Project Management – A different method for project schedule management: Together, not separately

Project Management – A different method for project schedule management: Together, not separately

First, let’s define our “playground”:

Site: Construction and infrastructures projects.
Participants:
Project Owner – The entity initiating and financing the project.
Project Manager – The entity responsible for managing all project aspects – SOW, plans, SOW updates, schedules, budget, payment, Quality Control, interfaces with infrastructure companies such as the Electric Corporation or communication companies, and more.
Contractor – The entity executing the project based on all of the plans and guidelines defined by the project manager and entrepreneur under the tender documents and contract.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT - HOW DO MANY CURRENT PROJECTS MANAGE THEIR SCHEDULES?

As part of the project management effort, the project owner appoints a scheduling consultant. The consultant accompanies the project owner through all stages of project initiation, devising a schedule outline (Skeletal Schedule) and defining the milestones. The milestones will be published in the tender. In Project Schedule Management: The five steps in Project Schedule Life Cycle –  this relates to steps 1 and 2.

When the contractor wins the tender, it appoints a scheduling consultant on its behalf (it is usually a requirement included in the contract). The contractor, along with the scheduling consultant, are required to prepare a detailed schedule and present it to the project owner and its respective scheduling consultant. In Project Schedule Management: The five steps in Project Schedule Life Cycle – this relates to step 3.
In large scale projects, the schedule will consist of hundreds, even thousands, of tasks.

At this point, where the contractor submits the detailed schedule, the project owner’s scheduling consultant and the project manager review it and return it with remarks. The contractor receives the remarks, corrects several items, responds to others and even rejects a few, and resubmits an amended schedule to the project manager. The scheduling consultant and project manager review the new schedule and, once again, present their remarks. This process goes on, again and again, for months and involves, for many, a great deal of emotion, yelling and arguments. The Objective – Finalizing a basic schedule, which, in most cases, is not achieved. This situation is similar to an unfriendly game of table tennis with painful slam dunks or to a boxing ring, with or without gloves.

Using this method I saw projects that managed to reach a basic schedule within 6 or 8 months, but quite a few failed to achieve any basic schedule.

Once the basic schedule was agreed, the parties can make updates. In Project Schedule Management: The five steps in Project Schedule Life Cycle – this relates to step 4. These updates are one-sided updates. They are very easy to perform, since the contractor tells its scheduling consultant only what it wants in the schedule and the latter simply writes it down and submits it to the project manager and the project owner’s scheduling consultant. Will the project manager and scheduling consultant agree with the contractor? Of course not! So will they agree to accept the contractor’s updates? (Why am I asking rhetorical questions?!)

Finally… When the project is completed, probably late (like most projects), what then? In Project Schedule Management: The five steps in Project Schedule Life Cycle – this relates to step 5 – claims and counterclaims where each party has a scheduling expert on its behalf and the court appoints an arbitrator who is a scheduling expert – and “let the games begin”.

A different method for project schedule management: Together, not separately

PROJECT MANAGEMENT: HOW IS IT DONE?

Yes. Yes. Working together.

 

The basic idea: Each project has a scheduling consultant and all meetings are conducted together with the project manager, contractor and consultant

 

The Objective: The schedule is always a dynamic and realistic work plan that accurately describes the project. This way, both parties – the project manager and contractor, agree to its content and the consultant approves the schedule.

 

The tool: The schedule is not intended for storytelling, presenting wishes, thoughts or interpretation. It is a document containing facts. A schedule contains “The sun rose at 5:45”. It does not describe it as a joyous, sad or satisfactory occasion.

Question: How can I know all of the technical rules? Isn’t there something that can check the technical aspects for me?

Answer: Today we have HCP Go, HCP’s Project addon. With one click, you can analyze your schedule file – and get a free report with your results!

PROJECT MANAGEMENT: HOW IS IT DONE?

Option 1: Change by the Project Owner:

It all begins with the tender documents. The project owner defines the work method in the scheduling appendix of the tender documents.

The contractor is initially required to prepare a detailed schedule, simply because, when the schedule is prepared, it truly makes one think and deeply understand the project.

Once the contractor submits the detailed schedule, the related meetings are conducted jointly by the project manager, contractor and scheduling consultant. They read each line of the schedule, approve it or raise an issue relating to that specific line and discuss it. They probably argue about it until reaching a solution, which is then entered to the schedule as a task with a duration, predecessor tasks, successor tasks, resources and anything else that is needed. They then go on to the next line.

This often requires several meetings, each going on for 3, 4, 5 or 6 hours. The result? A basic schedule agreed by both parties.

The schedule is put through HCP-Go and the results are reviewed together: What are the critical paths? What are the hidden critical paths? Does it make sense to everyone? If so – Excellent. If not – Why not?

Applying the same method, the project manager, contractor and scheduling consultant meet once a month (or any other period defined in the tender documents) for several hours (and, if that is not enough, then schedule another meeting). Once again, they go over the lines containing the tasks that should have been executed and, together, they update what happened over that month. The update is based on facts. X occurred on Y. Followed by the execution of Z. Tasks and dates. After completing the update, the schedule is put through HCP-Go and the results are reviewed together. If necessary, the jointly decided changes are made (every change has implications, both in terms of execution and in terms of the budget).

Option 2: Change by the Contractor.

 

The contractor, experienced with the method, approaches the project owner and project manager, suggesting that they work on the schedule together, with a single consultant. If they agree, the process is identical to that presented in Option 1.

MANAGING THE PROJECT AND THE SCHEDULE TOGETHER: WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF THE METHOD?

  • The great advantage is: Reliability. When schedules are updated by both parties – the project manager and contractor, they must both agree to each detail. They each protect their own interests and provide “checks and balances” for the other side; in case someone decides to do “something funny” with the schedule.
  • Another great advantage is: Establishing trust between the parties. When a project begins, the two parties – the project manager and contractor – do not trust each other, each operating on the assumption that the other party is trying to “get the better of them”. By working on the schedule together, they discover predictable issues and devise a solution together. This is a trust-building effort and, what a surprise, it enables the work to progress!
  • The schedule defines reality in a manner that is acceptable to both parties.
  • Everyone knows where the project issues are at the same time – at which tasks and what must be done to solve them.

MANAGING THE PROJECT AND THE SCHEDULE TOGETHER: WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF THE METHOD?

  • There is one clear disadvantage: Time. This method requires both the project manager and the contractor to invest a great deal of time and effort in the schedule. The reason: They argue about (almost) every line. Each party wants to present its perspective and define the schedule in a manner that is most beneficial to it, each protecting their respective interests. Matters like these are only solved after discussing and settling the issues.
  • Scheduling, in general, and specifically this method, require concentration, patience and time. Be sure to make beverages, cold and hot, available to the participants, along with snacks (healthy… 😊) and a lot.
  • Maturity: One of the managers said – “This method requires maturity, both of the project owner and the contractor”. This method is suitable only for people who intend to do the work, to raise issues and solve them. It is not for people who enjoy fighting all day.
  • Lying and cheating is not an option with this method. Since we are all sitting together and each party understands the issues, lies are quickly discovered. You cannot report that something happened – when it didn’t. You cannot say that a plan was approved – when it wasn’t. You cannot say that a task was completed – when it wasn’t. Each party can tell (or, to be more precise, scream and yell) when the other party is lying.
  • It’s very easy to identify dishonesty among those at the table. It’s so simple because, it is the same entity that – when something goes wrong – gets up and thwarts the meeting. If a question arises relating to a task and someone starts yelling and leaves – that’s a clear indication that he/she has a problem providing an answer as he/she is clearly the cause of the scheduling problem. That is a disadvantage for that entity. On the other hand, it is also a great advantage.

MANAGING THE PROJECT AND THE SCHEDULE TOGETHER: WHAT ABOUT CLAIMS?

That is one of the most interesting points but, to answer it, let me first ask you: When do people sue? The answer: When they feel that they have a case, solid grounds for their arguments.
What happens when you devise and update a schedule together?
Each party is familiar with the issues derived of the other party but, even more so, each party is familiar with the project issues derived of its actions (or lack thereof). As such, disputes are resolved more rapidly. When we accept our weaknesses, as well as our strengths – we don’t rush into court. It’s amazing how quickly matters are settled through a fair conversation between the parties.

MANAGING THE PROJECT AND THE SCHEDULE TOGETHER: ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS

  • Question: Can the contractor bring its scheduling consultant to meetings?

Answer: Of course! Usually, 1 or 2 meetings are enough to realize that there is no need for another consultant. But if they want to, why not?

  • Question: Who pays the consultant’s fee?
    Answer: When the project owner defines the method, it is usually the project owner who bears the consultant’s fee. If the contractor provides the consultant and proposes the method, the cost is often divided between the contractor and project owner.
  • Question: Did it work in any project?
  • Answer: Absolutely. It worked (and works) in dozens of projects. The credit for success in these projects is due to all of the people who worked on them and applied this method – the project owner, project manager and contractor.
    • The Highway 50 project in Jerusalem (Begin South), a mega project consisting of seven projects with three (3) project management companies and five (5) contractors. The project won the PMI Project of the Year award in 2015, as well as the IACIE (Israeli Association of Construction & Infrastructure Engineers) award of excellence in the same year.
  • Project Owner: Moriah Jerusalem Development Corporation Ltd.
  • Segment 1 from Golomb junction to Me’asef junction – Management: Ehud Tayar Management & Engineering Ltd., Execution: Shapir – Y.D. Barazani Ltd.
  • Segment 1 from Me’asef junction to Rakevet junction – Management: Ehud Tayar Management & Engineering Ltd., Execution: Mordechai Binyamin – Barashi Zalman & Bros. Co. Ltd.
  • Segment 1 – Golomb Tunnel Systems – Management: Ehud Tayar Management & Engineering Ltd., Execution: Cohen & Ben David Ltd.
  • Segment 2 – Management: Project Management Shalem Ltd., Execution: Shapir Engineering
  • Segment 3B – Management: David Ackerstein Ltd., Execution: Galnor Building & Development Ltd.
  • Segment 3A – Management: David Ackerstein Ltd., Execution: Y.D. Barazani Ltd.
  • Segment 3 – Beit Safafa Tunnel Systems: Management: David Ackerstein Ltd., Execution: Cohen & Ben David Ltd.

Projects for Jerusalem Light Train infrastructure displacement – Red Line segments:

  • Project Customer: Moriah Jerusalem Development Corporation Ltd.
  • Hadassah – Management: David Ackerstein Ltd., Execution: Y.D. Barazani Ltd.
  • Ora-Hadassah – Management: Ehud Tayar Management & Engineering Ltd. Execution: Ben Ari Tel Ram Projects Ltd.
  • Ora Junction – Management: Ehud Tayar Management & Engineering Ltd., Execution: Barad Earthmoving Works Development & Roads Co. Ltd.
  • Henrietta Szold St. – Management: Dan Ben-Amram Engineering and Management, Execution: Bardrian Bros. Ltd.
  • Hantke St. – Management: Adi Sharist Engineering Management Ltd., Execution: Bardrian Bros. Ltd.
  • Neveh Yacov – Management: Marom Tuval Ltd., Execution: Galnor Building & Development Ltd.
  • One Tower, Ramat Gan (under construction) – Management: Zohar Raz Project Planning Management, Execution: Levinstein Nativ Engineering and Construction Ltd.
  • Infinity Tower, Ra’anana (under construction) – Management: Epstein Project Management, Execution: El-Har Engineering and Construction Ltd.
  • Shalva House, Jerusalem – Management: Ehud Tayar Management & Engineering Ltd., Execution: Y.B. Yovel Construction Engineering Ltd.

 

and more…

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