Basics of Project Management: Project Planning & Scheduling

By Akhil Gupta|Updated : May 15th, 2021
























Project planning is at the heart of the project life cycle, and tells everyone involved where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. The planning phase is when the project plans are documented, the project deliverables and requirements are defined, and the project schedule is created. It involves creating a set of plans to help guide your team through the implementation and closure phases of the project. The plans created during this phase will help you manage time, cost, quality, changes, risk, and related issues. They will also help you control staff and external suppliers to ensure that you deliver the project on time, within budget, and within schedule.

The project planning phase is often the most challenging phase for a project manager, as you need to make an educated guess about the staff, resources, and equipment needed to complete your project. You may also need to plan your communications and procurement activities, as well as contract any third-party suppliers.

The Purpose of the Project Planning Phase is to

  • Establish business requirements
  • Establish cost, schedule, list of deliverables, and delivery dates
  • Establish resources plans
  • Obtain management approval and proceed to the next phase

To develop a more detailed schedule, the project team first develops a work breakdown structure (WBS)—a description of tasks arranged in layers of detail. Although the project scope is the primary document for developing the WBS, the WBS incorporates all project deliverables and reflects any documents or information that clarifies the project deliverables. From the WBS, a project plan is developed. The project plan lists the activities that are needed to accomplish the work identified in the WBS. The more detailed the WBS, the more activities that are identified to accomplish the work. After the project team identifies the activities, the team sequences the activities according to the order in which the activities are to be accomplished. An outcome from the work process is the project logic diagram. The logic diagram represents the logical sequence of the activities needed to complete the project. The next step in the planning process is to develop an estimation of the time it will take to accomplish each activity or the activity duration. Some activities must be done sequentially, and some activities can be done concurrently. The planning process creates a project schedule by scheduling activities in a way that effectively and efficiently uses project resources and completes the project in the shortest time.

Or simply we can say, WBS is breaking work into smaller tasks used to make the work more manageable and approachable.

2.1. Types: 

There are two types of WBS: 1) Deliverable-Based and 2) Phase-Based. The most common and preferred approach is the Deliverable-Based approach.

A Deliverable-Based Work Breakdown Structure clearly demonstrates the relationship between the project deliverables (i.e., products, services or results) and the scope (i.e., work to be executed).


2.2. Purpose:

The Work Breakdown Structure separates the complete project into its component elements in order to track the cost, time and technical performance at all levels of the project life cycle.

2.3. Scope:

The WBS is a product-oriented, hierarchical representation of all activities/work elements required to accomplish the complete work scope of the project. Project Managers are responsible for the creation of a WBS.

2.4. How to Create the Work Breakdown Structure? 

Identifying and breaking down the work to be done is the logical starting point in the entire planning process. The objective of this step is to identify relatively small, specific pieces of work. (For simplicity, let’s refer to them as activities.) Once you’ve identified all of the activities required to execute the project, you’re ready to create a complete project plan. You’ll be able to estimate activity durations and prepare your schedule, estimate activity costs and prepare your project budget, assign responsibility, and carry out many more planning steps.



One of the mistakes development organizations make is appointing a project manager only for the depth of his technical skills. It is not unusual to find a good engineer being promoted to project manager just for the level of technical competence. While it is true that one must have a good understanding of the technical aspects of the project, a project manager must have a high level of competence in the following areas: communicating, planning, negotiating, coaching, decision-making, and leadership. These skills are often overlooked at the time of hiring or appointing a project manager; and they are supplemented by the functional support provided by the organizations back-office operations, such as accounting, human resource and logistics.

The project manager is the ultimate person accountable for the project he is the one whose job it is to make sure the project is done, and would be the principal contact person for the donor, beneficiaries and the key stakeholders. As responsible for the project he needs to make key decisions regarding the management of the resources available to the project, and to do that the organization’s senior management needs to appoint the project manager, and give him the appropriate level of responsibility and authority for project direction and control.

3.1. Responsibility of Project Manager

3.1.1 To Parent organisation

Proper conservation of resources, timely and accurate project communications. Keep senior management updates about future problem budget overrun, project being late, measures taken etc.

3.1.2 To Project and Client

Ensuring the Integrity of project inspite of conflicting demands of various stakeholders.

3.1.3 To Project Team

Project being atemporary entity, hence It must come to an end so project manager should be concerned with the future of people who serve In the team.

3.2. Characteristics of Good Project Manager

  1. Good technical skills
  2. Leadership skills
  3. Resource management
  4. Human Resource Management
  5. Communication skill
  6. Negotiation and Influencing skill
  7. Conflict Management skill
  8. Marketing, Contracting, customer relationship skill
  9. Budgeting & Costing skill
  10. Scheduling and time management skill
  11. Team building
  12. Motivation skills
  13. Decision making skills
  14. Political and Cultural awareness
  15. Trust building


Power implies ability and authority to make some thing work

A project manager can use five different types of power which can be grouped in two types.

(a) Positional Power: Denotes authority of a person coming from the hierarchical position of that person In any organization. It can be of following subtypes.

(i) Legitimate Power: It is power or authority he derives from his formal position held in the organization. For example project manager has legitimate right to request certain action to project team and they have to comply or project manager can make certain decision without informing project team.

(ii) Reward power: It involves the use of incentives such as money, status, promotions, official recognition or special work assignments: these are used as a reward to get some desired behavior or assignment.

The project manager can use these type of incentive based on the resources available to the project and polices of the organization.

(iii) Coercive Power: It is negative approach Of power, it uses some form of punishment or penalty treat to get people to dothings.

A project manager can threaten to fire a team member if they don't follow a specific assignment or change a behavior.This approach is usually used as a last resort when all other forms of influence have failed and should be done in coordination with the organizations management and never used as the only influence factor due to its negative.

Note : As discussed above these powers are positional power hence a pre justification need to be provided before their use. But in case of emergency they can be used without approval but in such a case post justification is to be given.

(b) Personal Power: It is the personal competence, and strength that individual gradually acquire in the course of their development. It is independent from the position a manager holds in organization and rests solely in the individual.

Managers personality and special knowledge make personal power a useful resource for managers to use when trying to influence subordinates. Personal power covers following two aspects.

(i) Referent Power: Referent power in leadership is the ability of project manager to cultivate the respect and admiration of subordinates in such a way that they want to be like him.




Can you envision starting a long car trip to an unfamiliar destination without a map or navigation system? You're pretty sure you have to make some turns here and there, but you have no idea when or where, or how long it will take to get there. You may arrive eventually, but you run the risk of getting lost, and feeling frustrated, along the way. Essentially, driving without any idea of how you're going to get there is the same as working on a project without a schedule. No matter the size or scope of your project, the schedule is a key part of project management. The schedule tells you when each activity should be done, what has already been completed, and the sequence in which things need to be finished.

Scheduling, on the other hand, is not an exact process. It's part estimation, part prediction, and part 'educated guessing.' Because of the uncertainty involved, the schedule is reviewed regularly, and it is often revised while the project is in progress. It continues to develop as the project moves forward, changes arise, risks come and go, and new risks are identified. The schedule essentially transforms the project from a vision to a time-based plan.

Scheduling helps us to do following:

They provide a basis for you to monitor and control project activities. 

They help you determine how best to allocate resources so you can achieve the project goal.

They help you assess how time delays will impact the project.

You can figure out where excess resources are available to allocate to other projects.

They provide a basis to help you track project progress. 

With that in mind, what's the best way of building an accurate and effective schedule for your next project? 

Project managers have a variety of tools to develop a project schedule – from the relatively simple process of action planning for small projects, to use of Gantt Charts and Network Analysis for large projects. 


Here are some tools and techniques to develop the schedule:

Schedule Network Analysis – This is a graphic representation of the project's activities, the time it takes to complete them, and the sequence in which they must be done. Project management software is typically used to create these analyses – Gantt charts and PERT Charts are common formats.

Critical Path Analysis – This is the process of looking at all of the activities that must be completed, and calculating the 'best line' – or critical path – to take so that you'll complete the project in the minimum amount of time. The method calculates the earliest and latest possible start and finish times for project activities, and it estimates the dependencies among them to create a schedule of critical activities and dates. Learn more about Critical Path Analysis.

Schedule Compression – This tool helps shorten the total duration of a project by decreasing the time allotted for certain activities. It's done so that you can meet time constraints, and still keep the original scope of the project.

You can use two methods here:

Crashing – This is where you assign more resources to an activity, thus decreasing the time it takes to complete it. This is based on the assumption that the time you save will offset the added resource costs. 

Fast-Tracking – This involves rearranging activities to allow more parallel work. This means that things you would normally do one after another are now done at the same time. However, do bear in mind that this approach increases the risk that you'll miss things, or fail to address changes.


3.1. Bar Charts

Firstly introduced by Henry Gantt around 1900 AD.

Features of bar chart are:

  1. It is a pictorial chart.
  2. It has two coordinate axes, the horizontal coordinates represents the elapsed time and vertical coordinate represents the job or activity to be performed.
  3. The beginning and end of each bar represents starting and finishing time of a particular activity respectively.
  4. The length of bar shows the time required for completion 
  • Jobs can be concurrent or can be started one after other. So some bars can run parallel or overlap each other or may run serially. 

3.2. Limitations of bar chart:

  1. Lack of degree of details: Only major activities are shown in bar chart and sub-activities can not be separated out. Hence effective control over the activities in big projects can not be achieved. 
  2. A bar chart does not show progress of work and hence it can not be used as a control device. 
  3. A bar chart is unable to depict interdependencies of various activities clearly. 
  4. Bar charts are not useful in the projects where there are uncertainties in determination of estimation of time required for completion of various activities such as in R & D projects 
  5. Bar chart can not distinguish between critical and noncritical activities and hence resource smoothening and resource levelling can not be done.

Bar chart diagrams are useful for only smaller and simpler conventional projects, especially construction and manufacturing projects in which time estimates can be made with fair degree of certainty. 

3.3. Mile-Stone Charts

It is a modification over original Gantt chart. Milestones are key events of main activities represented by bar. Therefore they give idea about completion of sub-activities.

Do you know? Controlling can be better achieved with the help of milestone charts, but still activity interrelationship and accountability of time uncertainty can not be depicted which can be overcome in network technique. 

3.3. Line of Balance (LOB) Techniques

This is an improvement over mile-stone charts:

  • The LOB activity schedule chart shows the graphical plan of work execution in linear or ‘S’ curve shape. These graphs representing the work cycles are referred to as ‘cyclographs’ or cyclograms. The time unit (day or week) in cyclographs is represented along the horizontal axis, while the vertical axis shows the number of similar work units of the project. The time unit reflected on the horizontal axis can further be divided into calendar months (or weeks) after assessing the working days that are available in each month.

3.4. Network Method of Scheduling

  • It is an outcome of the improvements in the milestone charts. 
  • They are called by various names such as PERT, CPM, UNETICS, LESS, TOPS, and SCANS. 
  • However, all these have emerged from the two major network systems viz. PERT and CPM. 

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Akhil GuptaAkhil GuptaMember since Oct 2019
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