Throughout the decades we’ve had significant technological advances that allow us to approach methods and issues more efficiently, including lead and lag time management.
In the perfect world, all project activities are aligned sequentially one after the other.
However, in some cases, the project manager needs to intentionally a speed up or delay dependent activities while still maintaining relationships.
This is where leads and lags come in as the most essential and fundamental building blocks of planning.
What are leads and lags in a project?
What is lead time?
Lead time is defined in the PMBOK as “the length of time a following activity can be advanced over a previous activity.”
This means that when a task is still running and at the same time work begins on another task, lead time indicates the overlap between the first and second tasks.
Here’s a practical example: when introducing a new order management software, the organization may decide to start the training phase for project team employees at the same time that the development team is still performing testing activities on the software.
What is lead time in project management?
Lead time in project management refers to a finished, one-time project, or the completion of a significant portion of the project.
It is often used in Kanban workflows: if there are tabs labeled “To Do,” “Activities in Progress,” and “Activities Pending Next Steps,” the lead time – would span all three of these columns.
This is a great way to ensure that you are able to get the most out of your work, and that you are able to get the most out of it.
For example, if you have two activities, one that will take 5 days and the other 4, the result is 9 days of work.
If, for example, the second task has two days of lead time, i.e., you can start working on it two days earlier than the previous task ends, the total duration of this cycle can be reduced to 7 days instead of 9.
What is lag?
Lag time is, according to PMBOK, “the length of time during which a following activity must be delayed relative to a previous activity.”
This delay is rarely intentional or positive and often prevents the project from moving to the next phase.
What is a lag in project management?
In project management, lag (or delay) can occur when two or more dependent tasks are slowed down by an error along the way.
When one is stalled, the others must wait for the problem to be fixed to move forward.
Lead and lag indicators in project management and the importance of using a software
Lead and lag indicators in project management therefore help evaluate performance.
By using a project management software you can compare your lead indicator with your lag indicator more easily to see what went well and what failed.
In the case of a series of recurring tasks or projects, you can compare past lead and lag indicators to find patterns, implement changes, and continue to improve.
Using software allows this comparison to be done more quickly because of historical data that can be saved and found again.
This method calculates the minimum time required to complete a project along with possible start and end times for project tasks.
A project management software such as TWproject, thanks to its algorithms for planning critical paths, makes it possible to efficiently manage projects with thousands of activities.
The actual electronic representation of the project schedule generally comprises a list of activities with their durations, required resources, and previous activities.
Graphical representations of the network, rather than using a simple list, are handy for visualizing the plan and ensuring that the mathematical requirements are met.
It can, in fact, be challenging for the project manager alone to identify all leads and lags, so the help of software is essential.
A feature of many planning software is that they incorporate types of activity interactions beyond the simple predecessor end to successor start constraint.
This feature is particularly important to ensure realistic schedules and a view of real work.
However, it is critical to understand how the software handles calculations so that you can use it as efficiently as possible.
Ultimately, lead and lag time allows the project manager to have flexibility in developing a project schedule.
A project manager oversees that a project finishes on time and must keep activities on schedule.
A long delay is often considered a failure in project management and keeping a project on schedule is therefore important to the success of the project management team.
Using project management software, it is possible to effectively manage leads and lags in a project by helping to track the duration of all activities within the project lifecycle.
Leads and lags exploit the flexibility in dependencies between activities that go beyond end-to-start relationships.
Therefore, these techniques are vital for proper and efficient activity scheduling, optimization of a timeline, and as input to determine a critical path.