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Guidelines for linking tasks in MS Project

How do you link tasks in MS Project? Does your schedule look like spaghetti? Then this post is exactly for you. We have the best guidelines for linking tasks in MS Project for you:

Our top 5 guidelines

To have a complete and correct network logic:

  1. A project has 1 start and 1 end – this will help MS Project to determine the critical path between these points
  2. No circular relationships are allowed in the schedule – just like a circular reference in Excel, you do not want your schedule to become inflexible
  3. As few as possible date constraints are set – constraints will be discussed later in this course but in short, these limit the dynamic character of your schedule
  4. Relationships are only allowed on lowest level tasks in the schedule (activities), not on summary tasks
  5. All tasks must have a successor and a predecessor (be linked on both sides)

Guidelines for linking tasks in MS Project1

Always remember…

  • …that your project schedule is a closed circuit, i.e. every task has a predecessor and every task has a successor. Tasks that are not part of the circuit are called ‘danglers’.
  • There are different types of relationships that can be used to link tasks. The different types can all occur in a schedule at the same time. These will be discussed in another blog post.
  • Do not try to link everything that might be a dependency. We do not want ‘spaghetti’ or a ‘bar code’ in our schedule. In case of a delay, we want good readability of the schedule to track back what caused the delay all the way back to where it starts.

Task modes

MS Project 2013/2016 has two scheduling (task) modes: manual and automatic. Manual means that the user schedules by determining start and finish dates; in automatic mode MS Project does the scheduling. Automatic scheduling mode is required for a dynamic schedule. Therefore, it is not recommended to use manually scheduled tasks.

For example, this is how tasks look by automatic schedulling:

Guidelines for linking tasks in MS Project2

This is how tasks look by manual scheduling:

Guidelines for linking tasks in MS Project3

Experienced schedulers might argue that there are reasons why deviating from these guidelines is justified. Follow your own instinct in this recognizing that the end goal is a dynamic schedule.
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