Category Archives: General Project Management

Do project plans predict or create the future?

Our latest article, Is Planning Predictive or Persuasive suggests that project controls staff and management place too much emphasis on attempting to develop the ‘perfect plans’ that accurately predicts future outcomes (a passive process that is doomed to failure), and not enough on using the planning and scheduling processes to proactively influence the direction of the project’s future work.

Download Is Planning Predictive or Persuasive from: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/Mag_Articles/AA019_Is_Planning_Predictive_or_Persuasive.pdf

The First Dry Docks

The First Dry Docks is the final paper in a short series looking at the civil engineering aspects of transport projects prior to the industrial revolution: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/Mag_Articles/AA018_The_first_Dry-Docks.pdf  

Basin 6 after excavation. (Courtesy of Nanjing Municipal Museum)

Other papers in the series include:

The need to clean, repair and maintain ships has been a challenge from the time merchant and military vessels became too heavy to simply drag up a beach, to a position above the water. One of the early solutions to this challenge involved using the change in water level caused by the tide to assist the maintenance process, another was to increase the pulling power by using animals and simple machines. Other solutions involved creating basins that could be closed to the sea and drained; initially these were temporary structures intended for one-off use, then in 1495 the first reusable dry dock was constructed at Portsmouth Dockyard in the UK.

These and other linked papers can be downloaded from The evolution of construction management: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ZSY-005.php#Process2

The First Railway Projects.

Transport projects in the United Kingdom predate the industrial revolution by several centuries. This paper, The First Railway Projects looks at the building of some of the earliest railway projects (horse drawn wagonways) in the period from the 16th century (Elizabeth I) to the 18th century to identify where possible the contractual and management processes used in their construction.  

The engineering know-how accumulated in the 250-year period covered in The First Railway Projects, underpinned the rapid expansion of steam powered railways in the early part of the 19th century. The updated timeline included in Cost Overruns on Early Canal & Railway Projects shows the first viable steam locomotive was built in 1812, the first public railway opened in 1821, the first intercity railway opened in 1830, and some 6000 miles of railway had been built by the 1850s.

As part of this project looking at early transport projects in the UK, the other linked papers in this section of the Mosaic website have been augmented and updated an two more reference papers, one on canals and navigations, the other on railways have been added to the page, see: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ZSY-005.php#Process2

Early Canal Projects

Early Canal Projects looks at some of the earliest canal and navigation projects constructed in the United Kingdom and where possible the contractual and management processes used in their construction are identified. The paper is intended to augment the information contained in:

Most of the projects covered in this paper pre-date the start of the canal boom and the industrial revolution by several centuries.

Download the full paper and see more on the history of construction management: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ZSY-005.php#Process2  

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

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

Project Managers 4 The World – 24-hours talk around the clock

Project Managers 4 The World are running a 24-hours talk around the clock in support for children and families from Ukraine on April 27 & 28, 2022: https://charity-conference.com/

The full line up of speakers is now locked-in, all we need is for the project management community to support our efforts. All you have to do is donate to participate $10 to $999 (or more), it’s your choice – all proceeds go to UNICEF to help support for children and families from Ukraine. After donating, a Zoom link will be forwarded to allow access to the event.  

See more on the event home page: https://charity-conference.com/

Support for Ukraine

Project Managers 4 The World are running a 24-hours talk around the clock in support for children and families from Ukraine on April 27 & 28, 2022: https://charity-conference.com/

By joining Project Managers 4 The World and contributing to a good cause, you will get the opportunity to witness a series of amazing talks by project management experts from around the world. Starting at 5:15pm on the 27th (Sydney time – 9:15am in Germany) speakers from Germany to Zambia, and Australia to North America will cover a range of subjects. My session ‘Governing and Leading Projects using Earned Value Management (EVM)’ is scheduled for the 1:00am time slot in Munich (9:00am on the 28th Melbourne time – this is the first time in 20 years being in the Australian time zone has been an advantage…..). Visit the event home page to see the full list of speakers.

Donate to participate $10 to $999 (or more), it’s your choice – all proceeds go to UNICEF to help support for children and families from Ukraine. After donating, a Zoom link will be forwarded to allow access to the event.

I will post more updates as this exciting event evolves.