Forecasting – An Insight on Project Planners Vs Old School Mangers

Forecasting is an important skill and since the beginning, folks have been using different techniques and procedures to better predict the future. As the technology evolved over time, new techniques and procedures have revolutionized the forecasting capabilities. Forecasting using previous experience is one of the widely used old school methods. This method is good as it is quick and general but precision becoming more and more important in modern projects necessitates the developments of modern forecasting techniques.

Forecasting is one of the most critical skills for a Planner. Being a planner, you are required to predict the future in your best. This is as complex as it seems simpler. A better forecast just doesn’t come through experience only but you need the skills and abilities to see things in detail. You need to consider each and every aspect of the problem, analyse them and collect them together to get a better forecast. I won’t lengthen the article by including more about planning procedures and techniques but instead will share an interesting fictional story to highlight the topic argument.

Story – A Cup of Coffee:

Once a Planner was having too much difficulties arguing with the old school manager about the durations to keep for different activities while drafting the “Programme of Works” for one of their crucial projects.

The old school manager was insisting to put the durations as he wants based on his previous experience of similar projects. The Planner wasn’t much confident about his approach of mind calculations for some of the most critical activities, where a delay of a day or week can cause serious financial loses to the company. Due to the seniority of the Manager, he really couldn’t try any harder, so decided to explain the argument in a bit different way. He asked the Manger to have a break and invited to go for a coffee. So both of them went to the nearby restaurant and ordered a cup of coffee.

While the coffee was coming, after some formal talks the planner started an interesting discussion:

Planner: So Mr. ABC, How much time you think you need to finish the cup of coffee…

Manager:  Well, I guess five minutes…

Planner: Ok. Let’s see then how much you will take in actual…

Manager: Ok. If so, then how much you think I will take to finish that cup of coffee…

Planner: Well, that depends on many factors, and I need to know those factors before to answer…

Manager: What kind of factors…

Planner: Well, I need to know:

  1. The size of the cup. (Quantum of Work)
  2. The shape of the cup. (Work Atmosphere/conditions and Resources to be deployed)
  3. How hot is the coffee? (Accessibility & prerequisites etc.)
  4. The temperature around. (Environmental factors)
  5. How is your drinking behaviour for coffee, your appetite etc. (Experience & Efficiency of Resources)

Manager: Hahaha. After all these information, in the end you will get almost the same number.

Planner: Hahaha… Yes, maybe or maybe not. But I still want all these information as this will help me better monitor the progress during the sips and can help to finish in the defined time and also can early warn you for any delay…

Manager: Hahaha… Ok. Let’s get your information, it’s quite interesting to me too…

After that, they called the waiter and got all the information required by the Planner. They information were as below:

  1. Big mug cup of 300ml size.
  2. Shape was deep and narrow to keep the coffee hot for longer.
  3. The coffee was to be served almost boiling hot.
  4. The temperature around was moderate with a bit of warmth.
  5. The manager had a moderate drinking behaviour and hadn’t really any appetite for coffee at that time. He was just accompany the Planner and to have a break from work…

After all these information, the Planner took his pen and a piece of paper and started breaking down the work. He spilt the time in the following manner:

  1. 2 minutes to get the coffee cool and drinkable.
  2. 3 minutes with slow sips while coffee is still hot.
  3. 1.5 minutes for the last few sips of relatively cold coffee.
  4. So a total of 6.5 minutes to finish the whole cup of coffee.

Planner: Humm.. It seems you will need almost 6.5 minutes to finish the coffee…

Manager: Humm.. Quite impressive but it’s almost the same of mine. “…”

Meanwhile the coffee was ready and the waiter served the coffee. So both of them recorded the time and started enjoying the coffee. At the end when they finished the coffee, the Manger took 7 minutes while the Planner took 6 minutes to finish it…

Conclusion:

The story is an interesting example to understand the importance of forecasting tools and methods. A competent planner should always use such logical reasoning and approaches to define the duration and production rates of activities. A properly defined activity and production rate have plenty of benefits in a project’s life cycle. Some of these benefits are:

  • Better and more realistic forecasting.
  • Resources optimization and cost saving opportunities.
  • Better progress monitoring and control opportunity.
  • Better Risk monitoring and managing opportunities.
  • Better TIAs and delay monitoring opportunities.
  • Opportunity to better manage acceleration measures and additional cost claims.
  • Better Cost Analysis and Cost management opportunities.

In order to keep the article short and brief, I have to omit many other arguments, which were worth sharing as well. Will try to cover them in the future articles, please keep following.

Meanwhile, please share your ideas on how the coffee could have been finished in a shorter time and how the two could have improved their forecast…

About the Author:

I am a young professional destined to grow my career in the fields of project control, forensic planning, claims and disputes. I have a formal qualification in the field of Civil Engineering and currently pursuing a management degree as well. I have worked and been working on some of the very exciting projects around the globe including Dams, Hydro Power, Roads, Bridges, Incremental Launching Bridge construction, Pipeline, tunneling etc.

If I am an exciting profile for you, you might be a one for me too. You can connect with me on LinkedIn Ejaz Ahmed Anjum and share your views and ideas. You can comment below your views and share the post to spread the words or can even write to me on anjum858@gmail.com for any queries and suggestions about the topic.

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