Cost And Schedule Baselines

A baseline is a comparison point. Cost and schedule baselines represent the original project plan as approved by the stakeholders. Ideally, a project should never vary from its original plan, so a comparison between actual performance and the baseline would show no variance. But in reality this zero variance never happens. Even though everything may not happen according to the plan, however, many projects do meet original cost and schedule goals. Keeping the baseline cost and schedule goals visible is one way of holding the focus on the original goals, even when changes start to happen. Earned value reporting, as shown in Figure 12.6, is one way of keeping this vital information visible, because it emphasizes variance from the baseline. A Gantt chart may be used to focus on schedule variance alone (see Figure 12.8).

The baseline is more than just a starting point; it also represents the accepted cost-schedule-quality equilibrium on the project. The project team is committed to meeting the baseline and should assume it will continue to be held to the baseline, unless otherwise directed by the project manager. Consider the following example.

The BoxBetter project had been stuck about two weeks behind schedule for a month. The project manager had tried several ways to catch up, but none of them were working. At this point, Terry and Madison, who spent about a quarter of their time on the project, gave up on bringing the schedule up-to-date and decided to turn their attention to other projects. Although the schedule for BoxBetter called for them to complete a task prior to the next status meeting, neither of them worked on the task. At the meeting, Terry and Madison were chagrined to learn that the other project team members had done extra duty to bring the project back on schedule. Their task was now the only one that was late—and others were waiting for them to complete it. In this case, Terry and Madison had mistakenly assumed that the baseline for the project had changed.

Changing the baseline, however, is a big deal because it represents a new cost-schedule-quality equilibrium. This new equilibrium requires approval from all the stakeholders. If the justification for the change is good enough, meeting the new baseline might even be considered a success. Other times, however, it simply represents accepting a new reality. If all the evidence suggests that the project will miss the original cost and schedule goals, then it probably makes sense to change them. Maintaining unrealistic goals is rarely motivating. At the

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Task Name

31 12 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27


Summary 1



Task A



Task B



Delay due to hurricane



Summary 2



Task D



Task E



Project finish

Legend: Summary Summary baseline @-® Summary progress i i Milestone baseline ©

Task | | Task baseline A-A Task progress Milestone ^

Legend: Summary Summary baseline @-® Summary progress i i Milestone baseline ©

Task | | Task baseline A-A Task progress Milestone ^

• The alpha project was on schedule until it was interrupted by a hurricane on day 9.

• The delay was added to the schedule as task #4. Note how there is no baseline for this task because it did not exist on the original schedule.

• Task B was partially complete. It is now scheduled for later completion.

FIGURE 12.8 Compare the baseline schedule to the current schedule.

same time, however, the baseline must be changed cautiously and honestly, because it affects motivation if the baseline is changed over and over again. The new baseline should be as realistic as possible, reflecting the level of performance that led to the baseline change.

Active Listening

Active Listening

We can all recall situations where we have utterly failed to listen to what someone else is saying. For various reasons, we are simply not taking in anything useful. How many times have you been introduced to a person by name only to not know what their name is thirty seconds later?

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