Back to Basics – Planning 101

29th July 2016 | By TBH

Barangaroo in Sydney

As you would with anything important and costly, whether it is a family holiday, renovating your kitchen or building a major piece of infrastructure, you need a plan. Having the right plan in place before you start allows you to minimise many of the frustrations brought on by change and expensive delays.

When you’re spending millions, and sometimes billions, of dollars on a project, it’s crucial that the planning reflects and aligns with the importance of the enterprise.

Based on a solid and well-composed plan, you can work out your schedule with confidence. At TBH, we understand that experience and knowledge form the foundations for good planning.

The first priority for any plan is to understand what you’re trying to achieve, not just the building or infrastructure itself, but how the finished project fulfil its purpose and how it fits into the wider picture.

For example, if you were building an airport, such as the one being planned for Badgerys Creek in Sydney’s west, you also need to plan for the necessary ancillary services such as utilities, roads and railway.

You will also need to plan for the logistics required to deliver the project. If you’re building a high-rise tower, this includes cranes, scaffolding and hoists. This is part of understanding the journey towards the finished project.

When we plan, TBH plans in two phases. The first is planning for what we know; we call this the “target or net program”. This includes planning for activities and resources we can predict based on the project’s scope of works and our 51 years of experience.

The second phase of planning is more complex. We call this the “gross program”. In every project are a variety of unknowns and good planning must include contingencies for these unknowns.

Inclement weather is typically one of these events where a contingency is required. For most construction projects, the weather can change the target end date by between 5% and 15%. For some projects, the weather will have a bigger impact than others. For example, if construction is being carried out in the ground, one day of rain can delay work by up to three days while construction being carried out above-ground may only be delayed for an extra hour or two after the rain stops.

Predicting the impact of a weather delay can also be affected by whether we are entering an El Nino or La Nina cycle.

Experience and knowledge of all the various factors that can impact a project end date is a part of good planning. In addition, we have various techniques of applying this experience and knowledge.

One such technique for producing a “gross program” is called “schedule range analysis”. Using sophisticated statistical computer modelling and applying our 50 years of experience, we run thousands of combinations of how a particular project can be impacted by these unknown variables to arrive at a range of likely “grossed up” end dates.

From these two phases of planning, a project should finish between the “net” target date and the “grossed up” forecast date.

Being flexible is vital to good planning because being too rigid could force a project down a path that may not provide the best outcome. Allowing for that flexibility in the planning phase should prevent headaches down the track if you have properly budgeted in costs and time for such a scenario. Change doesn’t have to be your enemy.

For example, part of the Barangaroo project along the Sydney Harbour foreshore involved building a hill on a previously flat site. Early on, TBH planned for a contingency in sourcing raw materials from alternate suppliers if the primary source wasn’t able to be relied upon. During the build, this turned out to be the case but because it had been planned for, delays and stress were minimised.

Good planning also takes into account new and innovative ideas on how a project could be delivered smarter, such as borrowing ideas from other fields including mining, technology and communications. It’s about looking at different ways of completing a project and that kind of planning comes from having both wide and in-depth experience.

Once you have your plan in place, you can move onto scheduling.

Plan for success and speak with one of our experts today.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute advice, legal or otherwise, and is provided only as general commentary. Appropriate professional advice should always be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action in relation to such information and/or the application of applicable law. This article and the materials contained in it are provided on the basis that all liability for any loss or damage, whether direct or indirect, arising out of or in connection with any use or reliance upon this article is excluded to the fullest extent permitted by law.

Photo credit: Olga Kashubin /