A quote I love is “we seek progress, not perfection.” It guides my personal life, our consultants’ career goals, and our technical development. From that, I’ve learned to warn our clients, “the perfect schedule is the last update.”
Since day one, our tag line has been “HITO can help” which means we want to improve an organization’s planning, scheduling, and project controls. We don’t expect to arrive with all the answers-each client and each team has a different understanding of scheduling, and therefore has different needs. It’s important to understand what they are “used to driving” so we don’t try to sell them a Lamborghini when they are used to a Camry. We pride ourselves on offering very practical solutions, such as FlipBook and SiteWalker, but they don’t fit on every job.
Recently, we’ve had a couple assignments that required a complicated EVMS system that an owner’s consultant developed. We gladly accepted the work, but it was way overkill for the size of the project, and the contractor gained little to no practical value from the information. On a successive project, the contractor gave an estimate to provide that same reporting, and the client’s team couldn’t justify the value. It just didn’t fit.
On one of our recent pipeline schedules, the client had a consultant run our schedule through Acumen Fuse, a schedule assessment tool. It produced a “low score” due to too many Start-to-Start relationships, bad relationship ratios, hot spots, and a litany of other sins. The problem I had, however, was it was the closest way to represent the contractor’s plan. (if you know pipelining, it may seem like there’s not that much logic involved!) I asked the consultant, “how am I supposed to justify billing these hours to add activities and rearrange logic, when the project isn’t going to receive any value-just a higher Acumen Fuse score?” Needless to say, meeting those requirements and “improving” the schedule didn’t offer the the project team a practical solution to deal with the 30 inches of rain.
Fred Plotnick hosts an annual conference, “CPM in Construction” that we’ve attended and/or sponsored most years since it started in 2009. In his latest newsletter (yes, I read them!), Fred notes:
Today many teams have evolved to a “quick and dirty” analysis to build a workable schedule even if accepting the possible need to revisit if conditions change. They may ignore the mandate of a comprehensive and complete pure logic network or even the need for a backward pass.
I was amazed because it’s freed me from some of the guilt I’ve had over the years. The ivory tower of scheduling has many mandates about CPM theory and mechanics, but, to be frank, it can be a hard sell to some of our clients.
On an RFP schedule, the contractor just needs to demonstrate the scope and how it fits in the client’s timeline. At this level, the critical path is understood, and the need for backward pass calculations, relationship type ratios, lag justifications…really don’t matter. If the contractor is awarded the project, it will matter, but for now, it’s providing the value they need: it fits.
Our industry needs to be conscience of overselling our best ideas. Not every project benefits from a “perfect” schedule. We have to ensure we are providing practical value to the team, in a way the team can understand, and proportionate to the needs. We, as HITO, strive to provide the best value for the project, even if it means we’re only seeking “progress, not perfection.”