Jul 062011

Over the last few years I have become involved in projects, mostly in the construction industry, where it appears that the overriding culture is to pay lip-service to scheduling. There appears to be an inability, or unwillingness, to grasp the necessity of clear, detailed scheduling.

I call this ‘Dust Cloud Project Management’. Picture the cartoon scene. The main characters are involved in a massive skirmish. The main portion of the cartoon shows a huge dust cloud of activity, arms, feet, fists and faces all sticking out through the dust at random angles, all that is visible of the furious activity going on behind the scenes.

Why is it that these industries hold the belief that furious activity, no matter whether properly coordinated or not, is the key to successfully completing the project on time? In this project culture the prime schedule determinator is a date, set in stone by some executive, but without the necessary underlying detail to actually know whether it is an achievable stretch-target or whether it is a fairytale. The project management method is then to ensure that all team members and subcontractors merely work furiously, all the time. Heaven forbid if you’re not projecting panic and action, no matter whether it’s effective or not. Just look busy and make sure you can always blame your ‘delays’ on someone else! And the crisis management!! Let’s not even go there.

The result is a stressful project work environment that almost always runs over the date line drawn in the sand at the start, with corresponding cost overruns to boot.

Bringing structure and logic into this culture is a huge challenge but it’s important not to let proven methodologies slide because of the pressure.

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