ConstructionPro Week, Volume: 1 - Issue: 31 - 12/07/2012

Is Flexible Scheduling Prudent?

By Bruce Jervis


A construction schedule, however stated, is usually detailed and specific. When properly updated and maintained, the schedule is a powerful tool for project control and administration. It can also be used to support claims for delay and disruption. Consequently, some project owners and contractors eschew precision and specificity in favor of flexibility and discretion. They elect to schedule the work “as directed.”


These clauses are common in subcontracts. Prime contract schedules are frequently altered by the project owner or other factors beyond the contractor’s control. A contractor may want flexibility in scheduling subcontracted work. This flexibility can lead to some surprising results.


A recent example is a subcontract which said the sub would perform in accordance with a “mutually agreeable” schedule and “cooperate in updating the schedule.” Project startup had already been delayed two months when the subcontract was signed. The delay continued. The prime contractor directed the sub to start work eight months later than originally indicated in the subcontract. The subcontractor said it wanted a price increase. The prime contractor terminated the subcontract for default and successfully sued the sub and its performance surety for breach of contract.


Regardless of the tactical advantages to be gained from flexible scheduling, is it a prudent practice? Obvious disadvantages include diminished project control and loss of subcontractor accountability. On projects of considerable complexity and duration, flexible scheduling can be particularly problematic. But overall, do the advantages of maintaining discretion in scheduling work justify the practice? I welcome your comments.



A properly prepared CPM schedule has flexibility built in by the use of constraints and floats.
Posted by: John Gates. PE - Friday, December 07, 2012 12:04 PM

The subcontractor termination should have been invalidated but wasn't. Do you have the case law or case number for verification? Open-ended schedules or clauses should not be enforceable. Accordingly, this subcontractor supposedly was obligated to perform at their bid price whenever the prime decided to start the sub work. This doesn't sound legal, feasible or ethical.
Posted by: Jum Muter - Friday, December 07, 2012 12:46 PM

It is impossible to plan out a 2-3 year project in 2-3 day activities without having to make a ton of changes each month during the update. A little flexibility goes a long way in using 20-40 day activities that group similar work, but in expanded areas. This allows the contractor discretion in executing the work within those areas. Flexible schedules allow the planner to spend less time in exacting updates, which leaves more time to do analysis and communication.
Posted by: Heath Suddleson - Saturday, December 08, 2012 6:01 PM

The main problem I have experienced with flexible scheduling is the project begins to dictate what the schedule is rather than the schedule dictating how the project is coordinated.
Posted by: Carl Beck (President: A-C Electric Company, Inc.) - Monday, December 10, 2012 8:48 AM


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