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                                      Why do so many organisations and clients accept bad schedules?

                                      The need for effective planning and scheduling has been recognised for well over 100 years. Projects fail when they overrun the allocated time and budget and overrunning on schedule is a great way to make sure you also overrun on cost.

                                      The elements needed to enhance the probability of project success are also well known, starting with a skilled project manager and team, with the necessary knowledge, skills and experience.  The next layer of support to build success is making sure the ‘right’ PM tools, processes and methodologies are used; again these are hardly new:

                                      ·         Ensuring project stakeholders are managed; their expectations and/or perceptions are identified and managed, and their involvement sought as necessary;

                                      ·         The timely management of risk (threats & opportunities);

                                      ·         Ensuring alignment of outcomes to organisation strategy;

                                      ·         Scope and costs are identified and managed, and

                                      ·         Ensuring appropriate and effective, planning & scheduling

                                      Schedules are useful in two key areas; the schedule's primary purpose is communication not control; after all documents cannot ‘control’ anything! A useful schedule can influence decisions and actions by highlighting key decision points and the opportune time to make the decision. The second key area is coordination. Projects involve a range of different resources that need to work on the ‘right activities’ in the ‘right sequence’ to support the work of other resources and optimise the overall delivery of the project.

                                      Good schedules are capable of providing and assisting in coordination, control and stakeholder communication. But to be useful, schedules have to be technically correct, usable by the project team and used. This requires good planning, good scheduling and a culture within the organisation and project team that values effective time management. Whist culture is the key; no one will develop the habits and discipline needed to make use of a schedule if the schedules they are presented with are of a poor quality.

                                      Dr Dan Patterson has shown there is correlation between technically correct schedules and project outcomes (see: Proof of the blindingly obvious), this effect is likely to be enhanced if the schedule is ‘owned’ by the project management team, and building this ‘ownership’ is one of the key skills of a good project scheduler.

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                                      schedule_correlation.jpg

                                      So if you are a client, project sponsor, project review team member or portfolio manager, how can you test the quality of a project schedule before the project fails?  The ke is to ask the right questions!

                                       

                                      Q1: Is the scheduler qualified?

                                      There have been a range of certifications available for more than 5 years and new one emerging. The three most significant are:

                                      -         AACEi – PSP (Construction / Engineering / Claims)

                                      -         PMI PMI-SP (PMO Manager / Controls Manager)

                                      -         Guild of Project Controls (Multi faceted)

                                      These certifications focus on the skills of a planner and scheduler, not their technical understanding of software tools - it does not matter how skilled a ‘software-jockey’ is if the person does not understand what they are trying to achieve.

                                       

                                      Q2: Was the management team involved?

                                      Ask the project management team! If the project management team cannot be bothered to work on development of their schedule they will not be bothered to use the schedule to run the project:

                                      -         Is it their schedule?

                                      -         Do they really understand it???

                                      -         Who did the planning before starting on the schedule?

                                       

                                      Q3: Is the schedule technically correct?

                                      This is now the easiest element to check (and regular checking seems to drive improved technical performance). Use the available tools to run checks:

                                      -         Acumen Fuse;

                                      -         Schedule Analyzer;

                                      -         Schedule Inspector. 

                                      Use the free references:

                                      -         DCMA 14 Point schedule assessment (embedded in the tools);

                                      -         GAO Schedule Assessment Guide.  

                                       

                                      Q4: Is the schedule sensible?

                                      This is more difficult to assess and to a degree subjective. Elements to consider include:

                                      -         Is risk and uncertainty properly managed? If there is no consideration of risk the schedule will fail - no one can accurately predict the future.

                                      -         How was the risk modelling done?

                                      -         Is the level of detail appropriate for the current level of knowledge?

                                      -         What planning was done prior to starting schedule development?

                                      For major projects, an independent assessment may be worthwhile, one option is SCRAM.

                                       

                                      Q5: How are resources managed?

                                      This is only really important in the short term but if resources are not carefully considered in the schedule the document is simply a ‘wish-list’ (one option of effective resource management is schedule density).

                                       

                                      Asking these questions is one thing, providing adequate funding and support to allow the project team to create positive answers is another. When considering these options, remember:

                                      -         A good schedule will not guarantee project success; 

                                      -         But…… a bad schedule will guarantee project failure, particularly on complex projects!

                                       

                                      There’s no longer any excuse for bad schedules!

                                       

                                      All of the tools and resources mentioned above, plus a range of free resources, can be assessed from: www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Planning.html

                                      Comments

                                      Patrick, Bad scheduling is

                                      Patrick,

                                      Bad scheduling is accepted because the people produce the schedules and those who do the accepting can't tell the difference between the real thing and junk. Those people awho do the accepting are very often the owner's superintendent, who is often also the architect. This person, in this position, is the key person who could be the one, possibly the only one, who can apply some sort of criteria when it comes to acceptance. But they don't. Usually, they accept whatever is construction program/schedule is produced by a builder, even when they know, or should know, that the builder's knowledge, expertise, skills etc leave a lot to be desired. The bar is very low and no one in the building industry has any interest in raising it. Also, doing it properly costs money, and no one wants to pay for it.

                                      Standards For Construction Programming

                                      Builders and architects, and lawyers, are generally unaware of the existence of recognised standards and recommended practices, such as these:

                                      ·         Guide to Good Practice In The Management Of Time In Complex Projects, Chartered Institute Of Building (CIOB)

                                      ·         Practice Standard For Scheduling, The Project Management Institute (PMI)

                                      ·         PMI Practice Standard for Work Breakdown Structures—Second Edition (2006)

                                      ·         Recommended Practices, American Association of Cost Engineers (AACE)

                                      From The US Government Publishing Office

                                      http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/CFR-2010-title48-vol2/CFR-2010-title48-vol2-sec52-236-15

                                      ·         48CFR 52.236-15 Schedules for Construction Contracts (04/1984)

                                      From the Whole Building Design Guide, a program of the National Institute Of Building Sciences

                                      https://www.wbdg.org/ccb/browse_cat.php?c=3

                                      Standards developed by UNIFIED FACILITIES GUIDE SPECIFICATIONS (USA), used by USACE, NAVFAC, AFCESA, NASA:

                                      ·         UFGS-01 32 01.00 10 Project Schedule (02/2015)

                                      ·         UFGS-01 32 00.00 26 Construction Progress Documentation (07/2006)

                                      ·         UFGS-01 32 16.13 26 Network Analysis Schedules (07/2006)

                                      Standards developed by Department Of Veterans Affairs (USA):

                                      ·         VA 01 32 16.01 Architectural And Engineering CPM Schedules (01/11)

                                      ·         VA 01 32 16.13 Network Analysis Schedules

                                      ·         VA 01 32 16.15 Project Schedules (Small Projects - Design/Bid/Build) (04/2010)

                                      ·         VA 01 32 16.16 Network Analysis Schedules (Design-Build Only) (05/2012)

                                      ·         VA 01 32 16.17 Project Schedules (Small Projects - Design/Build) (04/2011)

                                      I have never seen a contract in Australia which references any of these or any standard at all.

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