“What is it about the job schedule that you manage?”

(excerpted from The Pipeline)


“Let me ask you a question”, said the intrepid, results-based consultant, directing it to the superintendents and VP of Construction.  “As it now stands, what is it that you would say you actually ‘manage’ in the RB Builders’ production system?”

“We manage our jobs”, replied a superintendent.  “We manage the jobsite.  We manage the job schedule.  We manage the job quality.  We manage the job budgets.”

“Fair enough”, she said.  “That was too broad.  Let me rephrase it.  Among your other job-related tasks, you say you manage the job schedule.  What is it about the job schedule that you currently manage?”

“We manage the tasks”, replied the superintendent.  “We manage the tasks according to the job schedule, which means we get the tasks started as soon as we can, and we try to get the tasks finished on-time.  Somewhere in all of that, the resource conflicts you were describing get worked out, not always to everyone’s satisfaction.”

“Since you manage the tasks on each job”, she continued, “then I presume you also know the completion date of each task, the start date of the next task, the completion date of the job, and whether or not the job will finish on-time.

“Am I right?”

“I’m sure we think we do, but we really don’t know completion dates, not with any level of confidence”, said the VP of Construction, glowering at the cluster of superintendents.  “She’s right, and you guys know it.  We have already admitted that we don’t come close to meeting our completion dates, even though we all agree that our job schedules provide significantly more time than we need to build a house.”

“The problem is, every time a task finishes late or is delayed, the job schedule moves the job completion date out.  The revisions to the job schedules are constant.  But, we still don’t know whether the job is going to be completed within even the new time.  There is variation and uncertainty in every job, and it extends all the way through it.

“Regardless of whether the first 10 tasks finish early, on-time, or late, there is no way to see where we really are in terms of overall completion, because the next 10 tasks could be a completely different outcome.  The padded duration of each individual task only protects that task – not very well, I might add – and does nothing to protect or insure the on-time performance of the job/project.

“Clearly, there are problems.  We know that.”


(The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production is available on the publisher website (virtualbookworm.com), through the author website (thepipelinebook.com), as well as amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and booksamillion.com)