MANAGING RISK OF DELAY – Managing Contractor Schedules (Part 13)

This McLaughlin & McLaughlin post is the thirteenth (13th) in a series  of discussions regarding various aspects of time management as it relates to the risk of delay.  This post addresses managerial considerations for dealing with schedules prepared by contractors and submitted to owners or their agents (construction managers, managing contractors, advisors, etc.).

Recently, Mr. Chris Carson authored an excellent article titledDealing with Contractors Schedules That Cannot be Approved.  This fine article was published in COST Engineering(September/October 2013).

This article contains excellent advice for project teams regarding schedule management.

Mr. Carson’s article is, in reality two articles in one.  While Mr. Carson’s article presents a methodology for problematic situations (which he calls DSAB), the preamble and initial discussion for this article is highly useful and applicable to project management teams as they address the frontend of project planning and execution.  This post summarizes the sage advice provided by Mr. Carson regarding frontend project management challenges as they relate to scheduling and time management.

In order to summarize the article, we will follow Mr. Carson’s structure.

Introduction – Here the author observes that an approved contractor schedule (as well as updates) is in the best interests of the project.  This contributes to alignment between stakeholders and serves to implement contractual requirements.  Otherwise, owners and other stakeholders are increasing their risks relative to time performance on the project.

Risks of Failing to Approve Schedules – Mr. Carson points to claims, manipulations and other undesirable outcomes.  Further, her notes the problem for the contractor since there is not a baseline to measure project performance.  (Sound project management requires solid baselines – Project Professionals comment).

Reasons for Failure to Approve Schedules – The notion here is that the owner may not approve due to the failure of the schedule to model the project plan.  Misalignments can be many and the article includes nine examples.  These include:

  • Schedule and narrative are not aligned
  • Lack of narrative and/or scope of work
  • Inconsistent degree of development between trades
  • Critical (and near critical) paths that have excessive owner or third party-responsible activities
  • Inappropriate or missing logic relationships
  • Cost or resource loading problems.

Recommended Process for Project Controls – Here, Mr. Carson has several steps that should be followed.  These include:

  • Require that the bid or tender include a schedule reflecting the plan for execution
  • Implement collaboration with stakeholders regarding the schedule and changes thereto
  • Implement a constructability review
  • Manage changed work (MOC) in a timely and responsible manner
  • Implement and manage within a schedule specification (see Project Professionals posts on this matter [link-Time Management – Schedule Specification Implementation]
  • Without an approved schedule, the owner (or agent) must implement an independent scheduling effort.


Staff Requirement Recommendations – Mr. Carson recommends that the contractor be required to use professional scheduling support.  Experience levels and criteria are presented.  The concept of the project manager performing the scheduling responsibilities is discouraged.  Use of a certified AACE International Planning and Scheduling Professional (PSP) scheduler is recommended.

Project Planning Recommendations – Allow more time for project planning.  One technique is to allocate some time between contract award and Notice to Proceed.  This provides a period for (among other things) enhancing planning and scheduling.  Since many contractors have separate groups for estimating / bidding and procurement / execution / construction, there is time needed for handoff and planning considerations.

Scheduling and Contract Specification Suggestions – Mr. Carson suggests a two step schedule submission process.  The notion is to get a short term interim schedule in place while the detailed schedule is prepared and vetted.

  • Initial project schedule covering first 120 days in detail and less detail for the balance of the project.  (PP – some call this a lookahead format)
  • Detailed project schedule – building from the initial project schedule and providing adequate level of detail for the balance of the project.  Submission would be 60 to 120 days from NTP… (PP – this sort of progressive development is common in EPC execution strategies).

Please see Project Professionals Subject Series, Time Management Schedule Specification Implementation on this topic.

Scheduling Meetings to Improve Ability to Approve Schedule – Prompt review of preliminary schedule submissions facilitates both upgrade actions and team work (collaboration included).  Similarly, risk workshops and scheduling planning meetings are suggested.  Generate a collaborative effort and a team work approach to identifying and resolving schedule-related issues.


The balance of Mr. Carson’s article deals with actions (by the owner) when the contractor’s schedule cannot be approved.

Good luck and let us all attempt to approach the issue of contractor schedule management in particular and Time-Management in general, with all the factors in an integrated manner (critical path progress, bulk progress or EVM, and productivity) relative to other related aspects of program and project execution planning.  In planning for these practices, consideration must be given to progress measurement, schedule updates, progress assessment and professional forecasts.

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