Webinar Recap: Understanding Dependencies, Leads, and Lags with MS Project

Please find below a transcription of the audio portion of Satya Narayan Dash’s session, Understanding Dependencies, Leads and Lags with MS Project, being provided by MPUG for the convenience of our members. You may wish to use this transcript for the purposes of self-paced learning, searching for specific information, and/or performing a quick review of webinar content. There may be exclusions, such as those steps included in product demonstrations. You may watch the live recording of this webinar at your convenience.

Kyle: Hello everyone, and welcome to today’s MPUG webinar, Understanding Dependencies, Leads and Lags with Microsoft Project. My name is Kyle, and I’ll be the moderator today. Today’s session is eligible for one PMI PDU in the Technical category, and the MPUG Activity Code for claiming is on the screen now. And like all MPUG webinars, a recording of this session will be posted to mpug.com shortly after the live presentation ends. All MPUG members can watch these recordings at any time and still be eligible to earn the PDU credit.

Kyle: All assessments you watch on-demand can be submitted to your webinar history, and the live sessions you attend are automatically submitted. Within your history you can print or download your training transcript, and certificates of completion, including the one for today. You can access that by logging into mpug.com, click the My Account button, and then click on your transcript link. If you have any questions during today’s presentation, please send those over at any time using the chat question box on the GoToWebinar control panel. We do have time set aside at the end to answer those questions for you.

Kyle: All right, we’ll go ahead and get started. We’re very happy to welcome Satya Dash today. Satya is a management professional, speaker, coach, and author of six books, including the book I Want To Be a PMP. His video courses, PMP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass, and PMP 35 Contact Hours Online have created many successful PMPs over the years. Over 1500 aspirants have successfully cracked the PMP examination with his leadership and resources. So I’d like to welcome you back, Satya, and at the time I’ll hand it over to you to get started with today’s session.

Satya N Dash: Thank you for having me, Kyle. It’s a great introduction, and thank you for informing about me. Today’s webinar, as Kyle told, would be Understanding Dependencies, Leads, and Lags with Microsoft Project. So already Kyle have spoken about me, so I’m going to skip about myself.

Satya N Dash: Here is the agenda for this discussion that you are going to have. We’ll see what are the various types of dependencies, and relationships, how the relationships are presented graphically. What are leads and lags, and how they are associated with dependencies? What are the real-world possibilities with various types of dependencies? Also, we are going to see how Microsoft Projects software that is the latest, being 2019, handles dependencies, as well as leads and lags.

Satya N Dash: So, how to build a schedule, this is our first part. Time, because you are a management professional, you’ll be knowing is the most important constraint among all the constraints. Time is important, or schedule is important because time doesn’t wait for anyone. Time doesn’t care about anyone. Time moves forward, always moves forward, and that is why it is the most powerful variable among all the variables that you’ll be facing as a management practitioner.

Satya N Dash: Now, when I’m talking about time it covers a lot of aspects. It covers activities, milestones, resources assigned to the tasks or activities, the activity attributes, the various dependencies, leads, lags, constraints, and also you might have to level the resources. You might have to smooth the resources. You have to find out the critical path, if you are following a critical path measurement method, or if you are following a critical chain method, that time you have to follow another approach. Also, it has, with respect to other concepts such as fast-tracking, crashing, you have near-critical path.

Satya N Dash: You have also agile record concepts coming into time management that you have a lot of additional concepts such as burn up chart, burn down chart, release planning, story map. These are all the things you need to consider as a project management or a management practitioner. In this case, our focus is narrow, that is with respect to dependencies, leads and lags. The reason I focused on this topic because one thing is, many people misunderstand what are the various types of dependencies, and also it creates a lot of confusion for many people. Particularly there is a dependency called Start to Finish relationship or Start to Finish dependency.

Satya N Dash: In addition to that, I have seen management practitioners when they create a plan, they make a lot of mistakes, without any software tool, in this case Microsoft Project. As early as 2009, 2010, nearly 11 years before I was working as a PMO. So, at the time I have seen program managers, senior delivery managers, they will create dependencies between summary tasks in a Microsoft Project plan, which is a definite no-no. Or, if there is a [inaudible 00:05:46] schedule is available, there is a task you should have in your plan, what actually they do, they put the lead or the lag, which is again a no. You should not do that.

Satya N Dash: And I realized this is what also… I get a lot of questions from aspiring PMPs, that is project management professional or RMP, or SEP, or CRPM, or even BBM. So these people need to understand what is time management. This is a narrow topic but it impacts everyone else. Leads and lags, if you are not having properly or you are path convergence and divergence and then it all dried up, you are not considering properly it’s going to impact your schedule. It will have measured risks for your project. If you are ignoring dependencies, it’s going to have risks for your project.

Satya N Dash: In addition to that, I would also like to mention when I’m talking about lead, lags and dependencies, I’m primarily talking about deterministic scheduling. But deterministic scheduling, I mean the duration is available to you. You know what is the duration of your activity or a summary task or the work practice or a planning practice that you are having for your schedule. I’m not talking about probabilistic scheduling. Now, probabilistic scheduling is a pure or considerably a risk management topic, though it has overlapping with time management or scheduling management.

Satya N Dash: So, when I’m talking here, I’m primarily talking with respect to deterministic scheduling. Now, to build a schedule you need three things primarily. You will need a scheduling took, which in our case is Microsoft Project. You will need a scheduling method or a scheduling approach which can be critical path measurement, critical chain measurement or it can be Scrum, it can be Kanban, it can be Lean or it can be some newly emerging concept such as you have location-based scheduling, or you have any addition concepts, a method or approach, that you’ll be choosing.

Satya N Dash: Now, the scheduling tool in this case is Microsoft Project. It supports both the traditional form of scheduling which is critical path based scheduling. It also supports the agile [inaudible 00:08:08] concepts such as you have Scrum or Kanban, you can also have in Microsoft Project. And of course, you need the scheduled data. By scheduled data I mean the duration, the start, the finish, the resources, the attributes that you are going to populate on the scheduling tool.

Satya N Dash: So, first you select a scheduling approach. So it can be the CMP, as I said, the critical path measurement, CCM, that is critical chain measurement, or it can be Scrum, or it can be Kanban, it can be Lean, you decide. The tool has inbuilt capability, so here you decide with respect to the tool, what is the scheduling method that you are going to have. Once you decide, then you take the project specific schedule data and the scheduling tool will create a schedule model.

Satya N Dash: That model is basically the instance of a schedule. The schedule model in turn will create the project schedule for the Project. So, though it is particularly for Project, similar concepts whether you are working as a project manager, or a portfolio manager, or a delivery manager, or any other form of management practice, similar concepts will be applicative. So as I said, the scheduling matter can be CPM, or critical path method, can be Scrum or Kanban. Scheduling tool in this case is Microsoft Project. The schedule data that is activities, the dates, the duration, dependencies, resources, constraints. This creates the schedule model which in turn creates the project schedule.

Satya N Dash: Next is dependencies or relationships, so this is… As I told, I am focusing on a very narrow topic of schedule management. Schedule management is vast. And as a project management or a management practitioner, you need to be really, really good in schedule management because if you look at any contract that you also you’re following, that is a word called time is of the essence. So schedule management is going to be mostly focused, irrespective of the management domain that you are participating or the management domain that you are going to contribute.

Satya N Dash: So, when I’m talking of dependencies or relationships, this can be represented mathematically in four ways. And here, the relationship I’m particularly talking with respect to precedence diagramming method or PDM for short. The approach is PERT, program, evaluation, review technique. So in a precedence diagramming method, you have the mile stone, the start milestone connected to various tasks. You’ll have a start milestone connected to a task. This task connected to another task with various predecessor and successors. And you’ll have, finally, a finished milestone.

Satya N Dash: I’m not talking about other relations within another network diagram. It can be activity that is… This is also called activity on node, or AON. There are other network diagrams, such as activity of arrow. I’m not talking about that. I’m very specifically speaking about the precedence diagramming method. Now, in a precedence diagramming method you have two fundamental concepts. One is the predecessor, one is the successor. The concept is very simply, predecessor is basically who shall come first in your timeline. Successor, which will come next in your timeline.

Satya N Dash: Now, their dependencies among the activities, or as Microsoft Project calls it, tasks, will be four. Finish to Start, that is FS, Finish to Finish, or FF, Start to Start, or SS, Start to Finish, or SF. So first is Finish to Start. Now Finish to Start relationship is one in which the successor activity cannot start until the predecessor activity has finished. This is noted as FS.

Satya N Dash: Taking an example. Pouring on concrete can’t start until the excavation is finished. So, you have the pouring of concrete is the successor. The excavation work is your predecessor. So, what it is saying, the successor activity cannot start… This the start of the successor, this is the finish of the successor. Start of the predecessor, start of the predecessor. So the successor cannot start unless the predecessor has finished. So then this is noted with this arrow mark.

Satya N Dash: Next is Finish to Finish. This dependency is easily understood because it is most widely used and it is the most common one. Compared to that Finish to Finish or Start to Start is not that widely used, though used. So Finish to Finish is telling this is where the successor activity cannot finish until the predecessor activity has finished, and it is noted as FF. So again, start of the predecessor, finish of the predecessor. Start of the successor, finish of the successor. So the successor cannot finish unless the predecessor has finished. Example can be this thing can only be finished when the development is finished.

Satya N Dash: Next is Start to Start. This is also not as widely used, like Finish to Start relationship or dependency. So a Start to Start relationship is one in which the successor activity cannot start until the predecessor activity starts. This is noted as SS. Start of the predecessor, finish of the predecessor. Start of the successor, finish of the successor. The successor activity cannot start unless the predecessor has started, and this is noted with this arrow mark. Taking an example, you have roof work that can’t start unless the four walls are built, so your predecessor is four walls. You have to first build the four walls, then only you can have the roof work.

Satya N Dash: Then you have Start to Finish. A Start to Finish relationship indicates that the predecessor cannot finish until the successor starts. This is noted as SF. This dependency creates the most confusion, that is Start to Finish. The reason is first is it rarely used. Second reason is if you go to internet or refer any material or a course or a book, almost all of them has really explain in a wrong way. So you would be finding they would be saying, “The start of the predecessor will drive the finish of the successor.” Which is wrong. Almost all material that I checked, they’re talking in that language.

Satya N Dash: Again, I repeat, the Start to Finish relationship indicates the predecessor cannot finish until the successor starts. So here, we have predecessor start and finish, successor start and finish. So it is saying the predecessor can’t finish unless the successor starts. And this is how it is noted, Start to Finish. Many people said this is the predecessor, which is wrong. Almost all the books that I checked, they’re saying this is the predecessor. I don’t think this is correct. Taking an example, the first shift security guard cannot finish until the second shift security guard starts. So, which is the predecessor here? The first shift security guard is your predecessor. The second shift security guard is your successor. The second shift security guard cannot start the work unless the first shift security guard is completing work. We’ll take more examples as we proceed and we’ll understand this particular dependency and other not that widely used dependencies such as Start to Start and Finish to Finish, also we’ll see various examples in that.

Satya N Dash: Next we have leads and lags. Now, first is lag. Lag is the amount of time in which a successor activity can be delayed with respect to a predecessor activity. So what it is saying is you have a predecessor and you have a successor, and you have dependency. This is obviously a Finish to Start dependency, as we saw some time before. Now, there is a delay of five days. So this is the successor and it is delayed compared to the predecessor with a lag of five days. Lag is generally noted with a positive lag. And this is the successor, so in the predecessor field of the successor, every task will have a number of attributes such as start date, finish date, duration, work, cost, resource, predecessor, successor. Many are attributes will have a level of foreign activity or a task. So here, we respect to the successor’s predecessor field, there’s an attribute called predecessor. In that field this will be noted as FS + 5 days because lag is positive.

Satya N Dash: Next is lead. This is the amount of time by which a successor activity can be advanced with respect to a predecessor activity. And lead is generally noted as a negative value. So here, we have a predecessor, we have a successor. Now here, if you look at, again it is a Finish to Start dependency, but the successor is starting even before the predecessor has finished. In other words, the successor activity is getting accelerated or advanced compared to the end of the predecessor activity. And like we saw before for lag, for lead we have… Lead will be noted in a negative value. So this gap is two days, and that’s why it will be noted as FS – 2 days as a lead.

Satya N Dash: Now, we’ll take some… But again, When I said with complicated understanding like the successor cannot start unless the predecessor has started. Successor cannot finish unless the predecessor has finished, or successor cannot start unless the predecessor has finished. These are actually complicated languages. This is complicated languages and the problem with complicated languages is you can’t remember. Now, if you can’t remember, you can’t really apply. Now, if you can’t really apply your learning, you’re learning is effectively useless.

Satya N Dash: So, what I’m going to do, I’ll simplify the concepts. I’m going to remove all those elements, all the high frequency, high sounding words. I’m going to simplify it extremely so that you at least remember. And with that ability, we can apply in the real world with the help of the software too. So, what I’m going to do, I’m going to draw a line, a vertical line. Now, this side of the line belongs to the predecessor, this side of the line belongs to the successor. All right? Now I’m going to note the dependency. So Finish to Start, Start to Start, Finish to Finish and the last one is Start to Finish.

Satya N Dash: Now, what happens is, in a complicated, jargon-infested language, so what they tell is the successor cannot start unless the predecessor has finished. I’m going to simplify, that is what I told. So, what I’m going to say here is this is the predecessor, so I am going to say this way. The finish of the predecessor is going to drive the start of the successor. And this will be noted as Finish to Start. I repeat, the finish of the predecessor… This is the finish, this is the start. This is the start, this is the finish. So the finish of the predecessor is going to drive the start of the successor. This is Finish to Start. We are going to use the same lingo throughout.

Satya N Dash: So next is Start to Start. We have two activities. So here, start of the predecessor, start and finish. Start and finish of the successor. So start of the predecessor is going to drive the start or the successor, as simple as that. Next is Finish to Finish, so I’ll draw another two activities. So here, finish of the predecessor is going to drive the start of the successor. That is Finish to Finish, and will be noted with this arrow mark. Now, this one is tricky, Start to Finish. I’m going to change slightly. Now for Start to Finish, I will say this belongs to the successor, not the predecessor. This side. This side belongs to the predecessor, not the successor.

Satya N Dash: Now here, I’m going to draw again two activities. So here, the start of the successor, mark my words again, the start of the successor… As I said, this side belongs to the successor. … is driving the finish of the predecessor. And this is noted as Start to Finish. Now, let us take some examples. So Finish to Start. Life, day-to-day life, is filled with Finish to Start dependencies. For example, in this webinar, Kyle is organizing. So unless Kyle organizes the webinar, I really cannot speak in the webinar. So he has to organize, complete that activity and then only I can start working on it.

Satya N Dash: Or it can be as simple as open the door, switch on the light. Switch on the stove, make a cup of coffee. Finish to Start. Then you have Start to Start dependency, that is start of one activity is driving the start of another activity. So this example was given by a doctor in my class, and that doctor is basically… He is an ICU doctor. ICU stands for intensive care unit. And his example was really very Start to Start example. So, he was saying that when a patient is brought into an ICU ward, so you have oxygen droplets available and you have insert the needle into that patient’s body. The moment the oxygen droplet is falling from the bag or the pouch, exactly at the same time, you have to enter the needle into the patient’s body.

Satya N Dash: Even if you have a delay of one minute, why one minute? You have a delay of one second and the patient is serious. That time it will choke the patient. So the start of oxygen droplet falling should immediately drive the insertion of needle into the skin of the patient’s body. This is a Start to Start dependence. A perfect Start to Start actually I would say. A good doctor will definitely have a perfect Start to Start.

Satya N Dash: Next is Finish to Finish. Now, Finish to Finish, again we’ll take a real-life example. So sometime before I told, if you are working in a software program, developing and testing typically has a Finish to Finish. Development completes, testing completes. So this work will development and testing. The completion of development should drive the completion of testing.

Satya N Dash: Or, taking a very real-life example, if you look at… There are say Olympics. In the Olympics there are say eight athletes running on eight tracks. If you will have seen the final of Olympics in that you have eight athletes running in the tracks. And so you have many tracks. One activity that you have with respect to a runner and another runner, the gap is highly milliseconds, 1001 second. And that is why it’s called this Finish to Finish, or it is a photo finish. In typical English language they call it as a photo finish because these two activities are finishing at exactly at the simultaneous point, it’s same. Finish to Finish dependence.

Satya N Dash: Now, the tricky part, the Start to Finish dependence. Now, this is where many people get confused. They think it is, “Is it not equal to Finish to Start?” No, it is not Finish to Start. So I’ll reuse example of security guard, let us say we have three shift security guards for an office complex. In an office complex, you have eight hours duty. Now, the first shift security guard is working and he completed his eight hour shift duty. He or she completed. Then you have another shift security guard that is a second shift security guard is coming.

Satya N Dash: As I said sometime before, the start of the successor is going to drive the finish of the predecessor. So when the second security guard is coming, the first shift security guard has to go because the desk will be the same, the computer will be same, the chair will be same. The second shift security guard is going to use it. So, unless the second shift security guard… Let us say he got delayed by a couple of hours. If he gets delayed, this first security guard again has to advance by a couple of hours. But when he comes, or she comes, and it starts, the stats of the second shift security guard is going to drive the finish of the first shift security guard.

Satya N Dash: You can take the similar example. Let us say there is a back-office on VPU processing. Back-office processing office. So in that case, you have in the same desktop or same laptop, the resources will be working. So the start of the second shift will put an end to the first shift. Now, how about leads and lags? How do they fit in with respect to this dependency that we just described, all the four dependencies? So, what I’m going to do… I’ll change the color coding. I’m going to take blue, and let us say this is the activity we have. We have one activity, let us call A. We have another activity, let us say B. Each activity is a four days duration.

Satya N Dash: Now I am drawing a dependency like this, and this gap is two days. Now, what is their dependency? I believe you would have correctly guessed is the direct one, it’s Finish to Start. But is it a lead or a lag? It is a lag because B is delayed compared to A. So lag will be noted with positive value, so FS + 2. So in the B’s predecessor thread, we are going to notice FS + 2. Let us make it a big complicated, so I’m going to change the color coding and let us say yellow I’m choosing. Now, instead of this kind of dependency, I’m not going to take. I’m saying this is the dependency between A and B.

Satya N Dash: So here, start, start. And the dependency is of course Start to Start, but it is not a pure Start to Start, there is a lag. Now, what is the lag? Here it is four days, this is two days. So four plus two will give you six days. Now, because it is a lag it’ll be SS + 6. This is how it is going to be noted. Again, let us change the dependency one more time. So I’m going to change it and I’m going to let us say I’m going to take my… And this is the dependence. So this is not a dependency. I’m saying this is the dependency now. So how it will be noted? Again, it is now Finish to Finish, this one. So Finish to Finish, but is it a lag or a lead? It is a lag again. So we have two days here, we have four days here, so it will be noted as FF, Finish to Finish, plus six.

Satya N Dash: How about lead? Let us take another example. So I’ll take again blue. So we have two tasks, let us say A, again, and it is four days, and let us say B, it is four days. Both have four days, these two activities. And this is their dependence. So what is the dependency here? Finish to Start, as you’d have correctly guessed. But is it a lag or a lead? It is accelerated. The successor is accelerated or advanced compared to the predecessor. Let us say this gap is two days. So how you are going to note this dependency? It’ll be Finish to Start minus two days, and this is how it will be noted in the predecessor field of B, which is the successor.

Satya N Dash: Let us change it again here. So I’m going to change, again, I’ll use the same yellow. Let us say this is the dependency now. This is not the dependency. So what’ll be the relationship? If you are saying it is Start to Start but there is a lag, so here it will be SS, lag or how many days? Two days. Because if this is two days, this’ll be two days. So SS + 2.

Satya N Dash: Again, let me change again one more time. So I’ll take another color coding, let us say green. So this is the dependency here. This is not the dependency, this is the dependency. So in that case how it will be noted? So again, Finish to Finish. But is it a lag or a lead? Again, it is delayed. So you have to compared the finish of activity B as compared to the finish of activity A. So what is the delay? It is a two days delay, so it is FF, Finish to Finish, plus a delay of two days.

Satya N Dash: How about Start to Finish? So I just gave an example. So this example I said security guard. So this first shift security guard, this is second shift security guard and this [inaudible 00:31:01] as SF. Start of the second shift will put an end to the first shift. If there is a delay of one hour, so I’m going to put plus one hour. My default actually depends on the software tool, you can set what is the default. So default will be in days. I’m just giving an example in hours.

Satya N Dash: All right, now that we know the theory, we’ll see in the practical side how Microsoft Project, the software tool, handles this. Now, the good thing about Microsoft Project is you have all possible dependencies can be addressed. All of them. All the four of them. You have Finish to Start, you have Start to Start, you have Finish to Finish as well as Start to Finish. Now, Finish to Start, again the dependency will be noted exactly like that in Microsoft Project. Start to Start, it is exactly like that we saw in the theory part. Similarly, it is for Finish to Finish as well.

Satya N Dash: Then for Start to Finish, which I said confuses many and many authors or articles, even many standard bodies, they have noted it incorrectly. So here, as I said, many would have written, “The successor cannot finish unless the predecessor starts.” Or something like, “The successor start, resulting the finish of the predecessor.” It is exactly the reverse. So here, Start to Finish is the predecessor cannot finish until the successor starts. So this is your predecessor, this is your successor and this is your Start to Finish dependency.

Satya N Dash: The start of the successor, my simplified common man’s language or common women’s language, so this start of the successor is driving the finish of the predecessor. This is how Microsoft Project is going to note. So before I got to the next one, let us do it vertically. So I’m going to take Microsoft Project software. I’m going to have simple tasks. I believe if you understand simply, you can remember. If you can remember, you can easily apply. And that is what learning is all about. What you have learned, you should be able to apply.

Satya N Dash: Let us say we have a task A, we have a task B. Each is four days of duration. Right? Now we have, in Microsoft Project, we have a predecessor field. There are many fields, one of the fields is predecessor. Now the default dependency in Microsoft Project is Finish to Start, it is FS. So B is the successor, A is the predecessor. Now in B’s predecessor field, I’m going to type two. Two is because the ID is two for task A, and I’m going to write 2FS, that means this is a finish to start dependency of B as compared with A. And when I press Enter, mark what happens. There is an arrow mark came up, and this is Wednesday to Monday, four days. And after A is over then B is starting. Tuesday it is starting and this is the dependence.

Satya N Dash: Because it is either before the dependency that is 2FS and that is why the FS part is removed and two is only showing. How about Start to Start? It was simply two S’s. See how it’s changed to two S’s. That is Start to Start. How about Finish to Finish? 2FF. Again, the dependency changed in the right side of the GANTT chart view as noted here, this is the graphical side of the GANTT and here the dependency is changed.

Satya N Dash: Now let us… the tricky one that is with respect to Start to Finish. So again, I’ll say four days, I’ll say four days. Now here, the ID is five so I’m going to add 5SF, Start to Finish. Mark what happens. So I’ll Enter. As I Enter is it saying one message, it is giving that the project start. I’m going to just say okay because it will be changing. We do not worry about right now. We have to see what is the behavior of the software tool. So here, mark what happens. I’ll remove it and do it and again I’m going to Enter. So I’ll say 5SF.

Satya N Dash: Now, when I say 5SF, mark what happens. Now, A is the successor. Many say A is the predecessor. A is not the predecessor, A’s timeline is after B. So A is the successor, B is the predecessor. So what is happening? Here, the start of the successor is driving the finish of the predecessor. Now, how about if you take a real-time example how you are going to note. Now here, instead of the first shift security guard, this is the second shift security guard. So your successor will be ahead. This is how it will be noted, and below that you have to write first shift security guard.

Satya N Dash: So, do not write it like you have first shift security guard, first then second shift security guard, because that is the common parlance or vert natural. You’ll be thinking first step security guard, then second step security guard. If you put that, your schedule will be messed up. So when you have Start to Finish dependency, you have to put the second shift security guard first, then the first shift security guard next. This is slightly counterintuitive but this is how you have to do it.

Satya N Dash: How about leads and lags? So again, I’ll use task A and task B. So again, FS. I’m going to change, so Finish to Start dependency. We know lead is negative, lad is positive. So for lag I’m going to say let us say there is two days of lag. So by default Microsoft Project… We can change the setting, but by default it is in days. So we’ll say 2FS plus two days of lag. And when I do that, and I do a starting early on Thursday, that is task B. And this is how the lag will be noted, plus two days.

Satya N Dash: If I want to have lead, lead we know is negative. So I’m going to have negative, now mark what happens. They slipped it back. It is starting on Wednesday, finishing on Monday but it is two days before finish of A, B is starting. So it’s shifted to Friday. Wednesday, Thursday, two days gone, and B will start on Friday. This is how it will be noted. It is Finish to Start with a lead of two days.

Satya N Dash: Now, in MS Project, it is a very flexible software tool and very user friendly as well. And there is a lot of things you can do, and there is a lot of tips. I would say maybe 20, 30 tips I can give on schedule, but I am constrained by time so I’m going to give you some very useful tips which is going to be helpful for you in your real-life scheduling. So what I’m going to do, I’ll read of the steps that is with MS Project. So first thing is changing the dependencies, leads and lags on the graphical side that you can do by double clicking.

Satya N Dash: What do I mean by that? So here, we have a Finish to Start. I’ll change it to Finish to Start simply, without any lead or lag, so it is a Finish to Start. You have to just put your cursor over the link, double click on that link. If you double click on that link it is directly showing from task A to task B, and type Finish to Start. And you have Start to Start, Finish to Finish, Start to Finish or none. You can also give lag or lead. So, if you are putting just positive value it’ll be a lag. If you are putting negative value, automatically it is going to be a lead.

Satya N Dash: So, I can change it here from Finish to Start, to Start to Start. And we say, “Okay, now it is Start to Start.” So we are changing it directly on the graphical side. Next step, changing the dependencies, leads and lags on the tabular side, on the task information dialog box. So this is what beginners will be using it. I directly entered in the predecessor field. But if you are a beginner in MS Project… Not a beginner people also use it, many times I have seen. So you have to double click on the task for which you want to [inaudible 00:39:11] the predecessor field. Go to the predecessor tab in the task information dialog box. And here you can enter the type of dependency. All four dependencies are loaded and you have… Let us say we change it to Start to Start with a lag of two days. So I’ll adjust two and say okay.

Satya N Dash: So, Start to Start and there is a delay of two days that has happened. Next step is dragging and dropping on the graphical side to create the dependencies. That is, you are creating dependencies on the fly. This is a very useful took and very few know about it. I have never seen anybody talking about it, so maybe there are expert users that will be knowing. So, what do I mean by that, “On the fly you are creating the dependencies.”? Let us say I have a task A. Okay. A, I have already put so I’m going to say task C and say task D. I have four days, four days.

Satya N Dash: Now you don’t have to put anything. Mark what I’m doing. I’m putting my cursor over task C, selected. Next, what I’m going to do, I’m going to drag. Mark, as I drag there is an arrow mark coming with a link symbol which is [inaudible 00:40:23]. There is a link symbol coming up and in the left-hand side it is showing Finish to Start link from finish of task eight to start of task nine. In the left-hand side there is a pop-up, which is coming and just drag. Automatically the dependency is created for you.

Satya N Dash: So, this is very useful if your schedule contains hundreds or thousands of tasks. You want to just drag and drop. For example, here to here I want to create a dependence. I can just drag and drop, dependency created on the fly. So we are creating a dependency on the fly. Next is you can put percentage number, plus, minus, for lead or lag. This is also available in Microsoft Project. Now, what do I mean by that? Let us go to that previous one. We have task A and task B, and we have a Start to Start dependency with plus two days of gap. So I’m going to remove this and move this a bit. Only this available, A and B. So I’ll double click on it and in the process of lag is said two days. Instead of two days, what I’m going to say is 50%.

Satya N Dash: Now, what is 50%? That 50% of task A will be noted as the lag. What is the task A’s duration? Four days. 50% of four days is two days. If I just say 50%, that is equal to two days, so I can also put it like this and say okay. Now, when I say Okay, see it remains the same. Two days of lag, but here in the predecessor field of B we have 50% coming now. Or you can change it. You can change it to say 25%. I can say 25%. So 25% means one day because A, the predecessor, is four days of duration. And you are getting one day so it is Wednesday to Monday and the task B is starting from Thursday and it’s ending on Tuesday. We have exactly one day of lag.

Satya N Dash: Similarly, we can do it for lead as well. Minus. So if I say minus, again it is changing, it is asking. I say okay. So again it is lead that is task B, it’s leading task A with one day. Note there is a Start to Start dependency. There are many other tips but I’m going to… I think I have reached their time, so I… Maybe I’ll give another tip here. So another tip is say let us say task. We have task C, D, then we have E. Another task we have F. This is four days, this is four days. All right. Now there is a dependency Finish to Start, so 11FS, so this is the Finish to Start.

Satya N Dash: Now, you are doing your scheduling. You are in a planning mode or even a monitoring and controlling mode and you are adding in other tasks. Now when you added another task between E and F, so we are going to add another task same thing. Now, when you added another task, what happened? This task came as a task, but without any linking with other two tasks. But in your mind, you wanted to have this task linked to E as well as F. But it didn’t happen. And this kind of task, which is not linked to anyone… My terminology for this kind of task, I call it as orphan task. Orphan task in a sense, no father, no mother, just dangling somewhere and nobody cares about this kind of task.

Satya N Dash: This is a no. So you should not use this kind of task in your schedule. So you want to have it by default a link being created, so what do you have to do? Go to max [inaudible 00:43:57] view. That is file, options. And you have schedule and project option. Go to the tabs, schedule. And under schedule go to scheduling options for this project and choose auto link inserted or move task. There is a tool tip task every level and it is explaining, the software is explaining, Project is telling you, “Automatically link task again when you cut, move or insert it.” I select it and I build it and say okay.

Satya N Dash: Now I’m going to delete this task and then I’ll insert a task. So I’ll right click and say Insert A Task. Mark what happened. As I added a new task, this new task, now linked to task E and it is also linked to task F. This is what a scheduler by default will want. So this is another tip which is very useful as you’ll be using the software tool and creating the dependencies among the activities and tasks of your project or program.

Satya N Dash: And with this, I’m coming to the end. Before that, I have the references. These are the references I have. So I referred the PMP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass. The videos I’ve taken as a reference there. There is an MS Project Live Lessons, and there I have used not all the tips I have explained, but quite a few tips are available there. Then you have Project Management Body of Knowledge, the PMBOK Guide. The sixth edition of the guide where I have got the formal definition like Finish to Start is, “The successor cannot start unless the predecessor finishes.” Or Start to Start, “The successor cannot start unless the predecessor starts.”

Satya N Dash: So those formal definitions I have taken from the PMBOK Guide. And with that, I will hand it over to you, Kyle. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to address them.

Kyle: Great. Thanks, Satya. We do have some questions, and just a reminder, we do have quite a bit of time, so if anyone does have questions, feel free to chat those over and we’ll answer those for you now. Okay, so the first question is… They said, “I have read that it is not good practice to use negative lead. Is it better to do Start to Start plus a lag? Or what’s the best practice there?”

Satya N Dash: Okay, the juristically speaking, the best practice is as much as possible you should not use Start to Start and Finish to Finish dependencies. Now what happens in Start to Start, Finish to Finish dependency, many times there is something called a dangling task or an open task just gets created. Now what is dangling task? Let us say we have a task A, it’s a milestone, task A. Then we have task B. This is a Start to Start dependency task C. So this is B, this is A. Then you have B, then you have E and finally you are finishing with another milestone.

Satya N Dash: So, by doing this we have a Start to Start dependency. Now, what happened, this created something called a dangling task called C. So the start of B is actually driving the start of C, it’s a Start to Start dependency. But now what happens, when the B is completing, it’s not driving the finish of C. If you put a loop here again, that creates another problem. So I would suggest as much as possible you can avoid, but sometimes it is definitely needed. For example, you are doing your fast tracking or rushing. Sometime in fast tracking you’ll go for a Start to Start or a Finish to Finish dependency and you have to maybe, possibly lead or a lag.

Satya N Dash: Now, the question with lead and lag, the best practice with respect to lead and lag, coming to that, I would say lead and lag use those tasks, these kinds of concepts only choice one. It should not have any resources assigned to it. Choice two, option basically good practice two. When you have constraints as you have lead and lag applied, it might totally cut off your critical path. So use it reasonably and use it judiciously. And final thing is it doesn’t matter actually. So whether you are using lead or a lag, it doesn’t matter. The only thing is you have to careful when you do a schedule analysis. So lead, only this is also called is out of sequence laws.

Satya N Dash: This kind of thing you should avoid in your scheduling. Another thing is even if you have… This is called an open task or a dangling task. Open task or a dangler. So this kind of situation, as much as possible you should try to avoid. And where you are applying lead and lag, be judicious about it. And as I said, it’s not via task. If you are actually having a task, that should be actually addressed by a task but you have applied a lead or a lag, do not do that. If you think that should be a task in your schedule, instead of applying a lead or a lag, add a separate task, dedicated, discrete task. Discrete task means I’m saying it’s a duration and it’s a finite task.

Satya N Dash: So, add a discrete task rather than using lead and lag if an activity, a real activity, is happening. For example, you have completed a document and the document is going to be reviewed, and then the milestone really comes. Now, what you did, you had a document getting review, a document is complete then you complete it with a milestone, and here you added two days of lag. Now with the two days of lag, what is the case here? You forgot the review part. You didn’t add the review part, but review is actually happening, it was just added as two days of lag. So don’t do that. Add another thing called Review of the Document, then link these three. This task, this task and this milestone.

Kyle: Great. Thank you, Satya. We did get another question, you may have answered it with the first answer there, but I’ll go ahead and ask it and if there’s anything else to add, that’d be great. “I’ve been told many times by schedulers that Finish to Start lags should not be used. Is this true? And is there a specific reason behind this?”

Satya N Dash: Yes. So, that’s a very good question. There are some issues with respect to Finish to Start. You have Finish to Start, now what happens you have a Finish to Start? So this is the pure form of Finish to Start. Now, what happens if I have a Finish to Start, let us say with lead or a lag. Let us say I have a lag. So you have a lag. Let us say this is a one day lag. Now, this is not a pure one, so by doing it you created an artificial gap. Now, with that gap what happens? The critical part will be cut off there.

Satya N Dash: If you are a purest kind of a scheduler, you can avoid it. But in the real world, so if you are using a software tool like Microsoft Project, the way the software calculates, that considers how it is going to become complete and they have an approach to determine the critical part. But if you can avoid a lead or a lag and you can have a pure Finish to Start, definitely, pure Finish to Start is more preferable without a lag.

Kyle: Right. Okay. Thank you. The next one here, and they’re curious if you could provide a regular example scenario where Start to Finish dependencies would be used.

Satya N Dash: Okay, Start to Finish. So let us say you have, as I said… Okay, let us say you are having a training company. You are in a training development company and you have a lot of subscribers, and the subscribers, let us say they are preparing for the PMP exam, the Project Management Professional exam. So let us have two tasks in the plan. There is a development plan you have given to the subscriber. “This is how you are going to start. You’ll read this material, do this, link all the tasks and this is the plan in Microsoft Project available to you.”

Satya N Dash: Now I’m going to put two tasks… I’m not going to draw the diagram, I’m just going to put two tasks. Let us say your preparation, so PMP preparation. It is part of the project plan, the training company has a plan. Then the exam, sitting in the exam. So you are actually sitting in the exam. Okay? Now, in this case what will happen, the day you’ll sit in the exam, that will put an end to your PMP preparation. Why? Because if you shift your exam day, let us say you shifted your exam day by other five days or 10 days. So exam date shifted, of course the end of preparation will again shift. Another five days will be added. But the day you are going to appear for your exam, that day, at the start of that activity is going to put an end to the predecessor that is PMP preparation.

Satya N Dash: So, this is a Start to Finish dependency again. So in this plan, that is the training plan for your subscriber who is using your PMP course, it is a Start to Finish dependency.

Kyle: Excellent. Thanks for clarifying. Next question here, they’re curious what your thoughts are on master schedules and sub-projects, and linking tasks across sub-projects.

Satya N Dash: You can do that with Microsoft Project. You have sub-project concept so you have… Just going to tool. So you have project and under that you have sub-project. So you can add as many projects are you want. Just MPV file you have to embed and then PP files symbolistic. And you can draw dependencies between one project task to another project task. And in the predecessor field of the successor, the absolutely part of the MVP part will be listed. You can do that if you are using a master schedule. I have personally used it, long back, around 10 years before.

Satya N Dash: We are working in three different time zones. One is in South America, one is in Northern America and of course India. So we have three time zones and three program managers. One is a software developer. I was into software development program management. Another person was into hardware, another person was into the firmware part. We have a single plan to track, so it is an integrated schedule and we were doing it, so absolutely you can have a combined master plan in Microsoft Project software and you can track that as well.

Kyle: Okay, great. Thank you. Next question here, “Is there a way to show dependencies outside of the project desktop app? For example, to a stakeholder that doesn’t have or use Microsoft Project?”

Satya N Dash: I am not sure of that. I really don’t know about the answer of that. So because you are saying it’s a totally different app and Microsoft Project is a different app and you are going to have a connection between these two apps. I am not sure of that. I have not tried that at all, so not really sure of that.

Kyle: Okay. No problem. We have someone asking if you could please share those training links again.

Satya N Dash: Oh, okay.

Kyle: Just to remind everyone, at the top of viewer window there’s a screenshot button so you can actually just take a screen shot of this rather than trying to jot it down, and that’ll save right to your desktop to reference later.

Satya N Dash: Great.

Kyle: And then, yeah. That takes us pretty close to the end of the session here, Satya. If you’d like to close things out from your end and then I’ll take it back to share some upcoming event information.

Satya N Dash: So, with this, thank you for asking all the questions and hopefully I was able to address most of your questions. And again, in the beginning I say, so this is what I’m doing with respect to leads, lags and dependency. One thing is this just through the deterministic scheduling, that is you know the duration. In probabilistic scheduling… By probabilistic scheduling I mean a task has a probability value. For example, you are saying, “I have 80% confidence it’ll be done in five days, 25% confidence that it will be done in three days and say 50% confidence it will be done in four days.”

Satya N Dash: In that case it becomes a probabilistic scheduling. That becomes more risk management topic, though there is overlap with respect to scheduling. At that time you do a what-if analysis, multi-scenario analysis and that becomes a different area. Here I’m talking about the deterministic scheduling one. Second thing is with respect to the approach, the scheduling approach that you are taking. Many people say that as [inaudible 00:57:39] you cannot have different dentistry. You need to have a different density.

Satya N Dash: For example, you have a Scrum project and within that you have, with respect to… You come to the Scrum backlog, Scrum backlog containing a set of stories that are available, and stories have to be broken down to tasks. Tasks will have different densities. The good thing about Microsoft Project is you can create dependencies between tasks within the Scrum backlog. Of course, you have to go to the GANTT chart view. You cannot see in the Scrum board view. The third thing I would like to tell is that there are varieties of activities, you have a level of four activities. You have the speed activity. In this great activity you have with respect to hammock activity and with respect to other activities are also possible.

Satya N Dash: So, as you analyze your schedule, be careful what you are analyzing because it might corrupt your critical part. You might overlook some risks. The problem with the fourth, that is the precedent diagram method that you have, in that actually risks are not taken into consideration. When you develop a schedule to analyze with respect to risk, you have to consider what do I mean by risk consideration? You have three activities. And these three activities are merging together. This is called path convergence or this is another type, path divergence.

Satya N Dash: So, this kind of thing are not analyzed when you go with precedence diagramming method because precedence diagramming method doesn’t talk about risk. It talks about dependencies, leads and lags primarily when you draw the network diagram. When you analyze with respect to schedule, it is a highly risky project so do a risk management analysis, what-if analysis separately along with the precedence diagramming approach that you are taking. So with that, this will be my concluding three or four points that I outline.

Kyle: Thank you for the great session, Satya. And thanks for all the questions that were submitted and for answering those questions from the audience, we really appreciate that. Everyone that’s claiming the… Oh first, Satya’s contact information is on the screen here if you’d like to reach out. Email and website are available there.

Satya N Dash: That is correct. So my website is managementyogi.com and my email address is managementyogi@gmail.com. If you have any questions or clarifications, so please do drop a mail, I’ll be happy to address your questions.

Kyle: Excellent. Thanks, Satya. And everyone claiming the PDU credit for today’s session, I’ll get that session back on the screen for you now. Today’s session eligible for one Technical PMI PDU. If you missed any of the session or would like to go back and review anything that Satya shared with us today, the recording will be posted to MPUG.com in just a couple of hours and you’ll receive an email with a link to that. It’s also a great place if you’ve still got questions or if any new questions you think of, you can comment directly to the on-demand webinar and Satya will be able to see that.

Kyle: MPUG members do have access to our full PDU eligible library of on-demand webinar recordings on MPUG.com, which was also just revamped, so be sure to check out the new mpug.com website. Lots of improvements have been made there. Speaking of that, we do have quite a few sessions that have been added to the calendar. Next week, Nenad Trajkovski will join us for a session on Project for the Web and Calendars – How To Define Them Using PowerApps. That’ll be next Wednesday, and then the following week, Ira Brown will return for a session on Using Custom Fields and Graphical Indicators to Analyze the Quality of Your Schedule.

Kyle: I chatted over a link where you can get to those sessions and register. There’s also quite a few more sessions available on the calendar. With that said, that does it for today’s session. So thanks again, Satya. Thanks again everyone that joined us live or is watching this on-demand. We really appreciate it. We hope you have a great rest of your day. We’ll see you back next week for our next live session. Thanks again.

Satya N Dash: Thank you. Thank you, Kyle. Thank you everyone and thank you for your time.


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Written by Satya Narayan Dash
Satya Narayan Dash is a management professional, coach, and author of multiple books. Under his guidance, over 2,000 professionals have successfully cracked PMP, ACP, RMP, and CAPM examinations – in fact, there are over 100 documented success stories written by these professionals. His course, PMP Live Lessons - Guaranteed Pass, has made many successful PMPs, and he’s recently launched RMP Live Lessons - Guaranteed Pass and ACP Live Lessons - Guaranteed Pass. His web presence is at https://managementyogi.com, and he can be contacted via email at managementyogi@gmail.com.  

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