How to Stay on Schedule, Part 2

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Staying on schedule doesn’t just happen. There is a process to it that involves quite a few considerations. I detailed the first of these in How to Stay on Schedule, Part 1. The remaining attributes below cover honesty, transparency, and detailed planning.  You, as an owner, or the person you choose to act in your place as a manager or owner’s rep, can impact your project’s timeline negatively or positively depending on your approach, or lack thereof.


  1. Establish the Habit of Prompt Payment.


There’s the firm that pays in 15 days and there’s the firm that pays in 60 days. All things being equal, when there’s pressure, who are important trade contractors or service providers going to work for first? The 15 day payment firm wins. I’m a big advocate of paying quickly. I think it helps on a number of fronts. This is an indirect way to stay on schedule, but important nevertheless. No matter how well planned the project is, people will have an opportunity to put forth an extraordinary effort—work on the weekends, pull the 80 hour week, go that extra effort. They’re more inclined to do this (cheerfully) for people who have not been stringing them along or slow paying them.


  1. Don’t Cry Wolf.


I believe in honesty and transparency. When you go into contract negotiations, it’s really good to have a clear, reasonable understanding about when you need whatever it is you are building. My piece of advice to you is don’t cry wolf. In other words, among three components of a project: time, quality and money, it’s tough to have all three… or at least there is a price tag to pay for all three. If time is truly, truly important (say you’ve got to get this done in order to get your service to market before some competitor does), then say so and explain why. Or if you need to get this facility done before an advantageous tax code expires, say so. In these cases, be honest about your timing needs, but don’t come up with some sort of arbitrary fast timeline that you need it by because you will undoubtedly pay the price.


  1. Plan Ahead, Week by Week.


The last piece: In my construction consulting practice, we use a process that is interactive with all the various trades. It’s known as the Last Planner system. The system utilizes a component that provides a very detailed 6-week look ahead. Once a week, we get the trade foremen (i.e. The Last Planner) together for about an hour. In this cross-functional way, we look at what is to be accomplished. We hunt for constraints, i.e., what is going to be interrupting the work that’s planned to be accomplished and what is to be accomplished (specifically in the next week, the second week, the third week, and so forth into week six). We ask: What don’t we have? What piece of information about the design do we need? What request for information has not been answered?


Again, staying on schedule requires time and attention. Some owners may have the idea that once they sign the contract for design and construction, they can go back to their normal workflow and come back and attend the ribbon cutting. (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but time and attention are required or a structure established to do your job in the process). It’s important towards keeping the project on schedule that you corporately, organizationally stay involved. This can be through adding 10-15 hours to your workweek, assigning a senior manager to the project (although senior management typically has other things to do that are income-producing), or renting an owner’s rep with deep experience in construction consulting to provide you with the skill of management during this period of time.


If you follow these 7 key attributes, your chances of staying on schedule—even beating your schedule—are dramatically increased. I hope this information proves valuable to you.