A quick overview.....
Most of us have heard of the saying, “The only thing in this universe that does not change is the word change itself”.
In the realm of projects, change shall mean anything that deviates from the originally agreed scope, terms and condition of the contract. It is inherent, hard to avoid and sometimes unpredictable, therefore it is best that in all stages of the job it is well managed. To this regard, management shall mean setting up adequate processes and infrastructure, so that all stakeholders can properly identify what qualifies as a change (at this stage it becomes a change order). Then agree on the entitlement to how much compensation in terms of money and schedule is required to be reimbursed to the affected party.
So, what happens to the perceived changes that falls through the cracks in the change management process? As well as those items that concerned parties couldn’t agree on entitlement?
This is where Claims come into the picture!
Aside from disputed items in the change order, claims also happens if an event outside the control and influence of a certain party caused delay or disruption to a task(s) resulting in longer or shift in activities. But why Claims Avoidance vs just managing it?
The simple answer is because in most cases when claim is initiated it begins to sever the good contractor – client relationship. Also, an improperly prepared claim package tends to waste a lot of valuable time on both sides of the fence in reviews and further disputes. Hence, it is beneficial to all parties to focus instead on empowering the Change Management process.
So how do you accomplish this? Through a well-defined design package, high level of accuracy on quantities, adequate specification and creation of realistic schedule where all risks and constraints are accounted for. These are good steps but too broad and general and most times hard to implement and validate on when the desired criteria have been reached. So, everyone must do due diligence from the early stages of the project that the right talent to create a robust change management plan is in place and all stakeholders are adept to it. But remember, no matter how solid the contract language, scope, terms and conditions, there will be items that would be disputed because of difference in interpretations. Well, at least this greatly reduced several unnecessary claim documents to be reviewed!!!
As a final thought, the project execution phase shall be the judge on how strong is the change management process. Change is imminent and disputes towards its interpretation will always happen. It will probably come down to how strong the partnership and how good of a relationship between parties exist. As well as how it will endure the test of back and forth change orders and disputes. But perhaps the project cannot attain a state of good relationship unless all processes are set up adequately where it is transparent, with no hidden agendas, and is geared towards being fair and reasonable.
Project fails because of ineffective Work Breakdown Structure.
We have heard repeatedly the popular saying in Project Management “how do you eat a big elephant?” The answer, “one piece at a time”. This is the basic principle of applying what is called Work Breakdown Structure or commonly known as WBS. The Project Management Body of Knowledge or PMBook defines the work breakdown structure as a "deliverable oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team." The work breakdown structure visually defines the scope into manageable chunks that a project team can understand, as each level of the work breakdown structure provides further definition and detail. So, using this principle if I am assigned a project, all I need to do is break it down into pieces until it is manageable? When is this “manageable level” attained? Level 1, 2, 3 and so on? When do we stop? Also, the word “Structure” should imply that it must be divided in an organized and consistent manner!
So Not quite easy, right? Remember on the pre-requisite article Everyday Project Management Part I, where attaining success in any tasks is by being thorough with planning and preparation prior to execution of any task? Same thing applies here. If you fail at this stage to correctly use the WBS principle, then you will likely find difficulty in executing the tasks and reporting project status. Also, managing interface would eventually be an uphill battle.
Say you are responsible for a Design-Build Commercial Complex Development Project where your company acts as the General Contractor. As a project manager you will oversea the Detailed Design, Procurement, Construction and commissioning stages of the overall project. Remember, as the PM it is your duty that you are heavily involved in the creation of your project WBS as much as possible.
So what criteria is best suited as Level 1 of your WBS? If you said Time or time driven, then you are in the right track! The category with this characteristic is the different stages such as detailed engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning. After all, they are sequential to each other where one needs to complete or part of it before the other can start. It will be a different case though if the project has multiple locations where location 1 must complete a large portion of the scope before the other starts. Then the Level 1 category would be locations and not stages.
Now let’s jump directly to Construction and build the Level 2 WBS from there. Draw the boundary lines on your Plot Plan or try to visualize it if you do not have one yet. Make sure that grouping is lumped together, not spread-out and more importantly you have a “strategic purpose” in choosing your boundary lines. This shall mean size can vary area-wise or scope-wise. It must be more than one but as much as possible keep it below 10 areas.
At this juncture the higher the level the better.
So, we have sub-projects where you can assign sort of deputy project managers. Note, it does not mean per person per each package. A person may have multiple packages depending on size and complexity.
So how big are these areas? Can these areas be further broken down into sub-areas? Will it have substantial amount of work where a Project Engineer type of supervision can manage? If so, then breakdown your Areas into sub areas and call it level 3.
Same as with the Level 2 Areas define the boundary lines with “strategic purpose”.
At this stage you might have already reach this “sweet spot” called “manageable level”. This is the level where a multi-discipline or multi process level should follow. It shall also be the last level where you expect the details on reporting project status and issues. Though your detailed project schedule can go beyond this level, you as a PM are not expected to go down to that level of details.
So what are the benefits of doing this approach?
1. It eliminates Inter-discipline interfaces - where your Mini PMs shall be the champion of the package or packages assigned to him. The mini PM will be obligated to study the whole scope, drawings, specification, and from all disciplines. This assures all potential issues are raise so he can progress work on his area.
2) Better accountability – you can just give the mini PM a start date and a completion date plus 3 to 5 intermediate milestones and tell him he is responsible in creating a plan, making sure all pre requisites are ready, he is the absolute master of the portion of the work.
3) Competition - creates an environment of competition amongst your mini-PM. Its been proven time and time again, healthy competition promotes productivity.
4) Visibility - you can pin point easily which area is problematic so the team can extend assistance to where it is needed the most.
5) You will be able to apply unconventional techniques in Project Controls such as 100-100 Rule and Rules of Exception. but, what are these?
I will discuss these techniques in the succeeding video Everyday Project Management Part III. I will also discuss how the WBS for other stages like engineering, procurement and others will map against Construction. Please subscribe to our channel and please leave a like or comment below.
BTW, let’s be clear on one thing. The main application of the WBS principle is Project Execution, not as a Cost Center Breakdown or Breakdown for packages in Estimating. The common mistake we have encountered from Project Organization is adapt the Cost Breakdown or Estimating Breakdown and call it WBS which most time not a good fit to apply in Project Planning and Execution! Be very careful!
Remember, the 2 key principles are…. one, it is a must that you do at least 2 consecutive levels of the WBS as Area-Based. Two, never use “Discipline based or process based” prior to not having satisfied number one. Unless your project is really small like building a 2 bedroom house or similar.
Think about it for a second. The moment you pre-maturely introduce discipline or process based WBS, you immediately lost the opportunity to capitalize the benefits of having smaller projects with mini PMs. You created silos where discipline leads will likely not talk amongst each other and you gave the them an excuse to blame the other discipline on the delays they may incur. Accountability and visibility, GONE. You may also need interface engineers, project coordinators, and other support resources where it could easily be avoided through AREA BASED WBS.
Let’s hear from you guys about your struggles in pertaining to WBS or anything that you may wish I could elaborate more on the succeeding articles.
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How about I compare managing a project with driving to get to your very important job interview? Believe it or not they both share the same principles to attain the desired objectives and outcome.
You see, anything that requires an action where there is an objective, with a start and a finish date can be construed as a project or a task. Where success depends on how well you studied the scope, how aware you are on the impacts of the knowns and the unknowns and the preparations made to avail all pre-requisites. And more importantly, clear all the roadblocks that may impede the “before” and “during” the execution of the tasks.
Well this is my story…
It was a Monday morning and I got a call to an 8 am Friday job interview for a Project Management Software Trainer position. Back then, it was opportunity of a lifetime that opened up to me. So, after jotting down all the necessary information and sharing the excitement to my love ones, I was immediately in google doing research on everything I can get my hands on about the company and its business. I printed the location from google maps including various route options. There I found the location to be one-and-a-half-hour drive from home and in the middle of the metropolis where unfortunately a place I was not familiar with driving. I also took note of the weather forecast on the interview day.
The following morning, I inquired from close friends about feedback on the driving conditions on how to get to the address. I asked about options for parking, and good place to eat if I get hungry. I also reviewed advanced functionality the software applications I used for work and the systems that I haven’t used for some time. That same day I applied for a leave for two days, one day for the interview and a day before so I can scout the place and practice driving to it.
Then Wednesday morning before going to work, I took my car to the nearby auto repair shop for maintenance – it’s been a while since it had an oil change so I needed to make sure it will be in a good condition before the BIG day.
I woke up early Thursday to rehearse exactly how I will drive to the job interview on the actual day. I followed the best route from google maps combined with advice from my friends. As I was driving along I got stuck in the traffic for two hours due to a bridge repair that seemed would take days to complete. Good thing that I found this out one day ahead, else it could have been catastrophic!
Anyway, when I arrive at the location I explored for the best parking spot – drive a bit to around three blocks for the best option. Then I sat down in a coffee shop near the lobby of the building and tried to observe the people working there. How they dressed up, whether they seemed happy. After all, I will potentially work there – might as well see what it is like.
After an hour of observing, I went shopping for a decent pair of shoes and a new shirt. I also got a hair cut, ate lunch then went home using the alternate route at the same time check the road condition.
Dinner with my daughter and wife was brief and I was ready for bed early.
Friday morning at lasts! I couldn’t contain the excitement! Fortunately, driving went smoothly. I arrived in the location 30 mins early so I had time for coffee and opportunity to go to the washroom to check my hair and fix my tie. I wasn’t rushing at all. I had a fresh feeling and more importantly I felt so confident that though clueless on the interview questions, I knew I would do well because of the amount of preparation I did!
So which project management principles here apply? All I did was research, ask, plan, and more importantly identify the relevant risks and mitigated it (example: the practice drive, car fix, exploring the area, and arriving few minutes early). Oh yeah, my eyes were always focused in attaining the ultimate goal (with excitement & enthusiasm).
Do you think it’s worthwhile to spend more time planning and doing lots of preparation before the actual project execution? Could the result of my objective have been different if I didn’t do so?
Well technically project execution phase was just two and a half hours, One-and-a-half-hour drive, plus thirty minutes wait and the one-hour interview time, but the preparation time I spent doing my version of Conceptual Engineering, Scope Study, Detailed Design, Prototyping and Procurement was far more greater. Hence, the pay off was tremendous!
Next Time (Part II) I will discuss how to apply these principle in a multi-faceted, multi-discipline, more complicated tasks or project.
Please leave comment below. BTW I did “Aced” the interview and it was the start of my wonderful journey to world of project management.