Leading Projects does a lot of work for clients in a practice area we call “Strategic Interventions,” which usually involves helping project teams recover from schedule slippage — always incredibly difficult. So, how can you avoid slippage in the first place?
During any stage of a major project, one of our favorite tools to stay on schedule is “Short Interval Control.”
Short Interval Control (SIC) is a technique commonly used in manufacturing industries where timely intervention is essential to ensure production quality. Typically, a quick and focused review of performance data during the shift can enable the identification of issues, allowing immediate correction and thereby minimizing losses due to off-specifications going undetected.
The technique also lends itself to the world of large capital projects, where schedules are often tight and can result in massive destruction of value if schedule slippage occurs in one area, which can have a cascading knock-on effect on other disciplines or areas throughout the project, which is all too common. Adherence to schedule on capital projects is all about deliverables, whether during the engineering phase (specifications, drawings, purchase orders, etc.), construction (structural assembly, piping fabrication, assembly & testing, EIT installation, etc.), or commissioning and start-up (check sheets, punch lists, system handover certificates, etc.). In simple terms, any item that can be counted or measured lends itself to Short Interval Control.
How Does Short Interval Control Work on Projects?
The overall project schedule is broken down into manageable pieces of work or activities that are logic-linked to deliver the overall project. At the lowest level of detail, a weekly schedule identifies the work that needs to be accomplished. It is common for the deliverables production to be depicted by an S-curve showing the quantity planned to be produced or delivered that week. The work can then be scheduled throughout the week by the responsible supervisor with the agreed resources assigned.
The Short Interval Control rhythm would comprise the following steps:
- A meeting at the start of the week to discuss the plan for the week and allocate the deliverables to be produced to the resources assigned to the work. The team would agree on the plan for the day.
- A conversation would take place at the end of each working day between discipline supervision and the workforce to discuss what was achieved. If less was delivered than planned, the conversation should address the reason for the shortfall and the action necessary to remedy the situation, such as additional resources required. If more than planned was delivered, the conversation would seek to understand and reinforce the practice to continue to deliver improved performance and to enable sharing to other areas. The objectives for the next day would be agreed upon, together with actions or help needed from outside the workgroup, to ensure deliverables are produced as planned.
The key points to remember are:
- Break the work down into manageable activities that can be tracked daily.
- Having open, fully transparent, and supportive conversations on a daily basis involving the right people enables progress to be tracked in real-time, which allows the teams to make small corrections at an early stage as well as to recognize and share positive behaviors with the entire project.
- The conversations focus on what can be done to support and improve the workgroup’s performance in service of the overall project objectives.
The subject of keeping a project on track is huge, but in our experience, project delays — even those that emerge during construction or commissioning — often have their roots in a lack of accountability tools and accountability events. At Leading Projects, we advise clients that a Short Interval Control approach can address both.
For more information:
Greg Sills Neil Meldrum
President Executive Advisor