Scheduling Hot Air Balloons and Ladders

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Project managers are prone to be influenced by their schedules. They make decisions, prioritize priorities, and engage stakeholders. When the schedules are clear and concise, we feel satisfied.
Changes can make us feel anxious.
When the schedule is clearly fictional and has no chance of ever being fulfilled, we feel out of control.
Scheduling can be a very emotional activity. According to Stephen Kramer and Teresa Amabile in their book The Progress Principle (2011), there three factors that influence the positive feelings you have regarding work time.
Making meaningful progress
Events that directly support project work
Moments of positive interpersonal activity
Scheduling is about making progress towards a meaningful goal. It’s not surprising that dates and deadlines play an important role in how work feels.
Multitasking adds an extra layer of complexity to meeting deadlines. Instead of moving towards a single meaningful goal, you move towards multiple. There are many project schedules that you can use, whether they’re detailed Gantt charts or task lists with dates and timelines in another format.
They may seem manageable individually. You aren’t working on each one individually. You have a multi-project portfolio that you need to review. This means that you need a comprehensive view of task deliverable dates in order to better organize your calendar.
This is where ladder and hot-air balloon scheduling come in to play. Let me tell you what I mean.
The ladder view: creating a detailed, combined schedule of all projects
Imagine standing at the top a ladder. It’s easy to see the ground clearly from there. You can see the ground clearly, and it’s even better if you’re a bit higher than at ground level.
The ladder view is helpful for identifying when you combine project schedules in a more detailed manner.
What should be done when multiple projects are part of the same plan?
Potential resource conflicts when people are assigned to multiple projects simultaneously
You can plan for busy points in the next months
Activities that can be combined to benefit the team. For example, combining governance meetings.

The ladder view can also be used to communicate about your projects. It provides a visual overview for you, your sponsor, and your team.
The ladder view approach works well for portfolios that have a lot of work related, a lot of dependencies among tasks, and where you use common resources. If all of the work is relevant, a detailed, consolidated schedule can be a great communication tool for your team or project sponsor.
Hot air balloon view: Making a high-level schedule to all projects
Think of being in a hot-air balloon. Because you are higher than a ladder, you can’t see the ground as clearly. You can see the major features of the landscape, such as rivers, hills and roads, towns and clusters industrial buildings. This is the view we want to achieve with a high-level plan.
Hot air balloon schedules are useful in identifying times when multiple projects have deliverables and milestones due at once so you can plan accordingly. It’s a roadmap that shows you what’s coming, and it takes very little effort to get a complete view of the future.
This approach is much quicker than creating a detailed combined calendar. It helps you to see the busy times and gives a hot air balloon view for your upcoming deadlines.
This is a way to look at your work. However, you should still maintain a schedule for each project to keep track of progress at a more detailed level. It is only a snapshot of one moment in time as project schedules can change.
To help you identify what’s coming up, however, you can use the following: