Five Steps to Making Project Planning Easier than Solving a Rubiks cube
Anyone who has tried to solve a Rubik's Cube for the first time is likely to be in for a frustrating experience. There are 54 facets to arrange, each in the right place, and a single one being wrong will affect many others. Working at random, successfully solving one will be time-consuming at best, and impossible at worst.
Construction project planning is at least as complex as solving a Rubik's Cube. It requires effective scheduling, achievable deadlines, and an enormous amount of cooperation from all parties involved. When one part of the process is delayed, it creates a ripple effect that can disrupt the entire schedule. With this is mind, it’s not surprising that—according to one study—fewer than 10 percent of all projects are actively managed and completed on time.
Effective project planning is a critical component of the project management process. Late projects can affect the reputation of businesses, affect governmental efficiency and make the difference in winning future bids.
Knowing the solution to a Rubik's Cube makes solving it a matter of following logical steps; similarly, adhering to best practices in construction project management can make a daunting project achievable. I have developed five key considerations to implement that can dramatically improve an organisation's planning capabilities.
- Make it a team effort. Getting everyone engaged in the decision-making process is the first step to productive project planning. The project manager can get a more accurate time and budget outline when each team member is engaged and discussing their own workload estimates. This also allows workers to feel a sense of ownership in the project, which leads to better employee and team performance.
- Those who are looking for a project planning tool might try a mind map—a visual tool designed to make it simple to capture pertinent data and ideas in a way that is easy to conceptualise. Mind maps allow the team to create, read and edit the information flow in real time, rather than using a document or spreadsheet that requires a more extensive updating process.
- Simplify complex tasks. At the outset of a project, it may seem to be simply a series of large, intimidating tasks. Drilling down into each of these tasks to identify the steps required for completion results in a much more manageable series of tasks. The resulting list of tasks may be long, but each of them individually is achievable.
- Make the right assignments. After compiling a list of each task, it's a simple matter to place them in a logical progression, through the use of intelligent management tools. The mind map becomes more valuable in this step as it is converted into a table that shows the three factors in play: (1) each individual task, (2) the person or sub-contractor who will complete it, and (3) the start date and estimated time of completion. This is known as a Gantt chart and makes planning more visual and organised.
In preparing timelines, it's important to be realistic and consider things like workloads, holidays and other tasks. Creating a schedule is useful because it shows what tasks have to be completed before other tasks can begin, and identifies where multiple tasks can progress at the same time.
- Always keep the completion in mind. Once a schedule is established, it's equally important to update the chart with the date as each project is completed. This results in an increasingly accurate estimate of the final completion date and identifies areas where timely production is at risk. If the project is behind schedule, the up-to-date chart identifies where to make adjustments and aids management in making decisions.
- Follow through to completion. With a project chart, the team should be regularly making updates and monitoring tasks. By sharing the project chart, the whole team is kept on track and accountable throughout the entire process. This allows for project managers to easily follow up and communicate with each individual involved. Improved awareness and responsibility on the part of the entire team is key for timely project completion.
There is a lot of truth to the old saying that failure to plan is a plan to fail. But even the most complex construction project becomes more clear and manageable through effective team communication, and intelligent tools such as mind maps and project charts. Concrete planning fosters increased team accountability, which leads to on-time projects and more productivity, making the job more organised and less of a puzzle.
Ken Wilson is the Director of Content Marketing for SmartDraw Software. He has more than 30 years experience in commercial and residential real estate as a developer, investor, and advisor. In those 30 years he learned all about surprises in construction projects—and how to do everything possible to avoid them.
Environment Agency clamps down on plastic films and wraps
Businesses in the waste and construction industries must ensure they deal with waste plastic properly to stop illegal exports, the Environment Agency (EA) has warned.
The warning comes as the Agency is increasingly aware of plastic film and wrap from the construction and demolition sector being illegally exported.
Exports are frequently being classified as ‘green list’ waste of low risk to the environment, but are often contaminated with materials such as mud, sand, bricks and wood, posing a risk to the environment and human health overseas, and undermining legitimate businesses in the UK seeking to recover such waste properly.
During the last year, the EA has intercepted shipments to prevent the illegal export of this material on numerous occasions. The Agency inspected 1,889 containers at English ports and stopped 463 being illegally exported. This, combined with regulatory intervention upstream at sites, prevented the illegal export of nearly 23,000 tonnes of waste.
Those convicted of illegally exporting waste face an unlimited fine and a two-year jail sentence. But construction firms could also face enforcement action if contaminated construction and demolition waste plastic is illegally exported.
Malcolm Lythgo, Head of Waste Regulation at the Environment Agency, said it is seeing a marked increase in the number of highly contaminated plastic film and wrap shipments from the construction and demolition industry being stopped by officers.
“I would strongly urge businesses to observe their legal responsibility to ensure waste is processed appropriately, so we can protect human health and the environment now and for future generations. It’s not enough just to give your waste to someone else - even a registered carrier. You need to know where your waste will ultimately end up to know it’s been handled properly. We want to work constructively with those in the construction and waste sectors so they can operate compliantly, but we will not hesitate to clamp down on those who show disregard for the environment and the law.”
There are a number of simple, practical steps that businesses can take to ensure that C&D site waste is handled legally.
Construction businesses should check what’s in their waste
- Different waste types need different treatments and so must be correctly categorised to ensure it goes to a site that is authorised to handle it safely. Businesses can also check if their waste is hazardous as different rules might apply.
- If you are removing the waste yourself, you must be a registered waste carrier- registration can be carried out here. When a waste collector is transporting your site waste, you must check they have a waste carrier’s licence from the EA.
- You must also check that the end destination site any waste is taken to is permitted to accept it and has the right authorisations in place. Keep a record of any waste that leaves your site by completing a waste transfer note or a consignment note for hazardous waste which record what and how much waste you have handed over and where it is going.
Waste management industry must adhere to export controls
- Contaminated C&D waste plastic - including low-density polyethylene (LDPE) wrap and film - must be exported with prior consent from the EA as well as competent authorities in transit and destination countries.
- Those involved in the export of such waste must ensure that it meets the requirements set under the relevant export controls, such as being almost free-from contamination; the destination sites are appropriately licensed to receive and treat the waste; and waste is correctly managed once received.
The EA will continue to actively target those who export contaminated C&D plastic waste illegally, including any accredited packaging exporters who issue Packaging Waste Export Recovery Notes (PERNs) against such material in breach of their Conditions of Accreditation.
Businesses involved in the shipment of waste are required to take all necessary steps to ensure the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling.
Anyone with information regarding the illegal export of waste including C&D waste plastics can contact the EA’s Illegal Waste Exports team at: [email protected] or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via their website