Schedule conflicts and how are they resolved in the project management process understand in the article below from our contributors Quigley & Lauck.

How do I deal with a Project Schedule conflict?

From experience, a significant source of project failure is the project schedule. Project schedule conflicts can arise due to various factors. Since the root cause is variable, the response or corrective action will also vary. The goal, therefore, is to find the source of the schedule conflict and failure, then put corrective measures in place to account for this failure.
Here are some common reasons for project schedule conflicts.


There is a saying in business; time is money. We think this saying does far more harm than good, and this harm comes in the form of quick action from the project. Fast is not always better or a sound reaction or approach, especially when we bypass time to think things through and explore.

In our experience, the decision of whether or not to undertake the project languishes, and the expected end date of the project is fixed. More than once have experienced or had a colleague confide in us that the supplier selection has taken four months, and that time applies to the project.

This lack of exploration leads to some maladies we will witness later in our project, leading - if only we would have - moment.

  1. Misunderstanding of the scope of the project (no Work Breakdown Structure)
  2. Clear-defined (metrics) project objectives
  3. Inadequate consideration of task sequencing and schedule optimization
  4. Missing Assumptions and Constraints identification
  5. No time spent identifying specific talent and equipment required

Resource Limitations

Projects are constrained by many things, including limited availability of critical resources and talents, such as personnel, equipment, or materials, which can lead to scheduling conflicts when multiple projects or tasks require the same resources simultaneously.

From experience, the latter is a significant source of failure; we have numerous projects underway using the same talent pool and resources. There may be overlapping (resource or talent over allocation) use of these scarce talents; for example, a person with a particular set of skills will be involved in one project for 32 hours per week and another for 30 hours during the same week. Working 60 or more hours a week is not the path to success or sustainability.

Businesses often think that people are fungible or that all we need to do is add more people to the project. Both of these are not true.

Scope Changes

Changes in project scope, requirements, or objectives can disrupt the planned schedule. The level of impact depends upon the project philosophy or approach. For example, agile manages these changes by hyper-focusing on the quick sprint. Changes are handled discretely in product backlog prioritization and grooming before the sprint.

In some instances, scope change is not due to some emerging event or learning during the work. We have witnessed plenty of times when the effort spent on capturing and vetting the requirements was insufficient, and from experience, this leads to the need for updating requirements along the way. 

Additional tasks, revised deliverables, or unexpected modifications can impact the project timeline and lead to conflicts.


Projects have dependencies, where one task or project's completion relies on another's completion. If there are delays or issues with dependent tasks, it can cause scheduling conflicts and affect the overall project timeline. The dependencies on the critical path are primarily of interest.

In project management, the critical path is the activity sequence determining the shortest duration required to complete a project. It represents the longest path through the project network, which includes all the tasks that must be completed on time to prevent delays in the project schedule.

The critical path is determined by identifying the dependencies between project activities and their respective durations. It considers the time required to complete each task and the dependencies between tasks, such as "Finish-to-Start" relationships, where one task must be completed before another can start.

Key characteristics of the critical path include:

  1. Duration: The critical path represents the total duration required to complete the project. Any delay in activities along the critical path will directly impact the overall project completion time.
  2. Float or Slack: Activities on the critical path have zero float or slack, meaning they cannot be delayed without affecting the project schedule. On the other hand, non-critical activities have some flexibility in their start and finish dates, as they have float or slack time.
  3. Project Constraints: The critical path helps identify project constraints and bottlenecks. If any activity on the critical path takes longer than planned, the entire project's duration will be extended unless appropriate actions are taken to mitigate the delay.
  4. Project Focus: Project managers often give special attention to the activities on the critical path, as they have the highest impact on the project's overall timeline. Monitoring and managing the critical path activities are crucial to keep the project on schedule.

Unclear Priorities

When project priorities are unclear or poorly communicated, conflicting priorities among team members or stakeholders can lead to schedule conflicts. Different individuals or departments may have conflicting expectations or urgencies regarding project tasks. This priority is not limited to the project team members but also the management structure, with competing line management functions and corporate political intrigue.

Poor Estimation

Inaccurate time and effort estimation during project planning can result in unrealistic schedules. If tasks are underestimated or overly optimistic deadlines are set, it can lead to conflicts when actual progress deviates from the planned timeline. Lack of disaggregation of the project scope, reviewing the historical record, and taking the time to get estimates from those doing the work can lead to poor estimates. 

Lack of Communication

Insufficient communication and coordination among project stakeholders, team members, or departments can contribute to schedule conflicts. Misunderstandings, delays in obtaining necessary information, or poor alignment of schedules can all lead to disputes. The transition of work products or artifacts from one task and organization to the next depending task or part of the organization. What does a good outcome of the effort look like to those receiving the work product?

External Factors (and Risks)

External factors beyond the project team's control, such as catastrophic weather conditions, regulatory changes, or supplier delays, can disrupt the project schedule and create conflicts. Some of these are not emergent but could have been predicted had we spent suitable time and focus on considering these external potentialities, which leads us to risk management.

Failure to identify and address potential risks can lead to unforeseen events that cause delays or conflicts in the project schedule. Risks such as technical difficulties, resource unavailability, or market changes should be proactively managed to minimize their impact on the schedule. These failures will require the team to connect project risks and metrics to evaluate whether the risk is moving from potentiality to certainty. Finally, our response (contingency plan) to schedule risks will only be as good as the quality and timeliness of the response to the threat.

Without contingency plans to address potential setbacks or delays, schedule conflicts can escalate. Unforeseen events or problems require proactive planning to mitigate their impact and minimize disruptions to the project timeline.

Schedule Maladies

It's important to note that these reasons for project schedule conflicts are not exhaustive, and each project will have unique challenges and factors contributing to scheduling conflicts. Effective project management practices, clear communication, and proactive risk mitigation can help reduce the occurrence and impact of disputes on project schedules.

It is also important to note that conflict is not always or necessarily bad. Unmanaged conflict is not good, but harnessing the conflict to create new things or new ways is an essential skill for the project manager and team members is a prerequisite to generating new and innovative ideas. Conflict taken seriously to resolve can generate new ideas that resolve the impasse.

Schedule conflicts and how are they resolved in the project management process understand in the article below from our contributors Quigley & Lauck.

Response to Schedule Conflict

Dealing with a project schedule conflict can be challenging, but there are several steps you can take to address and resolve the issue. Here's a suggested approach:

  1. Identify the conflict: Start by understanding the nature of the conflict. Is it a clash between two tasks that cannot be performed simultaneously? Is it a resource allocation problem? Or is it a dependency issue where one task is dependent on another?
  2.  Assess the impact: Determine the potential impact of the conflict on the project schedule, budget, project delivery date, and overall objectives. Evaluate the severity of the conflict and its consequences on other tasks or team members involved. We cannot solve every problem. Those schedule conflicts with significant impact are prioritized for resolution. 
  3. Communicate with stakeholders: Reach out to all relevant stakeholders, including project team members, sponsors, and clients, to inform them about the conflict. The team should clearly explain the situation, its potential impact, and any proposed solutions. Open and transparent communication is crucial to maintain trust and gathering input from those affected. 
  4. Analyze options: Brainstorm potential solutions or alternatives to resolve the conflict. Consider adjusting task priorities, allocating additional resources, extending deadlines, or reassigning tasks to different team members. Look for creative ways to mitigate the conflict while minimizing its impact on the project.
  5. Prioritize and negotiate: If multiple conflicts arise, prioritize them based on their impact and urgency. Collaborate with stakeholders to find mutually agreeable solutions. Negotiation may be necessary to balance competing demands and reach a consensus on the best action.
  6. Adjust the schedule: Once a resolution is agreed upon, update the project schedule accordingly. Make the necessary adjustments to task durations, dependencies, and resource allocations. Document the changes and communicate the revised schedule to all team members involved.
  7. Monitor and manage: Continuously monitor the project's progress to ensure the conflict has been resolved successfully. Keep an eye on the tasks affected by the conflict and their interdependencies. If any new conflicts arise or the implemented solution proves ineffective, be prepared to revisit the issue and repeat the process if necessary.


The project manager, teams, and executives should remember that resolving conflicts requires a collaborative and proactive approach. By involving stakeholders, seeking input, and exploring alternatives, you can effectively manage project schedule conflicts and keep your project on track. Repressing conflicts is often not a real solution.

This approach can have a significant adverse impact even when no apparent sign of a problem exists. Schedule performance is often one of the attributes by which the project is evaluated. It is also likely part of the client's evaluation of the success or failure of the project.

We advise the project manager to turn toward conflict rather than turn a blind eye. To hold the project manager position, one will need to develop conflict management skills continuously, including schedule conflict management.