AV Police Squad

Meeting Schedules Despite Progress

Say what you will about Shia Labeouf, but the man clearly has passion. Many of his performance art pieces push for change, and change is a beautiful thing. Like this piece:

“Just do it!” Nike would be proud, as would many go-getters. However, I had an experience on a job site where my reaction to someone telling me to “just do it” reminded me less of a motivation coach, and more of an inflexible senior executive.

We commission systems for a living. We don’t “punch out” systems, or create punch lists for people to address an endless inventory of issues. The idea behind commissioning is to confirm that the system under test is fit for use and has zero defects. By the time commissioning takes place, the system should be functioning 100%. In fact, if there are several key functions not operating, the commissioning should be postponed. Why spend time and money to test a system when you know it is going to fail?

Unfortunately, a reason to schedule the commissioning anyway that I hear fairly often is “because [some upper-level department] said to just do it”. As such, many project managers feel that a “completed” failed commissioning is better than having to push back the date of the milestone. People higher up in the bureaucracy become more and more removed from the AV project, so it is easy to just see “AV Commissioning” as another task that needs to happen for the project to be completed. They are not aware of what each task actually means to the project. They fail to realize that moving forward with a system commissioning will compound the project completion delay. Not only will the installation be disrupted by the testing, but now there is a punch list that needs to be addressed. So, instead of only dealing with completing the system, they also have to placate nervous clients who are concerned about such a lengthy list of issues…of an essentially incomplete system. They may also have to spend time creating and attending project meetings, dealing with the completion of the punch list, instead of focusing on the completion of the job. Integrators go from having eight hours (or 10 or 12 or…) to work on a project in a given day, to having four because now they have to attend meetings about why they are not progressing fast enough. Very little good comes out of testing a system too early.

Think about a similar situation from a general contractor’s perspective. Let’s say the project schedule says that walls have to be up on May 1. However, the conduit and back boxes that need to go behind the walls are not going to arrive on site until May 2. The GC can physically get the walls up by May 1, but she knows that they are going to be ripped up on the 2nd to get those conduit and back boxes installed. Not only that, but money will be wasted on drywall materials, as well as labor required to put the walls up again and/or patch holes. My preference would be to delay the project to avoid all that double work, and thus save time and money overall. Someone removed from the project (and with more political power) might insist on meeting that “walls up” date because that’s what the schedule says. To them, meeting the schedule takes precedence over completing the project as quickly as possible.

That is the paradox of this situation: sometimes you need to delay a project to get it completed quicker.

You can think about commissioning as the final checks a car dealer goes through before handing the keys over to the new owner. You expect the car to be 100% functional when you take hold of the keys. You don’t expect there to be a missing wheel and some of the buttons on the dashboard not doing what they are supposed to. You’d probably not accept the keys because the car’s not ready. If we expect most of the things we buy to be commissioned with zero defects, why should we accept anything less for our AV systems? Commissioning is not just an item on a Gantt chart that needs to happen on a particular date. Systems need to be fully and successfully commissioned before they can be turned over to the client. A failed commissioning means the client can’t use the system. Scheduling a commissioning when you know the system under test is going to fail is pointless. My six-year-old understands this. I’m not sure upper management does. I just hope I can keep Shia out of my mind the next time an SVP screams “just do it” at a project meeting. Giggling is typically frowned upon during those te

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