World Class Project Management – A Guide To Making Bad Project Teams Worse

For the past several months, I’ve been a technical expert advisor to a project team for a new installation. If I thought management programs and fads were a waste of time before, my experience with “World Class Project Management” (WCPM) has made me rethink my position on management consultants as members of the human race.

In addition to the typical split of a large capital project into front-end, design, construction, and startup phases, with milestones and gateways along the process, WCPM includes “Value Improving Practices” (VIPs), in order to formalize the development of ideas to reduce project costs (supposedly based on life-cycle costs). These VIPs include Process Simplification, Energy Optimization, Design-To-Capacity, and Value Engineering among others. Each of these concepts are good, in fact necessary for good project design and implementation.  Developing rigid processes to implement each is asinine at best.

Today, I sat through an 8 hr meeting to cover Value Engineering. The meeting consisted of getting all the principals involved in the project design in the same room, with a outside facilitator trained in “Value Engineering”. The group then went through the Piping and Instrumentation Diagrams for the entire project one by one, to come up with ideas of how savings could be found in each area of the system. Then, when an idea came up, the group would start to discuss it’s merits, until the facilitator would interrupt and say this meeting was to come up with ideas only, which we would rank in priority at the end of the meeting to develop action items around.

Problem the first: Any time someone is more focused on the process and organizational rules of a meeting than in the actual project the meeting is about, that person needs to die.

Problem the second: This project team is similar to almost every work team ever – they don’t really need to be encouraged to sit around and spout out ideas without ever coming to a final decision on any of them. They’ll do that with their last dying breath if you let them.

At some point, a smart project leader has to realize that any financial and operational gains made by coming up with more and more alternatives is more than offset by the losses of delaying making a decision and running with it. Make a wrong decision, and two things will happen – the owner of the installed system will work around the problems, or a modification will be made. But progress will be made. 90% perfect and completed is better than 95% perfect and delayed and over budget due to delays and a sped up construction and startup period because the corporate mandated end date is a mandate.

Shut up and get to work already.

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