In the previous post, we learned that planning and scheduling are two separate project activities. In this post, we will discover that there are five scheduling techniques, top-down, bottom-up, inside-out, Hudson Bay Start, and short iteration. The post is based on a remarkable book written by Johanna Rothman, Manage It!
The top-down scheduling technique is first because it is efficient when you do not know where to start. The top is a milestone, and down are tasks needed to be done to achieve the milestone. The serial lifecycle is the right candidate for this technique because you have clear boundaries between phases. You start with milestones, and then the team defines tasks (whiteboard and stickies) for that milestone. Connect related (preconditions) stickies with strings. You are done when a team member is confident to put effort estimation on its task. That means that the task is small and clear enough.
The second scheduling technique is bottom-up, and it is the opposite of the top-down method. It is practical for incremental lifecycles because you start from a particular task up to the milestone. For example, you want to implement user authentication feature. This is a task that is broken down (you can also use the technique described in top-down scheduling paragraph) into smaller components that will reveal your first milestone. Johanna’s advice for non-technical project managers: do not interfere!
Inside-Out scheduling techniques start with all insider project knowledge. In the workshop, everybody flushes out their project facts, and this is base for making the schedule. This works well for high adaptable teams.
Hudson-Bay is a short iteration, and it is perfect for projects with a lot of unknowns. Historically, Hudson-Bay was a 17th-century company from Northeastern Canada. Their business was fur. To be sure that their traders did not forget something important for camping in the wilderness, they first did a short trip a few miles into the Hudson-Bay. If they survived near the company headquarters, they were ready for a long winter journey.
You start with a small project (one-day duration) but within current project constraints and with clear release criteria. Debrief would help you to begin answering project unknowns.
Short Iterations technique (two weeks long) works well with Hudson-Bay start. You know your project environment, but still not sure how to schedule activities. Same as in Hudson-Bay start, after iteration end, debrief is essential to learn how to plan based on knowledge gained in the previous iteration.