In today’s industry, construction projects that fall behind schedule aren’t the exception — they’re the rule. According to McKinsey and Company, large projects across sectors and asset classes in the United States typically take 20 percent longer to finish than anticipated. Similarly, a recent article from Crain’s New York Business reported that over half of all ongoing construction projects in New York are behind schedule.

The schedule is often the first piece of documentation an owner receives demonstrating the contractor’s professionalism in planning and management, so it’s key to establishing credibility in an increasingly competitive field. Here are four common project scheduling mistakes that, when corrected, can help improve your company’s success rates and reputation.

1. Inaccurate project estimates

To ensure your project is set up for success from the beginning, it’s important to be as accurate as possible about project deadlines during the preconstruction process. The construction productivity experts at PlanGrid advise:

“Estimating the project accurately can even be started in the RFP process. This is the opportunity where architects, contractors, and owners can express their concerns over the budget and timelines of the project. If either of the parties appears to be unrealistic about timing or budget, this should be an immediate red flag that the project is heading straight for an overrun.”

Thorough, realistic estimation and planning will help you avoid scheduling issues down the line, so be willing to listen and adjust course if project stakeholders express concern over timelines.

2. Missing dependencies

If not properly defined from the get-go, missing dependencies can lead to more than just overshooting deadlines: you could have difficulty arguing fault during litigation, arbitration, or lawsuit. For example, wall foundations have to be constructed before the walls themselves, and that must be properly represented on the project schedule. It may seem like a no-brainer, but in a complex project, it’s easy to overlook these types of mistakes. To avoid delays, schedules should be continually checked by multiple stakeholders to ensure all dependencies are in the proper, logical order.

3. Poor resource allocation

Every company has a set amount of resources available for any given project, whether that’s time, budget, materials, or manpower. Problems and delays often occur when schedules are set in place with the assumption that there are unlimited resources at your disposal. When creating your schedule, maintain a realistic sense of what you’ll have to work with at any given time, and be sure to remember external factors that could impact your resources, like material shortages.

4. Not preparing for the worst

Speaking of material shortages — there are a lot of factors on the job site you simply can’t control. That’s why on projects where just about anything can happen, overseeing schedules is a role best suited for the overly cautious. Always plan for the worst-case scenario, allocate extra funds, and include buffer time to handle the unknowns that will most likely impact a build, like potential weather delays.

Remember: when a schedule is updated, make sure the completion date is justified based on actual progress. This scope of reference makes it easier for owners to cope with added overhead. The C1S Group shared some more great strategies to proactively manage project disruptions here.

Wrap up

The ability to stick to a schedule is one of the most important skills across job functions in the construction industry, yet it’s one of the most difficult ones to find. Avoid these four common mistakes to ensure your next product schedule goes smoothly — and that you maintain a reputation as a contractor that consistently runs a tight ship, remembers the details, and sticks to deadlines.

Improve processes with construction technology. See how it's done.