Who Controls Project Schedules?

As a consultant to architects, primarily, we must react to schedules set by someone else. It may be the owner, architect, construction manager, or contractor. We never have any say in the project schedule, but are responsible for meeting all the milestone dates.

So where does that leave us (and other consultants)?  We are responsible to meet the dates, but entirely dependent on others for input to complete our work.

Standard Answer - We Can Do That

This week, it happens that, I was faced with two entirely different circumstances both affecting schedules and ultimately our staffing. Because we are consultants, the tendency is to bow to client demands. It is difficult to say no - fearing they may just go find someone else who will say yes. (Come to think of it, that is how Conspectus was born!)

The first project is one that is nearing completion. It was scheduled to be completed June 29. Now our client wants it finished June 22. When asked to meet the new milestone, we did not have final spec comments on our previous submittal. Until we see the comments, the extent of work is a bit of a mystery.

The second project is one that is just starting. We received the proposed contract with a schedule. Schematic Design must be completed June 26. This includes an outline spec plus sitework and foundation early construction packages. Our proposal included a draft and final outline spec. We did not know about early construction packages needing a completed Division 01 when we made our proposal.

I want to be sure that I can actually accomplish both in the given time frame. But what control do I have to ensure the milestones are met?

React With a Plan

If I must meet a deadline, I must plan the work. Simply knowing the ultimate deadline is not enough. What are the steps to get to the goal?

I need data to do my job - the right data at the right time. Otherwise the entire process will be mired in inefficiency and may be doomed to failure. Failure may be a missed deadline, poorly coordinated work, or incomplete work.

I know what I need. I know the best sequence for everything I need. If I presume my client knows what I need, I will help ensure frustration (on both sides) and will likely create an adversarial relationship when cooperation is essential.

A strong offense can be the best defense. I want my client to understand my work plan to achieve the required results. The work plan includes activities and responsibilities for everyone affecting my work. I want my client to know that I am helping organize the effort to meet the goal.

Here is the plan I sent to our client with the signed contract to start the new project. Consider it an example of how to react, proactively. The plan shows our client we can meet the schedule but only with cooperation from the entire team.

SD Outline Spec Work Plan (in required order)

Since the SD deadline is July 26, we need to start our work soon. Here is our plan to complete our work on time. We need your input to determine the TBD dates and to confirm the other proposed dates.

  • Receive SD Progress Documents: TBD - drawings, design descriptions, BOD product selections
  • Issue SD Table of Contents Draft: TBD - incorporate items and questions discovered from document review
  • Spec Kickoff meeting: TBD - allow four hours to discuss design, table of contents, other spec influences before starting spec.
  • Receive Proposed Construction Contract: TBD - review for effect on Division 01
  • Conduct Division 01 Procedures Interview: TBD - allow one hour teleconference
  • Issue Draft Division 01 for Review: TBD - allow three days following teleconference
  • Receive Division 01 Draft Comments: Jul 12, latest
  • Issue Draft Spec with Revised Division 01 for Review: Jul 17, latest - allow two weeks for development and one week for review
  •  Receive Draft Spec Comments: Jul 23, latest - allow minimum 3 days for coordination and corrections
  • Submit Completed SD Spec: Jul 26 - project schedule milestone

Requesting client to help define TBD dates Requesting client to help define TBD dates

And the Result Is…

Will the project proceed exactly according to our plan? Do they ever? We can dream can't we?

But at least the team knows what is required to complete the specifications, on time. The plan allows us to track the progress and start begging for information before it is needed. Perhaps the need for begging will be minimal or even eliminated, because we shared our plan rather than asking our client to guess what we may need.

This part of the project will happen quickly. The end is only six weeks away. I plan to report the results here as they happen so you can see how the plan worked out. I hope you will share your thoughts, too.

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