Monthly Archives: May 2022

London’s Elizabeth Line Now Open (sort-of)

Amidst all the razzamatazz surrounding the opening of the Elizabeth Line in London it is worth remembering the construction project to deliver the railway is far from finished, four years late, and some £4+ Billion over budget.

The full Crossrail project may be finished with a full timetable operating sometime in May 2023. At the moment the newly opened system is operating as three separate railways and work on the Bond Street Station in central London is far from complete. Testing and integration issues remain and there is no announced completion date.

The original 10-year project was planned to open in December 2018, and through to some-time in mid-July 2018, the project was reporting progress as on-time and on-budget! Three-and-a-half years later management is not sure how long (or how much) will be needed to complete the project.

This project controls disaster will be written about for years. From my perspective the major failure in the period up to 2018 lay in a combination of culture, poor governance, and hubris, the governance failing has been discussed in a 2019 presentation Governing for success, Crossrail: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PDF_Papers/P172_Govering_for_success-Crossrail.pdf

The cultural issues seem to have been largely ignored.  Project management success in a civil engineering project is largely determined by delivering the work on-time and on-budget. This was the mantra of Crossrail management through to 2018. Right through to 2018, there seems to have been an assumption that the heavy civils work was done and the intangible issues around systems integration and safe operating procedures would be sorted out ‘it will be alright on the night’. The technical debt built up by the project hiding and discounting these issues was ignored. The biggest of these was integrating the complex signalling systems. Issues with integrating the signalling systems were identified by 2015 (if not earlier). Completing the integration of the signalling seems to be the reason the line is now opening as three separate systems.  This issue is discussed in Who’s Cross About Crossrail – the insidious effect of technical debt: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PDF_Papers/P204-Technical_Debt.pdf After the original management were fired and new people brought in, the voices of the railway professionals was heard. The original plans envisaged a few months of testing, commissioning and trial operations:

Interestingly this 2012 plan shows a 12-month slip – passengers cannot be carried until the trial running has been successfully completed. The actual time needed to train staff and complete the testing, commissioning, and trial operating phase has been closer to 2.5 years.

The approach adopted by the new management team has been to ensure that at each stage of opening 100% of the scheduled services will run as timetabled. Simple testing was not enough, a complex system of scenarios were rehearsed, and then trialed for real using volunteer crowds – the two priorities seem to have been guaranteeing safety and operational reliability. Delays in opening were less important, people don’t really miss a service they have never used (but do get really upset if a train they are relying on does not arrive).  After the first few days of operation, these objective seem to have been achieved. Apparently, the culture of the managers pre-2018 could not grasp or understand the complexities of opening new railways. Hopefully this lesson will be learned and applied on a number of other major rail projects including HS2 in the UK and the Melbourne Metro project.

For more on project governance see: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ORG.php

Update: Mark Wilde CEO of Crossrail shared the lessons he learned from being in charge of the massive project in early June, his insights make fascinating reading: Read the article.

BIM in Australia is years behind the world

The successful introduction of Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a multi-year program that requires national government leadership and a road map. All aspects of the construction / engineering industry and its supply chain need to be working to the same standards so that information is exchangeable, and compatible. There is also a massive education and culture change needed to transition an industry from a historical culture of competitiveness and combativeness to one focused on efficiency, collaboration and mutual benefit.

A recent report by the Federal Government has suggested it may be a good idea for government agencies to move to a ‘digital be default’ mode of working, which was essentially the same position as was held in 2017.  Five yeas later, no real change, and $billions in potential savings that could have funded a lot more work continues to be wasted.

For more click through to our published article BIM in Australia: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/Mag_Articles/AA017_BIM_in_Australia.pdf

Or read more about BIM on our website: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ITC-011.php

CPM Scheduling – the logical way to error #1

Section 3.5 of Easy CPM looks at some of the logical scheduling errors that are easy to introduce into a schedule, and that for the most part will not show up in the automated checking tools applying test such as the DCMA 14 point assessment (see more on the DCMA assessment at: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1088_DCMA-14-Point.pdf)

The naming convention used below is borrowed from Miklos Hajdu.  In all cases the links shown in the diagram are the controlling links, in a ‘live’ schedule there are likely to be many other links as well.

Reverse Critical

In this logical configuration, the change in the overall project duration is the opposite of any change in the activity duration.

A reduction of 1-day in the duration of activity B will lengthen the project duration by one day, an increase of 1-day will reduce the project duration by one day.

Neutral Critical Open ends (dangles) have the effect of isolating the activity duration from the schedule. The project duration is unaffected by either a 1-day decrease, or a 1-day increase in the duration of activity B. There are two variants, SS and FF:

In both cases it does not matter what change is made to activity B, there is no change in the overall duration of the project.  This is one of the primary reasons almost every scheduling standard requires a link from a predecessor into the start of every activity and a link from the end of the activity to a successor, however, even with other links in place, if the control is through either of the scenarios above, the result is still the same.

Bi-critical Activities

Finally, for this post, any change in the duration of activity B will cause the project duration to increase.

A 1-day reduction of the duration of activity B will lengthen the project duration by one day, and an increase of 1-day will also lengthen the project duration by one day.  Bi-critical activities depend on having a balanced ladder where all of the links and activities are critical in the baseline schedule. Increasing the duration of B pushes the completion of C through the FF link. Reducing the duration of B pulls the SS link back to a later time and therefore delays the start of C.  The same effect will occur if the ladder is unbalanced or there is some float across the whole ladder, it is just not as obvious and may not flow through to a delay depending on the float values and the extent of the change.

Easy CPM

There are more examples of similar logical inconsistencies included in Section 3.5 of Easy CPM. Easy CPM is designed for schedulers that know how to operate the tools efficiently, and are looking to lift their skills to the next level. The book is available for preview, purchase (price $35), and immediate download, from: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/shop-easy-cpm.php  

Rethinking Leadership and Governance

Rethinking Leadership and Governance is the second paper in the series Project Management in the time of COVID. Governance and leadership are mutually inclusive. Leaders define and support good governance, while leadership is enhanced by good governance.

This paper looks at the definitions of governance and leadership, then describes Australia’s pre-pandemic environment in terms of those definitions, followed by an overview of our first two years of lockdowns. The final section discusses how reviews and reforms of governance and leadership practices may be applied to develop the new normal needed to counteract the problems of the past.

Download the paper from:  https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ORG-060.php#COVID

PM World Journal is a free monthly project management journal, see more at: https://pmworldjournal.com/

What is an algorithm?

Surprisingly, the answer to this apparently simple question depends on the year you asked the question!

The term algorithm comes from the name of the Persian mathematical genius, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (c. 780 – c. 850). Algoritmi is the Latinized version of his name ‘Al-Khwarizmi’. In his lifetime he produced influential works in mathematics, astronomy, and geography.

From the perspective of numbers, Al-Khwarizmi formalised the concepts of the Hindu-Arabic number system we use today, and the decimal point. 12th century Latin translations of his textbook Algorithmo de Numero Indorum codified the Hindu-Arabic numerals, and introduced the decimal positional number system to the Western world. In medieval Latin, algorismus simply meant the decimal number system which became an English word by the 13th Century (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_ibn_Musa_al-Khwarizmi).

Another of his books, The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing was a revolutionary move away from the Greek concept of mathematics which was essentially geometry. It was first text to describe the use of algebra, in an elementary form, for processes such as solving quadratic equations. The book was translated into Latin by Robert of Chester in 1145, and was used until the sixteenth century as the principal mathematical textbook of European universities. The term algebra comes from the title of this book (the word al-jabr meaning completion).

Then some 200 years ago Charles Babbage, known as the father of computing submitted a one-page paper about an invention, The differential machine. With 25,000 different parts, this machine is to all intents the world’s first mechanical computer. Babbage went on to invent the analyzing machine, a general-purpose computer for which mathematician Ada Lovelace wrote what many consider the first algorithm.

Charles Babbage Difference Engine

However, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that the term algorithm came to mean a set of step-by-step rules for solving a problem. Then in the early part of the 20th Century, Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science, worked out how in theory, a machine could follow algorithmic instructions and solve complex mathematics. And the rest is ‘history’.

For more on the history of numbers, calendars and calculations see: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ZSY-010.php#Overview

Australian Research Project

A research project funded by the PGCS needs your input: “Mental Health of Project Management (PM) Practitioners in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) Sector during COVID-19 Pandemic

If your work is PM-oriented in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) sector, you are cordially invited to participate in this online questionnaire survey by reflecting on your own PM-oriented work experience during the CoVID-19 pandemic. This survey is anonymous and will take you about 15 minutes.

About the Project:
Unprecedented changes due to COVID-19 pandemic have introduced new psychosocial risks for mental health of project management (PM) practitioners in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector. This research is aimed at improving mental health status of PM practitioners in the AEC sector during COVID-19 pandemic by evaluating psychosocial risk factors and their interventions, thereby establishing a mental health management framework, which is expected to help improve mental health status of PM practitioners in AEC sector.

Project Team:
This study is sponsored by the Project Governance and Controls Symposium (PGSC) , Australia , and has been approved by the Western Sydney University Human Research Ethics Committee (Approval Number: H14637). The research team includes Assoc Prof Xiaohua Jin, Dr Robert Osei-Kyei, Prof Srinath Perera, and Mr Bashir Tijani from Western Sydney University and Mr James Bawtree from PMLogic.

Link to the survey: https://surveyswesternsydney.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0k7H6XF90TKfqvQ

Cost Overruns on Early Canal & Railway Projects

Our latest paper looking a the evolution of cost engineering and the causes of cost overruns has been published in the May edition of PM World Journal. See the full publication at: https://pmworldjournal.com/#in-this-issue

Cost Overruns on Early Canal & Railway Projects looks at some of the canal and railway projects built in the same general timeframe as second phase of the industrial revolution.  The objective of this paper is to identify and understand the reasons for the cost control challenges on many of the canal and railway projects built between the 1760s and 1840s identified in our earlier paper The Origins and History of Cost Engineering (download from: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ZSY-020.php#Process1)

While the difficulties in determining a realistic cost for a new class of project are understandable. The evidence suggests that in addition to the lack of empirical cost information, the problem with many of the cost estimates may have been caused, or exacerbated, by various combinations of poor governance, questionable ethics, and optimism bias.

Download Cost Overruns on Early Canal & Railway Projects: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PDF_Papers/P207_Canal+Wagonway_Cost_Overruns.pdf