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The project scheduling conundrum

Patrick Weaver
October 20, 2011

The project scheduling conundrum is simple:

We know effective scheduling makes a significant difference to project success and we know what effective scheduling looks like but in most projects, the schedule is ignored, bad scheduling practice is the norm and most projects finish late.

These are indeed ‘interesting times’: the business of scheduling and its underpinning concepts and theories underwent a revolution in the 1960s with the introduction of critical path scheduling but, since then, all that really changed until recently is the scheduling tools and the hardware they run on.

This is now changing. In the last few years new ideas have emerged, including the effective application of the Theory of Constraints (Critical Chain), Location Based Scheduling, Momentology and the Relationship Diagramming Method variation of the Critical Path Method (RD-CPM).

There has also been recognition of the need to develop an effective community of practice for schedulers including training, credentialing and a career path, supported by effective advocacy at all levels.

The planning and scheduling profession

The two major groups worldwide focused on providing a ‘home’ for planners and schedulers are Planning Planet ( and the Project Management Institute (PMI) Scheduling Community of Practice. Planning Planet is free to join; you have to be a PMI member to join the PMI Scheduling CoP.

Other resources include the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) Project Control Special Interest Groups in Melbourne and Canberra that are open to all interested professionals (not just AIPM members) and a host of LinkedIn groups. This list is far from complete but indicates the degree of interest planners and schedulers have in belonging to a group that meets their requirements. Planning Planet alone has more than 30,000 members and a significant level of daily activity on its website.

The current state of training and certification of planners and schedulers is nowhere near as healthy. PMI has offered the Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP) credential for the last four years and AACEi (Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International) has offered the Planning and Scheduling Professional (PSP) credential for around eight years. The combined worldwide uptake is less than 2,000 qualified practitioners.

My feeling is that both of these credentials are aimed at senior schedulers with five to eight years’ experience and have essentially ‘missed the market’. The PMI-SP credential focuses on the skills needed to manager planners and schedulers—typically a PMO manager. The PSP focuses on heavy construction scheduling and is almost a pre-requisite for experts offering scheduling forensic analysis in the USA court system. For the rest of us, by the time you have a 5–8 year career track in scheduling your capabilities are known and the qualifications don’t help a lot.

What has been seriously missing is a way to train a junior scheduler in the art and practice of planning and scheduling; this is a distinctly different skill set to learning how to make a software tool work!

Certainly, the scheduling software industry have provided excellent tools based training for decades but knowing how to make a tool work is not the same as knowing why you need the tool or the ultimate objective of using the tool. It may be a surprise to many, but the objective of scheduling is NOT to create an accurate schedule! The ultimate objective of scheduling is to help the project team deliver the project on time.

Patrick Weaver
Patrick Weaver is the managing director of Mosaic Project Services and the business manager of Stakeholder Management Pty Ltd. He has been a member of both PMI and AIPM since 1986 and is a member of the Asia Pacific Forum of the Chartered Institute of Building. In addition to his work on ISO 21500, he has contributed to a range of standards developments with PMI, CIOB and AIPM.
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