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.