Schedule Plan: Definition + How to Create One

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover what a schedule plan is, its role in project management, and how to build your project’s schedule plan.

[Featured Image] A project manager works with her team on a schedule plan.

What is a schedule plan?  

A schedule plan, also called a schedule management plan, is an essential component of project management. Project managers create schedule plans to determine the start and end dates of a project, the milestones along the way, and a timeline for completing individual tasks.

Schedule planning can benefit a project in several ways: 

  • Keep team members abreast of deadlines and responsibilities.

  • Stay mindful of time-related costs. 

  • Monitor how resources are allocated. 

  • Develop a solid project plan that guides the entire team through initiating, executing, and concluding a project. 

How to create a schedule plan

Follow the steps below to start building your schedule plan.   

1. Define the project’s activities and their duration. 

In project management, an activity refers to a single stage in the process of bringing a project to completion. Each activity has its own start and end date. Altogether, a project’s activities lead to the final deliverable. 

Work with your project team and, if possible, subject-matter experts to create a list of all the activities required to complete the project. Account for the individual tasks for each activity and the time required to complete them. Then, you’ll need to order the activities in the most logical sequence so that the process can be tracked and managed.  

2. Determine the project’s resources. 

For this step, refer to your sequence of activities to determine what resources you’ll need to carry out those activities. Resources might include people, equipment and supplies, funding, information, or facilities. Take into account when resources will become available, and adjust the sequence of activities accordingly. 

3. Select a scheduling methodology.

In project management, there are different approaches to scheduling a project. You’ll want to select the methodology that makes the most sense for your project by considering all factors that may affect the project timeline. 

Explore these three scheduling methodologies: 

  • The Critical Path Method is sequential and linear. Each task must be completed before beginning the task that follows. Industries that use the Critical Path Method include construction, aerospace and defense, and product development.

Read more: Gantt Charts: What They Are And How To Make Them

  • Agile is an iterative method by which projects are divided into shorter-term development cycles, allowing team members to assess progress at the end of each cycle and make adjustments for the cycle that follows. Industries that use Agile include marketing and advertising, banking and finance, and health care.    

Read more: What Is Agile? And When to Use It

  • The Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) involves identifying the time it takes to complete each task or activity, so that project managers can better estimate the project’s completion date. PERT works well for research and development projects, as well as projects that don’t involve repetitive activities. 

Read more: PERT Charts: What They Are and How to Use Them

4. Select a software. 

Project scheduling software, such as Wrike, Atlassian, TeamWork, or Monday, can help teams complete projects in a timely fashion by:

  • Providing a central source of reference 

  • Displaying a visual representation of the overall workflow, task deadlines, how the project is progressing, etc. 

  • Organizing information about the project

  • Automating tasks like sending notifications to individual team members and generating data reports

Collaborate with your team to select the best scheduling software for your project. 

5. Establish the schedule baseline.

A schedule baseline is the schedule that project stakeholders approve once all tasks, timelines, and resources have been accounted for. Having a schedule baseline provides the team with a tool for gauging whether the project stays on schedule. 

When a task or activity takes longer than is expected, project managers and teams can refer to the schedule baseline to determine how best to get a project back on track.  

6. Establish performance measures.

Just as you use the schedule baseline to measure whether a project is progressing on time, you’ll need to establish other areas of project performance that you want to measure along the way. These can include:

  • Whether the team is reaching the established project milestones 

  • The quality of the work that team members are completing at each phase of the project

  • Team morale and the attitudes they have toward the project

  • Resource management 

Decide how and when you will measure performance, such as holding meetings with team members and stakeholders to discuss the project or collecting their feedback through a questionnaire. 

7. Create contingency plans.

With most projects, some delays and challenges can impede progress. For example, resources crucial to a particular activity may become unavailable, thus resulting in a delay or even an added cost.  

Your schedule plan should document potential risks as well as contingency plans, or Plan B, for how the team will handle instances when potential risks become a reality.  

8. Identify schedule change control procedures.

In this section of your schedule plan, you will document instances when specific schedule elements can be changed and by whom. You should also include details about the impact of specific schedule changes on the project, including the time to completion, the need for additional resources, or changes to actual tasks and activities. The procedure itself might include several steps, such as: 

  • Completing a change request 

  • Assessing the work involved in implementing the change

  • Choosing a course of action: denying, accepting, or modifying the change request 

9. Establish the format and frequency of progress reporting. 

In this section, you will document how team members should submit updates on the project. Include details such as:

  • Who will submit progress reports

  • How often they should submit reports

  • Required information for the reports

  • The format for these reports (visual representations or written descriptions)

  • Where the reports are submitted 

For more ideas on developing a schedule plan, watch this video from the Google Project Management Professional Certificate

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Scheduling the tasks of a project, who completes them, and when.

Build project management skills with Coursera 

Taking online courses can be a great way to explore project management and build job-ready skills in this field. In the Google Project Management Professional Certificate, you’ll learn the foundations of project management and how to carry out a project to completion. 

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