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Project Controls is all about communication. For example one might have a very detailed and

accurate schedule taking into account all possibly variables such as labour and equipment resource

availability, productivity both over the project's life and applied individually to labour resources,

environmental factors, criticalities in the schedule path, PERT analysis, etc. However for all the efforts and thoughtful analysis that might have gone into putting together this schedule, these efforts would have been effectively and potentially 100% wasted if the schedule and its analysis were not communicated effectively to the incumbent parties.

 

What are we saying here? As many of you would probably agree and might be already aware at least at a subconscious level (your gut feeling) Project Controls is 50% science, 50% art and 100% communication. Continuing with above given example, we could have a very nice schedule, but if it's simply emailed let's say to the Project Manager, Construction Manager, and the Client, and all of these individuals - as most often are - find themselves flooded with numerous other emails, the very likely reality is that the reported schedule, along with its relevant analysis (which could highlight and alert the reader what the critical path activities are, and possibly even discuss some of the necessary mitigation actions necessary) would simply be as a best case scenario briefly scanned and forgotten by the reader, or as a worst case scenario downright ignored.

 

And both cases obviously would make the planner cringe at the lost opportunity to work on an execution plan of action to correct or at the least ameliorate the schedule criticalities.

 

As it can be seen from this simple example, effective communication is absolutely crucial. It's the difference between action being generated and the lack of it, between things happening or just business as usual with the all too common project delays, with everybody running in circles while attempting to put down the fire.

 

So how do we go about communicating effectively in a project environment? First we must be consciously aware of the subtle but very real and consequential differences there exist in the various communication methods. We have an array of different vehicles: these being primarily direct face to face communication, telephone calls, Skype/ QQ/ Messenger chatting, emails and letters. This is all very straight forward, right? No. Or not always if judged by the evident miss-use as can be evidenced at any given organization. Each of the above communication methods is best suited for distinct purposes. In the same way you did not (most likely anyhow) propose to your girlfriend via email or text message but rather did so face to face, you would not necessarily (depending on the vicinity) go to the Contractor's office/ trailer, just to remind them about their daily construction report submission (instead a simple email would do perfectly fine, except if the submissions of these reports are probing problematic or there are many questions as to their content).

 

What we're saying is that choosing the right communication vehicle is very important. Yes, you with the sticky fingers: please stop typing that email, pick up the phone and call your Contractor's counterpart and ask him about the critical path, and whether he has considered the activities duration variability (PERT analysis). What? Yes, your schedule is deterministic, given that the activities durations are single point (average) durations. What this means is the schedule has a 50-50 chance of being late… that's why we run PERT to simulate the entire range of possible activity durations and hence overall schedule duration.

 

By the way, did you know that judge rulings are disconcertingly skewed according to the time of the day? A paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled "Extraneous factors in judicial decisions" describes how judge rulings are much more favorable right after a lunch break compared to right before it (up to 80% positive ruling for the former case Vs. near 0% for the latter). One plausible explanation given is that as the brain gets taxed with mental effort its becomes "lazier" and defaults to a path of least resistance.

 

You may ask, what is the correlation with above paragraph to subject of article? Little things matter. The time communication is executed matters. And that the communication vehicle that you choose to employ matters. If you are to discuss the critical path of a schedule with the construction manager, instead of paying him a visit at 11.00am, it might be wiser if possible to wait till after lunch, once he's re-charged are ready to engage in thoughtful analysis of the activity sequences, mitigation strategies, etc.

 

And this goes back to communication. In a way, one can think of Project Controls as nothing else but advertising. Has the Lead Planner communicated effectively with the Project Manager? Has he summarized the schedule with the "Milestone Summary" at the very top of the schedule? And no: the project manager will most likely not be interested in the remaining 50 pages of the schedule, he will most often only wish to check some of the milestones, and only dig the details for some very specific items that may be of his particular interest.

 

To reiterate: Project Controls is not only the science of number crunching construction estimates, productivity factors, schedule activity duration variabilities, risk analysis weightages and costs, etc. but it is also the fine art of synthesizing and evaluating the significance of the data being analyzed, as well as communicating in an easy, direct, clear and concise, "piece meal bite sized" way the critical information to the incumbent parties so that the necessary action is generated for the project's benefit.

 

Or to put it another way: if project controls fails to generate response/ action, then most likely there's failed communication.

 

Links:

Why Project Controls?

 

The Importance of Communication in Project Controls

P6 vs. MS Project

The two contenders. But which one is better?

An “armchair scheduler” or frontline messenger?

Progressing a Primavera P6 schedule.

Progressing a Schedule
Why Project Controls

Selected Articles

Meetings

Love them or hate them. How to conduct successful productive meetings.

Funny, but true. Video on the functions of Project Controls.

Enjoy!

Settings do matter: pick the wrong settings and your schedule’s output will be meaningless.

What the text books didn’t tell you
Primavera P6 Settings
Video - Project Controls

Selected Articles

Tips on Scheduling

50% Science, 50% Art, 100% Communication

Why Project Controls?

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