Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar icon
Adobe PDF icon

Using a Time-Sequenced Network Diagram

~ By Dave Paradi

Man working with a laptop on the balcony at home

Almost every MS Project user is familiar with the Gantt chart as a graphical view. The problem with many Gantt charts is that when printed, they are so large that trying to follow the flow of tasks through the project for tracking is almost impossible. Also, the chart gets so cluttered if you try to display more than a few characteristics about the task, such as resource name or start date, so you don't always have to use a ruler to line up with the dates at the top of the diagram to figure out what date the task is supposed to start at. I suggest project managers instead use a time-sequenced network diagram to be able to track what needs to be done each day and how those tasks affect others in the project.

To create the time-sequenced network diagram, switch to the Network Diagram view in MS Project. The default view shows you a number of key pieces of information for each task and lines and arrows between the task boxes show the relationships. There are two things you will want to do to the default view in order to make it more useful.

First, the default view is not time sequenced, it is simply sequenced by how the tasks have been entered in the software. To generate a time-sequenced view, click on the Format menu and click on the Layout menu item. This will display the Layout dialog box. In the Arrangement drop down list, the default is "Top Down From Left" - change it to be "Top Down By Day." This will arrange all the tasks by start date from left to right, essentially creating a chart where there are columns of tasks with a timeline that flows from left to right.

The second change you will want to make is to the information shown in each task box. Make sure that you have the necessary information shown, such as start and end date, duration or work effort, resource, task name and others that may be important to you. To change the task boxes, click on the Format menu and click on the Box Styles menu item. This displays the Box Styles dialog box. The task box layout can be different for different categories of tasks, such as critical path tasks, milestones and so on. The arrangement of information is determined by the Data Template and by clicking on the More Templates button you can enter the area where you can modify a current template or create your own. Then select your new template for each task category you want to display in that way.

As a project manager, this diagram can be extremely useful for communicating the project to the team or sponsor. One client of mine prints out the time-sequenced network diagram on a large plotter and puts it up on the wall of the project room. For sponsor progress reports, the sponsor comes into the room, finds the current date in the diagram and puts their arm vertically up on the wall at that point on the diagram. Then they ask, "Is everything to the left of my arm done? If not, what are we doing about it?" This is a very powerful, clear way to check project progress and cuts through most of the muddy presentations and charts usually used for progress reporting.

As a project manager, by using a time-sequenced network diagram you can increase the clarity of team meetings because everyone will be clear on what they have to do this week and how, if they are late, other tasks will be impacted. Try using a time-sequenced network diagram in your next project and see how the clarity improves your ability to bring the project in on time and on budget.


David Paradi, senior associate of Business Improvement Architects, is an experienced facilitator and Project Leader. He specialises in the areas of Project Management, Leadership, and Strategic Planning. He has developed and facilitated workshops in a variety of industries and has led sessions ranging from project team kick-off meeting to a strategic planning off-site for senior management. David uses a process-oriented structured approach that is customised to help each client. For more information or to contact David email dparadi@bia.ca


Advertisement


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
Enter the word shark backwards.
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Tracking a Risk

Dial showing three levels of risk management

Risk management is a vital part of project management. Learn four key steps to help you evaluate and mitigate any risks on your project.

Project Planning a Step by Step Guide

Businessman finding the solution to a maze

The key to a successful project is in the planning. Creating a project plan is the first thing you should do when undertaking any kind of project.

Authority Earned, Not Given

Group of business people looking and pointing at a chart

For project managers, the support of their team is critical for completing projects successfully. Yet, a team's respect cannot simply be assigned like a task.

Learning from Project Failures

Success and failure directional signs

Some of the most important lessons we learn come from failures. Kenneth Darter explains a simple four step process to make sure the same failures aren't repeated.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Ashwini Pendharkar commented on…
10 Golden Rules of Project Risk Management
- Tue 20 June 1:32pm

Tery commented on…
A Brief History of SMART Goals
- Mon 19 June 10:10pm

Tammy Marin commented on…
Better Coaching Using the GROW Model
- Thu 15 June 10:37pm

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Re: Is complete transparency with the project customer a good… https://t.co/Jcqxcrq49P #projectsmart #pmot about 10 days ago

General Project Management • Re: What are your PM best practices? I think we often miss 5 keys… https://t.co/bMHcYqOauf #projectsmart #pmot about 14 days ago

General Project Management • Re: I Got It Wrong https://t.co/uIy2Yv8owO #projectsmart #pmot about 21 days ago