Guild of Project Controls: Compendium | Roles | Assessment | Certifications | Membership

Tips on using this forum..

(1) Explain your problem, don't simply post "This isn't working". What were you doing when you faced the problem? What have you tried to resolve - did you look for a solution using "Search" ? Has it happened just once or several times?

(2) It's also good to get feedback when a solution is found, return to the original post to explain how it was resolved so that more people can also use the results.

Planners -v- Schedulers -v- Keyboard Jockeys

107 replies [Last post]
Andy Petkus
User offline. Last seen 8 years 40 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 8 Nov 2002
Posts: 44
Groups: None
This is all great stuff here guys.

Clive, 9 million activities??? what the hell kinda project you on?? rebuilding China?? how may people do you have to handle a programme that size?

Vikas/Dieter, What you say about having a ’presentation’ programme is very true. Personally, I call it the ’political’ programme, but I almost always have my own ’real’ programme, the one that reflects the real situation. Of course this I keep hidden under lock and key until the right moment and then it becomes a ’I told you so’ when things go pear-shaped. Yes, it is pure and simple my ass-covering programme.

What you all have said about PMs & CMs inputs into project programmes is, unfortunately all too true.

I don’t know of any project I’ve been on in the 10 years or so, that didn’t have this scenario. Yet, most engineering degrees include some sort of planning modules. How good they are, I don’t know, but with the increasing integration of MIS, (management information systems) with specific project information, all connected to Head Ofice systems, (such as P3E, Version 5 and the like), perhaps it’s about time that unverstities and colleges had a restructuring of their project management modules.

Are there any lecturers out there that could contribute to this??

Dieter, go on holiday now! Don’t waste time, get up and walk out and just go!! lol! I’m on holiday now, sitting in Bangkok trying to sober up ready for tonight again!

Cheers to all

Andy
Dieter Wambach
User offline. Last seen 3 years 45 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 15 Jan 2007
Posts: 1350
Hi Clive
Thank you for the explanation.
I support your position. In general we "... do the thinking for them, get it down on paper..". I learned that many so-called PM don’t know how to structure their projects or how to plan, who never had a look into the plan, or where I had to make assumptions on the technical conditions for the PAC (Provisional Acceptance Certificate). I also learned that if someone presents big books with too many informations he wants to hide and to betray - or is just ignorant.
In Germany we had a good example: Toll collect (payments for trucks using the highways). The responsible secretary of state proudly presented a contract of 17000!!! pages with the two companies to manage this project, a - by majority state-owned - software house and another big company. Later they almost doubled the time for development and it did cost - as far as I remember - >2bn US$ more than budgeted. But two weeks before ready for start the secretary of state announced that they would start as scheduled - the real start was about two years after this speech. Responsible? Nobody, of course, I had to pay for it with my taxes.
I have a simple vision: just a little professionality on all sides. I’m afraid, it is and will be an illusion. Some kind of a driver’s license for PM, planners, schedulers,.. never will exist.
I need my holidays!
Dieter
Clive Randall
User offline. Last seen 13 years 11 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 15 Aug 2005
Posts: 744
Groups: None
IMHO In My Honest Opinion

Whether we need planners is interesting Se. I would like the PM CM to do the planning, they often dont for a multitude of reasons.

The answer is to do the thinking for them, get it down on paper, then go through it with them. Its the high level stuff Im talking about here. After theyve got the jist of what you are saying they can add subtract change. If they do and you think its a good idea take it on board, if you dont defend your position, after all you will have looked at the drawings and the spec to arrive at your conclusions. The chances are the PM will not have dont the in depth studies you have.

The plan should always be to get buy off, buy in, ownership of the programme call it what you will from the PM. He will then know the programme and the pinch points. He has defined the key dates. The programme is his.

To me programmes should be simple, and represented in reports at a simple level. The problem comes when so called planners produce programmes with 1000,s and 1000s of activities. You cant see where you are, nobody can really check the logic and unless you can establish a structure that enables you to sort the programme into a workable levels it will remain wallpaper. The foreman and the supervisors will not know where they are and where they are going. Programmes in my mind should start from say 50 activities, the executive level, develop into say 200 at the sub exective level and then at the workface be broken down into short term detailed sets of working programmes. At the end of the job they may or may not get translated back into the master via hammocks. Our industry of planning has been shoehorned into doing what we do due to claims and contractual entitlements. In our efforts to ensure we have the extension of time angle covered we have lost the definition required to manage the project. We have been hijacked and forced to produce programmes that are meaningless, well thats what the non planners who call themselves planners have done.

I see it here on this forum this cokerel behaviour, I have a programme of 9 million activities, my retort is you have a piece of crap as usefull as a chocolate fireguard.

I have had programmes presented to me that are inches thick. The grinning reptile who presents it says, this that and the other. So Mr Reptile whats the bones, how are we going to do this job, can you sort me the first 3 months so that I can give a programme to the initial subcontractors and foreman. The shear horror on faces is amusing as it is sad.

As for networks and the printing thereof, what a total and absolute waste of time. There too big, too difficult to follow and that leaves the bar chart, the logic unknown. The client who purportedly checks and comments on this croc of shit often dosent evemn ask for a soft copy, often he writes in the contract that the programme shall be updated if the end date is not likely to be met. Crap, what this says is the contractor is incapable of planning the project and there is loads of time built in for delay. What would your commercial manager say if presented with a similar wording such that if the project budget is likley to be exceeded all the rates will be changed so that it is not. He will likley say go away and multiply. But we or at least some people who would like to be known as planners except this and do as instructed.

I like when anaylising a programme to check the SS and FF links, then the constraints, then the activities that are linked to fresh air then finally the float. If you call yourself a planner all of these with the exception of float should be in the low numbers.

To be a good planner requires experience, the ability to communicate at all levels of the industry and an understanding of how things go together. If you are under 30 you are still learning over 40 you are getting the skill set you need.

Thank you for reading my rant.

Dieter Wambach
User offline. Last seen 3 years 45 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 15 Jan 2007
Posts: 1350
Hi Vikas
To your first item: I think it helps me a lot that I have some experience as a PM. Questions can be more direct, to better understand PM’s situation, sometimes not to understand his behaviour, sometimes to imagine what I have done in his situation and asking myself, why he lays down the mines before walking that way. But ok, he’s PM, I support him. He’s responsible.
For your second item: Sometimes it’s like walking on a knife’s blade. We have some professional honour, so we should tell the truth and make PM aware of risks, ...But is it worth to wake up sleeping dogs for some days of negative float where we are sure, we’ll be able to catch them?
Other: As a contractual scheduler some years ago I had to show a big negative float in a project for product development for major customers. I was asked to show a "good" schedule. But as this was against my personal honour, I gave them rights to modify the schedule and told them they may modify the plan but not with my signature. They didn’t show the plan. Result: Of course such a "bad" scheduler was thrown out of the project. But later it was shown that the delay was real, the product not delivered in time. That company went bankrupt with about 3000 redundancies. I’m sure, that today I would act the same way.
In a different project a scheduler just followed PM and always made a schedule according to his wishes. Later, when the delay was obvious, the scheduler was made responsible and thrown out.
If a person lies with the schedules , how he will act in the rest of his life? In Germany we say "After you lied once, never again people will believe you."
Sorry I was a little emotional.
Regards
Dieter

P.S. Se, maybe a stupid question: What does it mean "IMHO".
vikas agrawal
User offline. Last seen 1 year 32 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 4 Aug 2007
Posts: 18
Well this is the most interesting topic on this forum.

I started my career as a planning cum scheduling engineer with softwares like HPM, Primavera DOS. Then I found myself as Project Manager in years to come.

Today when I start doing updating (not the initial planning) the primavera program the planning engineer within me clashes with the project manager within me.

Practically what happens is that the actual situation on site remains different from what is on my updated resource loaded schedule. The schedule does not depict what i want it to do automatically after honest updating. A lot of manipulation (unethical) is required to show it the way I want it to appear as a project manager on every scheduling date(data date). If such updating is done by another scheduler then I have to tell him what I want the program to depict so that I am in a position to explain it to my bosses as well as client.

The same thing used to happen when I worked as a planning cum scheduling engineer. My boss would always tell me to show things as he wanted because he was accountable to the client for the primavera reports. Client would point to each activity and start asking for explainations. At that time boss would’nt say that primavera reports it like that.

I would like to ask through this forum whether others also experience such situations. Of course an easy answer would be to say that it all happens due to bad logic / bad planning etc etc. But I would expect people to be honest in this regard.

Se de Leon
User offline. Last seen 1 year 3 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 15 May 2001
Posts: 320
Groups: None
Planning is a Project Manager’s/Construction Manager’s job. What PM/CM needs is a scheduler, someone who will put in paper/electronic format their thought of how they want to execute their project. Problem is, many PM/CM reached their positions without first gaining the necessary tools to manage their project.

IMHO,
Se
Damian Smith
User offline. Last seen 10 years 8 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 49
Groups: None
This whole planner / scheduler issue is interesting.
I have construction management experience of about 8 years or so and I am now in a role doing project planning.
I can use the software ok as I have only just started using it, I can produce a programme which will actually work on the ground and actually have a chance of happening.
I can do this as I have had the experience.
I might not be able to produce pretty graphs and curves and reports that someone with more scheduling experience might do, but I do know that the data is fundamentally correct.

I personally feel that to be a successfully planner, you need to have been on the tools so to speak, whether it be as an agent, engineer or QS. Once you have this experience you can become a planner.

Anybody can operate software and logic link it with a bit of common sense.

Damian Smith
User offline. Last seen 10 years 8 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 49
Groups: None
This whole planner / scheduler issue is interesting.
I have construction management experience of about 8 years or so and I am now in a role doing project planning.
I can use the software ok as I have only just started using it, I can produce a programme which will actually work on the ground and actually have a chance of happening.
I can do this as I have had the experience.
I might not be able to produce pretty graphs and curves and reports that someone with more scheduling experience might do, but I do know that the data is fundamentally correct.

I personally feel that to be a successfully planner, you need to have been on the tools so to speak, whether it be as an agent, engineer or QS. Once you have this experience you can become a planner.

Anybody can operate software and logic link it with a bit of common sense.

A D
User offline. Last seen 17 weeks 54 min ago. Offline
Joined: 20 May 2007
Posts: 1027
Andy,

True, absolutely true!!

And thats when AGE FACTOR comes around to prove urself practically and take care of ur project, but there are exceptions like me :-) (Just kidding)

Cheers,
Andy Petkus
User offline. Last seen 8 years 40 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 8 Nov 2002
Posts: 44
Groups: None
Hi Ravijav,

Very erudite explanation - and very correct as well.

However, when you are applying for a job whether it’s as a planner or a scheduler, what do you say to secure the job? Of course we all tell them that we can do all the functions as your definition says.

But, and it is a big but, how many can actually do all the functions you’ve said you can do at the interview. This is coming very close to my points in my earlier post.

Good post Ravijav, thanks.

Dieter, I know exactly what you mean - everybody wants to bugger about with the programme - I call it either posuturing or interference to claim some credit in front of the boss, but they don’t really understand wha they’ve done!!

Cheers
Andy
Dieter Wambach
User offline. Last seen 3 years 45 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 15 Jan 2007
Posts: 1350
Hi Andy
Last year I had such a job: I was no. 5 to implement P5 for a company and had to recover one year of not successful implementation work during 6 weeks. It was successfully completed. Most predecessors were "senior", but lacking experience.
Regards
Dieter
Dieter Wambach
User offline. Last seen 3 years 45 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 15 Jan 2007
Posts: 1350
Hi Raviraj
Thank you very much for this explanation. I wasn’t aware of this difference. In Germany we use these terms almost as synonyms. "Terminplaner" is the translation for both because in general there is a difference between time- and cost-controlling (latter rather frequently more pie- counting). But in many projects, Terminplaner have to cover financial aspects as well.
Different countries --> different cultures --> best basis for misunderstandings.
By the way, that’s one of the reasons I like this forum that much - to learn from you all.
Regards
Dieter
A D
User offline. Last seen 17 weeks 54 min ago. Offline
Joined: 20 May 2007
Posts: 1027
Hi Dieter,

This is a gist from one of the article I had from past few years. No idea @ author, but its written beautifully.

To start with v will just go through the dictionary meanings first:

According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary a scheduler is one who appoints, assigns, or designates for a fixed time. And in the National Association of Women in construction, Construction Dictionary, a scheduler is the person authorized to schedule work or the flow of material pertaining to a project

A scheduler is one who is knowledgeable with the Critical Path Method of scheduling, who understands how to use it and analyze it. He is familiar with all the techniques and practices of proper scheduling. He knows the proper use of
durations, scheduling relationships, lags, constraints, and logic to derive the critical path. He knows about calendars, and code structures, and how to organize a schedule to be a meaningful tool as a report out document for the state of a project. He knows how to update a schedule and how often. He knows how to read plans, specs, and contracts to determine just what all stakeholders expect of his schedule. He knows how to account for and record delays to the schedule and to analyze the impacts of those delays. He knows who to ask and what questions to ask for information leading to the creation of a schedule and its subsequent updates. He is the messenger for the state of the project.

It is also within the scheduler’s scope of work to use and understand the scheduling software programs that are available and in use today.

Typically a scheduler – in his formative years - takes the information developed by others to create a schedule – he is a data entry person. A scheduler can learn all the necessary skills to be a scheduler – the messenger - from classroom instruction and book learning.

PLANNER

In Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary the definition of a planner is – one who acts on or processes the making or carrying out of plans. A planner in construction is the person who creates the plan and figures out how build the
project in the most efficient manner.

A construction planner, as opposed to a scheduler, becomes one not by going to a class or reading about how to do it from a book, but from actual experience out in the field – and lots of it. The more experience at building projects the better the planner and the more experience at building different projects the better the planner. Variety allows for outside of the box thinking. In construction, planners
have to have a full understanding of what it is they are planning to build, where the project is going to be built and the parameters that control that site, the site
conditions themselves in terms of geology and hydrology, the equipment needed to develop the project based on the site conditions, the structural framework of the project and the equipment and manpower needed to construct it, the time it takes to order, fabricate, and deliver long lead equipment items and material for the project, the qualifications of the subcontractors and their ability to perform, man up, and equip their scope of work per the contract, all safety issues, codes, concerns, and practices for a safe working environment, to where all the workers
for the project are going to park their cars and eat their lunch.

Planners are also involved with cost. More so than schedulers because the way buildings or projects are built have huge cost implications.

It can be said that to be an effective scheduler you also need to be a planner, but you can be a planner, and not a scheduler. You can plan how to build a project and not need to know how to input that plan into some scheduling software
program. Naturally to plan you need to understand relationships and sequencing of work and some aspects of scheduling in order to graphically create the plan.
You do have to be able to communicate that plan to a scheduler though so that he can input it. A planner, like a scheduler, is a messenger. He develops the plan and then others usually execute it. To be a truly effective scheduler though, knowing how to plan and the construction process is key to being a professional scheduler and not just another data entry person. As a scheduler, if you do not know the plan and how things go together and in what sequence, you cannot credibly relate to others the impacts of a delay to a schedule and create or come up with some other way to do it to recover lost time.

Cheers,

Ravi
Andy Petkus
User offline. Last seen 8 years 40 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 8 Nov 2002
Posts: 44
Groups: None
Great Stuff Dieter, I was hoping someone would touch on the subject especially the ’ageism’ phenomenon.

I totally agree with you on your KJ point, but would argue that there is a major differentiation between planning engineers and schedulers, by the way, I hate the term ’planners’ doesn’t do the profession any justice :-)

To be quite blunt, employers will take on a scheduler because they themslves know that a scheduler will not be as experienced as a planning engineer and can pay them a hellova lot less but still expect the same, and often more, input/output they would expect from an experienced planning engineer. It is in this type of situation that the scheduler usually flounders. I must stress that I consider it is the scheduler’s fault, it’s not, but it is I believe, the employer’s fault in trying provide a planning service on the cheap.

This is when the project managers has to look elsewhere for an experienced planning engineer to come in and recover the situation. The knowledge and experience to do this can rally come from us ’older’ guys.

What’s the solution? I don’t know, but project managers/companies should clearly define and detail roles and rsponsibilities I think would be a good start.
Dieter Wambach
User offline. Last seen 3 years 45 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 15 Jan 2007
Posts: 1350
Hi Clive and Andy

Sorry, I am not a youngster. For my opinion the difference between planner and scheduler seems a little artificial. There will be a common sense that without a solid business experience, planning or scheduling is impossible.
But why do you devaluate "keyboard jockeys"? If I’ll need a junior for the team and a KJ will ask, it will depend on his will to learn and then in some years he may be a good planner or even a senior.
As for the situation in Germany: About one year ago, if you asked for a job, the first question was for your age and above 45 or in IT 39, the conversation was immediately stopped, because experience is of no worth. Now it’s booming and companies - and recruiters as well - have to "swallow the toad" - German saying. "Oldies" become hired again. But still in many branches they prefer employees who are able to say: "Yesterday I wasn’t able to write scheduler, today it’s my profession".
Regards
Dieter
Andy Petkus
User offline. Last seen 8 years 40 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 8 Nov 2002
Posts: 44
Groups: None
Clive, I see that we’re on the same wavelength here. Still it will be interesting to see if we get any posts from the ’younger’ set with their opinions/arguments.
Clive Randall
User offline. Last seen 13 years 11 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 15 Aug 2005
Posts: 744
Groups: None
I agree with what you say

However industry seems to feel that a guy with 5 years of experience can be a senior planner or planning manager. Its all bullshit.

As to training maybe the first question to somebody is why do you want to be a planner if you get a sensible answer then train them, if you dont well thats up to you.