As a consultant you come across a lot of different projects/companies/people. I’ve noticed that there are some flaws that keep popping up, regardless of the company, project or person.

In this series of articles, I would like to explain 7 of these flaws and subsequently show you how to solve each situation.

Flaw #1: Date-Related Planning

Take a close look at this Gantt table, and more specifically at the Indicators column (the blue “i” icon left to task mode):



How did these calendars get there? There’s a good chance you used the Start and Finish columns to enter the dates for the tasks. Granted, those dates are editable, but they should not be edited by hand.

What will go wrong?

If you have a schedule like this, none of the tasks are linked. And that will produce a lot of work for you when you change a tasks duration. Have a look at what happens:



Did you see that? I changed the duration for task 1, but now task 2 has a incorrect starting date. Let’s fix this.

Ideally there are just two dates that should be entered in any schedule –  there can be more but I’ll get to that later. These dates are the Project Start date (you can find that one in the Project information menu) and a deadline on the milestone for the finished product. That deadline is a fixed point in time that will not move and often has a external source like your manager or a client.

All other dates are derived from dependencies!

A dependency will force the start date of a task to a later date if the predecessor takes longer to finish.



The only thing I changed between the top and bottom image was the duration. Because task 1 was linked to task 2 (start-to-finish), the second task got a different start and finish date. Great!

Now for that exception I mentioned earlier:

There are some tasks that should have a calendar (a “start no earlier than constraint” as it is officially called). These are tasks that have external predecessors. For example, you need approval of the board, and they meet only once a month. The first possible date they get together will be your constraint. Make sure you add a note to that task, that way you will know why you added that constraint.

That’s it for now, stay tuned for my next flaw: Capacity as Activity.  Leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to respond.


This article was originally published on Erik van Hurck’s website, The Project Corner. You can visit his website for more helpful tips.

Related Content

Webinars (watch for free now!):
How to Determine the Right Scheduling Approach for your Project
Digging Deeper – Learning More about Using Constraints

7 Incorrect Ways to Use Microsoft Project: Not Using the Baseline Functionality
7 Incorrect Ways to Use Microsoft Project: Forgetting to Set a Status Date