Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance
The five P’s is a shortened version of the British Army’s training aid (The 7 P’s) – In today’s world one of the P’s (Prior) is redundant and the other one shouldn’t be used in mixed company. The five Ps should be the mantra of any good construction project manager and is as true today as when first used. Virtually every failure of any building project can be traced back to poor planning, which makes this phase of the process perhaps the most important.

It is completely inefficient to run any project  with ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ tactics…. Allowing contractors to dictate how and when they carry out their works without any control leads to chaos, poor workmanship and then disputes. Work that has to be rebuilt for following trades will always cost more and create avoidable delays. Often people who think they are great at ‘multi-tasking’ are in truth not doing any one thing properly as for any building project to be a success there has to be concentrated order and control. There is no worse spectacle than a building project that has ground to a halt because of poor programming and the consequent loss of control. The potential for cost/time overruns and financial losses is enormous not to mention the stress placed on whoever is trying to manage the thing…. Yet it’s all completely preventable.

In the early 1900s, Henry Gantt and his peers began applying scientific techniques to management of people and processes. This has been refined to what is now known as Project Management, which is put simply, a method of arranging work in a logical and timely manner. Within the construction industry, it has become essential to use effective programming, as labour and material costs have risen to such an extent that any construction projects would soon run into trouble, if pre Gantt methods of management were applied.

The ‘Gantt Chart’  which is Henry’s innovation is a graphic means of visualising the programming process, allowing the user to spot where conflicts might occur and where crucial operations should take place. This forms what is known as the ‘Critical Path’ and whatever else happens on the project, this course needs to be maintained, or adjusted quickly if it can’t be. Alas, any changes to the critical path normally lead to additional costs and delays. It is therefore much better to spend more time planning for all eventualities before the construction actually begins.

Producing a Gantt chart starts with listing all the known processes and then setting them to a timescale in the form of a bar graph. Information gathered from the budget calculations regarding timing, should then enable the most effective scheduling of sub contractors and the provision of enough time for them to carry out their work. It also allows for the pre-ordering of materials and services, so that they arrive in good time to be utilised.

In addition to all the known elements, buffer zones must be built in to the programme to allow for unexpected delays or poor productivity. It is also essential to allow for weather fluctuations which can wreak havoc on the best laid plans. It is therefore important to factor in the time of year. As a rule of thumb, projects carried out during the summer months will be easier and consequently cheaper to construct. So, if any delays in planning for instance push the building works into the winter months, it would seem sensible to wait until the spring to begin. Additionally the location of the building work is a major factor to be considered. Building on a remote hillside will obviously take longer than a flat site in a town. Sounds easy doesn’t it… alas no matter how good the plan appears to be, ‘Murphy’s Law’ will be there waiting to derail it unless absolutely everything has been accounted for.

Create a Gantt chart for yourself,  because in helping self-builders visualise the overall time spans involved, a Gantt chart can be invaluable. Take a view of the whole project from its conception, including searching for plots and planning and then list possible timescales. Creating and using a Gantt chart in this way helps concentrate the mind onto matters of real importance and will assist in keeping to those timescales and any critical dates. It soon becomes obvious that any delays, in purchasing a site or planning issues for instance, will have incidental negative effects on any future building programmes.

Project management programmes abound and in experienced hands on the right type of project, they can be useful. All project managers use some form of system, whether on a computer or not, the principles used always remain the same. Most of the programmes on the market are aimed at IT systems or operational projects and are not helpful with construction. It is sadly not an unusual occurrence that having spent time setting up a PM computer programme purchased at great cost to run a job, the self-builder finds themselves completely thwarted by unforeseen circumstances. These can render the programme out of step and the inherent lack of flexibility makes it difficult to get it back on line. At that stage the programme normally gets ignored and the ‘flying by the seat of the pants’ management method takes over. For the new self-builder this could easily turn into a very expensive nightmare.

A great deal of patience is required for the programming process to be successful and any personal tendencies towards haste or excitability should be held firmly in check. A calm cool attitude towards problem solving is essential if the process is to be of any use. This particular element of project management is one of the most underrated and yet one of the most important. The success or failure of any project often depends on how well this task is carried out. In formulating any project programme, the producer should utilise a policy of check it, check it, and then check it all over again.

Whatever target completion date has been set for the building work, it can only be achieved if the project is programmed and controlled properly. Given the weather conditions we have in this country, any target completion date can only ever be provisional. Issues of wanting to move in before Christmas should be secondary to the quality and continuity of the build. If the self-builder is renting a property to live in while the build is in progress, they should allow for additional time. It is certainly not cost effective or a boon to quality, to be moving in whilst the decorators are still painting the walls or the utility systems have not been fully tested!

SFS Management Contracting would work with you and your team to create a workable programme and then to keep things moving, so that you can get on with your normal life and yet be involved in all of the pleasant and more rewarding aspects of the project. There would be a constant watching brief to check on progress and to ensure that any likely hold-ups are kept to a minimum. Problems, which would normally mean extra costs and setbacks, would be addressed immediately. Constant reviews of the programme would also be carried out to ensure a continuous flow of productive work.

The fees for this service are difficult to establish as it crosses the line between the pre construction and operational phases. The cost of producing an initial basic programme for a new build is approximately 0.05% or 50p for every £1000 net build cost. The cost for continued management of the programme for a new build is 1% of the net build cost. Not a huge sum of money for cost saving efficiency and peace of mind.

If you still really want to do all of this yourself, then SFS Management Contracting would create a bespoke package to work with you as a mentor, helping to keep you focused .… Aiding in utilising the right paperwork and software and advising on all aspects of programming. Operating in the background to make life easier we would always be there at the end of the telephone if things get difficult, offering constructive programming advice and assistance.The cost for this would be the same as the above, as the level of input is actually greater, so no real savings can be made. There is a great deal to learn though and if the intention is to go on with further projects, this can be a great way of acquiring the knowledge.

The self-builder must remember of course that along with the satisfaction of management comes responsibility. SFS management Contracting cannot accept full liability for any programming problems on sites not fully managed by the firm.

Project Management

What is this and why should we use it for our building project?
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What should we look for?
Can we afford to do this?
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Finding out what it should all cost.
Keeping those costs under control.
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How it can really help a project.
How to do it properly.
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Tender Process

Making sure the build team is properly chosen and prepared.
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Finding the best value materials.
Making sure they stay that way.
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Site Management

Working with the whole team,
helping everyone to get it right.
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CDM 2015 Regulations

Carrying out the Principle Contractor Role For CDM 2015 Regulations
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