've never read: 'Life Unlocked', which is aimed at people wanting to get their mind and body into the top 1%.  

It's all a journey... you may as well have fun along the way.

See full profile

Level: All Levels

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
    Exceeded!
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.

Transcripts

1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Matt Corroboy, a Software Projects Director in the Life Science Industry. I lead a team of project and program managers delivering software and system solutions amounting to billions of dollars of revenue. I've always loved solving problems, creating structure and removing friction, and working with people and this has ultimately led me to a rewarding 20-year career in the project management field. Today's class is going to be a deep dive into some of the key tactics that I've found work best for both scheduling and tracking on projects. In most cases here, I'm going to assume that you already know how to gather requirements, how to create worklists and work breakdown structures. As a result of that, we're going to jump straight in and I'm going to talk about each tactic, what you might need to do in order to apply it, and then talk about the benefits that you'll get. For scheduling, we're going to cover the choosing of the right task size, the refining the right tasks, and how to build in milestones and goals that will align and get through the benefit through the course of the project. For tracking, we will learn, how we track to the task size itself, how we monitor the critical path, and the importance of keeping a change log and narrative as you go. We're going to wrap all of this up by talking about scheduling and building plans that help keep focus and pull the milestone no matter what project methodology you might be following. The class project prop list is going to be a simple one. It's going to be your project or maybe a typical one in your organization and I'm going to be asking if these tactics are already being applied and whether there's an opportunity for you to start using them now in order to have immediate benefit. As always, I want you to share your progress in the project gallery itself and ask any questions that you might have on the discussion boards. So let's jump into lesson one now on some of the key tactics when it comes to scheduling on projects. 2. Scheduling Tactics: We're going to jump straight in now to some key tactics that I've found enable the creation and use of a project plan to make it more than just an upfront schedule that people soon forget about. I'm going to be using an example to explain this tactic, but I want you to think about your own project, think about your schedules, and how they're currently constructed. Ask yourself throughout whether you are getting maximum volume today out of that plan. Tactic Number 1 is get the task size right for you. If you think about it, any work or task can literally be broken down into activities to the minute if you really wanted to. Likewise, you could leave the tasks at super high level, for example, build house, but neither of these allow you to serve the right purpose of having a meaningful schedule or plan. Day-to-day tracking for example, on a two-year project will likely just create significant overhead, busy work, and making you feel like you're doing things but not really adding any value. Creation of a monster schedule with incredible amounts of detail in it, will ultimately serve no one. It will be hard to describe, impossible to track, and more importantly, just end up being one of those things that's out of date as soon as it starts. On the opposite end of this, keeping far too high of a level means that you aren't able to track progress as things are moving forward. You're not able to manage critical activities, maybe drive to milestones or just communicate things very easily. This is why it's really important to get the task size right for you. Think about your project, think about the duration of it, the number of people involved, the frequency maybe of key milestones or events that tell you that things are on track, and then think about what the right size, average task is going to be, to enable you to manage the project well. Let's use a couple of examples here, using a tool such as monday.com to create a fairly basic schedule. Let's imagine it's a year-long project. There's 10 people in your office working on the project itself, and you're pitching things at daily task size. That's up to 50 tasks a week, and you might end up then with schedule where you've got lots of very detailed tasks that actually, a lot of description of the task might not be easy to understand, and it might be really confusing as to what's happening where. Alternatively, you might want to create your task level at the week level or the two-week level as a result of that, the task descriptions themselves can be a little bit more understandable, little more easy to share with other people, maybe senior stakeholders, and also keep people a little bit more focused on outcomes rather than very tactical things within them. The result here, is that you're going to be creating teams that are probably more autonomous. You're not going to be checking in with them every five minutes in order to manage that project. Whereas if you're managing things at the daily task level on a year-long project, you really almost spoon-feeding activities on an ongoing basis to that team. You're not really creating autonomy in the group itself and you're going to be spending a lot of time managing the schedule itself, rather than actually managing other activities as part of the project. However, for another example, it might be that you've just been given a three-week project plan to implement an office move within the building. This is likely going to be a schedule with lots of activities and moving parts and staying close to progress in the work being done on a daily basis is going to be absolutely key. It's going to be fast-paced, it's going to be dynamic and adjustments to the schedule are likely going to be needed as things go on. In this case, keeping it at the daily task size level or even a half-day level is going to be potentially vital to keep everyone focused. A word of warning here though, just because of what we discussed, don't make all of your tasks one week long for example. Because that just results in some tasks that might be a couple of days themselves being assigned at the one-week level and costed at that level, so think about maybe just grouping these together, or in the worst-case, just keeping them at two days themselves. Sometimes you can't force-fit your tasks, otherwise you risk it all just being meaningless, again, which is definitely not what we want. Tactic 2, focus on high-risk items for more detailed analysis. One of the key benefits of spending time creating a plan and a schedule for your project, is to help identify where the key risk is. This could be in the form of a key integration point, or maybe a hand-off between two groups, or it could just be a difficult or challenging task that provides a little bit of uncertainty when we're putting the plan together. In all these cases, it can make sense to do a little bit of further analysis, to further break down the problem into chunks. The reason for this is to help identify which part of which task actually holds the majority of the risk. This will allow then you to look at specific mitigation points and closer management of that task in order to be successful. Example here, three tasks, Task B makes us feel a little bit more nervous, a little bit of risk around it, we break it down, it's actually a sub-task of Task B, that really holds a lot of the risk. We can then focus on mitigating that specific issue, our specific activity as things move forward. If we take our IT project, for example, we talked about this three-week office move. It could be that there's a specific risk that we've identified around the service coming back online. But actually breaking that task down into specific pieces shows that there maybe two different areas where the risk lives. It could be something to do with cabling being right and connected, and the second piece might be something to do with having the appropriate support and personnel on-site at the point when you switch the servers back on again, in order to mitigate any risks with coming online. Only by breaking the task down into those specific areas, can you actually see where some of that risk is. Another good example might be an organizational change within your business where you've got this high-level task which is to communicate the key organizational change. There might be sub-tasks associated with that, but actually breaking that down, you actually see that there's a specific time-sensitive group communication that actually breaks down even further to a specific person, a specific stakeholder in your organization where you want to put very clear risk mitigation in place and task management around that person. Only by breaking it down further into much smaller chunks, we'd be able to understand the specifics of managing that risk. Tactic Number 3, putting events, goals or milestones into your plan that will help align the project moving forward. Let's get back to a monday.com example here. Think about a schedule where you've got never-ending tasks right till the end of the project. This can pose problems in both our understanding and success as we go, but also in aligning people around the purpose of what we're doing and why. When creating your schedule, your work today, think about putting in key milestones or events that are going to happen in front of you that's going to signify something significant happening. This might be just that we've changed phases in the project, maybe from ideation to implementation, or maybe we've met an early goal here, early goal achieved. That gives us some alignment with stakeholders on a creative idea, for example. By putting these in as milestones or goals based on the work before them, you've got something tangible or outcome-based that can help drive the work forward. In project teams, this will really help people to have a short-term alignment on a goal. Then incentives, rewards, and even celebrations can be tied into these goals to help keep the focus on the task at hand for a later win on a project. You can also tie these goals and key events into areas where there's challenges, things that wouldn't normally be a momentous event for the project to reach. Let's use an example here of how we can turn on an event into something that drives that positive behavior. Let's imagine it's a two-year project in the product development world, and it's got a lot of upfront activities around definition of what's being made. It's complicated, there's lots of parties involved, there's risk, and there's lots of opinions. The outcome from all of this is an agreed implementation plan and scope. Now normally, these formal approvals mid-project will pass us by and we're all just relieved to move on. But these events are significant and they signify something that we should focus on. Making something like requirements being agreed, a key milestone highlighting it as something to drive towards. As a result, we help keep more focus and energy on that goal in front of us, and a clearly worthy target too. This means that it might have its own tracking associated with it, and then upon hitting that milestone, we celebrate this event. This can be as simple as just pausing, bringing in some cake or treats, maybe communicating the win, thanking everyone, and ultimately setting the tone for how the project should run from one positive success to another, building momentum, creating alignment, and keeping the energy levels high. So there are three simple tactics that can make a significant difference to your scheduling. Before we move into tracking, I want you to spend the time now absorbing what we've just gone through. Take a look at your own projects and schedules. Are they pitched to the right level? Are they accessible? Can you communicate well with them? Do they describe the project and its goals easily? Take the time to think about what changes you might want to make before we move on to the next lesson, where we'll look at some of the key tactics when it comes to tracking our progress. 3. Tracking Your Project Schedule: Once you've got your tailored size, useful, and meaningful project schedule in place, then you're off driving your project forward. But as we discussed, it doesn't stop there, tracking is key. But once again, only if he's telling you what you really need to know. I'm going to go through some examples here applicable to each tactic being discussed. But I want you as we go through it to think about your own tracking on your own projects. As we go through this, what can you change today that will make you more efficient? The information you react to more relevant and to help keep everyone focused around you on what matters. Number 1, get your reporting tracking period right, don't make worth yourself. This tactic is the twin or the one we discussed during the getting the task size right when we were talking about creating a schedule. When you think about tracking your project, you want to create a system that work specifically for you and the team around you, one that makes sense for the project. Repeating status updates like we've got here in the calendar, where I've got Monday morning status updates, Tuesday morning status updates, Wednesday morning status updates, and afternoon updates as well, all you're going to be doing is spending time interrupting people, adjusting schedules with percentage of progress being made, it just won't work. My key tip here is to make the reporting and task update periods relevant to the average test size for your project. Really simple rule of thumb there that really helped me is that no task should be in progress for more than two reporting periods or check-ins. For example, if you set your project with daily tasks, on average, tasks at day long, then think about daily tracking. What would that look like? Tasks are then either scheduled to be done in the backlog through either in-progress being worked on at the moment, or they're done. If there's a task, for example, that remains in progress beyond two check-ins, then a flag should be raised here that maybe we're not making the right level of progress on it that we should be and then we can manage accordingly. If your task size is that the week or two-week level is average, then shift your cycles to these timings. Set the expectation of what you're going to be checking in on them, follow the same in formal rule. You can, of course, still set the expectation there. Any point a risk or ratio occurs on any particular task, but that gets communicated immediately. But at least you're not spending all your time checking in on progress every single day other than the project team. Just get on with the work that they know they need to do. The key here is that you set out your stall early and explain the reasoning for the project. The project teams then get into the routine. They understand the flow and purpose and any formal project status meetings that you might have in your calendar, they're clear as to what they are for and what they're measuring. As a result, they can actually be short and more focused, and people arrived knowing what he's likely to be asked and what information you're looking for. The key takeaway here is to track the level that makes sense for your project. Don't make work for yourself and don't be the project manager. There's always migraine for updates. Create a system that suits the projects and go from there. Tactic number 2, don't sweat the small stuff. Inline with the last topic, it's important not to overreact to any minor deviations to the plan. A baseline plan is just that. It's what we said the efforts and durations would be at that point in time. But projects are projects for a reason, there are all knowns. New risks, deviations, and issues that will all occur. Minor shifts that occur in a plan and expanding in attracting and the task since as they were set out originally, all just part and part course of managing a project. The key tip here is to not overreact to the first slippage that occurs or first task that didn't complete in it's reporting period. It's natural for these things to happen. As project managers, we're always learning. We're gathering feedback on whether the plan is still solid, or might need adjusted, reacting to everything as if it's a crisis, doesn't really set the stall out for learning, for problem-solving, and ultimately for success. Allowing things to happen over a period of time relative to the project. Build up a picture then of what's happening ideally with your core project team, if you have one, and then do a little bit of analysis. What have we learn? How do we adjust to the plan and the changes that have just happened? Once again, depending on the size of the project, then review and analysis could be something that happens weekly, it could be a monthly or quarterly. Remember, the positive leadership isn't reacting all the time. It's been measured, realistic, and clear on approach, and that's the mindset that will benefit both the project and the team that you might be working with. Tactic number 3, the one thing, critical path monitoring. Despite everything we've just said, there is one area where we might want to keep a much closer eye, and be more reactive if it's user encountered, that area is the critical path. Now there are lots of flavors and theories around critical path monitoring. But as a brief summary, the critical path is a sequence of tasks that all rely on each other in some way and ultimately dictates the completion or endpoint of the project or maybe a milestone. That can be buffer built into these activities to manage elements of risk. But fundamentally, if any of these dates change, then it has a direct impact on the endpoint or end date of the project itself. There are a few key points around critical path monitoring that are definitely worth sharing. Number 1, make sure that everyone knows what and who is on the critical path. Communicate here so much so that there's clear focus day-to-day on what's happening there. Two, track or create direct lines of communication different to the rest of the project. For example, you might want to create a more frequent update period for the current task on the critical path. This might be a direct line with the individual or group working on it. This is also that any changes in countered are immediately communicated. Number 3, have mitigation plans in place. Be super proactive here. Don't be the project manager that reports a slippage to the critical paths without any plan or options to respond. Make sure you put plans in place prior to issues arising. That needs to be on how any slippages to the critical path will be managed in advance. That might be an all hands approach where group people might swarm over a task to get it done. Well, maybe there's a special film that needs to be created to deal with some of those challenges. Tactic number 4, keep a log as you go of any plan changes and any narrative around them. You spend all your time developing a plan, setting systems open, then off you go. But one way later something happens and things change and the plan evolves. To be a good project manager, you need to be a realist. You need to know that the inevitable will happen, but also know that any point in time someone might ask, what happened to so-and-so and who decided that? It's important therefore, to keep a log of any changes that might occur to the schedule. This can be task delivered early, task delivered late maybe, scope changes, resource changes, maybe the movement of a goal for the project, or it could be a contract issue with the supplier. Just make a simple note and something like this, capture the change, adjust the plan accordingly and move on. This doesn't need to be complicated. But these notes won't pay dividends when it comes to the right time in their projects. I've been in countless projects where people can't remember what happened, what happened last year, and why we didn't launch on the date we originally planned? What we can do here is we can filter on things like schedule changes in the project and immediately see what happened at that point in time. We can see the people involved, we can see the decision that was made, and whether there was ineffective rebase lining of the plan all to everyone's approval. Keeping a log as you track the project will always give you something to fall back on when those tricky questions come up. Results are not just for self-preservation, having a lot of changes also allows us to look back at the end of the project and capture some really good lessons and intelligence to move forward and communicate for the next project. By keeping the data and applying it to your next piece of work, you are able to be a better planner, see a fairly risks, and also justify why you might have structured something in a certain way. All in all, it's a really professional thing for a PM to do. This rarely done by most. It doesn't take much, but take the time, keep on journaling and see the benefits. Now that we've been through some key tracking tactics, it's time once more for you to take a look at your own approach to this. Where are you over focusing or maybe not focusing at all? Do you have critical path visibility or maybe you're just nudging the projects along with two tighter grip? Take a look now before we tie everything together and we look at different methodologies when it comes to project management. 4. Bringing Scheduling & Tracking to Life: The world moves fast. Techniques and methodologies change, as well as the language we might use to describe our world. We all have to change and incorporate best practice here. Whether it's the use of backlogs, sprints, Kanban or foreign Gantt chart within value metrics, these are all great tools. But experience tells me that the best solution is to treat all of these as just not they're tools in your toolbox, to then pick what tool or approach works for the job you've been asked to do for the project that you're working on. Often the best solution might be a blending or a hybrid of many different approaches. I'm going to talk about some examples here in this final lesson that I will share with us. I want you to think as we go through. This is where you can create the perfect blend from our toolbox that will give you and your project that early benefit. Number 1, big picture schedule versus day-to-day tracking. In certain methodologies, there might be extremes there, for example, everything is intuitive and there's no long-term planning in place, while the alternative being that everything is part of a detailed plan and there's no flexibility in the way you approach things. Experience shows me that in order for your projects to be successful, then you probably need both. Here we've got a high-level Gantt chart view which is shown in monday.com. This is really good for showing the flow of phases representing longer-term goals and how we enable something big to ultimately happen at the end of the project. But for the day-to-day management of the project, you probably want a slightly different approach. That's where a Kanban style view in a tool like this or maybe a Trello allows you to manage things from a day-to-day basis, where the focus can be on the specific tasks that are being worked on in that given point in time. You're not being ground now by the bigger picture view of the world or the Gantt chart view showing. Number 2, Kanban swarming approach versus designated tasks. In this instance that we've got here, the danger of a traditional Gantt chart view, is that when there's resource assignments assigned to those tasks, you might have Bob assigned to task A or Claire assigned to task B and often this creates some siloing in the activities that you've assigned them down. In a Kanban approach like this, then it's all about creating flow, being able to move tasks from one area to the other and getting the team to help each other out, encouraging others to see what's happening, what's being worked on, what gets stuck, and create that shared ownership and team spirit. It can really help things move forward here. Whatever approach you might take in, then try and create the right environment where you're encouraging flexibility and willingness to help each other out on tasks. This might be something you just apply maybe on your critical path tasks, if needs be. Three, sprints to create alignment irrespective of the schedule type. I'm a big fan of keeping the focus on the here and now of the project. It's called project presence at its best. Now, in the Scrum methodology, there's the concept of a sprint, where you choose only a selection of activities for the next period of your time, for example, the next two weeks. The teams then focus only on this work and they evolve retrospectively, from one sprint to the next. Now, this is a fantastic tool in order to keep focus on just what is in front of you. Aligning these to an outcome like hitting a milestone or key event means that the focus at all times is only on the thing in front of us and not on the big picture of the project, which can often be daunting for people to see. Sprints now can be applied to almost anything in a project in a manner of different ways. You certainly don't have to be following a Scrum methodology in order to use it. In this example, we're going to take all the tasks that are leading to a key milestone in the project, which is a demo. We're going to use the Kanban seltzer to filter all of the tasks that are in our Kanban view on those that are associated with that group of works. What we're going to do is still work in demo, but what we see now is that Kanban view, which is really focusing purely on the next period works, it's going to enable the outcome that we're looking for in that demo at the end of things. So, we can keep the team fully focused in this view, not being distracted at all by that big picture view of the Gantt chart, but just keep all tasks focused on what needs to happen in the next week or two to get the job done. Use the sprint concept or current period of time to focus in, and then use a retrospective at the end to reflect on what you've learned, and then zoom out, look at what it means to the larger plan. Advice for life here, don't get pulled into a wall of methodologies. Assess your project, your working environment, and all of the tools at your disposal in order to create efficient ways of working to help show both the big picture and to keep alignment motivation of focus on the here and now of your project. Before we sign off, think about what we've just discussed, and look at how you can apply all the schedule or in tracking techniques and concepts to level your projects even more. Remember, there's always another way. 5. Final Thoughts: [MUSIC] Planning, scheduling, and tracking projects is what we do. It's part of the job, but there are many ways to do this. Every environment is different, every project is different, and every organization might ask for slightly different things from us. It's important to be open-minded therefore and try different approaches, and always look to improve by choosing the right tool for the right job. I hope you enjoyed this class and are able to apply some of these tactics to your projects. It's always enjoyable to hear how people get on with these concepts. I encourage you to share your thoughts or any of your own lessons learned in the discussion boards below. Thanks for watching, and I'll see you again.