Monthly Archives: October 2009

Earned Value, Courting the Law

Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least, but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises. From the first chapter in the novel Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Jarndyce and Jarndyce is a fictional court case in Chancery but there is another court case that almost fits Dickens’ morbid description………

The A-12 “Avenger II” was to be a carrier-based stealth attack aircraft for the US Navy that has been in the courts since 1991. The plaintiffs (McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics – since acquired by Boeing and Lockheed Martin respectively) sued for relief after the Navy terminated the A-12 development contract for default.

Based on the contractor’s Earned Value analysis that showed ‘catastrophic’ cost and schedule problems on this complex, multi-billion $ fixed price incentive contract, the then Sec. of Defense Dick Cheney withdrew his support for the program.

Wayne Abba was selected by the Department of Justice/Navy litigation team as a fact witness who could have an opinion about the EVM data because he had not been involved in the Government’s decision making process. Wayne testified in the 5th trial after the appellate court agreed with the government that performance (or lack thereof) was indeed an issue. His testimony helped set the stage for a reversal by the trial judge from his prior 4 decisions – a reversal that has been upheld by appellate courts since, most recently in June 2009; with further pleadings this month.

As Dickens continued…. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce without knowing how or why…… Fair wards of court have faded into mothers and grandmothers; a long procession of Chancellors has come in and gone out; the legion of bills in the suit have been transformed into mere bills of mortality; …… but Jarndyce and Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the court, perennially hopeless.

This is an important decision for anyone involved in the proactive management of projects. If the US Governments position holds, reliable predictive data that clearly shows a ‘catastrophe’ in the making will allow project owners to take pre-emptive steps to protect their position. If the plaintiff contractors eventually prevail, the only safe option for owners will be to wait for the train wreck then try to pick up the pieces.

Hopefully we won’t have to wait another 18 years for an answer……….

Advances in Project Schedule Management

In 2007/2008, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) undertook a survey of the state of time management in the UK construction industry. The findings painted a dismal picture of the current state of planning and scheduling with low usage of CPM schedules, minimal updating and almost no proactive forward management (download report summary). On a more general basis, the construction and engineering industries were at the forefront of effective time management through the 1960s, 70s and 80s (along with defense industries) which would suggest other areas of business management such as IT are unlikely to be better situated.

Based on these findings, the CIOB believes that it is essential to educate both project planners and schedulers in construction time management best practice with an aim to reduce the incidence of delayed completion on construction projects. To achieve this, the CIOB have adopted a three-phase strategy to provide the required standards of performance in effective time control:

  • Phase 1
    The education training and accreditation of project schedulers, including:

    • The development of a ‘Guide to Good Practice in Project Programming and Scheduling’.
    • The production of an educational framework for current and future project schedulers.
    • The accreditation of qualifications in time management.
    • The dissemination of the Guide to other professions in the industry.
  • Phase 2
    The promotion of amendments to standard forms of contract to facilitate effective time management.
  • Phase 3
    The education training and accreditation of project planners.

Download the CIOB’s policy Statement.

Phase 1.1, the development of the Guide, is nearing completion. The provisional draft of the Guide is nearly ready for public comment and feedback.

I have had the privilege to be part of the team working on the development of the Guide and believe it is a major advance on anything currently available. Whilst focused on construction/engineering, the skills of effective planning and scheduling are highly transferable. Consequently, when published, the guide will be a valuable resource for PMO Managers and schedulers in most industries.

More information shortly……

Schedule Float

Scheduling has lost a lot of float in the last few years! And arguably the practice of scheduling is sinking…..

The Loss of Float!

Are the two phenomena connected? Is this a total disaster or largely irrelevant??

As part of my research for the new CIOB scheduling guide, I have been digging through some old books and resources from the 1960s and 70s. 40 years ago, float was a far more sophisticated concept compared to today but how significant is this loss of insight?

You are invited to read the discussion paper ‘Schedule Float’ and then comment on this blog.

The Effective Management of Time in Complicated Construction Projects

The CIOB is finalising the publication of ‘The Guide to Good Practice in the Effective Management of Time in Complex Construction Projects’ with a public consultation period planned before Christmas leading to publication in 2010.

The primary purpose of this Guide is to set down the standards of project scheduling necessary to facilitate the effective and competent management of time in construction projects by defining the standard by which project schedules will be prepared, quality controlled, updated, reviewed and revised in practice.

Before embarking on the guide, the CIOB conducted a survey between December 2007 and January 2008 of the state of time management in a range of UK construction projects. The outcome of the survey was surprising. On simple construction projects, the range of outcomes (late, on time, early) were more or less the same regardless of the use or non-use of effective time management processes.

However, as the projects became more complicated, the difference between projects with an effective time management system and those without became significantly more noticeable. Projects with a well defined time management system were far more successful than those without!

The definition of simple and complicated derived from this study is:

  • Simple Projects comprise those in which construction has the following characteristics:
    • design work is completed before construction starts;
    • single building or repetition of identical buildings;
    • less than 5 stories high;
    • without below-ground accommodation;
    • carried out to a single completion date;
    • without phased possessions or access;
    • with services not exceeding single voltage power, lighting, telephone, hot and cold water and heating;
    • a construction period of less than 9 months;
    • with a single contractor; and
    • with less than 10 sub-contracts.
  • Complex Projects comprise those in which construction comprises, one or more of the following characteristics:
    • design work is to be completed during construction
    • more than one building
    • more than 5 stories high
    • with below-ground accommodation
    • with multiple key dates and/or sectional completion dates
    • with multiple possessions or access dates
    • with short possessions
    • with services exceeding single voltage power, lighting, telephone, hot and cold water and heating.
    • accompanied by work of civil engineering character
    • a construction period greater than 12 months
    • with multiple contractors
    • with more than 20 sub-contracts

This opens the question why? I would suggest the likely answer, transferable to any project and any industry, is in two parts; both related to stakeholders and communication.

The initial benefit of the process of developing the schedule on a complicated project is the insights the act of creating the schedule gives to the project management team. It is impossible to effectively communicate to the project team and other stakeholders what has to be done when if the project management group don’t have a very clear idea themselves.

‘Simple projects’ are small enough and routine enough to be mapped out in an experienced managers mind. The person intuitively knows what needs to be done. As the project becomes more complex the analysis and serial decision making inherent in the schedule development process creates insights, new information and allows the testing hypothesis until an acceptable solution is devised. At the end of the planning process, a way forward has been determined, optimised and agreed.

The greater benefit though is likely to be in the area of coordination and communication during the work of the project. No schedule is ever perfectly correct. But having an agreed schedule that everyone works towards achieving minimises coordination issues and as elements of the work occur out of alignment with the schedule, the schedule and the variance information provide the foundation for proactive discussion and decision making.

A final intangible benefit of having a schedule has been identified in new research by Jon Whitty. It would appear that simply having a schedule is important for the credibility of the project manager. The project manager’s managers expect the PM to have a schedule and consequently give more credibility to communications from the PM if the schedule is present.

The challenge facing both PMs and their managers as a consequence of these findings is to determine for their industry the difference between simple projects where minimal systems are needed and complicated project where not having a reasonably sophisticated system to help manage time, and other elements of the project, is a distinct liability.

It would seem size does matter! And the old saying ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ really only applies to the larger more complicated projects. 

Mosaic has developed a range of papers on the art and science of planning and scheduling available from Mosaic’s Planning and Scheduling Home Page.