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Back to the Future

You have been diligently tracking progress against your project schedule. Your team members have diligently reported their hours worked each week and have estimated the remaining work on each task. Everything is right with the world until a team member comes up to you and says, “I cant start working on ‘Locate New Site’ because its predecessor has not been completed!” And you wonder what went wrong.

What happened was that there was work scheduled to be completed in the past, which was neither completed nor rescheduled into the future. The result, as shown below, was that unfinished work got “stuck” in the past.

Figure 1. What’s to be done when work goes unfinished?

Back to the Future

This is a problem for several reasons:

  • Your team members have an inaccurate picture of when they can work on their tasks.
  • Your stakeholders have an inaccurate picture of your estimated project completion date.
  • Resource planners have an inaccurate picture of future resource demand.

What’s needed is for you to bring your estimates of uncompleted work “back to the future.” (Ugh!) This is actually a very easy task in Microsoft Project (all versions):

1. From the menu, select Tools | Tracking | Update Project.
2. On the Update Project dialog, select Reschedule uncompleted work to start after, and enter either the current date or the status date.
3. Click OK.

Figure 2. The Reschedule uncompleted work to start after… dialog.

Back to the Future

As shown below, all uncompleted work will be rescheduled into the future. The bad news is that it might push your schedule back. The good news is that it now reflects reality.

Figure 3. Getting back to reality is the goal.

Back to the Future

A best practice is to get into the habit of doing this as part of your weekly schedule update process.


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Written by Michael Steinberg

Michael Steinberg, PMP, MCP, is a Managing Consultant at international business consultancy Campana & Schott. He has over 30 years of IT consulting and training experience, including 20 years in project management. In his current position, he manages and conducts enterprise project management process and technology implementations and deployments, including solution installation of SharePoint and Project Server, process design, user training, custom development integration with enterprise business systems and server administration. Contact Michael at Michael.Steinberg@campana-schott.com.

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