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How to Train Project Managers and Superintendents to Effectively Support the CPM Scheduling Process by Michael Pink, CEO, SmartPM Technologies

It’s no secret in the construction industry that the critical path method (CPM) scheduling process is not being optimally deployed within most construction organizations. Some might even say it’s broken. Despite having many talented schedulers, and scheduling programs that work well, the industry hasn’t successfully executed the scheduling process across the board — which supports the idea that it is, in fact, broken. Some data even suggests that the way the CPM process was introduced to the industry has been a large contributor to the litigious nature of construction. This, in turn, has only caused a more significant divide and reduced trust in the process.

At a time when focus on the schedule seems to be heightened, only a small percentage of people in construction actually understands CPM scheduling. Unfortunately, those individuals are not the executives, risk managers, operations managers and, most notably, project managers (PMs) and superintendents — the people who need to live and breathe the schedule to maintain budgets and timelines. The reality is that most nonschedulers, don’t have a fundamental understanding of this process and, as a result, they don’t truly embrace it – most notably, PM’s and Superintendents.

Herein lies the root of the issue of why the process is not optimal: Many people think they understand CPM scheduling “good enough”, but in most cases, don’t really understand it enough to trust or appreciate it, and therefore do not embrace it. As a result, the schedule becomes a reporting mechanism as opposed to what it was designed to be – a management tool.

Organizations can take five actions to empower team members so they better understand and appreciate the CPM scheduling process. Due to their day-to-day responsibilities for projects, PMs and supers are a priority — but the more that individuals understand how scheduling works, the more they will start to embrace the process.

1.  Teach team members what CPM scheduling is about and where it came from.

Most people see a schedule, print out a six-week plan and go to work. They look at the activities on a calendar and try to keep up with them. They do this because they think it’s what they’re supposed to do. Of course, they know the red activities are critical, and to them that means the activities are priorities. But do they understand how critical path activities are calculated and what it means to manage them? Do they understand how to find the next high-priority activities, and the value of the total-float and free-float calculations? Do they appreciate the process as a means to managing a project to an end date? Do they understand that one missing crew logic tie can result in an erroneous critical path and inaccurate float calculations, sending the wrong message to PMs and resulting in a project that is headed down a wrong path? (Usually not.) Do they realize that applying finish constraints to multiple milestones might be one of the biggest mistakes in all of scheduling? Most people don’t actually understand these concepts, yet they are given complete responsibility to manage and govern a schedule for a construction project.


2.  Show the team which best practices go into building high-quality schedules and why using them is important, and reiterate it.

Most individuals in the construction industry think a schedule that “looks right” is a good schedule. They judge this by the flow of the activities in plan, as seen on a printout, rather than digging into the details to ensure best practices are being followed.  To read more, download:

How to Train Project Managers and Superintendents to Effectively Support the CPM Scheduling Process

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Author: Michael Pink

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