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Scheduling humor into your day

Scheduling humor into your day

I work in a rather large organization and we typically rely on a scheduling department to prepare our formal program schedules and task linkage charts. The process works like this: engineering prepares the program's task list, task duration, start and stop dates, and identifies which tasks are dependent upon other tasks (i.e., task 5 cannot start until after task 3 is completed).

With their extensive scheduling knowledge and experience, the people who run our scheduling department have identified some pitfalls they can expect whenever they're forced to rely upon engineering to provide specific task dates for a program. These traditional pitfalls include:

  • Scheduling work on weekends and holidays

  • Scheduling more than 28 days in February, or more than 30 for April, June, September

  • Leaving some tasks open until after the program's end date

  • Mis-scheduling tasks or scheduling serial tasks in parallel

  • Ordering parts after final assembly operations are complete

  • Releasing design drawings after manufacturing on those parts has started

After the scheduling guys locate and resolve all of these 'traditional' scheduling nightmares is when the fun starts. You see, there are a couple of people in the engineering department who see it as their job to inject some humor into our otherwise dreary existence. These people have devised a set of scheduling methods to communicate hidden messages through these program schedules, and to keep the mood from getting too serious. The favorite technique is to select specific dates for key program milestones. Some that have shown up most often include:

  • Major Program Review on December 7 (Bombing of Pearl Harbor)

  • Program Status Update on April 1 (April Fool's Day)

  • Completion of Key Event on Program Manager's Birthday

  • Program Cost and Schedule Review on Friday the 13th Engineering Design/Drawing Completion on July 4 (Independence Day)

You get the idea, but you'd be surprised at just how many schedule dates are created in this manner.

When you use this type of date scheduling, you'll find that you soon run out of major events to use, and that's when you need to dig down and get really creative. You'll need to check out calendars wherever you find them because each calendar seems to have its own unique list of holidays and historically significant dates. My personal favorite has been to start using Canadian and English calendars as they provide more non-traditional holidays than our typical U.S. office supply calendars. A couple key dates in the Canadian calendar include Victoria Day and Boxing Day. The English calendar has Guy Fawkes Day and the Queen's Birthday. Other notable and very worthwhile dates in our U.S. calendars include: March 17 (St. Patrick's Day), April 25 (Secretaries Day), October 8 (Columbus Day), and October 31 (Halloween). However, considering what happened to Bill Murray, February 2nd might be a good one to steer clear of!

Some of the more memorable things that we've had scheduled include: Customer meetings on Valentine's Day, 12 hour work day on June 21 (longest day of the year), 6 hour work day on December 21, Problem Reports due on June 14 (red) flag day, Test completion date on Thanksgiving Day, and Official Test Validations scheduled on June 6 (D-Day).

Even with the limited 225 year history of the U.S., there seems to be an endless supply of historically significant dates that can be used to schedule your program. And the more obscure the date or its reference, the more likely you are not to have anyone object to your use of the date in the master schedule. Some of these more obscure events and dates include: Custer's Last Stand, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Election Day, Date of the Academy Awards or Oscars, and there's always March 14 because it's the closest date to Pi.

This report is one of a series of occasional columns exploring the not-altogether-serious side of engineering by Ken Foote, a mechanical engineer at GDLS. You can reach Ken at[email protected]or email your comments to us at[email protected].

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