Effective schedule risk management isn’t about the use of Monte-Carlo!

The range of schedule related risks in a complex project is mind-boggling. A simple count of key interfaces and resource constraints, engineering, procurement and construction challenges, coupled with the transition into commissioning at a stage when time pressures are typically mounting, is enough to suggest that project management of such projects is doomed to failure. Although we achieve delivery of our complex projects time and again, at what cost? Evidence suggests that completing a complex project to its given time constraints is a statistical improbability, especially in an age when those constraints have been politically imposed and are more aggressive than ever. The unfortunate consequence is usually that the project margin has been all but eliminated.

It is ironic then that too little effort is often given to the collaborative establishment of an effective plan of work and that the associated project controls typically fail to bring value to the project management team. Not enough emphasis is placed on developing an understanding of planning, scheduling and project controls, such that they become almost redundant project disciplines that are consigned to the generation of report after report, few of which are ever read.

If an agreed, coherent and collaboratively aligned project delivery plan is deficient, is it any wonder that risk management and analysis often becomes little more than a tick-box exercise which achieves little or no value towards meeting key project objectives? There is simply not enough reliance on a competent evaluation of the project delivery strategy, associated schedule risks and their management plans.

There has to be a benefit associated with the identification and consideration of schedule risks based on practical and competence based interventions as opposed to the derivation of a P80 plan (80% probabilistic level of confidence). Any value associate with Monte-Carlo analysis is significantly diluted in a risk management regime that does not transcend and communicate the identified risks (and their management plans) to the people who are at the project workface, i.e. to those administering the physical work within each work package.

So what’s your experience? Has your project conducted a strategic review of how aligned planning and project controls are with schedule risk and stakeholder objectives? Do you have a collaboratively established and centralised plan at the heart of your project? Can it be used to align short-term plans, derive metrics and help identify, highlight and manage risks?

David Tyerman – Director, Kingsfield Planning