What Constitutes A Sound Schedule?

We all know the saying, “Time is money”.
Why is it then that so little focus is placed on our schedule?

One of the main reasons for project cost overruns are as result of delays. Project delays are not in the interest of any party. For clients, project delays result in delay to commence commercial operations and thus loss of income. For contractors, delays will result in additional cost, loss of profit and potentially result in delay damages. As the schedule is the tool for managing time, why is there then not more emphasis on managing the schedule? When a project is awarded, we fail to recognize the significance of the project schedule. We develop the schedule as a contractual requirement to satisfy the client’s needs.

It is Your Schedule.

I often find when asking contractors about the reasoning behind elements in their schedule, to hear that it is a client requirement and yes, it is true that we need to satisfy the client however our commitment to the client is a desired outcome.

As a reputable contractor, the means of getting there is my responsibility. It is my plan, not the client’s plan. If I have committed to deliver a certain product, at a certain price, then this is what should be reflected in my plan. My plan should be my tool to guide me through the process and to indicate whether I am on track or deviating. My plan should allow me to identify deviation and risk to achieving my desired outcome.

Working to your client’s plan will still lead to the same desired outcome, however it will protect their deviations and increase your risk.
Ensure you understand and are aligned with your client’s desired outcome, however, take control and own your plan.

McKinsey & Company, a Global Project Consulting company in a study found that projects typically take 20% longer to finish than scheduled and run up to 80% over budget.

They also in their study claim that the Construction Industry has since the 90’s been one of the slowest industries to adapt to change regarding adapting business strategy in line with changes in market requirements.


Project Teams are quick to acknowledge the fact that their project schedule is not to standard and although they recognize the significance of the Project Schedule, they mostly attribute the cause as a result of a deterioration of project scheduling skills, or unrealistic schedule demands from clients.

Although this is true, the problem stem beyond this and my personal view is that the cause of the deterioration of project scheduling skills, results from the fact that today, project teams fail to recognise the true value and purpose of the project schedule. Because of this, they fail to apply the necessary due diligence required to satisfy the requirements for establishing a sound Project Schedule.

It is true that the world is a changed place with everything happening quicker and faster and clients imposing shortened schedules on contractors. Unfortunately, some laws and principles have not changed to keep up with the pace.

Although we have managed to change some processes with the introduction of scheduling software, this has not changed the planning and development required to establish the data required to set up our schedule.

With tightening timelines, Project and Project Schedule set up is more important than ever. Contractors who fail to recognize this will remain under pressure and will need to be satisfied with depleted profits. Besides the pressure created by shortened schedules, this also results in more changes resulting from clients attempting to fast track up front engineering.

For the contractor un-identified and un-controlled changes are one of their highest risks for losing time and thus income.
This phenomenon will not disappear and if anything, it will worsen, and those that recognise this and respond to this correctly will be the ones to survive.

It is imperative that you know where you are and what your progress is, but this information for scheduling is a means to an end.

The introduction of computing and software for project scheduling has been great, however it does not take away the Team responsibility of establishing the base data required for populating the software. The results from poorly set up scheduling software that was not supported by the required planning efforts involving all role players will not satisfy your Project objectives.

A common mistake, brought about by the introduction of scheduling software is to over complicate systems. It is true that the software allows for easier manipulation of more complex data, however, balance should be maintained. Contrary to belief, overly complex schedules and networks will, unless you have the required supporting process in place, result in losing control of your schedule and will not support your Project objective.

According to PMI: “All Projects are a temporary effort to create value through a unique product, service or result. All projects have a beginning and an end, they have a team, a budget, a schedule, and a set of expectations the team needs to meet. Each project is unique and differs from routine operations.

In this view, the purpose of the project schedule is to manage the time from the set beginning to the set end, and this should be the main objective of the project schedule.

What is wrong with this equation?

Today I find Project Teams go to great length to set up their systems to calculate progress and to report progress achieved to date. We set up complex systems for capturing progress and we establish great reports.

Project schedulers today, I find, spend most their time capturing progress and maintaining complex schedules and producing progress reports. I find they spend very little or no time on schedule analysis and forecasting.

While the key purpose of the project schedule is to protect the project completion date, we spend most out time on focus is on where we are, with little or no focus on the true schedule objective and on whether the remaining schedule is still aligned with the project objective of ensuring the project completion date is protected.
Accurately assessing and capturing progress is crucial, yet not as a means of satisfying management’s progress expectations. Showing good progress is great if it is not at the expense of losing your schedule and delaying your completion date.

To satisfy the true needs of your schedule, the purpose for measuring progress correctly and accurately is not to satisfy the S-Curve, it should be to better and more accurately assess and evaluate your schedule performance and to do more accurate forecasting of achieving your desired completion date.
By managing your schedule correctly, the S-Curve will take care of itself.

We need to change the emphasis from capturing and reporting progress, to remaining schedule evaluation and forecasting and thus, re-establish the value of our Project Schedule in protecting our end date, manage and limiting delays and improve our project profit.


To re-establish the true Project Schedule objective.

  1. Focus on establishing a sound Project Schedule based on sound scheduling practices and principles.
  2. Establish an accurate Earned Value Progress Measurement System to assess Project Progress and Performance.
  3. With these processes in place, utilise the results from these to continuously evaluate and validate your remaining schedule to identify potential deviation and implement timeous corrective action as necessary. 

Project Planning Solutions support clients in ensuring their Project Schedule supports their business objective, leading to improved profit.