Construction schedulers are often asked by various project stakeholders for a schedule management framework to promote schedule buy-in by the project management team and subcontractors. Sometimes, this question surfaces with new general contractor (GC) or owner clients mid-course when their project has fallen behind and schedule management has become a focal point in need of remedy. Last month, I addressed the topic of schedule buy-in at the 2020 Advancing Construction Planning & Scheduling conference. Driving a schedule-centric culture requires a holistic approach that spans across a GC’s espoused core values, human capital and established procedures with a consciousness for the schedule management’s ramifications on the project’s outcomes.
Fundamentally, the project schedule should instruct the project management team and subcontractors as a practical management tool to build the job and to incorporate the impacts of change management events on the project’s downstream scope. However, to reap the schedule management’s academic utility predicated upon stakeholders’ schedule buy-in the project manager’s (PMs) and superintendent’s management styles, the subcontractors’ sophistication level and the weekly subcontractor meetings’ format require factoring for a build-to-suit framework that’s right for the team.
When schedules fall behind feedback from the project management team reveals a variety of both broad and technical schedule grievances in the form of schedule buy-in objections. The substance of these objections by PMs and superintendents is often indicative of varying management styles that first require recognition and understanding before a schedule management buy-in strategy can be devised. A few prominent management styles we routinely encounter in construction projects can be classified as; Technical, Delegator, Political and Rooted. Technical managers are problem solvers seeking to correct functional objections with the schedule’s scope, level-of-detail and sequencing so that the schedule reflects the reality in the field. Once their functional objections have been addressed the schedule is typically swiftly readopted as a practical management tool.
Delegators seek to manage the chores of activity statusing and subcontractor coordination by leveraging organizational hierarchy within their project management team and delegating to their support superintendents various portions of the project’s building elements; structure, envelope, rough-ins, finishes…etc. They require a bifurcated schedule management framework accountable to their authority that relies on subordinates’ data collection allowing them them to maintain their focus on the big picture.
Political managers are conscious of issues that impact the project management team’s ability to execute construction within the contract’s duration and are mindful of ensuring these constraints and limitations are programmed into the schedule. Integrating their concerns is paramount not only to illustrate to stakeholders’ delays outside the project management team’s control but to keep the schedule a relevant management tool and a narrative of project delays.
Rooted managers are typically experienced and somewhat introverted. They often rely on past experience and solutions for present problems and are resistant to change or to collaborations they perceive encroaching on their dominion. Because they’d prefer to manage the project without drawing unnecessary attention from upper management they walk a balancing act by coordinating schedule management as required with schedulers but simultaneously preserving their privacy and guarding access to the project management team and subcontractors. Finding a framework that’s least invasive and facilitates schedule collaboration is the preferred route with this management style.
Once a strategy has been devised for the PM’s and superintendent’s management styles the subcontractors’ schedule buy-in can be fostered through communicated expectations at subcontractor meetings and in the field. We recommend GC’s require subcontractors’ foremen to carry on-person a copy of the latest Look-Ahead Schedule in the field for reference, annotation and for instances the project management team walks the job to discuss subcontractor targets. Subcontractors should attend weekly meetings with their annotated field schedules and explain commitments that were targeted to start or to complete but that were otherwise delayed. The schedule should be the main management reference tool for collaboration at each weekly subcontractor meeting. Following the subcontractor meeting and when the schedule has been updated select subcontractors may benefit from the production of specific trade-filtered schedule reports that isolate their scopes or group them with collateral germane scopes but that otherwise reduce the schedule report into a more concise and engaging practical management tool.
Driving a schedule-centric culture and engineering a schedule management framework that engenders team buy-in requires a tailored approach that holistically comprises the project management team’s individual management profiles and subcontractors’ unique needs.
Analyze schedule buy-in objections to assess the project team’s management profiles and their needs
Communicate and adopt a schedule-centric format at subcontractor meetings and in the field
Devise schedule reports that are simple and useful for subcontractors to follow in the field