Behaviors in scheduling

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Developed by Natalia Krygier



The scope of the article is to show the influence of human behaviors on project's planning, realization, monitoring with regards to time and resources scheduling. Behavior is the range of actions and mannerisms made by individual or system as the response to various stimuli [1]. Scheduling in turn means the process of creating the schedule, basic time-management tool, deciding how to arrange, control, optimize work and commit resources between the variety of possible tasks. Plan Schedule Management is the process of establishing the policies, procedures, and documentation for planning, developing, managing, executing, and controlling the project schedule. The key benefit of this process is that it provides guidance and direction on how the project schedule will be managed throughout the project [2]. Whatever industry we take into consideration there will be projects that encountered delays, schedule changes and cost overruns that affect overall appraisal of given enterprise. Despite all of the tangible results schedule changes will also affect humans causing higher pressure, lower productivity and in general - quality reduction. This is due to high number or variables and possible risks even though usually those are thoroughly analyzed because it is not possible to predict any scenario. There are many traditional approaches in Project Management based on analytic techniques helping with facing misbehaviors. However, the new approaches are based on system dynamics, assuming a holistic view of the project organization, focusing on the behavior of project and how it relates to managerial strategies [3]. Plannning is one of the key responsibilities of Project Manager’s work where human is the decision making factor so it is vital to consider what mechanism drive people and their performance in the group. That is why it is of a great, practical value for Project Managers to know system dynamics and human behaviors in order to adapt appropriate actions towards human resources and customers.

Techniques in scheduling

There are several traditional methodologies in scheduling but as human is the 'soft' point in project management it is worth to emphasise the importance of human resources. However, often the process of creating metrics and managerial techniques is treated with the highest priority neglecting the importance of effective communication. During planning and scheduling deadline and the disposition of resources is made in a very meticulous manner so it might not be obvious that human relations and behaviors should be also taken into consideration. This paragraph compares various techiniques of scheduling with regards to their effectiveness in human resources management.


GANTT Chart is a basic scheduling technique firstly introduced over a 100 years ago by Henry Gantt for a steel factory. Back then the charts were drawn on paper, nowadays there are many softwares helping with designing this chart and it has a great advantage of being a clear and visual tool. People think in pictures so having that chart as a visualization of even a complex issue will help them to understand it better. It organizes the project very well, highlighting the most important parts and also enables to show the progress, which helps to allocate resources according to the needs and effectively and enhances an understanding of what factors will be actually involved in the project at a certain period. An important advantage of GANTT chart in terms of human dynamics is the fact that all everyone involved in the project, including stakeholders and clients, can see themselves on the chart, what are the responsibilities of each and every person and how it will affect everyone else's work and the project itself. There are though also certain disadvantages to this method. First of all it can become a big challenge when designing the chart for a complex venture. In such case it has to be done very precisely and thoroughly. Failure to do so will result in a confusing chart that will be difficult to decipher and in effect will lower its functionality.


Project evaluation and review technique was primarily developed for monitoring and displaying results of work of groups quite dispersed geographically with a limited ways of communication and a wide diversity of procedures and methods [4]. The emphasis in this method is rather put on events and event times than activities. It can be presented in form of a precedence diagram, highlighting the tasks that are prioritized in the project, it is a very analytic and sophisticated method.


Critical Path Method, even though it is often used along with PERT, on the other hand is a more flexible, activities oriented technique. Neither of those methods takes into account the human factor but using critical path method requires keeping track of the risks from outside of the main focus which and may be more effective thanks to the fact that it allows overlapping of activities and therefore having a bigger overview on scheduling the resources.

There is no doubt that these methods help PMs to organize work but they also have a negative influence on human behaviors. Tightly structured project schedule will restrict cross-organizational communication and therefore will leave very little opportunity for creative contributions. It is also vital to make sure that the work groups do not change rapidly, otherwise workers will feel like unknown cogs in a complex machine [5].


Critical chain project management differs from the traditional methods analyzed above in the fact that it emphasizes the resources, for example people, allocated to the tasks. It takes into consideration Parkinson's Law saying that „work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, so while estimating in critical chain method the task duration is cut in half to actual duration. This leaves the tasks with less time to be completed but the extra time is kept in the end of critical paths a buffer. The method is resource dependent because any task cannot be started until the previous one is finished and the resources are freed. It is not possible to calculate or optimize project buffers in other way than to measure the progress and recalculate the critical chain. Therefore it is vital to make sure that team members are well aware of the scope of the method and the project.

Change as a project deliverable

A change can be understood as unavoidable result of an unexpected event, a transition or often a project deliverable itself. What is more, changes in a project environment are inevitable and therefore we can use the methods which are being applied in change management to successfully plan the projects. To manage these changes effectively it is required to continuously organise team-building activities. It is crucial to ensure a profitable coperation, build mutual trust, high quality of information exchange, better decision making, and effective project management [6]. With regards to this article change management techniques are useful while facing an unexpected schedule change or if change is a deliverable in the project. Despite the fact that there are key guidelines of communicating the change and concrete types of behaviors expressed in response itis important to understand that all individuals go through different phases in the process, which are awareness, interest, trial and adoption. The communication should be clear, rational, valuable and provide a long term strategic direction. While communicating it is worth remembering that face-to-face is the best channel when our message is supposed to change the behavior of the recipient whereas nonverbal communique is most useful for short, quick information retrieval.

Basing on the “Diffusions of Innovations Theory” by Everett M. Rogers we can explain what one out of five statistical behaviors individuals show when facing change. The fact which group given individual will choose is based on how well the change is communicated and how well it aligns with their personal interests. It is important to understand that mechanism in order to apply a more conscious leadership.

The groups can be determined basing on the Bell curve and it divides individuals into Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Resisters [7].

Bell curve.JPG

The Early Adopters adapt to the change as the first ones not putting much effort into thinking it through no matter what is the subject and actively engaging in challenges. They normally are good examples for others hence they approach the change with maturity and credibility. On the opposite end of scale we have Resisters, cautious and skeptical. Both of those groups have a significant influence on the majority of people in the team and are unlikely to change their own approach, but Resisters can show either passive or active approach out of lack of interest or resistance. The smallest group on the chart is represented by Innovators, who are already mentally prepared to embrace the change finding it being aligned with their personal interests. Being very optimistic about the situation they may be perceived as the ones lacking realistic approach and therefore it is unlikely that they will influence others. The largest group consists of Early- and Late Majority, individuals that need to see that the change is doable and understand the process well. Once a Project Manager understands what types of individuals they have in the project team they will know how to approach the team when communicating and implementing the change.

In the process of change we can distinguish several stages of behavioral development and approaching the process. Basing on the ADKAR model [8] the first step is all about building awareness as a foundation and basic condition for the whole process. It includes good but basic understanding what will be going on, why it is being done and who will be concerned. It is of great importance to ensure that all of the team members acknowledged the information and understand it and to provide credible arguments based on facts and figures. At this level all members will need time to reflect about the project and should be engaged to ask questions and express doubts. It is crucial to respect all opinions in order to build engagement and a sense of common respect. Once an individual knows what will be the project or the change is to create the interest. The point is to align the scope of the project with personal objectives and assessing it in terms of positive and negative impacts. This way team members are provided with more details about the project and a mental attachment is created resulting in more engagement. Next stages are called 'Knowledge' and 'Ability' when resources and data are provided. This is when active work begins with all the risks involved and it is the most unpredictable stage so it is vital to support the process with structures, create routine and encourage communication. The process concludes with 'Reinforcement' stage which means acknowledging the results and celebrating successes. Recognition is very important here because it creates motivation for further work.

Implementation in real life projects

In order to fully showcase the importance of considering human behaviors in project management it is worth to look into some real life examples. We can find many examples of failed projects as well as ‘lessons learned’ analysis which enable us to learn on mistakes committed in other enterprises. One of such examples is IBM’s software project on OS/360. Even though the project in the end turned out to be a success it was finalized much later than initially planned. That was a largest software project runned outside the military industry and was led by Fred Brooks who later analized and explained the main issue that he encountered in his book ‘The mythical man-month’. Only after the project was finished he could reflect on what was the issue that caused the delay and it was the fact that he used broadly used metric to measure a work done by one person in one month - a man month, but did not consider complexity and specificity of software engineer’s work. The conclusion was that man-month is not suitable for such technical projects because they cannot be divided in different activities without cooperation and communication between the members of the team. It is of a high importance for the programmers to stay syncronized and informed to avoid multiplication of work and repeating each other. Brooks also proposed a math formula enabling to calculate how many commucation channels programmers have depending on the number of people. That formula clearly shows the complexity of software project and how complicated it gets the bigger the project is. Basing on that example it is clear that every project bases on different human dynamics and that there is no universal solution for all projects.

Another example is based on the experience of Lawrence P. Leach who presented a case in his book “Critical Chain Project Management” when he helped Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard using CCPM [9]. The workers in the harbour were dealing with repairment of nuclear submarines. The general procedure for them was multitasking, meaning that if a worker encountered a situation where they were lacking tools or parts they were reassigned to another task to ensure that they always have a job to charge their time. One may think that this idea would save time and increase efficiency but in fact the result was opposite. The reason why that was a case is because every time a person changed the task they had to take some time to adjust, move themselves to another location so in this situation multitasking was not only prolonging the job but also causing confusion due to the fact that workers never had enough time to adjust to a certain task but were switched from one to another. The solution that Leach found to that problem was implementing the CCPM method ensuring that the crew always had all the resources needed to start the task and redefine the supervisor's job to avoid blockage. In effect the harbor started to finish all submarines on time with less cost and the quality defects were happening half as rarely. That solution worked for the harbor because Leach understood that multitasking cannot be aaplied to the tasks that require concious thinking. In order to switch from one task to another in a relatively short amount of time one's brain has to forget about the significance of the first task and reprograme itself to the next one. All that takes time and in result causes delays.

Student sydrome is well known in many disciplines. It assumes that individuals given a task with a deadline will prolong starting the work until the pressure of approaching deadline will be big enough to start work. This creates enormous amount of stress and does not influence well on the overall project's performance. It is a disfuncional behavior of being relaxed at the begining of the project because there is no need of high adrenaline but it results in disproportional distribution of stress and resources. Distributing the pressure along the schedule helps to reduce the project completion date for little variation from its standard value. If schedule pressure increases or decreases by large amounts it worsens the system behavior and increases the project duration [10] . But stress is not necessarily a bad thing. The ability to keep it at an optimum level can enhance idividual and group performance. The 'Human Function Curve' well illustrates that phenomenon.


In conclusion, the article shows the significance of considering human behaviors while preparing a schedule for a project. Discussed techniques, if applied with comprehension and used supplementarily, will significantly increase project performance. The process of planning is equally important to the implementation phase and can have a great educational value. Preparation and implementation of changes creates new experiences that in turn create new attitudes. Over time, the new attitudes fuse into a new culture: a culture where project success is possible.

Annotated bibliography

Lawrence P. Leach, (2000) Critical chain project management, Artech House, Boston. The book focuses on the Critical Chain Mathod in Project Management and provided many useful examples of its usage. The author is basing the book on relevant theory but also his own experience. It is very useful for anyone interested in behaviorism and human resources management not only with regards to CCPM.

Project Management: A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK guide). (2013), Project Management Institute. This a thorough and concise handbook of Project Management representing globally recognized standards. This book provides a strong background for any topic in the area of project management so it should be a base for any further research.


  1. Elizabeth A. Minton, Lynn R. Khale (2014). Belief Systems, Religion, and Behavioral Economics. New York: Business Expert Press LLC.
  2. Project Management: A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK guide). (2013), Project Management Institute.
  3. Rodrigues, A., & Bowers, J. (1996). The role of system dynamics in project management. International Journal of Project Management, 14(4), 213-220.
  4. Jenett, E. (1972). Choosing your networking technique. Project Management Quarterly, 3(4), 16–18.
  5. Murdick, R. G. (1976). Managing human resources in project management. Project Management Quarterly, 7(2), 21–25.
  6. Project Management: A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK guide). (2013), Project Management Institute.
  7. Rogers, Everett M. (1983). Diffusion of innovations (3rd ed.). New York: Free Press of Glencoe.
  8. Ashley May Calder. (2013). Organizational Change: Model for Successfully Implementing Change, Utah State university DigitalCommons@USU
  9. Lawrence P. Leach, (2000) Critical chain project management, Artech House, Boston.
  10. De Marco, A. (2006). Modeling project behavior: dynamic tools for early estimates in construction project management. Paper presented at PMI® Research Conference: New Directions in Project Management, Montréal, Québec, Canada. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
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