While there will always be a place for scheduling in construction, it rarely gives a true picture of what is actually happening on the ground, as cloud-based project management firm VisiLean explains
When was the last time you visited the site and the neat print of the project schedule put up on the board at the site office showed an accurate picture of what was happening on site?
The fact of the matter is simple: construction schedules rarely highlight the true picture of work being executed.
Can we do without schedules?
Before you decide to skip this article altogether, let’s make things clearer: we are not saying project schedules aren’t needed, or that we can do without schedules at all.
Schedules are necessary and do have a critical role to play in projects. Schedules define the timeframe for the project, and accordingly, the work breakdown structure and the sequence of activities that need to be done.
Planners start with the project master plan, defining the key milestones and critical activities that need utmost attention to minimise the overall risk.
This definition helps the supply chain to be aware of what needs to be delivered when, from design to the vendors and consultants.
That being said, scheduling does not help in defining the coordination between the resources and the supply chain in any way, and so, left alone, the schedule only does half the job needed.
Construction project scheduling and planning are not the same thing.
Planning is more than scheduling activities
It is a known fact that construction projects rarely deliver as scheduled. Studies have reported that just 25% of projects came within 10% of their original deadlines in the past three years.
These schedules are made based on past experiences and productivity assumptions, overlooking many factors that affect the project execution; factors that make each project unique.
Yet, the planners operate in silos incessantly spending critical time with Gantt charts, updating baselines, and rescheduling the tasks to revise the “critical activities” daily.
“While the push-based schedule is necessary for overall work structuring, it is essential to pull the right info from your teams to define the flow of activities”
What happens when the project hits the site?
Once the project kicks off, site issues and constraints lead to revisions and delays that start a vicious cycle of schedule updates and never-ending baseline revisions.
The foremen on-site are not clear about the work to be done, or if the resources will be available when the time comes.
Project managers are constantly working with planners to show a “realistic” picture of the status of the project to the stakeholders.
Input vs output
While the planners have the maximum involvement in defining the sequence of work, they have minimum information on the contextual input needed from the project team about the actual progress and challenges on-site.
On the other hand, while the site teams have maximum information about site conditions and their experience in the field, they have minimum involvement in planning.
This is the biggest challenge of top-down planning; how can we expect planners to make realistic schedules?
The push and the pull
While the push-based schedule is necessary for overall work structuring, it is equally essential to pull the right information from your teams to truly define the flow of activities to be executed.
Teams executing the work can provide critical insights and this can help achieve a balance between the defined targets and their realistic achievements.
With this clarity, teams can collaborate to ensure those targets are met; milestones are not achieved by defining them on a piece of paper.
Rather, they are achieved when the teams have clarity on the work to be executed and the challenges that can hinder the delivery of the job.
Build in Digital Stakeholder VisiLean delivers cloud-based project management software for construction that enables real-time communication and collaboration between teams.
- Improve your construction project planning and scheduling processes by booking a demo with the specialised VisiLean team here
Read next: Energy developer unveils plans for 80MW wind farm in Wales
Are you a building professional? Sign up for a FREE MEMBERSHIP to upload news stories, post job vacancies, and connect with colleagues on our secure social feed.