Peter Jacobs: And about time too

7 January 2011

Peter Jacobs, CIOB vice-president, and until recently delivery director at the 2012 Olympic Village, reviews the CIOB's new protocol on time management.

Keith Pickavance is a recent Past President of the CIOB with a passion for good time management and a wealth of experience. In his preface to this guide, which he instigated, he explains how the CIOB began a five-year plan to provide standards, education, training and accreditation in time management.

Research in 2008 revealed that time management skills and techniques had not kept pace with the technology available and that traditional intuitive methods were unlikely to be successful on complex projects.

These findings confirmed my own views, formed over the last 35 years involved in complex projects, that time has so often proved to be the most valuable asset yet the hardest to manage.

One problem is that there is no common standard for schedules across the industry, so the clear definitions laid down in the guide could prove of real use to practitioners. People talk about “levels” of schedules, or executive summaries, without ever necessarily being in agreement about what these are. Also, different forms of contract and popular software packages use different terminology and lay down different processes in time management, adding to the confusion, a problem I believe the senior construction managers on the Olympics would recognise.

But a major benefit of the methodology explained in the guide is that it’s not linked to any particular scheduling technique or form of contract, but covers in detail all the key stages, including quality control and communication of the process and outputs.

The guide will be beneficial to academics and students learning the basics of time management, but it could also become a reference document for all parties involved in the delivery of complex projects, including senior managers and clients.

Educating senior managers to understand and manage the reports generated from the schedules and making use of the data to make the right decisions is equally important.

The guide provides a definition of a “complex project”. However, it does recognise that “complexity” can be subjective and depend on the experience and attitude of the various stakeholders, so its recommendations can also be applied to “simple” projects if appropriate.

The term “programme” is swiftly dismissed as historic and “is not used in connection with the management of time in complex projects”. However, I suspect many readers will agree that the word programme is heard every day on major construction sites!

On the majority of projects, particularly complex projects, the standard of our planning, scheduling and particularly record keeping is simply inadequate for the demands and aspirations of the 21st century. Our management of cost has become much more sophisticated over the last decade, making good use of the technology available.

This guide, and the education and development of schedulers that will follow, will help the industry make similar progress in the management of time.

But will the guide become an industry standard for time management, and training and performance for schedulers? Before this happens, we need a change in culture, to aspire to a place where our time management is as sophisticated as our cost management. The perennial question is: “Is it up to the construction companies, or the clients?” And the perennial answer is: “A bit of both.” Clients need to specify this, but contractors need to champion it.

Guide to Good Practice in the Management of Time in Complex Projects

Published by Wiley Blackwell and CIOB, £44.99 inc p&p.

Available from


My 30 + years working for the Hong Kong government has convinced me that any major initiative has to be employer lead. They set the rules in the contract. The contractors will follow the money. They are the people who fine tune the academic theory and make it work. (Mr. Jacobs notes that the protocol is best suited to that area of endeavour. I most respectfully agree.)

Peter Berry, 11 January 2011

Leave a comment