First, what is CPM and how or why is it broken?
CPM, or the Critical Path Method, is a methodology used in Project Management. It was developed in the 1950s at DuPont. The first time CPM was used for major skyscraper development was in 1966 while constructing the former World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City.
Methodology vs Framework
Methodologies are very rigid with defined processes, reports, deliverables, etc. which is fine for a factory, but not for construction where every project is custom and every project team is unique.
Frameworks are even better suited for construction, because frameworks are by definition a little loose. They exist to provide structure and direction on a preferred way to do something without being too detailed or rigid. In essence, frameworks are powerful because they provide guidance while being flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions or to be customized for your company while utilizing vetted approaches.
You might be surprised to find that even industries like manufacturing use frameworks (i.e. Lean), not methodologies, to manage work.
In order to move forward with less constraints (pun intended) let's forget about the past, let's pretend CPM never existed, if you don't know what CPM is then you're already a step ahead. What are some universal truths about planning, managing, and executing work that we should all agree on? Defining these from the beginning helps reveal our north star.
1. Collaboration is paramount
From project managers, to superintendents, field engineers, and project engineers there are many stakeholders on a project. That's just the General Contractor team. You also have design teams, subcontractors, and owners. That's many leaders. Each one has a plan for their workforce, and each workforce has middle management responsible for their portion of work.
If we were to create a tool for planning, managing, and executing construction work, it would have to be collaborative, period.
2. It all starts with the Superintendent
The superintendent is the CEO of the job-site. They are responsible for everything that happens in the field. Their job is to make sure work gets done safely and efficiently. The superintendent represents the client, subcontractor, and project manager. They define the goals (or milestones) for the team and goals or milestones for the project,. The project's success is directly tied to their success.
3. Break the project up into bite-size chunks
Traditionally, Lean practices have done 2-week or 8-week look-aheads or anything in between. The point was to create more detailed plans as you got closer to the work, but there's no feeling of accomplishment at the end of each week instead, we think the 2-week lookahead has been mistreated and abused, now many teams are racing to Friday instead of racing to the next milestone.
With altCPM, each task is assigned a single milestone, and instead of a 2-week lookahead, you have a Track which contains multiple tasks all aiming for the same milestone. Tracks can have any duration, and the bigger picture is always present, this means your tracks can be called something relevant like Track to Conditioned Air, or 1 week Track to 2nd Floor Slab.
By having several spaced out milestones (ideally 1-8 weeks apart) throughout your project you can make sure that everyone on the job is doing meaningful work and not just busy work. There's nothing wrong with having more than one track ongoing at a time, or even a track within a track (a mini-track). With this format, you can begin to introduce incentives to get to that milestone faster, and finish your project sooner. Life is too short to not celebrate the little wins.
4. Updates and Constraints
At the end of each day, work crews should indicate how much progress they achieved that day and how much is remaining. This is also a great opportunity to raise any constraints that could or are actively holding up work.
Constraints are reasons your work can't start or finish work at all or in a safe or efficient manner for current or upcoming work.
At least once a week, the team should gather to discuss their plan, their progress, and highlight any potential or actual constraints.
5. Relevance and quantity of information
Plumbing drawings don't show doors or windows because they're irrelevant to the plumber. Renderings are shared with the public because architectural drawings can seem like hieroglyphics to non-industry people. Because of the many different stakeholders in construction, one size does not fit all. Plans must show only relevant information, with the appropriate amount of detail.
The Gantt chart, along with CPM, is a relic of the past that can't seem to die. There is no place for the Gantt chart in altCPM or in Planflow.
Is Planflow an altCPM tool?
Yes. Planflow, in its current form, is a step in the right direction. We believe its an easy transition for teams who have been using CPM, to continue using CPM while getting a taste of altCPM.
Eventually, we will be rolling out our full altCPM solution.
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