Ty is a successful project manager by profession and volunteers as a youth community leader for most of his off-work hours. He decided to make a youth get-together once a week for his kids and their friends. The ultimate goal was to have the boys socialize among a group of kids of similar ages and challenges. Ty told the kids that they needed to brainstorm what to do every week to keep the get-together attractive and enjoyable for everyone. They agreed that they would have a weekly topic to be suggested, and its discussion to be moderated by one of them. The person that suggested a topic was to be prepared by reading and researching about the topic, which was then to be used to challenge the rest of the group. Another activity they agreed upon was to have a weekly lunch together in different places – some of which might even be out of town, in a park, or on a boat to break-up any kind of monotony. They decided also that the cost of every meeting should not exceed fifteen dollars per person.
Everyone agreed to these two activities. Then, Ty asked them to create a timetable which was to be used to assign which two of the kids would be responsible for the activities for each of the weeks. One would prepare a topic and the other would arrange for the lunch. They grabbed a calendar and started to put names with responsibilities for every Sunday.
In this simple situation, where is management, planning, and scheduling?
Here, Ty directs different resources (the kids) and harmonizes their interactions with him and with each other to accomplish the goal of socializing together with minimum effort, cost and maximum enjoyment for the participants. That, in fact, follows the definition of management. When they conducted the brainstorming session to find out that there were two activities that could be done each week – but were do be done using creative non-repeatable ideas – they were planning toward their goal. They agreed on a budget for each meeting which was also part of the plan. Finally, when they created the timetable for whom will do what and when, they truly generated the schedule of carrying out their plan. It was not only a time schedule; it was a resource-loaded schedule.
Therefore, management is the discipline intended to harmonize interaction among different levels of resources to achieve the optimum results. Planning is setting up the objectives both short term and long term. Setting up long term objectives is also called strategic planning. Scheduling is producing a timeline of when each portion of the plan that will lead toward the objectives will be done. Resource loaded schedule is adding “who” will perform different portions of the plan within the timeline.
This simple real story differentiates between the terms of management, planning, and scheduling. Most people mix between planning and scheduling and if you find yourself in debate about the difference between the two, you will find it to be endless and painful. Many companies call the person who generates the schedule as planner/scheduler although this person is only performing scheduling. Very few organizations differentiate between planners and schedulers. Another misconception is that you find some project managers or schedulers presenting the Gantt chart to an audience and calling it the project plan. It is not the plan or even the schedule. It is simply a format for reporting the project schedule.