The other day I spoke with a scheduler friend of mine by phone to see how his construction project was coming along.
From the moment I asked question “So how is the project going?” I could hear that something was up.
“Good…. It’s fine. Things are moving.”
“Still making progress?”
“Yeah, sure.” He answered.
But I could hear the frustration in his voice. I dug a bit deeper to see just how “fine” things were.
My friend, a 30-something engineer, is filling the role of project scheduler for a large multi-year rail project. He works for the general contractor. After we got into it, I found out the source of his frustration.
“Schedules are useless.”
These were not his words, but it captured his sentiments as he relayed the situation on his project.
He told me that he spends all his days entirely focused on updating the schedule, incorporating the endless updates requested by the Owner; a never-ending stream of small updates and added details.
Being the only project controller, he had a very large schedule to maintain on his own while the Owner had a team of 3 “experts” whose job it was to essentially verify and check the contract schedule he had prepared. He was feeling a bit overworked and over-scrutinized.
But here’s the rub.
Although the schedule was in very good shape, it barely got a notice from his boss and management overseeing the project.
It was hardly looked at once a month in the regular meeting, but never again until the next month. The schedule was merely a formality and wasn’t being used to manage the work.
All that analysis ensuring the Critical Path was correct, all those detailed updates to ensure accuracy, the documentation, the weekly and monthly updates to create this model of predictability for the project. And no one was really looking at it.
Maybe you can relate to this situation.
I’ve been around long enough to recognize that some projects have people who do not rely on a schedule, who prefer to go by gut feeling or experience.
Right, wrong or indifferent, if you’re the scheduler in that situation, you’re probably not feeling very appreciated.
But appreciated or not, your schedule is vital to the success of the project. And it can be hard to get people to recognize that.
So to solve this dilemma, here are 5 tips to help you show the value of your schedule and get it noticed.
5 Tips to Show The Value of Your Schedule & Get It Noticed
The first thing you will have do to is…
….change your way of doing things.
No one is asking to see the schedule?
No one cares about all of your hard work updating the schedule?
Don’t get stuck in your expectations of what is “supposed” to happen.
We’re all “supposed” to be looking at the schedule and the dates. It’s “supposed” to be the primary source of timeline, performance and resource information.
We’re all “supposed” to be eating a lot of fiber as well, and frankly I just don’t do it. I’m just too darn BUSY.
Actually, I will eat more fiber if:
- Someone makes me do it.
- I do it myself automatically because it’s part of my routine.
The same goes here for your schedule.
You need to become the voice of the schedule.
You need to tell people to look at it – put it in their hands.
You need to get them to become dependent on it – so that they want to look at it ever week.
You can make that happen.
But you are going to have to become “proactive” about it.
Yes, you’re going to have to speak up, maybe even yell and tell everyone that this schedule thing over here is valuable and important. In fact, it’s a legal document that is used to keep people accountable and is 99% effective for keeping projects on-track.
And if they don’t listen the first time, you’re going to repeat it, over and over until you get the result you’re after. And along the way, as you change the way you behave, you just might find that you and the project schedule become invaluable to have around.
If you want to hear about how proactivity leads to sucsess in project controls, Shohreh and I talk about it on this webinar.
Summarize it – paint a picture
A typical schedule is going to be large, dense and complex. You know it inside and out because you likely built it and are familiar with all of the parts. But your audience is not going to be as well versed with the data as you are.
So it’s your job to put in a form that is understandable, concise and that paints a picture.
You might aim to summarize your scheduling into only 1 or 2 pages. Perhaps page 1 shows only the major milestones and their baseline counterparts. And page 2 shows the major disciplines by area, at only level 3.
One option to consider here is to use a visualization tool that will help you to roll everything up. Here are some great visualization tools to consider using to help you out.
Another approach might be to simply create a 1-pager highlighting the critical path and where the project is on it.
Or perhaps you only want to show a forecast of the next 3 months at level 3 of the project schedule, to highlight the impacts of being behind.
There are many ways to take your project schedule’s data and to display just the highlights, the important bits. In fact, we teach you how to build great reports in Excel as part of our Primavera P6 training.
Once you produce something and pass it around, if it makes an impact, your boss or your team will want to see if again next update meeting.
Print it – make it visible
One of the easiest things you can do it to print your schedule and keep it handy. Consult it often and show the value from the insights you are getting.
Don’t just leave it on your PC. Pass it around.
Got a meeting coming up? Print copies for everyone.
Make sure you check it during the meeting to show the value it has.
Many teams have been known to plot the large Gantt chart of the project’s baseline and to pin it on the wall of the main meeting room. Just that act alone makes a statement about the importance of the baseline schedule to the team.
Share it Digitally
My preference is to print the schedule and hand it around for meetings – that makes it a physical object.
But another option is to pass it around digitally. And there are lots of benefits I explain here as to why this works.
While, I’m not advocating for giving everyone a copy of your scheduling tool, there are at least 2 ways I can think up to provide the schedule to the team.
1.Email a schedule report in PDF.
If you’re not sure how to get a schedule into PDF with Primavera P6, here are the steps.
Take the points from earlier in my post – summarize it and paint a picture. Then email it out to the team.
In the subject line of the email, don’t just write “March Schedule Update Report” – NO ONE WILL READ IT.
Rather, add some insight and at-a-glance info. Like so:
Subject: “March Schedule Report – currently 23d behind overall, 6 milestones completed late, welding on track”
Now that’s an email everyone will want to open. Tease them and they will open.
Ensure you send your schedule out consistently, and at the same time say every week or month.
2.Use a tool like PrimaveraReader (now ScheduleReader) to provide access to the schedule
The main advantage of using these sorts of viewer tools is that everyone can actually get a full read-only copy of the current schedule and can then dig into it.
I recommend rolling say ScheduleReader out to a 2-3 team members first to try this approach before you go full team.
ScheduleReader is very affordable, so this option is a definite consideration.
Highlight What’s Changed Since Last Update
Everyone loves a good comparison, and construction project managers are no exception.
Why not highlight progress since last update to clearly show performance?
The schedule is one of the only datasets that can you really perform this comparison on. So pull out last month’s schedule and put it next to the current schedule to see what’s difference.
Or better yet, create a report showing the changes. I’m a fan of Change Inspector software that does exactly this – compares two schedules and reports on the results. But of course, you could try P6’s built-in schedule comparison tool (formerly Claim Digger).
What you get is usually very insightful.
We all wish projects proceeded according to the book – that schedules were primary tools, change management was easy and that the original estimate is exactly what we’re going to build.
Unfortunately, the world of construction project management isn’t ideal.
But that doesn’t mean your effort is building and maintaining a project schedule is a waste of time.
I truly believe that CPM schedules are incredibly powerful tools for evaluating performance and forecasting future outcomes.
But that’s you and me.
Even if it’s not in your job description, I encourage you to become the “voice of the schedule” and to share insights and issues coming from the schedule with your team, whether they asked for them or not.
Don’t sit back and wait for someone to ask you.
Your proactive effort might just sway the outcome of the project for the better.