This is not from Tom's wedding. From

This is not from Tom’s wedding. From

Tom was ready.  He had been living the bachelor dream for a few years now and finally found a young lady that shared his passion and zest for life.  This wasn’t his first try, Tom had been married before, but the flying, working and living was just too much for his first wife.  This time things would be different.

Amanda was the bride to be.  She was in heaven and so excited to be planning their wedding.  As most brides do, Amanda began planning and plotting for what would be the perfect wedding.  She had 6 months to put the event together.  Six months seemed more than ample time to get things in order.  Just a few weeks after his proposal, Tom received an excellent new job opportunity.  It would be a relocation and a huge commitment.  He was nervous, the prospect of this project was enticing, but he would have to sell his fiancé, not only on the job and the move, but the prospect of moving the wedding day up!  As you can imagine, Amanda was not thrilled to have her planning time cut in half, but she supported her husband-to-be and began the task of planning a wedding in less than 90 days.

Not too soon after this date shift did Tom start to notice a shift in Amanda.  She had become agitated, distant and not too much fun to be around.  She was pulling out her hair trying to plan for this wedding.  There was just too much to do and not enough time to get it done.  On more than one occasion, Tom was not just worried about getting to the wedding day, but he also began to doubt his future with Amanda.

He came home one evening to find her overwhelmed, frustrated and downright sad.  Tom needed to do something or this relationship was going to end.  Then a light went on inside of his head……..Tom was a master scheduler on large-scale, mega projects.  How was planning a wedding any different from a construction project?  Was there a critical path?  Could you create events, tasks, relationships, float and milestones?  Yes!  Tom consoled Amanda and then pulled out his laptop.  He popped open the computer and booted up his Primavera scheduling software (Tom has been using scheduling software since 1980 and started on Microtrak).  Now, as you can imagine, most wives were not too terribly excited to delve into construction scheduling software to plan their wedding, but this was a last ditch effort to save their relationship.

It started from the project completion date or…um the wedding day.  They set the wedding date in the schedule.  What were the critical items that needed to be completed prior to the date?  How long would they take?  When did they have to be completed by?  What were the relationships between the activities?  The invitations, the wedding cake, the flowers, the photographer all began to take their place in the schedule.  Soon Amanda’s mood began to shift.  What seemed like an overwhelming impossibility, started to become an event that was going to be incredible.  They had created the schedule together.  They owned the schedule together and they would make it happen together.  Tom printed out the schedule and hung it up on their wall.  It was color coded and trackable, just like you might see in any construction trailer.

Fast forward 20 years and Tom and Amanda are happily married.  Tom, still the proud husband, goes around using this story about the power of scheduling, while still doting over his bride and showing people pictures.  Though this is not the fairy tale wedding that you might read about in bride magazine, it is a story about the power of collaboration, sharing of ideas, looking for solutions and creating a powerful plan.

Often times I feel like I am waking up in the Twilight Zone.  Working with project teams around the world, I find that old habits and doing what is easy, often trumps better ideas that require collaboration, work and a little bit of critical thinking.  Often when it comes time to develop the schedule, the contractor or builder designs the schedule in a bubble and makes assumptions based upon their experience or minimally what the contract requires.  Once they piece together a schedule it gets passed off to the CM or the owner for review and comments.  This process can go on and on for a while.  I have even seen projects where they are close to project completion, but still do not have an approved CPM!

How can we do it better?  I asked Tom, who has 20+ years of experience as a master scheduler on major construction projects, including $1.2B, Hurricane Protection following Katrina in New Orleans, what can teams do with scheduling to help improve and drive project performance?

  1.  Components & Sub-Components – Break the schedule into pieces and then break those pieces into smaller pieces.  Work on figuring out the tasks to complete the components, and then worry about how they fit together.
  2. Understanding the needs and constraints of the Clients & Stakeholders – What are their expectations?  How can they help you?  How can you help them?
  3. Involving consultants, subcontractors and sub-consultants early – Getting the team involved for input, direction, sequencing and constraints.  Again, don’t build the schedule in a bubble.  Collaborate.
  4. Remember!  Having a good schedule can make you a great contractor – If you go buy “the seat of your pants”, the results will show.  If you have a good schedule that you use as a tool, it can improve productivity, performance, quality and save everyone time & money.

As Tom said, “Scheduling is like creating a score for an orchestra.  If you spend the time, effort and work with all of the players, you can make sweet music together.”

Thanks to Tom Gott of Stanley Consultants for sharing this great story!

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