Schedule, Track, Meditate, Reflect, Repeat
// Lannie Cowden
Sunni Brown at http://sunnibrown.com/course/visual-note-taking-101
Audience: For those that take on this position of scheduler in future Design+Make studios and are trying to stay sane and organized all at the same time.
Abstract: In general, this is to showcase the process and movement that takes place as a scheduler’s role changes over the life of the project. Along with learning to manage multiple parties. From a group of students that have been thrown into an entirely new learning experience to professionals that have been around the block a few times with a project of this scale. Although, the challenge for everyone is dealing with a project that must be completed in four months while most of us are still learning as we go.
"Schedule, Track, Meditate, Reflect, Repeat"
Before diving in lets first start with what a scheduler is defined as. In the Webster’s dictionary a scheduler (n.) is “a person or machine that organizes or maintains schedules”. With a definition like that the job itself is simple enough, right? While I do not want to put myself on my quote on quote high horse, there is a lot more that goes into play when scheduling around multiple courses for students and the already busy schedules of working professionals across several platforms. Most of the time throughout these two semesters the scheduling process turns into creating the schedule, then tracking to make sure it is followed, to mediating between parties when conflicts arise, then reflecting on whether it is working or not, and finally repeating the whole process as the project progresses. But as an individual who has never taken on this large of a real-world project on there were bound to be some obstacle’s ahead in terms of this role.
While I consider myself an organized and border line type A individual, sometimes that’s still not enough. Dealing with my own hectic schedule and life can sometimes be overwhelming by itself. So, when this semester started and I began taking on this role it took some adjusting. During any project, everyone must put on their metaphorical scheduling and planning hat to stay on track for deadlines. From making sure you have enough time truly dig deeper into a concept and follow it through to making sure there is time to complete everything that you want to accomplish before the deadline sneaks up. Although, it is easier to schedule and organize a project that has a singular participant compared to multiple. Once you add in thirteen students, two architects, a contractor, and a developer there is bound to be some issues maintaining a schedule that will help to keep moving all parties forward. While this idea of making and keeping a schedule is no new “phenomenon”, but it can be difficult for people to follow when there are so many moving parts. With this housing project being completely new territory for most of us there is a definite need to stay as organized as possible. In any project, you are working on there needs to be a clear presence of moving forward and accomplishment.
As a project progresses the overall role and needs of a scheduler changes. At the beginning of the fall semester, while we are all wide eyed and imagining what could become of the 7509 lot the role of the scheduler was to pre-initiate the planning process. So, where does one start then? You would think to start with figuring out what everyone else’s schedules is, right? While that is not a bad place to start, it can bring a set of its own obstacles to the table. With the thirteen of us being split into different groups it makes the role a little more difficult to push others to move forward to reach deadlines, while you yourself are trying to meet them. The needs of the studio at this point comes down to simple tasks like, transportation, reserving meeting space, setting up meetings times, and knowing all parties’ availability. All that has been stated is quite simple but again there are a dozen or more moving parts, the people themselves involved. All of us have our academic and work related schedules but that only accounts for part of our lives. Family, friends, needed alone time, and time to destress from busy schedules we lead at school and work is a necessity. While their school and work schedules are more set-in stone, the lives we live outside of the classroom and office can be harder to track. Although, it is hard to schedule around both the professional and personal lives of people.
Botwin open house at the end of the last semester.
This semester has proven to be the biggest headache of them all, but at the same time the most exciting and experiential. There has been a kind of trade off, added stress an aggravation for being pushed out of the comfort zone and learning real situations and career building values. Since our project is looked at as a possible version 1.0, to design and build a livable home, there are still many things to learn if the Design+Make studio is to take on version 2.0 which will hopefully build upon what we have started. The role of the scheduler will need to become even more organized than I ever have been. Most of the time it comes down to three stages to better execute the role.
1. Feasibility planning, which deals with the general overall “big picture” that the project will follow. Time management becomes the key player in this portion of the project. While our studio was stuck in this part of the project longer than time allowed for, it pushed us to move quicker into the next stage. While the project design is still in process and in flex it caused for some imagination when trying to envision the shape and flow of where the project was heading. At every corner time became its own dimension that lurked in waiting as we tried to push forward. The clock never stopped for us or squeezed an extra hour of the day for us. Our entire project has been a race against it, and time alone is the number one antagonist of the scheduler. As future students come in and take over the scheduling position the key is to stay patient and open to changes that can happen on the drop of a dime. There are only so many aspects of the project that can be seen or known to prepare for until they are thrown in the ring and there is a need to reflect and keep pushing forward.
2. Executing the schedule and maintaining the overall goals and needs of the project becomes the next obstacle to overcome. The schedulers role turns into integrating logic and common sense into other participants so that we can keep the overall design and construction of the project moving in a more direct and meaningful way. Once we moved into our second semester, the “make” part of our studio, the priorities of the scheduler changes. At this point project planning became a multi person conversation that takes place between the scheduler and the project scope leader. Which then turned into understanding the overall strategy and movement of the construction process itself. That alone became a learning curve ball that most of my studio mates have not had to take apart of. Not only is the scheduler trying maintain the direction of the overall project but now there is a need to help to move classmates forward, and becoming that annoying voice asking for updates and repeating questions that needed to be answered sooner than later. A true act of balance begins to take place, by developing connections between how the project will keep progressing and how to keep students motivated to go be on site working on the project.
3. At present time I feel we are at the stage of performance control. Trying to maintain and update the schedule as contractors and sub-contractors are moving in and out of the site. With that comes the ability to manage and get all moving pieces moving in one singular direction. Thankfully I have not had to take all of that on by myself, we have been over blessed with a contracting team that has gone above and beyond for us. Even with a trained and skilled contractor like that there needs to be stronger communication and clarity that takes place to better control the construction process. Especially for student that are still learning the general process it takes to construct a housing project. There is no right way to keep all parts of a project moving as clearly as they seem to be on paper. A written schedule can only go so far. It comes down to team members making the time and lending a hand where ever it is needed to keep a schedule moving in the right direction. Our studio’s end goal, in the simplest form, is to build and complete this duplex by mid-May. Which is hard to believe will happen when most of our schedules do not take in the fact that we are learning every piece of this experience as we go. In our world time is money, but to make sure this home is built correctly we must take the time to do it right. Which that alone can cause several people to feel overwhelmed and stuck. Without a doubt, no schedule can move forward until all members of the project are more dedicated and motivated to keep pushing it forward, and at one time or another during this semester we have all fallen short of it
As our project and its ever-changing schedule has evolved through these phases the key trait that the scheduler must have is to remain logical and emotionally removed. Which is extremely hard for me to do because I am the kind of person that tends to take things to literally and build an emotional connection to them. All schedules, whether professional or personal are built on estimates of time and ability. In the end though the main goal is to finish the project at hand within the two semesters. The scheduler can only do so much as so push others in a certain direction. The project is still in need of a committed team and the scheduler plays a large part into it, just like other positions do.
With technology, being a part of our everyday lifestyle, there is a “love / hate” relationship towards it within this position. Yes, it allows for the ability to share and make on the spot viewable updates and changes, but at the same time it can become easier to ignore. Ignored in the sense that there is not definite way to tell that others in the team have read or seen these changes without blatantly asking them if they have. Our studio was told to use a specific file sharing website that most of the time does a decent job at keeping every single bit of conversation or file organized in a single project folder. Which is a great start to making sure everyone is seeing the same information. The only down fall is that it can’t do everything. This studio can be broken down into several platforms of communication, which at times is ridiculous, even though most of the time it seems to work. Technology can only go so far. It comes down to the people. We all live busy lives, there is no doubt about that. Life is, in my opinion, the most unpredictable thing we do as humans. There is no way around, no way to predict what the future is going to be like. At the same time, that is one of the greatest things about life, not knowing. I know it probably sounds like I am getting off track but it all ties into the difficulties of trying to create and maintain a schedule for various people. There are so many variables to consider that no one piece of technology can handle it.
While I know this entire “blog” I have just written seems like a summary of what I have personally had to deal with, but it is important to keep in mind when working on any project that involves more than just one person. Everyone plans there day, no matter how small the daily goal is, there is some form of creating a schedule and attempting to stick to it. This entire school year has been a new experience, not only with the project but with the people involved. Trying to keep everyone on the same track to me is just as important as the design itself. A rendering can show the end goal of what we are aiming for but without people taking the time to schedule around all of the craziness that occurs during any given project is just as important. Either the project is going to succeed because there is a clear schedule to follow, or it’s not going to happen and fall short. That statement alone is what scares me the most right now and causes me to question whether I am even doing a good or at least decent job. The position is a tiring and at times overwhelming role to play, but it comes with a sense of joy when things do keep moving forward as they were planned to. Every time a part of the construction process is completed, like when we tilted the framed wall of the duplex, I couldn’t help but just step back in amazement that it was completed and was falling in place with what we had set out to do. Whoever in the coming studios that decides to take this role on is going to go through the same mixed feelings towards the position as I have, but in the end, we all going to be happy that we had this kind of experience and have built something that someone is going to call home.
No one position is better or more important than the other. It is more important that all positions come together to create a project we can all be proud of.
Written by Lannie Cowden
(1) “scheduler.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2017. Web. 22 March 2017.