Dear PM Advisor. December 3, 2012

Dear PM Advisor, I was planning my project and had been told when certain deliverables were due in the future. So I started with when those tasks were due and back-scheduled from there. When the Project Manager looked at these tasks he blanched and told me I had done it wrong. Can you explain? I enclose the Gantt chart.

Backwards in Corning, NY

Dear Backwards,

Many years ago I took an advanced MS-Project class and one of the key messages I took from here was to watch out for the little calendar icons that show up in the Indicators column. Your Gantt chart is full of them. I didn't want to expose any of your secrets so I opened up one of the basic deliverables:

Notice those icons in the left-most column? Those are your red flags. They show up when you type dates into your start or finish column rather than link up your tasks. What they indicate is that this task can start no earlier than or finish no later than a certain date. The problem with this is that when things previous to this task changes, (as it almost certainly will) this task will not move. Watch when I decrease the duration of a task within this group:

Notice that while task 24 finishes now on 5/10, the subsequent task still is planned to start on 5/15. That is because you told MS-Project that it cannot start any earlier than 5/15.

Now this may be a reality, if the task is connected to a fixed outside date, for example, but this is usually a rare event. So treat these icons like the red flags they are.

How do you fix this Gantt chart? It's actually pretty easy. Select all the tasks where you have this problem, then open up the task information window. Press the Advanced tab, click on the constraint pull-down menu and select As Soon As Possible.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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