As long as there are turnarounds, there will be discovery work that could not be quantified during the FEL process. A significant portion of the scope growth is not discovery work, but rather work that was not accounted for during work scope development and work scope definition. The perception is that if we have a gated FEL process with milestones for all relevant activities, we can effectively monitor and manage the health of our FEL phase. Some FEL schedules are now resource and duration loaded with task dependent activities. I contend it takes a whole lot more to turn our ‘paper tiger’ FEL processes into living entities with functional teeth.
First, the FEL process has to be managed with the same level of competency and intensity we see in the execution phase. The meetings should be just as mandatory, the reports should be just as colorful, the discussions should be just as vigorous and the accountability should be just as meaningful. I believe turnarounds would improve immediately if part of the bonus was paid at the end of FEL, and any remainder paid at the end of execution.
Second, FEL schedules should be managed by a highly skilled scheduler and not driven primarily by constrained milestones, but rather by logic-tied, task dependent activities with optimized durations. The cause and effect relationships must be clearly established throughout the FEL schedule. This business of using small, medium and large FEL template schedules to manage the FEL process is altogether inadequate. With FEL scheduling, sometimes it almost seems okay to break all the rules. This should not be the case. The same stringent scheduling guidelines applied to the execution phase must govern the FEL schedule also. All too often, slippage in the FEL schedule is invisible due to poor scheduling techniques and lack of management by a skilled scheduler.
Third, the resources spelled out in the FEL schedule must be followed to the letter of the law. We can follow good scope development with poor scope definition, just by not having the resources in place early enough to answer the questions and clarify the issues.
Fourth, long lead items that are crucial must be managed in the schedule with regular accurate updates to remaining duration. It may be Procurement’s job to track long lead items and to expedite their delivery, but the impact still must be reflected in the schedule. I was on a turnaround once where a lot of scope growth was due to onsite fabrication of procured items that were ‘off the radar’ and delivery dates unnoticeably slipped beyond the zero float threshold. A gated process is no good if you leave the gates open.
One of the most disappointing experiences in life is discovering the hidden charges after you are already locked in. We can reduce scope growth if we make the obvious connection between FEL improvement and execution improvement. In the words of Francis Thompson, “Does the fish soar to find the ocean or the eagle plunge to find the air?” Some measures are obvious when it comes to reducing scope. For more information, visit onpoint-us.com.