Planning the planning

Developing an effective schedule for a complex project is an art. The schedule has to be an effective communication medium at many different levels:

  • Communicating strategy and the overall concepts of the project to senior management (ideally on one page)
  • Providing direction to managers within the project on what’s required of their section (eg, design or procurement)
  • Coordinating issues between sections
  • Providing details of the work to be done this week by maybe 2000+ people.

The Guide to Good Practice in the Effective Management of Time in Complex Construction Projects (CIOB, publication mid 2010) invokes two concepts to achieve this task. The first is the idea of ‘schedule density’ discussed in my November ’09 post. The final draft of the standard maintains the recommendations of planning the overall project at ‘low density’, expand the work for the next 9 months to ‘medium density’ and the next 3 months at ‘high density’.

The second concept is the idea of schedule levels, potentially aligned to a WBS. The schedule levels in the standard are very similar in definition to those in Mosaic’s Planning White Paper, ‘Schedule Levels’ this means the CIOB standard is generally aligned with long established practices pioneered by Bechtel, Flour and other major contractors.

Melding these two ideas into a plan for the management of schedules on a major project is not so straightforward, particularly once the role of individual contractors is taken into account. The diagram below, Figure 7 in the final draft, shows one possible solution:

CIOB Schedule Levels / WBS

CIOB Schedule Levels / WBS

Using dynamic linking between the different schedules in the coloured boxes the intent of both levels and density can be accommodated.

If this is achieved, the project schedule should change from a static tool used as evidence in disputes after the event to a proactive management tool focused on achieving the best possible time for completion of the project. Which was after all, the reason CIOB started on this task and why many volunteers from around the world (including me) have been happy to contribute time and resources.

Even if you are not in the construction industry, this standard will be a valuable resource – watch this space for news of its publication!

One response to “Planning the planning

  1. Pingback: Getting Back to Scheduling Basics…. | Catapult Systems

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