GAO Schedule Assessment Guide


Over the Christmas holiday week, the US Government Accountability Office released its new guide – the GAO Schedule Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Project Schedules.

This new guide is a companion to the GAOs previously released GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide (2009).

From the GAO website –

“A cost estimate cannot be considered credible if it does not account for the cost effects of schedule slippage. An effective methodology for developing, managing, and evaluating capital program cost estimates includes the concept of scheduling the necessary work to a timeline, as discussed in the Cost Guide.”

“Thus, a well-planned schedule is a fundamental management tool that can help government programs use public funds effectively by specifying when work will be performed in the future and measuring program performance against an approved plan.”

The GAO Ten Best Practices from the Guide are:

1. Capturing all activities
2. Sequencing all activities
3. Assigning resources to all activities
4. Establishing the duration of all activities
5. Verifying that the schedule can be traced horizontally and vertically
6. Confirming that the critical path is valid
7. Ensuring reasonable float
8. Conducting a schedule risk analysis
9. Updating the schedule using actual progress and logic
10. Maintaining a baseline schedule

These differ slightly from the eight Generally Accepted Scheduling Principles (GASP) as developed by NDIA (National Defense Industrial Association). These, however, are not contradictory, but rather complementary.

Where the GASP Principles focus on the overall structure and use of the project schedule (Completeness, Transparency, Predictive, etc.) the GAO Best Practices focus more on the technical aspects of a good schedule, including specifically calling out float and critical path.

And while both are written with a focus on government projects, I have yet to find anything that is not applicable to projects in general.

Well worth taking a look at and adding to your toolbox.