Staffing a design project

I remember (about 30 years ago) being enlisted to help finish construction documents for a hospital addition and renovation project. The project out-to-bid date was fast approaching, and many of the drawings had not yet been started. I was assigned to do one of the reflected ceiling plans first. When I started asking questions about ceiling systems and materials in this room and that, it became apparent that no decisions had been made about those things. We were up against the deadline, and more staff was being added to the project team every day. As staff were added, new questions surfaced. The engineers’ work and coordination would have to follow our initial architectural work on these drawings. What a mess!

Managing staff level through the life of a design project is very important to a successful outcome. Staff levels should be increased gradually but early enough to allow for a project learning curve and also to allow for the tail end of the schedule to be spent tying up loose ends and putting the finishing touches on details (Curve A in the diagram above). A project staffing approach that follows Curve B in the diagram above suggests a combination of under-staffing and/or a need for a longer time-line.

[Another approach to this is to consider an ‘S’ curve, where the X axis is time (as in the diagram above), but the Y axis is cumulative staff hours or staff costs or percent complete. With that diagram, the steepest part of the ‘S’ should be in the middle of the diagram, and it should be close to flat at the beginning and at the end that represents project completion. This same ‘S’ curve approach can also be helpful in monitoring construction progress on a project. See Monitoring construction progress.]

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