To stimulate the economy and create jobs through construction work, as President Obama has once again asked Congress to do, I realized that in government construction the voyage may be more important than the outcome.
And a different type of scheduling may be needed for contractors to make money.
It also means that I may have to learn to put on overalls and cultivate some corn, so to speak, instead of hunting.
Here's what I'm talking about.
In construction, the goal of the project team and scheduling professional is usually completion as soon as possible or perhaps to a stipulated date. Incentives exist to speed completion, whether such are positive (such as a bonus or avoided overheads) or negative (actual or liquidated damages). The specifications and other contract documents of public (and many private) projects promote such a objective.
But in the current economy, and the current (and possibly future of either party) administration, a differing goal may be foremost in the minds of the project paymasters. Employment – steadily growing, without overtime and without layoffs, week after week, month after month – is the goal of projects funded directly or indirectly for purposes of stimulus.
The journey is more important than the destination.
Imagine highway revitalization. A long-term contract provides a constructor with an open scope for such work within the county. The specification provides cost-plus compensation, with factors including “no layoff,” DBE (involving the gamut of minority, young, recently unemployed, etc.), and productivity determining the “plus.” Ditto bridges throughout the county or state. Ditto other infrastructure such as water, waste, power and broadband, to tear up every road in the county.
Similarly for private concerns. A governmental dictate to upgrade the environmental quality of a power plant or chicken farm often sets a deadline against a penalty. Consider rather a stimulus incentive to hire a specified task force to address such concerns, once again providing a “plus” for desired voyaging rather than final outcomes.
THIS BLOG DOES NOT ADVOCATE SUCH A POLICY.
But if the reason why a project is being funded is to stimulate employment, and completion of a set scope by a set date is not the driving purpose, then the specification and contract documents should say so, and the concepts of Agile Scheduling are then more apt to maximize the profits of the contract awardees.
These projects still require robust scheduling tools. While it may not matter which section of highway is renovated next, it does matter that necessary engineering, permits, materials and equipment be available to support the labor resource when it arrives from its last assignment. Should excavation reveal other infrastructure in need of upgrade, the upgrade should be looked at not as a change order, but simply an adjustment to scope to better utilize the available labor resource.
This is not what I have done for a living these past 40 years. I am more excited with the challenge to help a company earn a $4,000,000 bonus for completing a project 90 days early. However, if the game has left the range, I can learn to farm.
Tools I have learned for Construction Style Scheduling, such as Oracle Primavera P6, are already quite attuned to Resource Allocation Scheduling and Agile applications. Other tools provide for minimizing labor turnover and maximizing productivity, such as Vico Schedule Planner and Spider Project.
Wearing my legal hat, the contract language required to redirect public funds from specified infrastructure in a specified time to providing a stimulus for growing stable employment (including training for upward mobility) appears rather simple. I suspect both political parties will be moving in this direction.
Perhaps it is time to turn my spear into a pruning hook for a few seasons until the game returns.