Construction Scheduling / Fact or Fiction?

There are countless articles, seminars and software programs available, that you can Google, research and read to indulge every whim of your academic curiosity, regarding scheduling a construction project. However, it is vitally important for you to understand and comprehend that scheduling a construction project, requires knowledge, experience, hard knocks and sensitivity to the reality of construction. It is extremely easy to develop the perfect software program to generate the perfect schedule. The pre-requisites, the successors, the time duration, the critical path of the project, are all perfect topics for the classroom and the pontification of the professor in front of a large lecture hall filled with inexperienced students. There are so many different scheduling programs that claim to satisfy all of the elements of a construction project. These software programs, as well as the developers of same, will generate prolific examples of how these programs will allow you to more efficiently schedule your projects, and how they will assure the timely completion of those projects. The sales presentations will be very convincing, and will entice the unaware and inexperienced, into accepting, that all they have to do is properly set up the software program, fill in all of the required fields, and distribute this construction schedule to all of the individuals and companies that are involved with the construction project, and like magic, all will be properly scheduled and completed.

This is NOT the case, and the faster this acknowledgement is understood, the better for any scheduling accuracy whatsoever, as well as your performance as a project manager.

The following examples are issues that if they occur on your project, will totally annihilate your professional scheduling.

These are only the common ones, the uncommon ones are impossible to predict, which makes this business so much fun!

  • Weather / unless you live under a glass dome, we have, in many parts of the country, experienced some of the most difficult and unpredictable weather imaginable. Whether it is a hurricane, flood, snowstorm, windstorm or simply extremely hot or cold weather, weather will totally obliterate and destroy your construction schedule. The issue of the weather and how it influences a construction schedule is multiple. However, for this presentation of the overall construction schedule, let it suffice to say, that the weather is all powerful when it comes to destroying any type of preconceived construction schedule.


  • Failure of a subcontractor / unless every sub that you have hired, is perfect, the subcontractors will continually cause your schedule to shift and become obsolete. In today’s economy, you probably were awarded the project because you had the lowest bid. What influence does this requirement have on the type of subcontractors that you are hiring? You guessed it; you are hiring the desperate, stripped down version of the subcontractor you should be hiring. How is this quality sub going to address your sophisticated schedule? Again, like the weather’s influence on a construction schedule, the quality of the subcontractors is extremely instrumental in your ability to maintain any type of schedule. Hiring the most inexpensive subs, will not support your sophisticated scheduling techniques in anyway.


  • Existing conditions / like you the contractor, the designers and engineers are subjected to the same financial pressure that you are. This requires them to minimize their time on the project, causing less accurate documents and more reliance on the contractor to “make it work “What does this lack of accuracy and precision have on your very detailed and sophisticated construction schedule?   It makes the schedule basically impossible to achieve, due to the lack of precision and accuracy that is displayed within all construction documents. This issue is even more severe if the project is the renovation of an existing structure. Lack of initial design as well as engineering coordination will lead to delays upon delays. First the issue must be understood, then the solution engineered, presented to the contactor and priced. Of course, due to the importance of money on all construction projects, the additional work to correct this issue that was not identified on the original set of documents cannot be implemented until the additional cost for this work is negotiated and agreed upon. What does this entire scenario do to your professionally developed schedule? You have no more control over your schedule once these types of delays and issues are encountered. In today’s construction industry, unless funded by the government or organizations where money is not an issue, this type of scenario will destroy the most professional construction schedule.


  • Internal office politics / many contractors have evolved from first generation contractors to second and third generation contractors. What this means, is that the companies are now run by the sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters of the original owners. What will this office makeup due to your accounts payable, the ability of the staff, as well as the interest of the staff. In most cases, this situation will dilute the importance of payments on time, proper lien waivers, bonding requirements, insurance updates, etc. Once nepotism has entered the office, there is no true demonstration of responsibility and process. If a family member simply does not perform, then what can be done? How can this type of office insincerity be factored into a professional schedule and how will its effect on your construction schedule be predicted? It cannot!


  • General impression, that if the project is computerized, we are organized. This impression can and will cause scheduling problems, payment problems, inaccuracies on deliveries, etc. on the project. Understanding only the methodology of computer input and lack of understanding of the reality of construction, will lead to failure. The ability to push the proper keys to create a construction schedule will not force or cause the project to be successful. Once again, as I have repeatedly indicated within this website, the use of a computer should be as a tool for organization, management, data accumulation, and not the proper means of understanding the construction process.

Now that we have identified the reasons why your professional construction schedule will fail, what are some of the requirements that are needed to properly create an accurate and relatively successful construction schedule?

  • Experience / this element is essential to the success of any construction project, no matter how large or small the project is. There is no substitute for an experienced and savvy construction project manager and / or superintendent. This experience must come from hands on interaction with contractors, engineers, architects, subcontractors, and the manpower on multiple projects. I understand that this concept is difficult to accept, for the young and aggressive construction executives, who really don’t care to take the time to experience multiple construction projects. However, there is no way around it! Experience is a required and necessary ingredient to properly and accurately identifying a construction schedule.


  • Practicality / this element, like experience is difficult for anyone to understand that does not invest the time and effort into learning the construction process. Unless you have witnessed first- hand the effects on a project after a couple feet of snow or sub -zero temperatures, you will not appreciate the effect of these issues on the scheduling of the project.   Experience will teach practicality, and there is no easy or short method of providing either quality within the schedule.


  • Understanding / once again, the understanding of the construction process takes experience and time as well as effort on multiple construction projects. You must understand how to build, prior to organizing a construction schedule and managing a construction schedule. Without the understanding of the construction process, there is virtually no way that the construction schedule will be accurately developed and certainly not properly managed.


  • Honesty / this element is especially difficult to understand in the modern day of construction projects. The inherent means of obtaining a construction project in today’s economy is to have the lowest price and the fastest schedule.   How this is supposed to honestly occur eludes me. Of course, to combine the ability to win a construction project and to properly schedule the same project, is basically working against oneself. Being honest is a necessity to properly scheduling a construction project; however, if this honesty was actually used during the negotiations to obtain the project, then you would probably not be scheduling the project because you wouldn’t have been awarded the project. This is a difficult one, no developer, owner, engineer or architect wants honesty from their contractor, they want “ yes “ men, that will support whatever ridiculous pricing and scheduling requirements are necessary to make the project work.

I have indicated this in other articles within this website; however, it is important to reiterate the concept. The only projects that are completed on time and on schedule are artificial construction projects, that either have too much money in the budget, or are government run projects that will be identified as on time and under budget, for political reasons and nothing else. In today’s construction marketplace, the within budget and on schedule, honest identification of a construction project is a total bunch of “politically correctness “and nothing else.

Hiding behind an artificial construction schedule, developed by a software program that has no ability to understand the specific parameters of the project, and handled by someone that is simply working the controls, will not provide an accurate and sensible construction schedule. In addition, the updating of the schedule will remain inadequate and equally unrealistic.

An accurate construction schedule is developed by an educated, experienced construction professional that is being honest with the facts and the individual custom issues of the specific project. This professional understands the effects of work stoppages, weather issues, inadequate subcontractors, improper and inaccurate design, etc. If this type of individual is used to prepare the construction schedule, and is assisted with this development, by a tool that will organize and update this individuals input, then the construction schedule will be half accurate. Without this type of individual, and the full understanding of today’s construction climate, the construction schedule will look very professional on the wall of the construction trailer.

Its use, will be good for nothing but it’s cosmetic aesthetic value, and its accuracy, as good as the morning paper.

It takes knowledge, understanding and experience to properly and accurately develop a construction schedule that can be used as a guide to the project. It will never be 100% accurate, nor will its inception identify all of the issues and delays that will be incurred as the project moves along. However, it will be a rough roadmap of the scheduling process necessary to advance the project forward. There will be delays, inconsistencies, problems, design issues, engineering mistakes, as well as financial setbacks; however, this is the reason that an experienced professional construction manager is required to lead the project, and not simply the next new software program!

Good luck, and please be honest when scheduling your next construction project!



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