Tag Archives: Schedule

Four project management lessons from the BRIT awards

Listening to some of the coverage of the BRIT music awards and the problems that delays caused for star of the show Adele – and her reaction, reminded me of a conversation I had about project scheduling at the start of a major capital project.

The conversation involved me, experienced Project Manager Barry Ryan and our mutual client. In reality, I was a bit of a bystander but the message was valid. The conversation when a bit like this:

Barry: How does a project get to be six months behind schedule?

Client: I’ve done lots of projects but never got to the bottom of that one.

Barry: Well, its one day at a time.

Wise words!

So, what’s the message from this for project management [and time management and event planning for that matter]:

  1. You need to be vigilant from the start – especially if things slow down
  2. You need to understand what is important to all of the stakeholders
  3. You have to be clear about your objectives and
  4. You have to know what you can cut and what you can’t – understand the landscape of the project

If you don’t you’ll get no choice and will end up having to cut what comes towards the end – which may be the most important part.

Project Planning – the 4th Dimension

Project plans are often thought of has having three key parameters:

  • Scope – what you plan to do and the standard you intend to meet
  • Cost / Budget – How much you intend to spend [taking all resources into account] and
  • Time/ schedule – How long you expect the project to take.

Different project types / styles and levels complexity require different levels of sophistication but the basic principles remain the same.

What I’ve noticed in many major projects that the proposed method of implementing the project is less well defined than the other aspects at sanction. This is a major error – not only to do the three elements mentioned above depend on the assumed approach but it is crucial that they are all mutually compatible and consistent. The four elements are in tension with each other, so altering one will affect all the others.

Tensions between elements of the project plan

There is a severe risk that the budget will be based on one implementation approach whilst the schedule is based on another. Simple examples of this can often be seen in TV property development programmes where, for example, – the budget is based on the developer doing the work whilst the schedule [and anticipated quality] is based on employing professionals. These assumptions are incompatible and problems are likely to surface as the work proceeds.

In professional circles, the risk of major discrepancies of this type is lower but can still exist, particularly if the development stages have not been based on effective dialogue [see an earlier post in this series – Make sure everyone is doing the same project.] This risk is heightened if the various elements of the plan are put together by separate teams with inadequate attention to communication. Similarly, there is a danger that the implementation approach will be changed late in the definition phase with assumptions being made on the likely impact on other aspects of the project. The nuances of assumed changes of approach can easily be missed and the implications of, for example, undertaking design work in-house rather than contracting it out can be underestimated.

Difficulties of this type can surface on seemingly minor sub-projects which become more important as work proceeds. There is a natural tendency to focus on major and critical items. This can lead to the team being blindsided when a significant minor but sub-critical element, which may have received only scant attention in the development phase, is delayed or cannot be sourced.

It is critical that the:

  • Budget
  • Scope / Standard
  • Schedule and
  • Implementation approach

Are all congruent with each other and prepared to an equivalent level of detail / sophistication. Saying “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” is unlikely to be good enough and is often a reliable predictor of problems ahead!