Four limiting factors that will sink your schedule

Drive-thru:

  • Limiting factors are like gremlins in your schedule, waiting until you least expect it to unleash their chaos.
  • Well meaning people make ill-informed decisions, and that’s why you need to guard yourself against flawed knowledge.
  • Unknowns, inferior tools and undue complexity are the other classes of limiting factors that you can overcome in your scheduling.

To move a construction schedule from wishful thinking to reality, you can’t overlook limiting factors as you schedule the project. Here are four limiting factors to add to your scheduling checklist.

Flawed knowledge

When you finally start scheduling, many people have had their say in the project. The owners, designers, engineers, consultants, community, regulators, and contractors all likely had a few things to say. How much of it was accurate? How many incorrect assumptions did people make? How many times did people rely on bad information?

You can limit the effects of flawed knowledge by keeping your mind open to questions. When you find yourself wondering about something, you may have spotted an inaccuracy, incorrect assumption, or bad information.

You can also reduce the effects of flawed knowledge by not making a lot of assumptions yourself. Focus on the work breakdown and the sequencing of tasks to find mistakes that incorrectly increase or decrease resources. Study planned subcontractor performance to confirm it’s realistic for the project scope and environmental factors. Review third-party roles like inspections and tests to see whether anybody has forgotten to include some.

Unknowns

Construction is a process of rendering a 3D representation of a 2D dream, in a world of unknowns that constantly change.

How will you ever get a schedule right? The unknowns demand careful thought and attention to detail. If you know a building site used to be used as a dry cleaners, the chances of trichlorethylene contamination are pretty good. While the people who went before you probably already did an environmental evaluation, it might be a good idea to build in a little contingency at project’s end to cushion any unknowns arising from that condition.

If removing the load bearing wall on a slab foundation requires placing two columns at either end of a beam, is the slab thickness adequate for the concentrated load of the beams in those locations? If not, a thickened slab or a footing for each beam is going to cost more. Like a detective, part of your goal is to anticipate and mitigate unknowns as you create and verify the schedule.

How will you ever get a schedule right? The unknowns demand careful thought and attention to detail.

Inferior tools

Technology has a way of changing how things get done. For the longest time, people drew their project timelines, or Gantt charts, by hand. After all, it was in the early twentieth century that Henry L. Gantt devised the Gantt chart, long before modern computers. That also meant they had to do all the math by hand. If you’ve ever used formulas to manually identify the critical path and the shortest project time, you know the value of computing power.

Got a small project with just a few activities and limited resources? Use a spreadsheet. For everything else, you’ll be limiting yourself if you don’t use state-of-the-art tools.

Today, you have a wealth of local and cloud-based options you can use to take the sweat out of creating schedules. You can even harness the power of more data types to make your schedules smarter. This way you can see the limiting factors that used to get hidden among the layers of resources, tasks, and activities. The beauty of using modern scheduling software and services is accuracy, a single source of truth, and sharing. Find a smart scheduling solution that works for you, and you’ll reduce limiting factors arising from inaccuracies in scheduling.

Undue complexity

Think about all the people who interact with a project schedule. Maybe they don’t all have ‘write’ permission, but they definitely have ‘read’ permission. If they read something wrong, that becomes a limiting factor. For that reason, some experts advise not to distribute Gantt charts to rank and file participants. The people who install the roof trusses really only need to know the specifications, when they’re scheduled to start, and when they’re supposed to be finished. Everything else you might include on a schedule is information overload in a form that’s not helpful.

Think about all the people who interact with a project schedule. If they read something wrong, that becomes a limiting factor.

Consider using the simplest and most direct method when you distribute your schedule. Unnecessary complexity is a limiting factor—it increases the chances that someone will do something wrong. It also limits information uptake. When people have to translate a red line into start and end dates in order to find out when to perform their role in a project, there’s an even chance they’ll use the wrong dates. But, when you give them a printed date of August 31, 2019, their chances of getting it wrong are greatly reduced.

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