Scheduling Heartaches

Scheduling and project duration is something that is near and dear my heart. One of the positions that I have held within my company was that of Project Coordinator, with my primary responsibility being assigning manpower to the various construction projects of the branch. I therefore looked at scheduling from a higher elevation view of when each project would begin and when and what manpower resources they would receive. Over time I ran into two specific difficulties, deciding what project to begin, and getting updated progress reports from projects.

At my company, a project could only begin after they have been funded with the resources that they required. After projects are assigned a project manager, the next step is to assign a field manager and laborers. Being an open-shop company (non-union) all of our laborers are employees of the company and do not come out of a union hall. This creates a finite amount of resources that the company can draw upon to complete the projects.  I therefore was in the position of creating and managing through a live resource schedule, similar to what we had worked through in class.

One difference to the resource schedule is that projects were independent of each other and could being before or after another with no effect to the other projects. Therefore at times when resources were maxed out, decisions had to be made to start one project above another. A problem that I inherited within my position is that it seemed as if the project managers who would cry the loudest would receive resources and begin their projects first, as opposed to what project needed to begin based upon the impact to the branch. Through time I developed a rudimentary template to discuss certain items with the project managers such as if the client is now or key client, potential to develop strategic goals, and overall financial impact to the branch. I was not able to finalize a formalized version and my successor in the position is still struggling through this. If you have had experience with similar issues at your company, what methods do you use to decide what projects to start above another?

The second main issue that I experienced was updating the schedule on a consistent basis. Due to delays or early finishes in projects for a variety of reasons, the durations of projects were constantly in flux. There was no formalized method of running status updates for projects and information about these duration changes was not making its way back to the overall resource schedule. Project managers have many demands placed on them throughout the course of projects, and getting the schedule information back to their scheduler was not a priority. Again, I developed a rudimentary system of getting this information. I got with each project manager every Friday to collect updated information and circulated the information to the operations group. This had a weekly delay even with the best information I received.  What methods has your company developed to maintain up to date information on project status progress?

One thought on “Scheduling Heartaches

  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I was immediately drawn to your post because unfortunately I am all too familiar with scheduling heartaches. As a project manager, this is probably where I devote far too much of my time to. Like your company, at my company it is usually the person who cry’s the loudest that gets the scarce resource (employees, money, time). I work for a medical group and usually my projects revolve around opening new surgery centers. My project team consists of people from a wide variety of backgrounds like physicians, maintenance men, attorneys, IT, HR, etc… It is a constant struggle to ensure scheduling decisions are made based on what is best for the project and company and not what the physicians or attorneys want. I like your idea of creating a template that takes in important variables and serves as a way to show evidence as to why you need to make a scheduling decision. Deciding on the variables and finding ways to quantify them will be challenging, which is why I am assuming you were not able to formalize it. Anything is better than the squeaky wheel method though and I plan on trying this out.

    Also, your second issue of schedule delay reporting is something I am always trying to perfect. Most of the time I have to take the word from team members that things are coming along as planned, which creates problems. Also, when parts of a project are based on the state or federal government, delays are a certainty. I ask for Monday/Wednesday status updates for active work and I send out schedule updates on Friday. This seems to keep schedule delays manageable when they do arise, but can be cumbersome for team members.

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