The Project Notebook

Construction Time Management

A reader at PM Hut asks: Why do we see so much lack of time scheduling in construction business? And how can time management In a contractor company make the work more efficient?

I cannot speak to the “lack of time scheduling in construction business”. I’m in education, and most school construction projects have pretty good time scheduling because they need to be completed in time for the new school year. If they are not, schools are left to scramble to find space for displaced students. This goes for K-12, colleges and universities, and even non-traditional schools since they are forced often by law to adhere to some semblance of a school year.

In general, there are also a number of project scheduling tools which compete with the more common Microsoft project because they have features which support construction projects. Primavera is one notable package that is a full solution from proposal to construction to back office functions. Prolog is another that comes to mind. There are 87 other packages cited at Software Advice. 17 of these are specialized in time scheduling.

As project managers, we have two basic ways of improving the schedule time: crashing and fast tracking. Crashing adds more resources. This isn’t always helpful — it depends on the level of expertise of the resources, the nature of the work, etc. Fast tracking on the other hand looks to make the work more efficient by finding more things to do in parallel. On a major software project, I had three major applications which had to read and write from a common file. I could have developed them serially. Instead, I got the team together and the first thing we did was define the common file format and read/write methods. With that out of the way, we were able to work independently on the three applications at the same time. It seems like there are parallels in the construction industry. This was shown very effectively by the four hour house project. You can watch the video documentary at Google Videos. Two complete, livable houses were finished within four hours by very careful time management and scheduling. I’d say that’s a lot of efficiency!

The people devoted to tasks are very important to efficiency as well. Teams which are able to self-manage their own time usually accomplish a lot more. I have a number of online articles devoted to helping you or project team members become more effective at getting things done:

GTD for PMs
GTD for PMs – Part II
GTD for PMs – Part III
GTD for PMs – Part IV
GTD for PMs Part V – How to Work with GTD

At the end of the day, it’s about balance – completing the work of mutual value for you and the stakeholders in as efficient a way possible, leaving you more time for non-work activities and some time to address the unknown unknowns (aka risks) which will arise during the course of your project.If this doesn’t fully answer your question, you may continue the dialog in the comments or drop me a line at

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© 2010-2012 Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP, CCP