Important Concepts in Scheduling

The project schedule is a given for any construction project. For the project team, particularly the Project Manager, it is the most important tool in setting priorities for the team. For all other stakeholders in the project, it can be an incredibly useful tool as well. In order to take advantage of this however, there are a few important concepts to understand and to ask your contractor about regularly:

  • Progressive Elaboration – This is a concept that many schedules take advantage of, it involves bringing additional detail into the project schedule as it becomes available; typically as the team comes closer to performing the work. For instance, it is not reasonable to expect a project team to have a detailed breakdown and sequence assigned to the finishes portion of the schedule at ground break, but that portion of the schedule should look much different when you’re wrapping up drywall work.
  • Level of Detail and Staffing – Establish an expectation with your team on the level of detail you expect a schedule to go to, and the reporting frequency you desire. A project schedule should never be more detailed than a project team is capable of maintaining. A schedule with too many lines without proper staffing to maintain it will just fall behind in updates.
  • Scheduling Logic – Also referred to as predecessors and successors, the logic of a schedule describes how tasks are linked to each other. Your project schedule should use primarily a “Finish-to-Start” relationship, meaning when task #1 finishes task #2 starts. Other types of logic can create inconsistencies in how the schedule is updated and cause mistakes.
  • Open Loops – An open loop refers to a task or series of tasks without proper linkage to the rest of the schedule. In general, every single task in a project should have at least one predecessor and at least one successor. If you identify open loops in a project schedule, address them with the contractor immediately.
  • Total Float (or total slack) – Every task in a project schedule has quantified value for how much time it can be delayed until it affects the project completion date. A task with zero total float is a critical path task. A well-scheduled project should identify float values, and your contractor should be able to tell you what tasks have the least float and are, therefore, the most critical to the project completion date.As with so many things in our industry, communication is the most important part of the scheduling process. Talk with your contractor ahead of time and share your knowledge of these concepts, so they can plan accordingly to meet your expectations in scheduling. The Douglas Company takes scheduling very seriously, and every employee in Operations has spent over 12 hours training on these concepts so far in 2018 alone, due to the importance it has on a project’s success.

Bruce Douglas, PMP, PMI-SP, LEED AP BD+C
Senior Project Manager
The Douglas Company

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