I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by. –Douglas Adams, English author
Let’s begin our discussion by saying that the construction schedule is like the Bible for many project managers. Why so? It serves as the starting point of actual fact and guidebook for a construction project. With such importance, how can construction managers ensure the schedule is accurate as possible? In this blog, we are going to present some helpful scheduling tips that construction managers can incorporate when building the construction project schedule.
What are the benefits of scheduling?
Beyond making sure the project ends up with a well-constructed, safe building, a well-planned schedule can achieve a number of other positive outcomes for the owner and contractor.
- Scheduling saves time and overhead costs by utilizing available resources accordingly. Delays are reduced as much as possible in an industry where the surrounding environment can sometimes work against a schedule, no matter how well-planned.
- Scheduling keeps you from playing things by ear, redoing work or producing issues that might have been sidestepped.
- Scheduling allows you to play to your team’s strengths and avoid their weaknesses and afford time to be a bit more innovative in how you reach your goals.
Gather all the information
There is nothing more perishable than an airline seat – unless it is time on a project. — Joy Gumz, project management consultant
“Knowledge is power,” goes the saying. So, make this your catch phrase in putting together your project schedule. Do not neglect details. Even the smallest ones. They might seem useless at the time, but they may have a large impact at a certain point in the project.
Ask questions. At the outset, there may still be numerous decisions that owners and designers have not yet made. It’s important that the construction project manager ask questions and, then, ask more questions. The more details the project manager gathers at the beginning, the easier it is putting together the schedule. Much of the time wasted in project scheduling is waiting on answers to questions that probably could have been asked and answered upfront. Asking questions and receiving answers in a timely fashion will help any project manager create a workable schedule
Make sure team members understand schedules and deadlines before launch.
You can spend countless hours putting together what you believe to be the absolutely perfect schedule but doing so without the input of team members just might prove fruitless. If you involve team members from the get-go, there will be no alibis or apologies when the final project schedule is set. If your team senses they were a critical part of the schedule planning process, they will feel more accountable to the schedule they help to set.
Tip: Avoid using too many specific date constraints on tasks. When a schedule change occurs, you will have to edit every task going forward with such date constraints. That’s too much labor. Try using the “as soon as possible” task type. Likewise, the “no earlier than” and “no later than” approach can still allow for some dynamic schedule changes.
Use milestones as targets
Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating the talents of those who work for us and pointing them towards a certain goal” — Walt Disney
Project managers should use milestones in the actual project schedule at regular intervals.
A project milestone is a management tool that is used to define a specific point in a project schedule. These points might note the start and finish of a project or mark the completion of a major phase of work.
If a milestone fixes on major progress points in a project, you can see how it is useful in scheduling. Just as tasks break a sizeable project into more manageable parts, milestones break off chunks of a project to make it less intimidating.
Milestones are an excellent technique in helping other stakeholders understand how your project is progressing, even if they don’t grasp any of the detailed tasks. You can track progress by looking at how many milestones you have hit on time. It’s actually something that project stakeholders are fond of because they don’t have to look at all the details on your plan.
Another great reason to use milestones is that they notify everyone when the team has achieved something. You’ve completed a phase or delivered a key part of the project. That’s worth celebrating!
One more thing. Don’t set yourself up for failure by agreeing to unrealistic milestones. As you begin to miss milestones, it’s important to address the underlying issues as early as possible and make the necessary adjustments to your schedule.
Monitor and update regularly
The most efficient way to live reasonably is every morning make a plan of one’s day and every night to examine the results obtained – Alexis Carrel, French Nobel Prize winner
Project managers should not create the schedule at the beginning and then simply let it go. Because it is the Bible for project execution, the manager should monitor and update it regularly to see how certain activities are progressing. Did certain tasks take longer than expected? Were certain activities started earlier?
Remember, the schedule is a living document that the manager should update and share regularly. Many times, subcontractors do not receive adjustments to the schedule. As such, they scramble in the event of delays or accelerated schedules.
Know your limitations
Project managers function as bandleaders who pull together their players, each a specialist with individual score and internal rhythm. Under the leader’s direction, they all respond to the same beat. — L.R. Sayles, author
Most people are prone to taking on much more than they can handle. Too many projects are doomed to fail from the beginning because of unrealistic expectations. Setting unreasonable deadlines and assigning too much work to your crew will surely result in sloppy work and missed timelines.
Mistakes and late work can throw your project schedule off course, necessitating patch-up work, timeline extensions and a frustrated team.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we can take on anything and just ‘make it work’, but the truth is we can’t always do that and the last thing we want is for our project clients and team to suffer as a result of poor forethought and planning on our part
Anticipate project setbacks
Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there. — Will Rogers
No project is risk-free. Crossing your fingers and hoping for the best isn’t doing you any favors. Even the best laid plans will go awry. Remember that even with a high amount of schedule planning, your construction project will encounter warning signs, like a missed deadline or cost overrun, indicating there might be a problem.
Involve your team in the planning process. The people performing the work have important insights into how tasks get done, how long they’ll take, and who’s the best person to tackle them. Draw on their knowledge! You’ll need them to agree with the project schedule and set expectations for work to run smoothly.
Locate the non-negotiables
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail – Benjamin Franklin
Concrete can only cure so fast and paint can’t be applied till the walls have dried. These are just two examples of potential non-negotiables that have little, if any, room for variance in your schedule. That’s why it’s highly advantageous for the construction project manager to locate these non-negotiable items so he/she can determine how much variance should be allowed.
These non-negotiables should be the first things that have scheduled time allocated to them. Basically, they require no time estimate since they have no variance. After they’ve been identified, make sure everyone knows this list. They can even help serve as milestones.
Invest in Software
If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first four hours sharpening the axe – Abraham Lincoln
Construction projects are particularly complex and frequently stretch over a lengthy period. In other words, they’re a scheduling nightmare. There tends to be more marks to reach and keep track of, from safety to municipal codes and much more. So, how do you make a complicated project achievable? With construction scheduling software, of course.
Tracking tasks, strategies and resources of a schedule in an Excel document is a grueling undertaking. Project managers can relieve themselves of the manual entry and likelihood of miscalculations by investing in a construction management-with-scheduling software.
This investment will help automate many of the tasks as well as boost transparency across the organization. No longer is the project schedule trapped in an Excel document on the project manager’s computer. Now, all team members can access their schedules from anywhere, so reminders are just a click away.
Construction scheduling programs heighten your project efficiency, enhance teamwork among your work crew, add to the overall quality of the work and help keep tabs on your spending. And that holds true if you’re building a large barn for a dairy farm or a mall store in a large urban center, because a first-rate construction scheduling tool will adapt to the scope of your work.
How do you know if you need construction scheduling software? If you are working on anything beyond the simplest building project, you would likely benefit from using scheduler software.
Remember, however, that a construction project schedule isn’t just about tasks. To get those tasks performed, you need resources, and these, too, must be scheduled. With the right schedule maker software, construction work is no longer inflexible. You and your crew have greater accessibility to data when it’s online, regardless of where you are or what time of day or night it is.
You can look at resources as the opposite side of the scheduling coin, and you need a construction software tool that can seamlessly manage your resources and your work schedule. There are numerous features to look for in construction resource scheduling tools, among the most popular being online timesheets, resource allocation, workload balancing and management, work schedules and calendars, availability tracking and reports.
For example, an online tool for resource allocation can automatically notify workers of exactly when and where they are needed. This way, you can get rid of some of your most annoying meetings.
Tip: If you are not very tech savvy, and your project isn’t that big, a simple to-do list can also be a great scheduling tool. Prioritize your most important tasks by putting them at the top of the list and less important ones at the bottom. Having a visual plan of your daily tasks help keep you on track and aware of time.
Staying on-schedule can be a fragile and mind-numbing process. It requires attention to detail and dedicated performance tracking. With practice, anyone can become a master scheduler. However, by following these simple steps outlined above, even the greenest construction project managers can make a project stay on-schedule.
For help in putting together a construction project schedule, don’t hesitate to contact PDDM Solutions.