Build a Schedule Like a Boss with HBW Construction

Ben Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” He probably wasn’t talking about commercial construction, yet his advice is spot on. Planning, scheduling, and time management are more important than ever before, as minutes get measured in dollars, and missed deadlines lead to missed opportunities.

At HBW, we are scheduling pros – leveraging our past experience to help every future project run smoothly. Our continued success is based on results, and that includes calendar management.

We use the Critical Path Method of scheduling in our operations. The critical path is determined based on activities and their duration, the sequence of activities, and the relationship between activities. Each activity directly impacts the completion date for the project. So, activities running a day late means the end date is impacted by the same number of days.

We think of it like setting up a domino course. We sketch out the big-picture vision of the schedule – what things need to get done to complete the project. That’s like laying out a course.

From there, we fill in the dominos – who needs to be there and on which days. We know that once a solid schedule is created, things cascade as each domino impacts the next, right down to the last one falling right on time.

Our scheduling and time management provides marching orders, but the key to making it all work is communication. We use day-to-day planning to set expectations with our clients and our subcontractors. The process doesn’t work if we are just showing them a calendar. What does work is having a dialog about the plan, with everyone involved providing feedback about how much time certain tasks will take or how long we need to allow to procure everything we will need.

The initial stages of scheduling are where experience makes all the difference. Often the projects that we’re doing aren’t really all that different from other projects we’ve done in the past. We know how long it takes to hang drywall, or install light fixtures, and we’re familiar with what can go wrong during a build. That knowledge allows us to be proactive and plan for things that might cause delays.

Let’s look at strategies for creating a schedule and helpful schedule tips.

Start at the end

The end is a good place to start. We like to begin every schedule by asking about the timeline the client, the tenant, or the broker has in mind – and what’s driving those expectations. From there, we can work backward, roughing in design, procurement, and construction phases in the schedule to determine if that date is realistic and possible.

Of course, you want to hit that end date but it’s more important to set expectations for what is actually possible. Once you do, you can sweat the details and be on top of following up with suppliers and manufacturers to ensure there are no delays and no surprises.

Map out and list the activities that will be required to build the project

The next step is to list out all of the activities the project requires and their duration, pulling in my construction managers and trades to make this list as complete as possible

  • Reviewing the project documents
  • Reviewing building requirements
  • Consulting with our construction managers or colleagues who have done similar projects in the past
  • Consulting with trades performing the work

It’s helpful to categorize the activities based on the structure of the schedule.

Design: All activities necessary to produce a set of documents to communicate the work to those performing the work.

Procurement: Activities that involve gathering the materials that will be needed and lead times for materials that must be ordered or built.

Construction: Activities necessary to produce the work, often subdivided into steps required by each contractor.

Relationships/Links: Understanding the relationship between activities allows you to schedule activities in order, sequencing those dependent on other work, and listing successors and predecessors for each.

Milestones and Benchmarks: These are deliverables like Concept Drawings in the Design phase or Ceiling Close-in in Construction.

By placing activities in their sequence, you’ll have created an initial schedule.

Create and refine

Scheduling is an iterative process. As the project progresses, we’ll refine the schedule based on how long activities actually take.

We use a concept called float to understand the timing for each activity. Float is the number of days that the activity can be late before it impacts the completion date. For example, rough-in electrical boxes have a Float of 0. That means the activity must start on the identified start date and be completed within the identified durations. If the activity starts late, we must either reduce its duration to complete it on time, or its end date will push, affecting other activities. Float allows us to make decisions on individual activities by showing how each will impact the schedule.

What about contingencies?

Scheduling is a delicate balance between having enough time to get everything done, and shortening time on site to avoid burning through resources. Planning helps anticipate activities that have a bigger float and limits some of the risks involved in each project.

We frontload our schedules, working ahead whenever possible so if something unexpected does crop up, we have options. For example, if light fixtures are delayed, and we have “float” in the schedule, we can consider our options: wait on installation, replace those fixtures with another product that is available, or install temporary fixtures until the new ones come in. Frontloading helps us be more proactive and less reactive, just like planning a project schedule in the first place.

Become a Scheduling Pro With The Help of HBW Construction

Benjamin Franklin didn’t work in construction, but he recognized the importance of time management for successful outcomes. We are proud to call ourselves scheduling experts. If you’re interested in learning more, HBW offers a Scheduling 101 course for continuing professional education credit. To learn more, visit,

HBW University - Scheduling Class