How can you handle unrealistic schedules (or estimates) set by stakeholders without project team involvement?
Seriously, if the question is stating that without team involvement than Project Manager alone cannot do it. But if team involvement is an option then what he can do to involve team is 1. Talk to the stakeholders about the deadlines based on the work remaining and duration available. 2. Talk to the team and motivate them for the work to be done 3. Come up with some realistic estimates based on the input from team and get a buyin from the stakeholders. 4. Cut down on scope. 5. Put in more resources.
What formal estimating methods does your organization use or encourage? How can formal estimating methods be encouraged or "enforced?" Is there any place for a SWAG or just winging it (instead of formally estimating)?
This is the question that I have always asked the team members and I am asked when I am the team member. Since the person working on task will have better understanding of the task and estimates. One of the project management methodology that I have been part of was SCRUM and the planning was done as required on a daily basis. very interesting concept and successful too for projects with lot of unknowns especially small IT projects.
What problems are introduced or exacerbated by scheduling activities "just in time" or "finish to finish?"
I found that planning project items finish-to-finish can create unrealistic schedule if time for completion is chosen based on a non-critical path. It’s also possible that a critical path at the time of the original estimate has become non-critical somewhere in the middle of the project because of resource allocations or other things that were not known or under-estimated at the time of the original project planning.
This can be a side-effect of normal practice to focus on the critical path project items that can leave other project items stagnating for resources which may result in delays with these project items making one of them new critical path. To deal this issue it’s recommended to review project plan items periodically to assess and if necessary re-assign the critical path