When the project plan timeline and costs have been presented to the sponsor, the sponsor frequently requests adjustments. The timeline may run too long, the budget too high, or both may require downward adjustments. The detailed Gantt chart with its accompanying cost chart is the tool for making such adjustments.
Note: One adjustment method will not work; it cuts time and costs out of key tasks without lowering the expectations of the project outcomes. Doing so will always create the counter-productive result that sponsor expectations will not be met. Adjustments to meet customer needs can be made, but they must always respect the integrity of the Gantt chart.
If the project sponsor requests that both time and costs must be reduced, the project outcomes must be cut back, and the specification must be appropriately rewritten! A careful look at the Gantt chart often discloses those outcomes most expensive to achieve. It leads to the conclusion that some outcomes and associated tasks can be scaled back to reduce both the project's time and cost.
Using the toy truck example, shown in Figure 11-5, little is gained by using less expensive material. Materials only make up a small amount of the total cost. The largest costs are associated with carving the truck parts. To change the specification from "carve truck units to a smooth, rounded modern body design" to "carve truck units to a squared-off symbolic body design" may reduce the carver's cost and time. The sponsor can change the specification accordingly, and the team easily can replan/redraw the Gantt chart. Only the carver task durations will change on the Gantt chart.
If time is pressing, different adjustments can be made without sacrificing outcome quality. Using the toy truck example, one may be able to do the following:
Schedule carvers and assemblers to work overtime and/or over the weekend to achieve an earlier finish date.
Contract out the truck's assembly to an organization that could complete the task in a shorter time period.
Bring in two temporary assembly helpers to shorten the assembly times.
Pay a premium to shorten delivery time for materials, particularly the wood used to carve the truck and the trailer.
These options can be detected by carefully reviewing the Gantt chart and by discussing the situation with key team members. Such adjustments will lead to a shortened timeline but at the expense of increased cost. Suppliers often charge more to provide a shorter delivery time. Scheduling the carvers and assemblers to work overtime increases the resource costs. When "time is money," this increase can be justified.
When the cost is too high and quality cannot be sacrificed, look for ways to reduce costs by extending the project's timeline. Using the toy truck example, one might be able to use only one carver and a helper to carve the trailer body (which would take longer), trade one assembler for another helper and assemble the final product, all at the cost of one additional day's time. Such adjustments only can be made if task leaders agree to the replanning and its outcomes. The ability to reduce cost by extending time is generally very limited.
In most projects, there are many ways to reduce time, but they are inevitably expensive. Adding people, working overtime, and farming out tasks to specialists are frequently used tools. Paying premiums to shorten material delivery time sometimes can be done. As with any changes in the project, these changes also call for some replanning.
The Gantt chart plans must be part of the review discussion. The summary Gantt charts, which are condensed to show the major work packages and their relationships to each other, are the key project plan disclosure items (refer back to Figure 11-1 and Figure 11-2). A large project such as the Disk Cleaning Machine discussed earlier has a detailed Gantt chart that is shown in Figures 11-3A, 11-3B, 11-3C, 11-3D, 11-4A, 11-4B, and 11-4C. In discussing the details of a plan's adjustment, the use of these charts is necessary. However, many sponsors and customers will get lost in the details of Gantt charts like these. It is enough for them to see the project in terms of major tasks. Initially, you should show the sponsor the Gantt chart in the form of a summary of tasks. This summary shows the time requirements for each of the major tasks. It also shows the dependencies among those major tasks. Figure 11-2 shows the cost of each major task.
If the customer is concerned about cost, he or she probably notices that the Mechanical Design is the biggest major task cost in Figure 11-2. When the customer suggests trying to reduce this cost, the project manager and the key project team leaders from mechanical design should display the details on that part of the Gantt chart. The project manager and the team leaders then must explain that each task is dictated by the final design sketch. The mechanical design sketch (Item ID-8 in Figure 11-3A) is driven by the project's specification. According to the chart, the mechanical design sketch was produced by ME 1. This person can explain to the customer how the sketch was guided by the project's specification. Explaining this in some detail, ME 1 can help the customer understand how the project's specification drives the mechanical design. The customer and ME 1 then can explore the possibilities for modestly reducing the specification's expectations in order to simplify the project's mechanical design and to save some mechanical design costs. They cannot expect to save time this way because the mechanical design is a 36-day task and is parallel to fluid flow design, which is a 55-day task. The mechanical design has 19 days of slack.
If the customer wants to save time, he or she and the team must look at the fluid flow design. They will soon see, by looking at the details, that they can save some time on fluid flow. The most promising tasks are "order standard parts," "design special parts," and "manufacture special parts." The time for the design and manufacture of special parts may be reduced by workers working overtime and on nonworking days. This overtime, however, costs additional money. Perhaps, with careful planning and resource utilization, some 15 days can be cut out of the project with a considerable increase in cost. The cost can be slightly reduced by simplifying the specification as it impacts mechanical design.
It is possible to continue by going through the project task-by-task in order to reduce project time, but given the type of tasks involved (design sketches and fluid flow sketches), doing so will threaten the quality of the product in many cases.
More imaginative things can be done with some projects. Some principles are illustrated in the projects that can build a modern home in three days. On several occasions, demonstration projects have been executed to build a modern, $200,000 high-quality home in two or three days. Videos are available showing the work progress from a bare lot to a ready-to-live-in house. As one would expect, the house being built looks like it is being swarmed over by human ants. Note: Before the building starts, a great deal more planning must be done for this house than is done for a traditional home. But, even with the time that must be put into this additional planning, this home project will be done much faster than in the traditional time allottment of two to three months. These three-day homes are not prefabricated homes. They are each original, unique architectural designs and were framed, plumbed, wired, roofed, and finished by traditional craftsmen using their traditional techniques.
The word "traditional" did not extend to the materials. Giving the concrete footers and basement walls time to set up could use up two days by itself. However, fast setting concrete is available. This concrete costs more and comes from a special supplier. It sets up in a very short period of time and gets the building of the house off to a fast start. One principle involved is that if you want to shorten the time of a project, go looking for materials that are faster and easier to use and that do not degrade the quality of the project.
When the foundation and basement walls are set for the accelerated build-a-house project, framing begins. Traditionally, one crew of three or four carpenters and helpers frame a house. They follow architectural plans; sometimes, adding creative touches to make up for the architectural plan's lack of detail. To accelerate this process, the architects can break the general framing task down into a number of separate tasks, and a separate crew of carpenters can be called to execute each task. Architectural details must be more carefully specified, and a special carpenter foreman working with each crew is necessary to be sure that the crew get the fits right. With this task breakdown, careful instructions for each crew, and with skilled supervision, framing for the house can be completed in a few hours.
The basic message here is: If you must speed up the project, look for tasks that can be divided into subunits with skilled people working on each subunit in parallel and with a highly skilled supervisor coordinating their work. For this approach, all workers must have very high skill and motivational levels. The process of breaking down tasks and linking them will need to be much more carefully planned and documented than in the original plan. It is desirable to have all of the workers or a key person from each subunit sit in on the detailed planning effort.
Plumbing, wiring, heating, and air conditioning can all be treated in the same way. Look for components that require the least amount of effort for installation. The architectural plans show the details, and a purchaser must prelocate these supplies and personally ensure their presence at the work site when needed.
In addition, there are tools that speed up the work for builders. For example, carpenters and roofers will be supplied with nail guns. Planning will focus on set ups that support the use of sophisticated hand tools.
At the heart of this effort to speed up the building of a house is much more detailed planning and greater resource identification effort. The three-day house plan certainly requires at least three weeks more planning time than the traditional three-month house. At some point while using the more detailed planning approach, the added time consumed in planning may exceed the time saved in the building of the house. This longer planning time must be considered when special techniques are being considered to shorten the time required to complete the project.
Instant landscaping for the instant house also is feasible. Landscapers do this sort of thing all the time. There are limitations, however: For example, the big, mature oak tree that the new homeowner wants in a back corner of the lot is going to take at least 40 years to mature, and nothing can be done about that. This message about the limitations of speeding up a project is even clearer: "You cannot produce a baby in one month by putting nine women to work on it."
A project that has been planned for a traditional task-oriented 8 5 world generally can be shortened somewhat. It only can be done with more intensive and time-consuming planning. It must focus on the Gantt chart, task by task, and it generally will cost a lot more than the original plan. Some things cannot be shortened. At some stage, every project will come to the point where there is no way to cut the project's time any further. Because cutting time is heavily dependent on more intensive planning, cutting time out should done at the beginning of a project. Cutting out time during a project's execution using the methods cited here can be tremendously disruptive and counterproductive. Nevertheless, circumstances do emerge where this is necessary. Always proceed with great care!