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Scheduling Complexity

Only three things happen naturally in organizations;
friction, confusion and under performance. Everything else requires leadership.

Peter Drucker

Keywords: Controls, Scheduling, Complexity. 

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Scheduling Complexity   [P187]

No matter how sophisticated the software of how complex the project schedule is, no project schedule can foretell the future.  Project planners and schedulers are not oracles (even if they use Primavera).

Many projects finish late, disputes over contract delays are commonplace and the trend is getting worse. The response by owners has been to increase penalty payments for delayed completion, demand highly detailed schedules and frequently draft contract clauses that make changing the schedule difficult. All of these tactics have failed to change the steadily worsening trends in delayed completion. And as the apparent ability of contractors to manage time declines, the projects they are being asked to manage are becoming increasingly larger and more complex.  Without a paradigm shift in thinking, the only people who will benefit from these trends will be the lawyers and the claims experts.  But there are alternatives!

Research by the CIOB, adopted in part by the USA GAO offers a totally different approach to managing the use of the available time within a contract! Rather than setting up a schedule to record failure and support claims, the CIOB advocate a layered approach to time management that focuses on adapting behaviours to overcome problems and does not waste time developing esoteric detail. Unless you know exactly who will be doing the work, the methodology they will use and how ‘good’ they are; creating a detailed schedule is an arcane exercise, guaranteed to be wrong.  The concept of schedule density advocates developing an overall ‘time budget’ for the project, resolving tactical problems for work in the current year and only expanding the schedule to the level of detail needed for effective control of the workforce within the current 3 month timeframe.

This paper précis the work of the CIOB and offer practical suggestions for the improvement of time management within the Australian context, including the professionalization of the scheduling discipline.

When applied effectively, a proactive scheduling process can be a powerful influence on future behaviours and contribute significantly to project success. It is worth the investment!

Author:  Patrick Weaver

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