Project Foundation Pt. 1: Building the Master Schedule

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Project Foundation Pt. 1: Building the Master Schedule

After a successful project kick-off, a solid foundation is required to bring your project into “flow state”. That foundation is a detailed schedule and budget, created and owned by the Project Manager, with input from consultants and contractors, and approved by the Client. To start, here are key considerations to take when creating the Master Schedule, prioritized by stok’s Project Managers:

1. Allow ample and realistic time for Client decisions.

Ask questions to try to understand how decision-making works within the Client’s organization. Make sure you discuss expectations for how decisions should be presented – is an email preferred, or a presentation using power point? Should decisions be presented with several options, such as a high, medium, or low approach? Or should it be clear cut, black and white? Does it need to include detailed estimates, or just a ROM? Does the Client prefer to see a drawing and / or renderings? Your ability to facilitate decisions within a complex organization is a difficult feat and takes planning and communication.

2. Integrate administrative timelines into the schedule.

No one likes when red tape disrupts the project flow! Understand client purchase order requirements, process to onboard vendors, turnaround of contracts by legal, and disbursement of deposits. Then make sure these timelines are accounted for in the schedule.

3. If the space is leased, integrate the landlord’s review and approval durations.

This consideration is too often overlooked. If you do not include the landlord in your schedule, you’ll experience an unforeseen delay to releasing your trades and materials. Beyond this, allow enough time for decommissioning of the existing space per the current lease. This can have a cost implication to your Client if not factored in.

4. Give the GC and their trades time to estimate the project.

If budget is the project driver (remember the holy trinity of project priorities — budget, schedule, and design), build in more than one estimating period. During SD and DD, this can overlap with design. Freeze the drawings at your CD milestone and allow the estimators reasonable time to bid the project. As the Project Manager, set expectations with the GC for how many bidders will be required, if self-perform work is acceptable, and how it should be documented (include bid leveling and sub back up!).

5. When it comes to permitting, do not be overly optimistic.

Check online for the stated durations for permit review by the municipality of the project. The duration may seem outlandish but reflect it in your schedule anyways. A crafty architect or expeditor, a pre-app meeting, and buttoned up drawings may shorten the review time – but make no guarantees.

6. Discuss with the Client during design if any mock-ups are desired.

A mock-up is a prototype which reflects design, color, layout, material, scale, and the overall functionality and constructability of the feature. Mock-ups can help reveal problems that aren’t so apparent on paper, however they can take time to procure materials and build. If they are desired, allow for this in the schedule.

7. Always track the following schedule considerations at the end of construction:

Ask that the Client communicate who the decision makers are or elect one for the duration of the project. Next, determine the process for decision-making. Communicate target turnarounds for design, budget, and schedule approvals.

8. Use your master schedule as a master task list.

Under each milestone, list the critical path deliverables from the project team. Be sure the items are assigned with a desired progress date or due date. The Project Manager should track the deliverables daily, to ensure ongoing collaboration from the team and input from the Client.

Up next, tips to create the Master Budget! In the meantime, if you want more insights into successful project management, reach out to stok’s Project Managers.