How to Stay on Schedule, Part 1

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Staying on schedule is not something that just spontaneously combusts from selecting good, friendly people to work on a construction project. There is a process to it. You, as an owner, (or the person you choose to act in your place as a manager or owner’s rep), will make a significant impact on your project’s timeline.

1.Understand Your Key Monuments Early On.

First of all, understand what the key monuments are and when they are being suggested to be completed. A monument is something that you can walk on the project site and see that it is in fact complete. This is very straightforward: as an example, on a project site you can see that: the glass and glazing is installed or the foundations are ready for steel or the steel is erected or the HVAC system is powered up and operating and so forth. Depending upon the complexity of your project, there are 20-50 meaningful monuments that you will want to identify…with the help, of course, of your delivery team. You or the person performing your owner’s representative services should understand them early on. Ask your contractor: tell me when can I expect those to be completed? Then you can walk out on the project and see that the job is progressing as expected….or not progressing as the case may be.


  1. Finish the Design.

Most people go into contract for their project and the design is actually not complete. This is OK and construction delivery teams know this. There is usually some percentage of completion of the design, and the contract anticipates that it’s not complete. The design work remaining to be done could be sophisticated enough that the walls are still moving around or the shape of the building is still moving around. Or it could be pretty locked down and your choices are straight forward: carpet, paint, other interior finishes. Regardless, you as an owner have a responsibility to pay attention to all those various design decisions and then make those decisions. Expressed a different way, if construction gets to a certain period of time and those decisions aren’t made, that will put the construction on perhaps a less-than-ideal path and/or negatively impact it such that the original schedule can’t be recovered or…it’s costing someone some money..perhaps you (Through a change request)!! So, do your job with regard to the design.


  1. Get the Important Details Dialed In

This is related to the above: The owner has certain purchases that are outside the contract of construction that they need to manage. Often this is in the world of what they call in the industry FF&E, which stands for furniture, fixtures, and equipment. It’s not usual for the construction contract to include furniture. Why that’s important is that some pieces of furniture need to be identified as to where they are going to live on the floor plan. This is because, for example, the architectural lighting may need to relate specifically to where a desk is located or to where a seating environment is located. This could be something simple, as in “do we have the needed receptacle for a table and lamp location?” Office interiors often incorporate furniture systems that come with predesigned places where the furniture gets hooked up for power. The IT components that are part of virtually any type of space are often not part of construction although the wiring is regularly a part of the construction. Maybe we don’t know where all the machinery is going – That’s a detail that needs dialed in so that everybody is running the right type of cable, so that there’s no scope gap of who is going to do the wiring, who is going to do the testing, who is going to finish the cables and so forth.

It can get much more sophisticated. I was owner’s rep for an entertainment facility in Las Vegas. Ownership purchased and as part of my construction consulting and owner’s representation services, I coordinated things like the installation of theatrical lighting and the audio-visual component, all outside the scope of the construction. There were aspects of the construction that were heavily dependent upon on those choices. So that whole piece needed to be advanced, required attention and finalizing. If not, it would have had negative ramifications on the project.

  1. Actively Manage Your Constraints

Another piece of the puzzle if you want to stay on schedule is what I call constraint management. A constraint is anything that can take the project off of schedule. In projects for which I am owner’s rep, we always create a list of constraints. We identify each constraint, give it a number, and then assign each constraint to a responsible party or champion. I have a project for which I am providing owner’s representation services right now. We’re not even off of the ground on that project and there are 50 constraints identified and managed to date. This is a $3. 5 million project. I daresay there will be one hundred constraints that we will identify and manage before the project is complete. Large projects will have 400 constraints and some of these constraints point in the direction of ownership.

A good example of this would be: we need to have permanent power installed by Appalachian Power Company (a regional utility) by this specific date. Ownership typically has to make the application for this, because oftentimes the utility will only speak with who they’re in contract with for power, which is the owner. So owners have a responsibility to initiate and follow through on the request for the installation of power. That list could go on. Hopefully, a lot of things don’t land on your plate as an owner, but if they do, you have to manage them. You have to be knowledgeable about them. Actively managing your constraints is another way to help stay on schedule.


Look for Stay on Schedule, Part 2 for more important ways you can help your project stay on schedule.