Construction Scheduling Consistency: Define and Enforce Standards

When it comes to construction scheduling, it’s impossible to have two identical projects that produce identical results.

When it comes to construction scheduling, it’s actually impossible to have two identical projects that produce identical results. It sounds like a riddle or even a trick: if you follow the same blueprint or project schedule, can you deliver two different deliverables? This is where scheduling consistency comes into play.


Scheduling Consistency Can Be Compromised by Risk Factors


Change is the only constant in the construction industry. Because construction projects are dynamic with so many moving parts, two identical projects can and often do have two very different outcomes. Projects that are identical veer dramatically off track for many risk factors or variables that affect them. These unforeseen events and activities directly impact each project schedule, often in unique ways.


Variables that change construction project outcomes: 
  • Weather
  • Quality of Resources
  • Time of year
  • Supply Chain disruptions
  • Labor shortages
  • Seasonality
  • Natural disasters
  • Resource allocation
  • Pandemics

If, for example, you take the same plans for the same 3-bedroom, and if one of those variables, such as “quality of resources,” is changed due to a supply chain shortage, then those units turn out very different. One is significantly changed by using higher-quality materials than the other.

Therefore, in construction, it’s important to remain agile. It’s imperative that everyone working on the project responds quickly and adapts to volatile environments created by unforeseen circumstances. Schedulers should watch progress, impacts, and more, focusing particularly on risk issues impacting projects in real time.


The Key to Successful Schedule Control is Scheduling Consistency


We do know that construction industry stakeholders are some of the best at adapting and figuring out how to get the job done. Yet, unfortunately, that often comes at a significant cost. Moreover, construction scheduling as a practice has often been likened to the Wild West. In other words, it’s organized chaos. And we’re using the word organized loosely. And therein lies the problem, construction scheduling is not organized. The first step to organization is establishing consistency.

Unfortunately, 90% of baseline schedules do not meet quality standards, as defined by the DCMA (The Defense Contract Management Agency). The DCMA has very strict 14-point guidelines that work in a binary system (pass or fail only), making it almost impossible to create a perfect schedule. For that reason, companies don’t enforce them. But, in construction, as in life, there are always gray areas.

For instance, many construction schedules are not resource-loaded. As Wrike defines, “Resource loading in project management is the process of loading employees’ total available hours with assignments.” Yet, the DCMA includes the criteria of resource loading in its pass or fail metric.

However, it’s important to require schedule consistency that follows industry best practices, as defined by the DCMA. Your schedule quality should create and follow a customized rubric based on best practices. The rubric should be the criteria against which all project schedules are built and measured. Schedule consistency standards should be deployed across the entire organization and agreed upon between parties.


Scheduling Consistency


But what is scheduling consistency? The studyRelationship between Consistency and Performance in the Claim Management Process for Construction Projects, defines a  “consistent process” as  “. . .  the establishment of and compliance with a formal work process.” The study goes on to argue that the “more consistent the processes that are in place, the better the performance at the process level. It is recommended that project-driven organizations should develop and maintain a high level of process consistency to improve the performance of their processes in order to achieve better project organizational performance.”

In construction project management, there is a strong case for project teams to strive for this level of consistency with respect to their project schedules. PM-Alliance outlines how consistency in construction scheduling provides many benefits to both the project team as well as the construction project schedule

  • All project team members can perform schedule updates and make changes the same way
  • Reliable data is available when project members need it
  • Project stakeholders and sponsors stay engaged in the project
  • Project team bias and subjectivity are reduced if not eliminated
  • Project workflow is improved

Creating a process “schedule quality” standard and implementing it across your entire program is not something that can happen overnight. It requires collaboration, commitment, and accountability from all stakeholders. It will also be an iterative process that is tedious at times but don’t give up. Making that one change to your program will increase the success rate of your projects.

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