Chelsea’s recent departure from Cassell Consulting for an engineering position at Schlumberger presented an unwelcome (due to her leaving) opportunity. She was scheduled to attend a seminar in Honolulu entitled P6 Scheduling Requirements for NAVFAC projects. So I found myself at the Honolulu office of the AGC in Hawaii on a Tuesday morning in August, slightly before the 8am start time. Glenn Saito of NAVFAC Hawaii presented the engaging and worthwhile topic to the ten of us present. We at Stenstrom Group and Cassell Consulting have designed a hands-on, comprehensive 3-day training session ourselves, specifically designed to navigate contractors through the demanding specifications of scheduling construction projects for NAVFAC and the Army Corps of Engineers. So I was especially interested to hear what NAVFAC is looking for, directly from the horse’s mouth. I took the opportunity in Anchorage a couple years ago, to attend an excellent seminar presented by Craig Lance of USACE Alaska. As Mr. Lance did in his class back in 2010, Mr. Saito provided some excellent perspective on his department’s scheduling requirements.
I learned firsthand, the reasoning behind NAVFAC’s Critial Path definition (Zero days total float), and why it specifies using Excel for the 3-week Lookahead. An in depth session on correctly statusing schedule activities using Physical Percent Complete, plus a thorough review of Retained Logic vs. Progress Override were also useful. Some summary comments on these four topics:
1) Zero Days Total Float definition: Basically, it comes down to the fact that when using Longest Path definition, (which the Army Corps uses, and has been my preference), the Critical Path can be misleading under certain circumstances. NAVFAC’s 0 Float definition does present a more reliable picture, as I reluctantly agreed. This topic could be the subject of a future article, as there are numerous different ways to deal with this issue.
2) Excel for the 3-week Lookahead: This is another spec requirement I’ve taken exception to, and couldn’t understand its purpose. In our past training classes I ignored the Excel method, instead teaching P6’s ability to produce a filtered report showing this information directly from the project schedule. The reason behind this apparent contradiction is this: NAVFAC is looking for MORE detail in the 3-week lookahead, than the schedule actually contains. So instead of simply extracting the relevant activities from P6, the intent of this report is to EXPAND the P6 activities to include additional sub-activities, without cluttering up the overall project schedule with an abundance of smaller activities. In other words, keep the schedule reasonably concise, and expand within this particular report instead. It makes sense.
3) Using Physical Percent Complete disconnects Percent Complete from Remaining Duration, which are otherwise locked together. Using P6’s default Duration type, when an Activity exceeds its Original Duration, P6 automatically sets the Remaining Duration to 0, thereby mis-representing its completion date. And contrary to common belief, P6 DOES calculate the earned value of the work in place based on the per cent complete entered, even when set to Physical.
4) Finally, it was a good refresher to review step by step the differences of Retained Logic vs. Progress Override. We mention this in our P6 for Government training classes, but I’ll make sure we take the five minutes it takes to show it, especially helpful for newer schedulers.
I do differ with a few recommendations as presented, particularly using as many calendars as needed, rather than modifiying Activity Durations to achieve the result. While I was already very familiar with NAVFAC’s associated spec requirements, Mr. Saito’s knowledge and experience added considerable value that you just can’t get from reading the spec alone. Additionally, his presentation style was engaging, inviting input from all participants, which made the six hour session go by quickly. We all learned from the experience, (even the instructor!) This was the third year NAVFAC has offered this training, and I would heartily recommend to any contractor with a NAVFAC project. I have requested the Power Point from the class, and I’m working on obtaining permission to publish on our site. In the meantime, rest assured that we’ll be updating our own Scheduling for Government Projects curriculum, to include the valuable things we learned from NAVFAC in Honolulu.