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Introduction to Planning and Scheduling - Basic Checklist to a Quality Schedule

 

Planning and the subsequent scheduling form part of the project controls set of critical tools that facilitate the success of the project as measured in terms of cost, time and quality.

 

Without a plan project success is immediately compromised. It is as if being asked by a client to climb the Everest and immediately rushing off to accomplish the feat, without having properly thought about it. And so off we set at the base of the mountain without a plan, the how to do it: what resources and in what quantities will be needed, how long will it take – and what will be the rate of travel distance covered, what will be the mitigation strategies should there be setbacks or unforeseen circumstances, etc.

 

As can be appreciated from the above example it would be madness to attempt to climb the Everest without a carefully detailed and well thought out plan first. Yet this is unfortunately precisely how many project teams go about business only to be later confused and puzzled as to why the project is suffering cost and time overruns coupled with quality issues.

 

So if the plan is the how to do it, then what is the schedule? This is the time scaled graphical representation of the various activities needed to achieve the project.

 

Now, while most construction teams will develop a schedule it frequently ends up dusty and forgotten. At best a document that’ll be reported and casually glanced at once a month. And there’s good reason for this attitude: those that would benefit from the use of the schedule as a tool primarily either have no confidence in the validity of the schedule or the schedule has an inappropriate level of detail.

 

Below listed are some flags for assessing the quality of a CPM schedule. It is to be noted the below flags are in some instances subjective. There’s always more than one way to do anything and scheduling is no exception. Nonetheless this should provide a good guide to evaluate quickly the quality of a schedule.

 

1.       Incomplete logic. This is the very first thing that should be looked at. All activities with the exception of the first and last should have a predecessor and successor. A schedule that has activities without predecessors or successors is indicative of a poor quality schedule.

 

2.       Convoluted logic. Schedule logic for the most part should be fairly straightforward and flow harmoniously throughout with preferably finish to start (FS) relationships. The over use of lags, either positive or negative, signals poor logic, lack of intermediate defining activities or activities artificially shifted to meet certain dates.

 

3.       Activity durations. Another item to watch out for. Often times one will encounter schedules with unnaturally long activity durations. Activities where possible as a rough rule of thumb should be no longer than the reporting period. Schedules which contain numerous instances of activities with relatively long durations are indicative of lack of detail. These activities should be broken into smaller activities with the corresponding logic.

 

4.       Calendar. It’s somewhat amusing in a way to find a schedule, especially one that’s been used for some time, with either the wrong project calendar altogether or with some of the activities using incorrectly differing calendars. For example some activities using a 5 day calendar while others using a 7 day calendar.

 

5.       WBS. Ideally the cost breakdown and schedule breakdown should follow the same structure. It is important to note though that the schedule will often times have more detail than the cost breakdown, meaning that there will not be a one to one relationship between each cost activity and schedule activity. Rather it’ll follow a one to many relationship. The important thing is that both breakdown structures at some level are identical.

 

Attempting to force a cost breakdown directly into a schedule without additional detail is a bit like fitting a square into a circle. At the same time at some level higher than activity level it is necessary for both the schedule breakdown and cost breakdown to be identical, otherwise earned value management becomes difficult if not impossible.

Planning and Scheduling and QA Checklist

Communication

The importance of good communication. Or telepathy as the alternate!

An “armchair scheduler” or frontline messenger?

Why Project Controls

Selected Articles

A necessary document to support and explain the cost estimate: How did you arrive at that number?

Basis of Estimate
Meetings

Love them or hate them. How to conduct successful productive meetings.

Funny, but true. Video on the functions of Project Controls.

Enjoy!

Settings do matter: pick the wrong settings and your schedule’s output will be meaningless.

What the text books didn’t tell you
Primavera P6 Settings
Video - Project Controls

Selected Articles

Tips on Scheduling

50% Science, 50% Art, 100% Communication

Why Project Controls?

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