Different relationships in MS Project Part 1

Microsoft Project makes a few default assumptions, one of the more annoying ones is setting tasks to manually schedule rather than defaulting to automatic mode.  But there are others which are less noticeable and which many project managers should really check if they are the best choice.

In this article we will look at the 4 different task relationships and see ho we can optimise our schedule using a couple of quick logic changes.

For this example I have used a very basic project and honestly you probably wouldn’t even start MS Project for a project of this size, but it provides a good canvas in the illustration of the topic.

To set the scene; we are painting a room, 4 walls, we have done some estimations showing the following:

MSP example

Microsoft project paint example

We have also added some additional tasks and created a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

msp example wbs durations

Jumping to Microsoft Project we can see this in action, this video takes us from a WBS to a simple project schedule.

What we get is a simple schedule laid out using the task relationship default of Finish to start as well as using what is called a series relationship.

When calculated our project’s duration is 370 minutes.  This can be quickly calculate from the WBS above or as seen in the video.

The result is what many project managers end up with after entering their schedule into MS Project.  A total project duration which equals the sum of the tasks duration’s.  This is the least effective way to schedule, but I must say sometimes it is the only way.

Our goal is to now try to reduce the project’s duration without compromising cost or quality.

There are a number of ways by which this can be achieved, but ultimately it comes down to running activities concurrently or aiming for what is called a parallel scheduling relationship.  The optimal schedule is one where all the activities can occur in parallel and in which case the projects total duration would equal that of the longest task, if we could achieve that in this example our entire project would only take 120 minutes (based on the longest task- patching the walls).

Whilst theoretically possible, logic states this would not occur as we would need to clean prior to patching and then paint etc.

Project challenge

Now considering our initial WBS (below) can you find a way to reduce the project’s duration without rushing (i.e paint faster) and if so how quickly do you believe this project can be completed?



msp example wbs durations


Have a go and post your answer below:

Once you have posted your answer Continue to part 2 of the different task relationships of MS Project

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