When project scheduling is critical and deadline dates seem vague, the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) can help clarify the sequence of tasks and bring focus to a nebulous end date. The PERT diagram is a valuable management and analysis tool that allows you to easily see what is being done and when each task is expected to be complete. In complicated projects involving several to many people, the PERT tool allows you to track each task, helping you determine where problems in the project's critical path may lurk so that you can address any accountable department.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Computer software for creating charts
Open your drawing application on your computer and create a new document. Create a task list outlining the specific events, an estimate of how long each event will take, the actual start date and the dependencies of each task. For example, in a manufacturing assembly line for roller skates, the leather boot on the skate cannot be added until it has been made. Prior to this, the skate wheels must be made and fitted, and even before this, the ball bearings must be acquired, sorted, inspected and assembled for the wheels of each different model.
Construct a simple task table to order the sequence of your operation and outline the time needed for each task. In the roller skate example, it may take three days to acquire the ball bearings, two days to assemble the wheel components, one day to align and mount the fittings. The task table columns should read from left to right as: "Task," "Start date," "Duration," (in weeks, days or hours), and "Type of operation" (parallel if the operation is concurrent with another or sequential if it is before or after another operation).
Draw two circles representing project milestones, labelling them "1" and "2," respectively. Connect the circles using an arrowed line from the "1" circle to the "2" circle. Type the name of the task (or some identifying letter) below the line and type the duration of the task above the line. This will correspond to the duration information you entered in the task table. In the example of the roller skate assembly, the words below the line connecting "1" and "2" would be "Acquire ball bearings" and the duration number would be "3 days."
Draw another circle connecting an arrowed line to it from the "2" circle and type the description of the task below and the duration above the connecting line. The last numbered circle in the PERT chart should represent the last task to be performed and any arrowed lines preceding it should connect to it directly. Continue to draw more diagrams from the task list table until the entire task list is represented in the chart.
Tips and warnings
- Software is available that can convert information in a table to a PERT diagram.
- Using increments of 10 when numbering tasks allows you to insert new steps as needed without redoing the entire chart.
- The estimated time for a project can be subjective.
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