Schedule Slippages, Root Causes


& Recommended Remedies



By Dr. Kenneth Smith, PMP

Honolulu, Hawaii

& Manila, The Philippines

Despite the mantra, charge, and challenge of every project manager to be “On Time, On Budget and On Target” – and the ready availability of numerous “Best Practice” tools and techniques since the 20th Century surge promoted by the PMI, as well as other professional management entities — to this day project schedule slippages continue to be endemic; rather than rare, isolated, occurrences.


From my perspective[1] it is because from the outsetalbeit inadvertently – so many projects are planned to SLIP SCHEDULEConsequently, during implementation, hapless project managers are saddled with the inevitable — almost impossible – task of trying to ‘catch-up’; but, in most instances falling short. For those few project managers who do succeed, the kudos they earn are well deserved.

IMO, the ‘Root Causes’ of rampant schedule slippages are of two types, and are three-fold:

  1. Structural:
    1. Disconnect between project planners ‘Visions & Missions’ and project managers ‘Realities’
    1. Decentralized Managerial Monitoring of input resources
  1. Technical:
  1. Project planners inadequately address risks: they erroneously, negligently and insufficiently factor probability in implementation plans.

One — or more — may be the cause of your projects slippages.

Nevertheless, readily-available approaches exist, and coupled with two properly-applied extant risk analysis techniques could significantly improve — although not completely rectify — the situation.

  1. RE: The Project Planner / Manager Disconnect

While not universal, my experiences — and observation — with numerous National Governments and International Donor Organization-assisted organizations was that their projects were predominantly hybrid “Owner-Planner – Contractor-Implementer” types. As such, initially they conceived, and planned their projects in-house; in stages, over a long period of time (months, or even years) with various combinations of executives, subject matter experts, consultants, NGOs (non-government community service-oriented organizations), and contractors — complete with a scope, schedule & tentative budget; based on their ‘best estimates.’[2]

Eventually, the in-house-planned projects were usually competitively out-sourced for an NGO contractor, or contractors to implement.  But the contractors and their designated project managers were almost never involved in prior project planning.[3] 

Then, following contract award, a considerable hiatus ensued, while the contractor’s newly appointed project manager and team arrived on the scene and reviewed the project implementation plan with the organization’s designated in-house project manager.  They then reconciled and updated the plan to conform with current reality, plus any ‘conditions precedent’ to be met before starting formal implementation.  Subsequently, change orders were sought by the contractor, intermittently, to further modify the project’s scope, budget and schedule – all of which were usually approved each time.


To read entire article, click here

How to cite this article: Smith, K. F. (2022).  Schedule Slippages, Root Causes & Recommended Remedies, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue V, May. Online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/pmwj117-May2022-Smith-schedule-slippages-root-causes-remedies.pdf

About the Author

Dr. Kenneth Smith

Honolulu, Hawaii
& Manila, The Philippines


Initially a US Civil Service Management Intern, then a management analyst & systems specialist with the US Defense Department, Ken subsequently had a career as a senior foreign service officer — management & evaluation specialist, project manager, and in-house facilitator/trainer — with the US Agency for International Development (USAID).  Ken assisted host country governments in many countries to plan, monitor and evaluate projects in various technical sectors; working ‘hands-on’ with their officers as well as other USAID personnel, contractors and NGOs.  Intermittently, he was also a team leader &/or team member to conduct project, program & and country-level portfolio analyses and evaluations.

Concurrently, Ken had an active dual career as Air Force ready-reservist in Asia (Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines) as well as the Washington D.C. area; was Chairman of a Congressional Services Academy Advisory Board (SAAB); and had additional duties as an Air Force Academy Liaison Officer.  He retired as a ‘bird’ colonel.

After retirement from USAID, Ken was a project management consultant for ADB, the World Bank, UNDP and USAID.

He earned his DPA (Doctor of Public Administration) from the George Mason University (GMU) in Virginia, his MS from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT Systems Analysis Fellow, Center for Advanced Engineering Study), and BA & MA degrees in Government & International Relations from the University of Connecticut (UCONN).  A long-time member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and IPMA-USA, Ken is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) and a member of the PMI®-Honolulu and Philippines Chapters.

Ken’s book — Project Management PRAXIS (available from Amazon) — includes many innovative project management tools & techniques; and describes a “Toolkit” of related templates available directly from him at kenfsmith@aol.com on proof of purchase of PRAXIS.

To view other works by Ken Smith, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-kenneth-smith/

[1] A kaleidoscopic career as an itinerant project management systems specialist, project planner, advisor, project & portfolio manager, evaluator, and consultant/trainer for diverse sector projects — at headquarters levels as well as in-the-field — in many countries.
[2] An amalgam of assorted knowledge, experiences, and wishful thinking by those involved.
[3] Indeed — at least under US Government ‘Level Playing Field’ rules – participants in preliminary feasibility and design stages were often even precluded from bidding on the subsequent implementation contract because their prior knowledge, experience and familiarity with the project plan was considered by many agency contracting officers & legal counsel to constitute an ‘unfair’ advantage. Thus, paradoxically — as well as IMO ludicrous — contract award would be limited to lesser-qualified competitors! [NOTE for the skeptical; This is not conjecture; it was the norm which I often railed against, but to no avail. However, I can’t speak to current practices.]