Keep it simple!

Some of the most common mistakes in project planning are often some of the most simplistic things to do. Here are some (not an exhaustive list) common mistakes with simple solutions:


1. Full scope on the programme.

It can be the case that the full scope is not fully defined but I’ve heard the comment “that’s not on the programme because it’s going to change anyway” or “we don’t know what we’re doing there yet”.

The programme should always show the intention and knowledge at the time of the data date.

If there’s further change then the programme update will help justify and demonstrate that change. If the sequence or durations haven’t been defined yet then it’s better to have something in the programme as provisional work in progress rather than nothing at all as this scope will no doubt have an impact on something else either spatially, resource wise or sequencing.


2. Showing the correct working calendar

This one is a big bug bear of mine, especially in restricted working environments such as rail possessions or road closures, where works can only be undertaken during special access periods. On these occasions the calendar should only allow the activities to work during these periods.

I often see what I call the lazy approach which is to have the work on a 24/7 working arrangement and held in position with a constraint to pin it where the access is. This looks right on paper but the float reported is immediately incorrect due to the working calendar and this approach falls apart when change occurs. This can be catastrophic.

Example: There is a rail possession every other weekend. The work is planned but cannot take place due to an approval which is delayed. The lazy approach would simply move the work into midweek when the approval is granted however in reality the work cannot happen then as there is no possession. Having the correct calendar would immediately push the work into the next available weekend.

A very simple thing to get right but probably the most common issue we find.


3. Misuse of constraints

These should be kept to an absolute minimum in a programme but sometimes nessisary for access dates, key dates and important integration milestones with a larger programme.

A constraint on an activity alone does not explain the driving reason the activity is being held on that date. This could have a genuine reason such as delivery of a free issue material. In this instance a predecessor should be placed on the programme clearly showing the driving item for the date. This will make it clear and understandable within the project plan. Even better if a code or description can be added for the owner of that action driving the remaining work.


4. Not showing all the key dates

Contracts can often have more than one binding completion date. If the contract has sectional completions then the programme should have a critical path for each completion date and not just to contact completion.

Each key date should have a planned completion and contractual completion date identified in the programme and these should be monitored on a regular basis.

There is a large focus on the contract completion date and the critical path to this and the key dates can be overlooked. Its possible to meet the contract completion date but miss all of the Key dates on the way and get hit with damages.


5. Ambiguous details

Clear descriptions of activities are pretty simple. It’s better to split an activity out into its constituent elements than claim that out of a 6 week activity the first 2 weeks are for A the next 3 weeks are for B and the last week is for C.

Far easier and clearer to just have a separate activity for A, B and C in this instance.

In my experience this kind of ambiguous detail only causes issues between parties when assessing, reporting or disputing a programme.


The list above is not exhaustive and there are many other simple mistakes which are far too common.

If any of the above sound familiar and you would like assistance with ongoing programme support, tender support or delay assessment then please get in touch.

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