A Run-Down On Zero Float In Project Management, Plus Tips On How To Manage It
We’ve all managed a project at one point or another. Whether it’s planning a party or leading a large project at work, it’s important to understand the tasks that lead to the desired outcomes. One of the first steps many Project Managers will do is create the project’s timeline in a series of tasks. When mapping out the project, each task gets a duration for competition. It will become clear which activities depend on others and which ones have more flexibility. When there is no extra time between activities, we have zero float, and it is considered a critical activity. A series of critical activities that are dependent on one another make up a critical path.
If a critical activity slips and doesn’t meet its deadline, it causes the project finish date to slip. And this is usually a no-go in project management. Mainly because deadline slips, even the small ones, typically have massive financial costs. For the average size project, even a 10 percent overrun can result in a $5 million hit to the project’s profitability. Using the critical path method allows Project Managers to decide which tasks should take precedence, anticipate potential slips in the schedule, and make necessary adjustments. This makes project delays less likely and, therefore, project success more likely.
Got some zero float activities in your project? Here are 4 tips to help you manage them:
1. Start with a thoroughly defined project scope
Without a well-defined scope that addresses all the project details, it’s pretty hard to achieve a killer result. All of the deliverables, no matter how small, need to be agreed upon by the project’s parties. This will provide the guideline for which activities need to be included in the project. Without a complete scope, it’s pretty hard to come up with an accurate project timeline. What ends up happening is deliverables get added on and your zero float tasks have to slip. Wreaking havoc on your budget, time constraints, and project quality.
2. Prepare for all possibilities
When looking at your critical path, start thinking about the “what if” scenarios that could pop up. By thinking about these potential situations in advance, you’re more prepared for anything that can happen. And if you look at the history of projects, especially those major high-risk ones, things happen, and contingency plans go a long way.
You may want to look beyond your critical path at the tasks that have extra slack to prepare for these “what if” situations. You can use extra slack to extend a task, giving yourself more resources to allocate to the at-risk zero float tasks.
You can also think about the zero float tasks that are most likely at risk of delays or other issues. See how the rest of the critical path is affected and how you can shorten particular task durations. Here are a few things you can do to fast track your tasks with zero float:
- Change a task’s constraint (usually time, scope, or cost) to allow more adaptability in the schedule.
- Work overtime. No one likes to do it, but often it’s necessary and worth it in the end.
- Commit additional resources to work on the zero float tasks that will move the project finish date forward.
3. Create regular project update reports
Regular project reports keep all of your stakeholders on top of what is happening with the project. It saves time by summarizing how the project is tracking for all stakeholders at once. Not only does it keep you and your team accountable, but it helps manage expectations by providing a platform to give a heads up if any of your zero float tasks are experiencing slippage.
4. Have a robust change management process in place
More often than not, scopes tend to creep as projects progress and can have a significant impact on the project. Sometimes change is inevitable, and it isn’t a bad thing, but any changes to the scope must be managed correctly. Here are some vital elements of any change management plan:
- Justification for the change – what are the goals that this change will help achieve?
- Who does the change affect?
- Who is responsible for the new tasks needed?
- How does it affect the timeline?
- What are the costs?
- Who needs to sign off?
- Which stakeholders must be notified?
Suppose a change affects your zero float tasks. In that case, it will likely affect the critical path and, therefore, the project completion date. With a strong change management plan, altering the critical path doesn’t have to be an issue. It can even improve the project’s deliverables in the long run. If you understand how changes will affect those zero float tasks, you’ll be better able to take the steps necessary to manage and achieve success.
When your project has time-critical tasks with no room for slack, they’re considered zero float. With close attention to and management of these tasks, you’ll be on your way to delivering your project on time and within budget. Follow these zero float management tips to help avoid the stress of slipping schedules and disastrous delays!