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10 Recommendations for Using Your Schedule To Drive Project Performance

Schedule slippage erodes value: not only do costs go up (paying for the standing army or extra years of inflation) but more importantly, tardy delivery delays benefits coming online.

My research at the University of Oxford with colleagues has shown that 9 out of 10 megaprojects suffer delays and cost overruns. A poorly managed schedule—also called a program—is often the culprit.  

A good schedule lives at the heart of the project delivery organization. In this article, I show why you need to put the schedule (aka program) at the heart of your project delivery and provide recommendations for how project teams can use their schedule as the central tool to get on top of risk.  

10 Recommendations for Driving Project Performance

  1. Build a robust, whole-of-project, baseline program. Use best practices (these are stringent, don’t chicken out) such as U.S. Government Accountability Office’s GAO Schedule Assessment Guide
  2. Just because the upfront schedule is important don’t stretch the process out for months. Put some urgency into it. Collect a lot of information with speed (information intensity X high-velocity).  
  3. Roadshow the draft baseline schedule with a broad set of internal (e.g., project steering committee) and external parties (e.g., contractors). Open the black box of your technical Primavera P6 to MS-Project schedule and achieve collective sign-off.  
  4. Conflict will arise. Your CEO may press you hard to compress the timeline. The contractors may push for more cushion. Work through these issues heads on and seek resolution at pace.  
  5. Take advantage of your and your team’s experience and transfer learning from past completed projects. Systematically analyze past projects to improve your activity duration forecasts and sequencing using Reference Class Forecasting.   
  6. Update your schedule with actuals on a weekly or bi-weekly cadence.  
  7. Ensure there’s independent verification, audit, and assurance of your program and its monthly updates. Don’t massage the program. Truth will set you free.  
  8. Stick to the program. Interrogate large changes in the structure of the schedule from one update to the next. Revisions to the program are OK but if they are numerous, re-baseline the program openly and stick to the re-baseline. 
  9. Proactively identify risk drivers. Complement the critical path with multiple sophisticated approaches. Apply two general mitigation strategies that work wonders: First, assign the high criticality activities to a named responsible owner. Second, stipulate the acceptance criteria for “done-done” for these high-risk activities. 
  10. Use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize Urgent X Important activities. Resource load these with three months look ahead.  

The Power of Robust, Collaborative Scheduling

Project risk management is inherently difficult, no doubt: there are a lot of moving parts and variables—contractor or sub-contractor interfaces & handovers, dealing with supply chain disruptions, achieving design approvals, or planning permissions etc. 

The most effective way to overcome project risks is through a robust, collaborative schedule. Get in touch today and learn how easy-to-use tools like Knowledge ConciergeTM (KC) are designed to make a technical schedule transparent to the whole delivery team.