Author: Massimo Longo

Another way to build a Gantt

Can projects always be managed with a Masterplan based not on the actual time of individual tasks?

In other words, the projects always have a Gant where the timing of individual activities is checked, i.e. the timing of individual projects or programmes?

In my last work experience I have been able to see that it is not always possible to have this kind of information.

This is because large projects or program often have to be managed where basic information is lacking for the construction of a classic Gantt or network diagram, and this is partly due to the fact that the activities are so far away in their implementation that the resources allocated to them are not fully known.

Without the resources, it is not timely to build a Gantt that monitors the progress of the times: in this case, how can the projects and program be monitored in terms of actual days spent?

How can Project or Program Manager have useful tools to control the progress of the work and give a completion forecast to the due dates of the project?

In the Anglo-Saxon world, this problem is achieved by using a system based on the economic weight of individual activities or summary activities, i.e. summary activities.

In the real case, I’m running a program of more than 40 projects and with an economic budget of sbillions.

It is a programme that takes a time frame made for almost 40 years where there are families of projects with activities that are known only at the level of planning but that from a work point of view still have to be estimated on time at the level of actual resources and times of operation.

Why is this uncertainty happening about estimating the timing of the activities?

All this stems from the fact that activities that are estimated to be carried out in 20 years have a very high degree of uncertainty in their performance, both in terms of resources and the actual engagement of companies, documentation, legislation, execution plan and so on.

This entails a level of uncertainty in the construction of Gantt very high and in this situation it would be almost impossible to build a tool that I need to monitor and control the production levels at the desired date of monitoring.

It was then thought to build a network diagram starting from the budget of the program.

The S-curve of the program, i.e. the value of the planned contract budget was known and with this it was possible to estimate the weights from the economic point of view of the various activities.


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The economic weight of the individual activities was nothing more than the economic estimate that the Project Manager of each individual project had assumed for each individual task and compared it with the value of the entire program budget.

Determined the economic weight of each individual activity and related to a fictitious resource of value reference x , it was possible to enter data for each individual activity of the program in the Microsoft Project and in the end there was a network diagram and a Gantt based only on the economic weights of the individual activities of the program itself.

What did this way of building the Gantt?

What is the final tool that has been obtained and what is used in practical terms for the program?

Such a tool can be used to determine the exact progress of the programme at a given time and reference to the actual production carried out in the chosen period of reference.

That is, I can compare BCWP of the program which is the earned value of the activities carried out with respect to the BCWS which is nothing more than the estimated economic value to be carried out in a given period of time.

These two parameters can produce a SPI for projects and program; so it tells me if the program is in the back or forward or on time with respect to the planned value,, but not the exact progress of the program compared to the actual days consumed by the program itself.

Why is this problem?

This is because the individual activities have not been estimated for their actual progress by allocating the resources needed to be realized, but only by comparing the economic weight of the individual activities with respect to the budget of Program.

Consequently, if you wanted to see the progress of the program regarding the days actually elapsed, you would have an untrue parameter and therefore an untrustworthy and non-reference value for our monitoring and control.
It must be specified, however, that such a strategy for building a Gantt only with the economic weights of activities, which is very applied in the Anglo-Saxon countries, is the only strategy applicable in the case of long-term programmes in which activities are not yet really known in their entirely or have a very high level of inherent uncertainty in them.

For programmes or projects in which the sense of uncertainty is pervaded mainly due to the duration of the programme or the project itself, and in this case we are talking about more than 40 years, a realistic Gantt of the program itself cannot be made having specified all the information necessary for it.

Another way of planning may have been to have planned at a very fine and exact grain level what was being achieved in four-year time windows and leave in future planning what was as far away as time and therefore not known exactly.

What is known as progressive processing and used very often for agile approaches to projects.

This, however, would have led not to produce a document , the network diagram and the Gantt which, ,even with all its inaccuracies and not perfectly corresponding to the intrinsic value of it, is always a document that for the

Client serves to control the progress of the program with respect to the method of earned value i.e. only at the economic level of production.

You should always remember that the PM must always work with the information you possess and from there create tools that can be useful for your work; In other words, to adapt the knowledge that you have of the work for monitoring and control and draw from them the best for the management of projects.

M.A.S.S.I.V.E. Projects for sustainable development

The current period the world is living in relation to economic, social, environmental aspects, puts people in front of important decisions.

Floods, tyfoons, hurricanes and global warming urge us to do something. The question is ‘what can we do?’.

High-scale economies, but also day-to-day issues put us in front of unconventional and urgent decisions. If we do not have the courage to take brave decisions the ‘safe operating space for humanity’, defined as the ‘planet boundaries’ will be broken and humanity will have to face a ‘irreversible and abrupt environmental change’.

After II World War, we experienced for many years an incredible economic growth. During this growth, our cities and nations have changed dramatically.

From a rural based society, we quickly became an urban-based society. Economic growth started in 1700 in England and expanded rapidly in many other countries.

Convergence in economy has also allowed reducing the gap between rich and poor countries.

The growth we have experienced worldwide was the fruit of governance strategies based only on reaching well-defined economic objectives. Until now, this is what has driven high strategic programmes and portfolios as well as small projects.

In the area of project management, the overall planning, execution, monitoring, closure of every project has still been driven by its ‘inner’ objectives without considering the wide ‘outer’ impacts the deliverables of the project will produce.

The ‘Management by Objective’ culture has developed management frameworks in which the goals are that we have to produce a lot and in the most effective way.

Nowadays executives are called to manage strategic programmes and projects considering also the ‘sustainability’ concept.

Sustainable development needs a holistic view on what the services or goods delivered by a project need to provide.

The main four areas of success a sustainable project should always consider are

  1. Economic
  2. Social
  3. Environmental
  4. Political

The link among these areas is not direct. We need to go through different levels of detailed analysis of the project requirements to shape exactly what the project needs to deliver and successfully bring value in each of the four areas.

Requirements that have to collect from all stakeholders impacted by the projects.

Project managers are mainly asked to consider cost, time, quality and scope when governing a project. It rarely happens that they are asked to consider sustainability as a critical project objective.

If sustainability is mentioned in the field of in project management, it is always interpreted as the ability of the project to deliver successfully the project only from an economical and financial point of view.

Nowadays it is important to have a much wider view of sustainability.

Not only having the goals projects as cost, quality, scope, time.

It is important that projects are not only oriented to the ‘inner’ benefits of the project, but also to the benefits that it produces towards the community that will interact with its deliverables. Those benefits in order to be sustainable will need to be positively measured over a long-term period.


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Projects must answer those needs as well!

In addition, sustainability should be seen as respectful of the environment and respectful of the social balance of the community it will influence. Thus, it is important to give high importance to the stakeholder management aspects of project management if we want to deliver a sustainable project.

I recall different cases from my project management experience in the filed of civil engineering. Projects were focused only on the ‘inner’ deliverable and not to the ‘outer’ sustainable impacts it would have.

I managed the construction of building where green areas were destroyed. A better focus on sustainability could have delivered the buildings as well as basins for collecting rainwater and playgrounds for children.

In the areas where we are experiencing climate change, it is important to consider areas free of concrete for the collection of rainwater and then usage for other purposes.

Our projects must be not only oriented to the deliverable itself but also to sustainability.

Company strategic plans must embrace the concept of sustainability. Sustainability has to be considered during strategic planning. Risk Management is the right project management knowledge area that should be used to pre-empt problems that can jeopardize the success of long-term sustainable objectives.

This of course has to go along with a well-defined list of economical, financial, environmental and social goals.

The management have to re-think about the impact of the projects in the context where it is and take specific actions.

With all this in mind projects need to be managed and sponsored by positive executives that will not only look at the business objectives to achieve. These projects will need managers that are focused towards the overall benefits. Benefits that will be reflected in every single piece of the puzzle of the end result.

I tried to find a way to summarize the needs that a project requirement must provide in the M.A.S.S.I.V.E. acronym. I believe this can properly define a sustainable project.

M = Massive

A = Ackowledge

S = Social

S = Sustainable

I = Inclusive

V = Valuable

E = Extensive

M.A.S.S.I.V.E. projects must have the following seven attributes.

Massive – They must have strong and long-term beneficial impacts from a sustainable point of view.

Nowadays we always have little time to manage all the issues linked to sustainability. Therefore, every choice we make now must have long-term massive impacts.

Acknowledge – There is need of full acknowledgement at all levels that a new thinking of the stakeholder term is needed. Project plans should reflect it.

Project stakeholders need to have full visibility of the project goals from the initial stages of the project. Social communities impacted by the project must be listened and all their requirements must be analysed. There is need also to keep them informed and receive their feedback during the whole project lifecycle.

Social – Projects need to be social. They have to be thought as an advantage for the community at all levels. It has to bring benefits to the local communities as well as to a wide variety of people with higher degree of influence.

Sustainable – as we have been going through this article.

Inclusive – Projects need to be inclusive. Every person influenced by the project has to be provided with the right fare amount of benefits. There must be only winners. No losers.

Valuable – The impact of sustainable project must be measurable in order to deliver sustainable value.

Extensive – Scope of sustainable projects must be extensive. They need to cover needs in the Economic, Social, Environmental, Political areas. From a time point of view, they have to cover long-term as well as short-term needs.

Modern management should make sure that every single project is a M.A.S.S.I.V.E. project.

M.A.S.S.I.V.E. projects will contribute towards a sustainable economy. Benefits will also be experienced in the economic, social, environmental and political areas that today are facing a multitude of challenges. From an ethical and social point of view project managers are called to deliver M.A.S.S.I.V.E. projects.

Traditional Iron Triangle vs. Agile Triangle

triangleIn the world of construction projects, cost and time management usually have a greater influence than scope management — despite how big they are.

Having said that, construction projects usually suffer from cost and time overruns. In some cases, those can be a symptom of productivity issues. However, if we better analyse their root causes, we will discover they are issues in the overall value management of the final project deliverables.

Productivity problems are widely analysed and studied by construction companies and general contractors. In this analysis, it is mostly taken by time and cost management, as these are the constraints that ultimately influence the main decisions about the management of a construction project.

The management of a construction project is generally done as follows:

The scope is first analysed by the company that sponsors the project. After that, this analysis is passed to the construction company that, in the execution of the project, will update the scope according to the sponsor change requests. During this work the focus will be on the management of the relationships among the main project stakeholders in a construction project.

Could there be a better approach to this?

Time and cost in a project can be difficult to plan in advance. Especially since construction projects, by the very fact that they are done outdoors, are likely to be impacted by time delays.

The project manager will manage the schedule the best way they can. But, are we sure there are no other priorities that he or she should consider?

The Project Charter contains the total cost of the project, the overall schedule and the scope that the project will realize. In the Project Charter, we also find the most influential project stakeholders. If during the project initialization the Charter is developed with the main stakeholders, keeping in mind only the traditional project Iron Constraints Triangle, we will lose focus on the actual value the project is meant to deliver.

In this process the most important aspect that we should consider is which company represents the project sponsor. This company will be the one the project manager will have to closely work with, as well as the one to hand the final deliverable of the project to.

Analysing the project sponsor and his or her goals is extremely important. This should be the first thing to consider when project constraints are determined. Also, we should spend time to understand the meaning he or she gives to the project constraints triangle.

In order to conduct an efficient analysis, the first thing to do is ask if the extrinsic quality of the project deliverable is of higher priority compared to time and costs.

As an example, let us put ourselves in the shoes of a project sponsor from a country where that actual value of the project deliverable takes priority against time and cost. We can think of a skyscraper in the Arab Emirates. In particular, let us think what the main sponsor’s goals of Expo 2020 in Dubai can be. The main objective will be to have a majestic event and magnificent buildings. To achieve this objective, innovative architectural designs will be applied, as well as precious materials.

We can say that this will be the sponsor’s objective just by looking at the magnificent and innovative buildings in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong. Of course, time and cost for those projects are managed. But the priority of the project sponsors is the extrinsic value of the deliverable. This means the architectural design and the correct functionality in all its aspect and details take priority over everything.

When we say functionality, we mean the characteristics of the opera, its visual impact and the emotion it leaves in the people that will see and use it.

In order to achieve this objective, an agile approach in the project lifecycle management would be more appropriate than a traditional one. The project manager should concentrate on the value of the opera rather than its constraints. He or she should manage the change proposals that are raised during the execution of the project rather than focus on the adherence to the project plan. In the agile world, this means the focus will be on the extrinsic value of the opera.

A similar approach can be used on the intrinsic quality of the project. When we talk about intrinsic quality in the field of construction projects, we mean architectural elements and construction materials. In order to achieve the intrinsic value, the attention will be on technics used to have high-quality standards, and also on the tools used for controlling during the execution.

If the focus is on the intrinsic value, we know the extrinsic value of the opera will benefit as well.

As anticipated above, the Tradition Iron Triangle will no longer be appropriate. In the Tradition Iron Triangle, the constraints are scope, time and cost. Considering these three constraints as the main success factors of the project will make us lose the main objective and purpose that the opera is built for.

To keep focus on value at the very beginning of the project’s inception, we should consider who asks to realise this new opera, why he or she asks to do this and what is going to be the main purpose of the opera.
If we ask ourselves some questions about who, why and what; if we help the project sponsor pay more attention to the value of the opera rather than cost and time; if we focus on the opera’s purpose, its visual characteristics and functionality; if we finally focus on the main purpose of the opera, its extrinsic value, then the Agile Project Triangle is the best one to be applied.

On one vertex of the Agile Project Triangle, we have the intrinsic quality of the opera. On the second vertex, we have time and cost constraints. On top of the triangle we will have the extrinsic quality: the value of the opera to build.

The Agile Triangle best represents the case when the priority of the sponsor focuses on the value of the opera, its internal quality and then on time and cost.

With this approach, the project will be seen feasibly from a different perspective, and will be planned as such. At this point in the project lifecycle, it will be important to have constant and direct contact with the project sponsor in order to define clear priorities and the most critical features of the final deliverable. It will be important to analyse the building techniques to maximise the value of the final deliverable, as well as its internal quality.

The same should be done during the project activity definition and scheduling. Time and cost should be estimated according to the value of what the project is meant to deliver. It will be important to keep in mind whom the project will serve and why. This last aspect will be considered as the intrinsic meaning of the opera the project will deliver.

All of the above can be summarized by saying that in construction projects, the traditional triangle with scope, time and cost constraints is not appropriate because it doesn’t focus on the priorities of the project sponsor. With this in mind, it will be clear that the appropriate approach to apply will be based on the Agile Triangle.

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