Project Controls ... really ? (part 2)

This blog article picks up on some comments which relate to project controls and is a second part to a previous blog.

Firstly, thanks to all who commented on the previous blog (on the equivalent LinkedIn page) ... I'm glad it got the emotions  and debate going and hopefully made people think. And just to re-iterate what I said before, my 'beef' is not with what project controls is when it is done well, but what the term 'controls' implies. And I think some of you who responded outlined what it is to do it well.

Hopefully, this blog will make people think some more about it in practice ! 

Project Management vs Project Controls

Some weeks ago, I was giving a seminar on the NEC3 form of contract via the Association for Project Management and people were introducing themselves. Unsurprisingly, a  person said they were a project manager for a contracting organisation, but then added something like "although I seem to spend 70% of my time reporting to the client on progress, cost and endless amounts of other information, rather than project managing."

And that got me thinking ...

Now this client has been publicly castigated for its poor track record of delivery and their project management capabilities are not well thought of by those who contract with them.

So what seems to be their response to poor project delivery ? Put in more controls ... or should that be more measures.

And if project controls did what it said on the tin, why wouldn't you ? Because if doing more of what the literature calls 'project controls' actually allowed you to 'control' the project  better, doing more of it would be the sensible thing to do, wouldn't it ?

But for me, it would be far more sensible to, for example :

  • spend time and money doing a good site investigation so that the contractor and client have a far better idea of the starting point for the project;
  • spend time and money thinking through what it is they actually wanted the contractor to do and achieve and expressing that clearly in the contract documentation;
  • have an empowered NEC3 Project Manager and supporting team who have the knowledge, skill, attributes and experience, as well as project management infrastructure, to manage the contract as written and thereby pro-actively address problems to minimise their impact.

Depositphotos_52849545_s-2015.jpgInstead, problems are hidden or denied until they cannot be hidden or denied any more, because the contractor gets beaten up when their is a deviation from the tolerance. So the client introduces ever more ways of measuring - sorry 'controlling' - the project with tighter and tighter tolerances. As I said before, why wouldn't you do this if project controls did what it said on the tin ?

So rather than addressing the clauses of their problems, they are clamping down on the effects. And people become what Craig Mcpheator (who gave a response in Part 1) called "busy fools" reactively administrating problems, rather than pro-actively avoiding and managing them.

On a related note ...

I was in a queue at Bristol Airport and overheard this conversation :

"Did you hear, Johny has got the XXXX project back on track"

"Really ?!? Last I heard was that it was way behind with the CPI way below one. That was a week or so ago."

"It was, but he's got it back on track now"

"How did he do that then ?" (incredulous tone)

"He re-baselined the whole the project."

So every things OK now then ?

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