Where are the project control’s heros?

Just about everyone has seen the photographs of the Empire State Building being built.

But how many people know about the photographer? Lewis Wickes Hine (September 26, 1874 – November 3, 1940): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Hine

Hine on an earlier project

I’m starting to think too many project controls experts let their ‘images’ created in Primavera, or other tools, do the talking and as a consequence fade into the background. Our industry needs the next generation of leaders to be far more visible and help drive innovation and improvement in the practice of project controls and the delivery of projects and programs.

There are many opportunities to step up to the challenge, my immediate interest is the Project Governance and Controls Symposium in Canberra: https://www.pgcsymposium.org.au/ And there are many other events world-wide where you can help guide the future of project controls and management.

If you want to see more on our history, see: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ZSY.php

EVM – Six things’ people don’t get!

Feedback from the publication of Easy EVM has highlighted how little most managers and project controls people understand about the methodology. In one respect, this is surprising given its some 55 years since Earned Value Management (EVM) was introduced in its current form. Although, given the almost impenetrable sequence of acronyms used by EVM expert’s to explain things, maybe this lack of general appreciation of the power of EVM is understandable.

Six of the biggest gaps in understanding are:

  • EVM is a performance management system based on measuring the value of work performed, its sole purpose is to facilitate better management decision making
  • EVM is NOT a financial accounting system, project cost control tool, or an incentive payment system, but does need information from the project’s accounts
  • EVM is NOT a scheduling system, but does need information from the scheduling tool
  • The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and WBS Dictionary is the heart of the EVMS
  • EVM is a lot more than simple ‘S-Curves’
  • EVM requires traceability and auditability

Implementing an EVM system requires appropriate tools, one of the biggest mistakes being to try running an EVMS in a scheduling tool – this is a recipe for disaster! The schedule is focused on time, the EVMS on value, these are very different measures of performance and need different systems to operate effectively.

These six points are expanded in our latest published article: Earned Value Management – Six things’ people don’t get! (click to download)

One of my objectives in writing Easy EVM was to cut through much of the unnecessary complexity and provide a straightforward guide to the value of using EVM on larger projects, see: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/shop-easy-evm.php

The origins of the WBS

My latest project management history paper on ‘the origins of the WBS’ has been published in the December issue of PM World Journal: https://pmworldjournal.com/

There’s still a few gaps in the timeline but it seems the concept of the WBS (if not the term) has its origins in the development of scientific management in the early 1900s. Download the latest version of this paper including a few additions from: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ZSY-020.php#WBS

This paper is part of a journey to work out where the ideas of Earned Value originated. The next step is to trace the origins of cost engineering. In the meantime, any information regarding the use of WBS pre WW2, particularly in the UK / Europe will be appreciated.

The full set of papers on the history of project controls can be downloaded from: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ZSY-020.php

Who invented calculus?

One of the books I’ve read this year was ‘Great Feuds in Mathematics’ (see: https://www.amazon.com/Great-Feuds-Mathematics-Liveliest-Disputes/dp/1681620103) and one of the top ten ‘feuds’ was between Newton (of ‘apple’ fame) and Leibniz over who invented calculus.

I’ve just been watching a YouTube video showing the original letters involved in the dispute from around 1670 – some 550 years ago. It seems no matter where you document something, there’s a high probability of it turning up at an inconvenient moment….. The answer to the dispute, Newton was first, but the notation developed by Leibniz is the one students of calculus still use: https://youtu.be/LN–erHStqA

Every Decision is a Risk!

When a decision maker has to choose between a number of viable alternatives with the selection of the best option being influenced by information (usually insufficient) and preferences founded on values and ethics, the decision involves uncertainty and therefor incorporates an element of risk. No process can guarantee a good outcome from every decision, but working through the pragmatic process outlined in this article can help increase the probability of an acceptable outcome.

Download the article from: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/Mag_Articles/AA010_Every_decision_is_a_risk.pdf

For more on decision making see: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-TPI-010.php#Decisions

Scheduling Core Papers Updated

We’ve been working on a series of books:
Easy EVM is published: See more on the book
Easy CPM is a work in progress, publication later this year
Easy SHM will follow in 2022.

As part of the development of Easy CPM as course-in-a-book which is designed to act as a reference and practice guide for people implementing CPM scheduling after they have learned to use the CPM scheduling software of their choice. We have updated Mosaic’s ‘core scheduling papers‘; these are:
A Guide to Scheduling Good Practice
Attributes of a Scheduler
Dynamic Scheduling
Links, Lags & Ladders
Schedule Float
Schedule Levels
Schedule Calculations

These updated papers are available to download and use free of charge under a Creative Commons 3.0 license: Download the papers from https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-SCH-010.php

Transport project cost overruns are not new!

A number of researchers, particularly Bent Flyvbjerg, Chair of Major Programme Management at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School have been highlighting the consistent failure of mega-projects to deliver on budget. It appears this is not a new thing.

Working on a side-project to the publication of my Easy EVM ‘course-in-a-book’, I was looking at the origins of engineering cost management and found that under estimating engineering projects seems to have been common in the 18th century. Financial controls in both business and projects extend back into antiquity, but developing the governance and technical processes to accurately estimate new engineering works was primarily a development of the 19th and 20th centuries, but has this led to improved outcomes?

The world’s first major transport boom was the construction of several thousand kilometers of canals in the United Kingdom (mainly in the English Midlands between 1757 (the opening of the Sankey Canal near Liverpool, followed by the Bridgewater Canal near Manchester in 1761) through to the 1830s. From 1840 onward, the canals began to decline, due to competition from the growing railway network. The canal projects were largely financed by public subscription to the purchase of financial bonds. But, the accuracy of the construction cost estimates used by the canal companies to raise their capital were to say the least mixed (although many of these canals were highly profitable until supplanted by railways). A comparison of the estimate to the actual costs on a select number of canals in the table below shows an average increase in price of 2.79.

Source: Jones, T, Engineers and Their Estimates, Journal of the Franklin Institute, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia PA, Vol XXV, 1840. From The Early History of Cost Engineering John K. Hollmann, 2016: AACE® International Technical Paper

J. A. Sutcliffe, in his Treatise on Canals and Reservoirs, published by Law and Whittaker, London, 1816 has this to say at page 168 “Had the engineer told the subscribers at first what would be the fatal consequences of this canal……..; and had he given them a true statement of the expense, and a rational estimate of the probable quantity of tonnage [to be shipped on the canal], most likely the spade would never have been put into the ground; but whether giving this kind of plain, useful information, is any part of the engineer’s creed, I leave the subscribers to judge by his estimates.”  

The profession of engineering, and the sub-disciplines of estimating and cost-engineering have come a long way since the early 1800s, so why do so many major projects still end up underestimated? The canals discussed by Sutcliffe were funded by ordinary people buying bonds (and many losing their money); modern project such as the London Cross Rail are funded by ordinary people paying taxes.  What’s clear, is governance and controls issues for major engineering project have not changed much in 200 years, some projects are successful, others are not, and differentiating between the two before they start seems to be a fundamental challenge.

The failure to accurately estimate costs, risks, and revenues has been a recurring theme of Prof. Bent Flyvbjerg’s research; many of his papers are easily accessed via a Google search.   Then, once you have a reasonable cost estimate, world class controls such as properly implemented Earned Value Management (EVM) exist and are important for delivering the project on-budget; but the use of EVM is also far from common.  The objective of writing Easy EVM is to help change this by showing what’s needed to implement a pragmatic EVM system based on ISO 21508, explained in normal project/business language.

A free preview of Easy EVM is available at: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/shop-easy-evm.php

For more papers on the history of project management see: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ZSY.php

For more papers on the history of governance see: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ZSY-015.php#Process1

Radical UncertaintyProject controls for an unknowable future


A new book suggests a paradigm shift in the way project controls a used, is needed on major projects combining the discipline required for major engineering works with the flexibility to deal with an uncertain future – getting the balance right could be very profitable. This article outlines the challenges and shortcomings of existing control processes: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/Mag_Articles/AA009_Radical_Uncertainty.pdf

For more papers on risk and uncertainty see: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-SCH-045.php

For more papers on complexity see: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ORG-040.php

The challenge of ‘e-Documents’


The world of business is moving increasingly towards storing and exchanging documentation almost exclusively in electronic formats. While document management tools solve many problems typically found in paper-based systems, they also introduce a suite of new issues and challenges. The focus of this article is highlighting a few of the more important factors needed in an efficient system: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/Mag_Articles/AA008_The_challenge_of_e-Documents.pdf

For more thoughts on communication management see: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-PBK-040.php

Easy EVM Published

Easy EVM – Implementing Earned Value Management using ISO 21508:2018 is the first of a short series of books we are working on.

Easy EVM is a self-paced course-in-a-book, supported by Mosaic Project Services Pty Ltd. As part of the course, all trainees working through the materials are welcome to email Mosaic with any questions or requests for additional information they may have at any time. We will attempt to answer all emails within 24 Hrs of receipt. The book also designed to act as a reference and practice guide for people implementing EVM, and contains numerous links to additional resources.

The purpose of this ‘course-in-a-book’ is to provide practical guidance to people, and organizations, involved in either implementing an earned value management system, or using information created by an earned value management system. It provides guidance on concepts, responsibilities, integration, and processes, for the implementation and use of earned value management based on ISO 21508: Earned Value Management in Project and Programme Management; obtaining a copy of the International Standard is recommended, but not essential, to make effective use of this course.

Easy EVM, and ISO21508, are compatible with PMI’s The Standard for Earned Value Management (ANSI/PMI 19-006-2019).

The book is divided into five sections, each section includes guidance on an aspect of EVM, references, and a set of 20 questions; with the answers in Section 6. Open the Book2Look preview to see the full table of contents, sample pages, and sample questions & answers.

Or click through to the Mosaic website to buy your copy.