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Re: Managing Business

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I am part of a 75 person A/E firm. We have taken a number of steps to
manage our scheduling/workload for the firm.

Monday morning meetings to give the entire staff an overview of the
priorities for this week and upcoming work. We hand out an overall
schedule to everyone outlining the workload for the next 3 months
including deadlines for various project phases (SD, DD and CD).

Friday morning meetings for the Department Heads to set priorities for
the following week and set or adjust project schedules. We call in the
Project Architects and Engineers to discuss their projects. The Project
Leaders give us an update on the status of the project (on time, behind
schedule, delays, etc.).

Each Department Head assigns and projects hours for each individual in
his department using a spreadsheet program that I wrote several years
ago. The program plots out each persons work for the next 2 months. It
is easy to see conflicts and gaps and to adjust assignments accordingly.
We schedule only large blocks of time and use efficiency factors like
0.75 to 0.90 to account for the items, less than 12 hours, which still
must be done. The program will sum up the number of man hours required
per week. Each department's scheduling program is then linked to an
overall scheduling program for the whole company.

After the initial project assignment is made, we have the assigned
engineer give their supervisor how many hours he feels he needs to
complete the project. This allows him to have ownership in the schedule.
It is alsomore realistic, since he is more familiar with the actual
scope and daily problems of that project than his supervisor is. This
also gives us a heads up on whether we will make money or lose money on
the project. It also develops the skills of the younger engineer in
estimating his time.

As a company, we have tried to avoid taking on the most disruptive type
of work ie yesterday we didn't know it existed and tommorrow it needs to
be done. Shop drawings are difficult to schedule also, but we try to
stay in close contact with the contractor so that we know when they are
coming and how much effort they will take.

The options that we use to handle excess workload are to delay
schedules, send out multiple packages, work overtime, use personnel from
other departments, hire more people or send work out to a consultant.
The options to handle insufficient workload is to accelerate schedules,
increase marketing efforts, transfer personnel to other departments,
reduce all employees time below 40 hours, and layoffs.
I believe this is pretty typical thru out our profession.

An often overlooked aspect of scheduling is the ability of the project
manager to keep his projects on schedule. He must have the training,
skills and supervision to deal with perhaps an especially difficult
project or client but still keep the information flowing so that the
schedule can be held to. Many times what happens in our profession is
that we don't receive the information on time, but are still expected to
get the design done on time. A good project manager holds the entire
team (including the client) responsible for the deadlines throughout the
project, not just the last deadline!

Jim Kestner, P.E.
Green Bay, Wi.