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Ask the Experts: Managing That Schedule with Drop-dead Deadlines

Gail of Hoffman Estates, IL asks: I have dates that I just cant miss. What is the best way to plan for those dates and make sure that I’m on schedule to make my targets?

Answer: I recommend that when you’re facing dates you cant miss, plan a project schedule from the ending date and use milestones to represent the important short- and long-term goals for the schedule. Put deadlines on the milestones and then manage the project as planned from the start date.

Here are the steps to make this happen:

1. Go to Project | Project Information | Schedule from | Project finish date | Finish date.

2. Enter the drop-dead date for the project and click OK.

3. Enter your tasks using milestones for your short-term and finish dates of the schedule. Note! Don’t set constraints on these dates or enter dates in the start and finish columns.

4. Build in all of the work of the project as you normally would. Planning a project from the ending date will automatically plan tasks using the As Late as Possible constraint.

5. After all of the work of the project has been entered into the schedule, enter Deadlines on the milestones that are the important not-to-be missed dates. These will become your target dates that you’ll manage your work against. Don’t put deadlines on the “nice to be there” tasks; but do enter the hard dates that are important to the project. To enter deadlines for a task, double-click on the task to open the Task Information form | Advanced Tab and enter the deadline date. If you have several deadlines to enter, an easy way to handle this is to insert the Deadline column and enter the dates on the tasks that will need them.

6. The last step is to flip the project back to being planned from the start date. This way you can now manage to the deadline dates. If you don’t manage from the start date, there’s no effective way to tell if you’ll actually be able to make your drop-dead dates. Note: If you’ve entered constraints, this might not work right.

7. To switch your schedule to being planned from the Project Start date, go to Project | Project Information | Schedule from | Project start date | Start date. Enter the start date for the project and click OK.

After rescheduling from the start date, then set your baseline. During tracking you’ll be able to compare where you are now vs. where you should be by now. As long as the milestones dont cross the deadlines, you should be effectively managing your project to make your goal of the deadline dates.

Figure 1 shows apicture of what the Tracking Gantt would look like as you’re managing your schedule.

Figure 1. A sample of the Tracking Gantt.

Lehnert Figure 1

Another view you’ll also find helpful is the Detail Gantt. The little lines on the left side of the Gantt bars indicate slippage from the baseline plan. Using this view (which you get from View | More Views | Detail Gantt), you’ll be able to determine how much time you’ll need to pick up to be able to make your deadlines.

Figure 2. A sample of the Detail Gantt.

Lehnert Figure 2

Bonus Tip! Change the formatting on your Gantt charts to show the date of the deadline by following these steps:

1. Show the Gantt Chart you want to change.
2.Choose Tools | Bar styles.
3. Scroll down to find Deadlines in the top section of the form.
4.Click on Deadlines.
5. Click on Text in the bottom section of the form.
6. Click in the field to the right of the word “right.”
7. Pull down the field choices and select Deadline.
8. Click OK

The deadline may also be added to Tracking Gantt charts in Microsoft Project Server as well.

Written by Ellen Lehnert

Ellen Lehnert, PMP, Microsoft Project MVP, MCP, is a independent consultant and trainer on Microsoft Project and Project Server. She has taught Microsoft Project over 400 times and is the author of  MS Project 2010 and

2013 published courseware. Ellen is also a contributor and tech editor for many reference books, a developer for the Microsoft Project certification tests and is a frequent meeting speaker for Microsoft, MPUG and PMI. Contact Ellen at ellen@lehnertcs.com.

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  1. Dear Mrs Ellen
    I study now EPC management , and I need your help, I am a person on Ontario disability assistant program , I need your help for MS project

  2. Sorry but I am not in a position to help you. Best of luck to you.


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