Introduction to Planning.
Project Planning is a vital activity in construction since the success or failure of construction projects - the core activity - depends upon it. At the same time, there are unique factors in construction, among them the complexity of resourcing, impact of weather conditions and the existence of multiple contractors, making this challenging and time-consuming activity.
Cost reduction and increased efficiency are vital in the construction industry. However, project planning must become more rapid, accurate, and responsive to change if this is to be achieved. Provided the complexity is captured, the ability to draw on best practices within the organisation and re-apply knowledge already held within the organisation has a major contribution to make.
Traditional Planning - Biblical Times.
The Egyptians and Romans worked construction miracles in their day. Surviving ruins attest to the brilliance of their architecture, but little is known of their construction planning and scheduling. They can be supposed to solve many scheduling programmes by the “Use of a bigger whip” philosophy.
Project management has other roots reaching back into the days before the pyramids. Historical project managers included Noah, Solomon and the unknown architect who designed the Tower of Babel. History records much about the construction details but little about the methods of control.
Traditional Planning - The Early Days.
In the mid-nineteenth century, at least one writer discussed work-versus-time graphical representation similar to today’s bar charts.
However, it remained for Henry L Gantt and Frederick W Taylor in the early 1900s to popularise their graphical representations of work versus time. Their “Gantt Charts” were the basis of today’s bar graphs of bar charts.
The work of Taylor and Gantt was the first scientific consideration of the problem of working schedule; it was readily accepted for planning construction and recording its progress.
The bar graph was, and is, an excellent graphical representation of activity. It is easily read and understood by all levels of management and supervision. If the bar graph is so well suited to construction activity, why look for another planning aid? The reason lies in the fact that the bar graph is limited in what it can retain.
In the first preparation of a bar chart, the author is nearly always influenced by desired completion dates, often working backwards from the completion dates and plotting the course of events using the window of time stipulated for the project. This could be termed as an “inspired guess” exercise “looking at the forest instead of the trees”, otherwise known as the top-down approach or strategic planning.
Simple Bar Charts may well serve a purpose in this role. With a large project, the bar graph cannot show intelligently the interrelations and interdependencies which control the project. At a later date, even the originator is often hard-pressed to explain the plan using the bar graph. Changing the bar chart at a later date is so often a juggling of the original bar graph and is not based upon logical planning.
Chronicle of Planning Part 2
Moving away from “Strategic Planning”. There is a need to affect “Tactical Planning” (Looking at the trees or bottom-up). This focuses on detail like:
What tasks are required to do the project?
How long will each task take?
Who will perform these tasks?
How much is each task going to cost?
Which tasks are more important?
How will a change in one task influence others?
How will the project deadline be met?
This type of exercise cannot be affected using bar graphs. CPM offers the means to resolve all the questions being asked in preparing a tactical plan.
"Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice"E. M. Forster