The project schedule as a management tool, and not just pretty wallpaper.

By Andrew Dick posted 12 days ago


After more years than I care to count (able to remember) working on all manner of projects, and over 20 years working directly as a Project Controls Professional, the one thing that stands head and shoulders above all other core issues related to project delay and failure is the lack of effective use of a project delivery schedule. 

But why; after 60+ years of formalized project management, and over 100 years of the Gantt chart, are we still not able to create an effective schedule? Why do we hear so often that the schedule “wasn’t fit for purpose”, or “didn’t provide the real sequence for the way the project was being delivered”? Who has heard the infamous words during a claims process that “We couldn’t follow the schedule because it was useless”?

Be it from lack of planning to create one, ineffective planning that creates a bad one, or the simple ignorance of what the schedule ‘could’ be used for, the schedule should not be treated as a piece of wallpaper, it’s a living and breathing project team member who, when employed as envisioned, can provide the entire project team with ideas, answers, and most importantly early warning of impending doom.

Let’s just be clear; A good schedule does NOT tell you what you want to hear; A good schedule will tell you what you NEED to know……

Go to any conference or chapter meeting of any number of organizations and you’ll soon find the pantheon of planners & schedulers. They’re the ones standing around talking about how the schedule wasn’t used, or how peoples complete disregard for the project delivery schedule caused a delay.

Schedules are so often treated like a ‘report’, providing a backward-looking account of what happened on the project, or worse, they are considered to be a useless deliverable that never works, and a complete waste of time and money to produce.

I will add that a significant amount of issues encountered in claims assessment is the fact that schedules are not even updated correctly calling into question/doubt the historical accuracy of what ‘actually’ happened on the project.

While people treat schedules as a ‘contract requirement’ that, so long as it meets the dates the client expects then that will be good enough, we will never be able to remove the stigma associated with the project schedule. A schedule is something we should all use, and absolutely something we should all need, and most importantly it must be something that everyone on the project should use as intended from day one of the project, to guide them towards project success.

Here at Arcadis we encourage all our clients to embrace the project delivery schedule, we guide them on how the schedule should look and what it should do for all stakeholders on the project. Moreover, we encourage the use of detailed schedule specifications which are modified from a basic core set of requirements that attempt to standardize the way in which project schedules are employed on each project.

Through this approach we hope to continue our successful delivery of our projects, meeting and in most cases exceeding the expectations of our clients.

Remember it’s not wallpaper; the project schedule is a living and breathing team member of the project who will help you if you let them. 

For information about Arcadis’ Contract Solutions practices, click here.




6 days ago

You might be interested to join a recent LinkedIn discussion about planning and scheduling. Your input might give others the needed sauce to really appreciate those two processes. Here’s the link.


6 days ago

Hi Andrew, Excellent write up! I specially like your statement, “A good schedule does NOT tell you what you want to hear; A good schedule will tell you what you NEED to know.”