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A weak baseline programme – How to fix it

Updated: Oct 9, 2017

Repairing an existing weak programme can be intimidating. This post should help you east it up

So often that a baseline programme created at early stages of a project is of inferior quality and insufficient detail. With many important items are missing, weak or incorrect programme logic, and underestimated activity durations, fixing such programmes can be a serious challenge.

To make things worse, such a programme may have already been approved by the consultant engineer, and is being updated. The updates are producing inconsistent and unexpected outputs as a result of the above.

Now, you have been given the task of finding what is wrong with the programme and why is producing such nonsense.

But before you start fiddling with the programme, the following issues need to be considered:

  1. An approved baseline programme is an official document submitted in fulfillment of a contractual requirement. Thus, it may not be acceptable to make changes to it once it is approved.

  2. Changing activity duration may result in over committing the party responsible for completing the activity being changed.

  3. The amount of information and the level of understanding of the project increases by time. Hence, some of the assumptions made during the preparation of the original baseline may have become redundant.

  4. Adjusting the baseline logic may cause one party to lose its rights for an extension of time should such situation arise in due course of the project.

Now, considering all the above, I suggest the following approach as the best course of action towards fixing a weak baseline.

  1. Your plan is to fix the programme by adjusting the logic (activity relationships), the durations, and maybe adding some missing activities. However, you should not deviate from the overall programme key dates. You need to inform the parties (Contractor, Consultant, Client) of your plan and assure them that the key dates (such as the overall completion of substructure, completion of superstructure etc.. ) will not be changed. This will be especially attractive to the Consultant as he would be less concerned about the detailed internal changes you intend to make as long as the key dates remain the same.

  2. Start looking into the programme by using a trade wise approach. I used to create filters for every trade and give them trade names. Filters for Substructure, Superstructure, blockworks, plasterworks, tiling, false ceiling, plumbing, firefighting, etc.. will be individually created. Each filter will show the all related Engineering, procurement, and construction activities.

  3. Now, run each filter and examine the activities in terms of durations, relationships. Any unnecessary gaps between activities and / or incorrect activity overlaps should be ironed out.

  4. Give special attention to the durations for the delivery of important materials. This should be cross checked with the concerned suppliers to ensure that such durations are valid.

  5. Now, you can start checking the relationships of each trade with the other trades. Add or modify relationships are necessary.

  6. Make sure that the programme is consistent and is meeting the given target milestones. This can be achieved by looking at the programme on a summary level, to insure that the durations of each floor / or zone is with the correct proportion to its size. (For example, Identical floors should be with similar total durations).

Before delivering the revised programme, it is always recommended to run the programme and check the resultant critical path. Although there is no single rule one can follow to determine what critical path one should expect. A critical path should always extend from the start date of the project till the end date, pass through all the phases of the project (Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Close out), and is passing through activities of a major building or facility.

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