Schrödinger’s Programme

Schrödinger’s Programme

Schrödinger is best known for a thought experiment in which a hypothetical cat could be considered both dead and alive within a box with a radioactive isotope as its fate is linked to a random subatomic event which may or may not occur.

I like to use the Schrödinger analogy on projects where a programme exists but does not get used as its similar to the theoretical cat being considered both dead and alive in the box. On these projects a programme both exists and does not exist as there is no use for a plan if it is not followed.

In my experience there are several reasons which lead up to the Schrödinger’s Programme scenario. All of them have a simple solution.

Problem: The programme is not understood and therefore is not followed.

Solution: This can be resolved using simple programme narratives to explain the sequencing and timing. In the past I have also conducted presentations taking the team through the plan and why it has been devised in this manner. Construction visualisations also make it much easier for the plan to be understood.

Problem: The programme isn’t realistic and no longer reflects the scope or site.

Solution: This is a common issue which generally starts off with a poor programme that cannot stand up to change and over time becomes completely disconnected with delivery. The solution to prevent this is to have a robust logic linked plan, one with the right calendars for working periods and to avoid the use of constraints. Sometimes its too late for this so the solution is to draw a line in the sand and produce a robust programme from that line. This is inevitably much more difficult, as this robust plan is being developed the site continues and dates move. This is why its imperative to stick to the line in the sand then catch up with an update otherwise the programme will always play catch-up and you will remain in the Schrödinger’s programme scenario.

Problem: The programme doesn’t contain the level of detail needed so it doesn’t get looked at. Over time the high level plan and the off spur detailed plans drift apart.

Solution: A programme should always be as detailed as it needs to be to deliver the works. A Tier 1 contractors programme may be higher level for reporting but a subcontractors programme for the delivery should always be sufficiently detailed for the day in day out management and coordination of the works. That’s not to say that the detailed plan cant be rolled up into a higher level for reporting but its much easier to do that than it is to do it the other way.

These are just a few examples of how the Schrödinger’s programme scenario comes about and there will be many more. Generally these all occur from a failing in project controls best practice so if you are having this problem then maybe you need to have a review of your practices.

If you want any assistance to resolve or prevent a Schrödinger’s programme scenario then get in touch.

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