Thursday, March 12, 2009

7 Habits of Highly Effective Scheduling

Scheduling is the most important part of a project. Before anything is done, a schedule should be put together. Working around a timeline helps everyone stay on track and focused toward a deadline.

Proper scheduling is the number one tool to help create a clear expectation with everyone involved.

I know a lady who decided to build her own home. She started with a "lick my finger and stick it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing" scheduling technique and needless to say, two years later she is still waiting for things to get done in her home so she can move in. The home at the most should have taken 12 months.

So where do you start when trying to put together a schedule?

  1. Well first you need to consider the scope of work you are undertaking. Is it a remodel, addition, new construction, small renovation? is it a landscaping project? or are you just refurbishing a bathroom? If the project is small enough, you probably don't need to use a construction scheduling software but if the project is going to take more then a month and involves more then 5 decisions then you should definitely consider using scheduling software.
  2. The scheduling software you choose can range from a simple calender found on My Yahoo, or iGoogle to more large project oriented scheduling software such as Fast track, Surtrak or Microsoft Project. The reason a computer based calender or scheduling software should be used as opposed to the old school paper calender is because you can enable certain features within these calenders such as daily, weekly, and 3-2-1 Outlook updates. These updates help remind you what is coming next.
  3. Once you have chosen your mode of scheduling you need to create a critical path. A critical path is a set of tasks that need to happen in sequence. One thing cannot happen before the next. In this respect the critical path really dictates the timeline of a project. You can't poop in a toilet before it is installed. The sequential events from installing plumbing, installing the wax ring, to installing the toilet and using the toilet would be considered a critical path. One thing can't happen before the other without disastrous consequences.
  4. Once you put this critical path together you can then schedule in all those other tasks that can happen at anytime during he project. By following this process you can really get a big picture of what is pushing the schedule, and what will hold up your project if decisions are not made. This is key as many rookies and do-it-yourselfers can get caught in the thick of thin things that really don't matter, while they ignore the tasks that will really hold up the schedule.
  5. OK you have your schedule, now make sure that everyone agrees with that schedule. Get trade contractor/supplier feedback from those that will be doing the work. Make sure they feel they can accomplish the scope of work or deliver the material needed under the time frame you have allotted. If they don't feel they can, then work with them, but make sure that you are in control. If you have a crucial timeline to meet, make sure and find someone who can get the job done in the time frame you have set. Any schedule can be met, it just means you have to get more people or work harder, or both. Don't be afraid to get aggressive with the schedule.
  6. Once you have a solid schedule you can start, but remember a key to making a schedule succeed is follow-up. We call this follow up 3-2-1 Outlook. 3-2-1 Outlook is the process of looking down the road 3 weeks into the future. Based on the schedule you put together you should know who will be on the job and what material needs to be on the job 1 week, 2 weeks, and 3 weeks down the road. Phone calls and arrangements should be made to insure that it will happen. Each week this 3-2-1 Outlook should take place, preferably on a Friday or sometime at the end of the week. Don't back down for a second, even if you feel it is redundant to call that person 3 weeks in a row, its not and I will tell you from experience that subcontractors and suppliers love the communication and they do not get bugged. If you do the 321 religiously you will succeed and be happy with the progress of your job.
  7. Remember to always make scheduling a priority. It is so easy to let the schedule get pushed to the back of the bus when other issues come up like decision making, accounting or trade contractor/supplier management. Don't let it happen; the success of the project and your stability of your sanity will depend on how well the schedule is maintained.
If you or your hired general contractor are not using these principles of scheduling stop right now, re-read, understand and apply these simple steps. You will be happy you did. Til next time be safe and good luck.