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An Evaluation of Building Linkages between Single-Project Management Capabilities and Portfolio Management Efficiency


An Evaluation of Building Linkages between Single-Project Management Capabilities and Portfolio Management Efficiency

Over the last 30 years, our firm has grown exponentially in the construction design and management industry.  As there are continuous possibilities for improvement in the management techniques of our projects, it is necessary to manage the overall portfolio of projects through what is known as Project Portfolio Management.  It has been my experience that understanding the dynamic of this portfolio as a whole, and as projects individually, has helped our executive management team monitor and implement corporate policy to improve the portfolio and the individual project. In the textbook, Wysocki (p, 535 2009), states that ”A project portfolio is a collection of projects that share some common link to one another”.  These common links are what represents the parts of corporate business model that assists upper management in making decisions regarding policy, project selections, management methodologies, financial bearing, and other key components of an effective business plan. In the reading assignment, Role of single-project management in achieving portfolio management efficiency, the authors analyzed both the single-project management capabilities and the portfolio management efficiency to determine the potential linkages between these two disciplines.  There interest in this research paper was to “identify how project managers, at the single-project level, can contribute towards wider business benefits in the entire portfolio” (Martinsuo and Paivi, p. 57 2006). These authors applied various scientific formulations to a quantitative study that we will be discussing later in this report.  In order for us to fully understand the thesis of the Martinsuo and Paivi report, we need to define and discuss the following:

  1. Definition and characteristics of a Project Management Portfolio and the described efficiencies
  2. Single-project management and building linkages portfolio management efficiencies
  3. The empirical study and how data was collected and analyzed
  4. The results of their study
  5. The author’s conclusion regarding building linkages between single-project management capabilities and portfolio management efficiency
  6. My personal summary evaluation on the conclusions of this study

By the study of this research article, I will attempt to evaluate their conclusions that pertain to the building linkages and how single-project management affects the overall project management portfolio of a company, most specifically in the construction industry. I will conduct a comprehensive review of the various aspects of this research article and explain the methodologies used to determine the author’s conclusions and discussions.

  1. Definition and characteristics of a project management portfolio and the described efficiencies

The use of a project management portfolio is quite common in large construction management organizations. The overall corporate portfolio may be an accumulation of many subset portfolios. In our firm, the subset portfolios are based upon regions that represent a group of various countries that we work in.  According to reference.com, portfolio management is described as “a term used by project managers and project management organizations to describe methods for analyzing and collectively managing a group of current or proposed projects based on numerous key characteristics”. The portfolio is a tool that the executive team uses to make important policy decisions, manage trends and sales forecasts, review management methodologies, and to manage overall corporate cash flow and profitability. In the research article, Martinsuo and Paivi, (p. 57 2006), describes the efficiencies of project management portfolios as follows “Efficiency of project portfolio management , therefore, could be determined by estimating the degree to which the portfolio fulfills its objectives: strategic alignment, balance across projects, and value maximization”. A brief explanation of these objectives are as follows:

    1. Strategic alignment – This is a term that basically evaluates how each project is related with each other in regards to timing, human resources, cash flow demands, and how the corporate support is spread to these various projects.  This is important for executive management to understand so that there is not an unnecessary flux in one of these key areas.
    2. Balance across projects – This is a term that ensures that the corporate support in all areas of the portfolio are well balanced as not to cause undue resource, moral, management, and financial demands.
    3. Value maximization – This term is when used as the executive would analyze that the corporate resources were used to its best potential or value. We would often consider passing on some projects that a client may offer to us based on criteria for value maximization. There have been instances that we would refer another firm to provide services because the value of certain managers would have been better spent on certain projects more than others.

The authors state that portfolio management efficiency has not been reported in literature (Martinsuo and Paivi, p. 57 2006) and it is their intent to research a larger sample of different companies and different types of projects to verify linkages between single-project management and portfolio management efficiency. There have been studies with separate objectives, but few with a combined quantitative analysis and empirical study.

  1. Single-project management and portfolio management efficiencies

The authors have set out to research the linkages between these two disciplines and have developed five basic hypothesis that are the premise for their research(Martinsuo and Paivi, p. 58 2006).  The five hypothesis are as follows:

a.  Hypothesis 1 – The degree to which projects have clearly specified goals is positively related to portfolio management efficiency.

b.  Hypothesis 2 – Availability of information on single projects for decision makers is positively related to portfolio management efficiency.

c.  Hypothesis 3 – Systematic decision making as part of the development process is positively related to portfolio management efficiency.

d.  Hypothesis 4 – Reaching project goals is positively related to portfolio management efficiency.

e.  Hypothesis 5 – Project Management efficiency is positively related to portfolio management efficiency.

The authors have developed these hypotheses in order to verify previous studies and findings that provided strong evidence that the setting of goals, availability of project related information to decision makers, systemic project related decision making, and other project related factors, could be related to portfolio management efficiency.

  1. The empirical study and how data was collected and analyzed

An empirical study was conducted and focused on targeting different industry and service companies.  According to reference.com(2010), “The concept of an empirical study is divided into both a quantitative and qualitative research epistemology.  The statistical, data bound, analysis  belongs to the quantitative, while the qualitative works with data that is not easily analyzed numerically”. The authors perform an empirical study based on a questionnaire that was developed passed on the following parameters and outcomes (Martinsuo and Paivi, p. 58-59 2006):

a.  The questionnaire was sent to all organizations that employed 100 people or more throughout the country of Finland and had named a responsible person responsible for development.

b.  The questionnaire was sent to 1,102 organizations in 2003.

c.  Out of the questionnaires sent, 288 responded with 279 of them involved in development in the form of projects.

d.  There was involvement from small, medium, and large companies from a variety of businesses.

e.  A majority of 53 percent of the responses came from private industrial firms, about 25 percent came from private service sector, and 22.6 percent came from public sector companies.

f.  The respondents mostly came from functional line organizations(51%), matrix organizations(35%), and project organizations(11%).

g.  A majority of participants has a portfolio of only a few projects, but also firms with 5 to 10 projects and more are represented.

h.  In regards to project type, 66 percent focused on organizational development and information technology projects, and 34 percent focused on product development.

i.  A majority of participants are middle(46%) and top(39%) management responsive for development activities, while the remainder consisted of task and project management.

j.  All participants had at least 10 to 15 years experience with their company.

The data was collected using a questionnaire that was developed and evaluated by a professional research panel. The data collected was constructed using both the Likert-type scale and the Cronbach’s alpha estimates. For a better understanding of these two data collection systems reference.com(2010) states the following:

a.  “A Likert scale is a psychometric scale commonly used in questionnaires, and is the most widely used scale in survey research, such that the term is often used interchangeably with rating scale even though the two are not synonymous. When responding to a Likert questionnaire item, respondents specify their level of agreement to a statement.”

b.  Cronbach’s α (alpha) is a statistic. It is commonly used as a measure of the internal consistency or reliability of a psychometric test score for a sample of examinees. This article assigns the use of α to psychology, yet the Cronbach’s alpha statistic is widely used in other disciplines, e.g. social sciences, business studies and nursing. This article uses the term “item”, while recognizing that items are variable. When manipulated items are commonly referred to as variables.

The author’s methodology (Martinsuo and Paivi, 2006) for adapting the variables to their formulations consisted of one specific variable(efficiency variable) in the portfolio management efficiency, and the use of five independent variables in project management(goal setting, availability of information for decision makers, systemic decision making, project goal achievement, and project management efficiency). There were three control variables used which were number of employees, number of projects and a dummy variable product development.  These scientific formulations were systematically applied in order to develop a concise and accurate research output. The used means, standard deviations and correlation coefficients and published their results on Table 3 – Descriptive statistics, Martinsuo and Paivi, (p. 60 2006).

  1. The results of their study

The authors developed a list of results using a process of linear regression.  According to reference.com, “linear regression is a form of regression analysis in which the relationship between one or more independent variables and another variable, called dependent variable, is modeled by a least squares function, called linear regression equation. This function is a linear combination of one or more model parameters, called regression coefficients. A linear regression equation with one independent variable represents a straight line. The results are subject to statistical analysis.” The authors used a variable formulated testing process and developed three models to publish their results.  By using this technique the authors came up with the following results (Martinsuo and Paivi, p. 60 2006):

Portfolio management efficiency as the dependent variable

a.  The control variables alone did not produce a model that would explain a variance in portfolio management efficiency.

b.  There was an interesting result in that Model 2 showed three additional variables of goal setting, information availability for decision makers, and systematic decision making, showed a 33 percent variance on portfolio management efficiency. This supported the authors’ assumption that information availability had the highest single effect, followed by goal setting and systematic decision making.

c.  The number of employees showed an increased effect on single-project management supporting the authors’ assumption that management at a portfolio level becomes more relevant as the company size increases.

d.  The results support Hypotheses 1,2, and 3 in confirming that goal setting, information availability, and systematic decision making are demonstrated in portfolio management efficiency.

e.  Another interesting result was evidenced in Model 3 where reaching of project goals and project management efficiency were added as variables and demonstrated a 52 percent variance on portfolio management efficiency. Information and project management efficiency had a significant effect on the dependent variable therefore supporting Hypothesis 5.

f.  Hypothesis 4 is not supported since reaching project goals does not contribute to portfolio management efficiency. His is apparently due to the fact that single-project variables and portfolio management efficiency is determined by project management efficiency.

Project management efficiency as the dependent variable

a.  The authors also performed another regression analysis using project management efficiency as the dependent variable.  It was interesting to note that when single-project  management variables were added, there was nearly a one third variance in project management efficiency.

b.  Information availability had a substantial linear association with project management efficiency and goal setting and number of personnel had a similar connection with portfolio management efficiency.

c.  Another interesting result was that goal setting is related to portfolio management efficiency indirectly through deduced project management efficiency and through reaching project goals. These results concluded that project goal setting  should be expanded toward wider business goals.

d.  The reaching of scope goals should be considered most important item for portfolio management efficiency because since scope is a result of implementing strategy.

e.  Efficiency project management was the strongest factor contributing to portfolio management efficiency. This is obviously due to the various disciplines within project management and how they can have a direct effect on a company’s overall project management portfolio. The authors also support organizational complexity in project portfolio management and its corresponding efficiency.

  1. The author’s conclusion regarding building linkages between single-project management capabilities and Portfolio Management Efficiency

The authors have confirmed that single-project management is directly linked to portfolio management efficiency directly in the form of information availability and project management efficiency.  It is indirectly linked in the form of information availability, goal setting, and decision making. Their conclusions suggest that project managers need to be concerned with business interests beyond the single-project level.  I have personally observed this correlation and our executive management team specifically involves the project managers in our quarterly strategic goal setting, forecasting and policy planning workshops.  Project managers must see beyond the specific individual project and look at the overall company portfolio. The results of this research article concludes that project managers role is beyond a single project and that they are an integral part of the overall company’s business management. They also encourage company management to pay more attention to how they build linkages between single-project management and portfolio management efficiency (Martinsuo and Paivi, p. 63 2006).

  1. My personal summary evaluation on the conclusions of this study

During the last twenty-five years, I have had the opportunity to work closely with my colleagues in developing a culture within our organization that promotes a very close link between our corporate executive teams and our on=site management staff.  We have recognized the importance of the individual project efficiency to the overall project management portfolio.  It is vitally important for the entire project management staff to be prudent and non-myopic when it comes to the overall company portfolio management and efficiency. I would like to review the four hypotheses that were supported and evaluate them individually and how they practically are relevant to our firm’s overall portfolio management efficiency.

f.  Hypothesis 1 – The degree to which projects have clearly specified goals is positively related to portfolio management efficiency.

The authors have concluded that the study supports this hypothesis and that there is a positive link and that these individual project goals positively influence the overall project management portfolio.  I do support this conclusion since obvious project planning and performance directly relates to the overall company portfolio. These project goals are tangible systems, processes and techniques that effect the entire organization. From the aspect of proper planning in the areas of design, cost management, risk management, technology and communications planning, financial forecasting and accountability; the individual project’s goals and objectives and their subsequent  implementation are crucial to the portfolio management efficiency of the company.

g.  Hypothesis 2 – Availability of information on single projects for decision makers is positively related to portfolio management efficiency.

This hypothesis is key to not only the success of an individual project but also to the overall efficiency of the portfolio of projects. A comprehensive communications plan is essential for the success of the overall organization. In the construction industry, an effective Project Management Plan(PMP) would include a written communications plan that would facilitate information from the project to the necessary and relevant managers that are required to make decisions. An effective communications plan includes:

a.  Progress meetings

b.  Contractor’s Procedures Manual:

  1. i.   Trade Contractor Daily Reports
  2. ii.   Construction Photos
  3. iii.   Daily Logs
  4. iv.   Testing/Inspection Services
  5. v.   Shop Drawings/Submittals
  6. vi.   Document Management
  7. vii.   Progress Meetings
  8. viii.   Schedule Enforcement
  9. ix.   Progress Reporting
  10. x.   Safety Inspections

c.  Contract Administration and Field Coordination

d.  Information Management Systems:

  1. i.   Cost management – budgeting, value engineering, estimating, project accounting.
  2. ii.   Schedule management – scheduling, closeout
  3. iii.   Risk management – safety program, insurance, bonding
  4. iv.   Quality management – design quality, procurement quality, construction quality

e.  Decision Tracking

f.  RFI’s – Requests for Information

g.  Design Package Log

h.  Pending Change Order Log

i.  Team Action List

j.  Bi-Weekly Schedules and Meetings

k.  Overall Project Schedule

l.  Design Team Meetings

m.  Liaison Meeting

n.  Submittal Log

  • o.  Daily Manpower Reports

p.  Contractor Change Authorization Status Reports

q.  Alternate/Value Engineering Log

r.  Three-Month Calendar

s.  Compatibility Reports

t.  Procurement Compliance Reports    

h.  Hypothesis 3 – Systematic decision making as part of the development process is positively related to portfolio management efficiency.

This hypothesis was also validated by the study as projects must stay on task and schedule by a clear and concise process for decision making.  I have found it very useful to implement process flow charts with accountability timelines in order to ensure timely and systematic decision making.

i.  Hypothesis 4 – Reaching project goals is positively related to portfolio management efficiency.

This hypothesis was not validated by the study, however, the author believes that that reaching project goals is part of the project management efficiency.

j.  Hypothesis 5 – Project Management efficiency is positively related to portfolio management efficiency.

This hypothesis was validated by the study and is crucial to the success of the overall company project management portfolio. It is necessary for each project manager to follow a strict and disciplined project management methodology.  As discussed previously, a comprehensive preconstruction, construction, and post construction management methodology must be planned and implemented in order to increase the individual projects performance.  Project managers must look at their individual project as a part of a broader spectrum of projects that the company has in their project management portfolio.

In conclusion,  I believe that the study completed by Martinsuo and Paivi (2006) validates the importance of having a culture within the organization that promotes a commonality to work individually with a sense of corporate purpose.  The single-project management links to the overall project management portfolio has a direct bearing on the efficiency of the entire organization.  We must encourage our project management staff to envision and implement practices that would result in individual and corporate management efficiencies.

Reference List:

1.  dictionary.reference.com Online (2010). [Online]. Available from http://dictionary.reference.com (Accessed: 20 June 2010).

2.  University of Liverpool/Laureate Online Education (2010). Reading by Martinsuo and Paivi, (2006). Role of single-project management in achieving portfolio management efficiency [Online]. Available from: University of Liverpool/Laureate Online Education (Accessed: 18 June 2010).

3.  Wysocki, R.K. (2009) Effective Project Management: traditional,

agile, extreme. 5th ed. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing. (pp. 533-581).

A Comparison of the Adaptive PMLC model and the Extreme PMLC Model


A Comparison of the Adaptive PMLC model and the Extreme PMLC Model

Over the past several years, I have noticed a change with the mentality and means that clients approach projects in the construction management industry. During the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the construction projects that our firm was involved with were following a more Traditional Project Management(TPM) approach with the customers giving clear goals and specifications and a clear solution or outcome.  Our contracts were based on Lump Sum and there was little or no room for change orders, scope changes, and or client to contractor interface. The projects were awarded specifically on cost and schedule with no consideration for systems evaluations or value recommendations. The design team was not part of the construction management process and had little involvement or interface with the contractor.  From the mid 1990’s until present there has been a dramatic shift in the methodologies that our customers use that has ultimately shifted the Project Management Life Cycle(PMLC) from the Traditional Project Management(TPM) approach to more of an Agile Project Management(APM) approach. I believe this change was a result of improperly programmed spaces, cost overruns, litigation, and a number of failed projects. Our contracts are now based on Cost plus with a Guaranteed Maximum Price(GMP)and the client mentality is one of becoming more involved with the construction process and in turn being part of the team process. This change has prompted our firm to expand and add a complete architectural and engineering division. Our projects now begin with a more client centered approach with defined goals and objectives but the solution or outcome is still not clearly specified or defined.  There is now more emphasis given to the preconstruction phase; and the design development process is one of working together with the technical, financial, administrative, and owner representative members to work in unison to develop the best designed value oriented project. Due to the nature of this change in methodology, there has been an increase in the use of the Adaptive PMLC approach and in some cases the use of the Extreme PMLC approach. The Adaptive PMLC model in somewhat of a hybrid form is used now more frequently during the construction management process. In this report, I will identify and evaluate the Adaptive PMLC model and  the Extreme PMLC model, perform a comparative analysis of their similarities and differences, and discuss the conditions that would suggest the use of one model over the other.
I will also give brief examples of how the APM and xPM models have been used on past construction management projects that I have been involved with.

Understanding the Adaptive PMLC model and the Extreme PMLC Model

The two PMLC models that we will be discussing in this report have a number of similarities and differences in their project management styles, techniques and practices, and in the sequencing of the five process groups; scoping, planning, launching, Monitoring & controlling, and closing (Wysocki, p. 300 2009).  The author outlines these two models and presents a thorough examination of each of the model’s characteristics as listed below:

  1. Adaptive PMLC Model – This model is a form of the APM approach and has minimal information that is known about the solution and also is missing the functional aspect of searching for a solution.  This process is used in construction management when dealing with very complex, unordinary, and one of a kind projects. This model is in between the Iterative and Extreme models since it deals with a higher level of uncertainty in the solutions possible to meet the projected goals for the project. There are four Adaptive models defined(Wysocki, p. 405 2009):
    1. Adaptive Software Development(ASD) – This Adaptive model has three phases; speculate, collaborate, and learn. The Speculate phase is an educated guess of what the final outcome or solution might be. The techniques and processes of the Scoping process is used during this phase. The Speculate phase is when the client and project management team access what transpired in the Speculative phase and determine what projected solutions would be. The Launching and Controlling and Monitoring Process groups would be used in the Speculative phase. The Learn phase is determining what lessons were learned and provide a quality review of the defined solutions.
    2. Adaptive Project Framework(APF) – This approach is not limited to software development and is used in product design and process design projects.  One of the main characteristics of the APF is that the scope is variable, within defined time constraints, and optimizes business value by adjusting scope at each iteration(Wysocki, p. 414 2009). At each iteration, the client may change the course or scope of the project therefore realizing great business value.  The Planning process is very integral and key in the success of the APF process. The APF process parallels the Design Development process in the construction industry as evidenced below in this brief synopsis:
  1. i.   Conceptual design with preliminary program budget – The client and team work together to develop a concept of what the project will consist of, preliminary drawings, and financial feasibility.  Like the APF approach, this process can go through a number of iterations until it is finally released to the next stage.
  2. ii.   Schematic design with preliminary budget tied to feasibility study – The client and management team work through the needs assessment and the goal is to have a preliminary budget and design approved in order to be released to the next step. This phase may also have a number of iterations until it has met owner defined project goals.
  3. iii.   50% Design Development (D/D) with revised preliminary budget – During this step, the client and management team might be faced with making many changes to the drawings and specifications primarily due to the need for staying within the approved budget.  Like the APF process, this step encourages changes to reach the overall objective of the project in both design and budget.
  4. iv.   100% Design Development with final D/D budget – This step, like the APF process, is very client focus as the management team strives to finalize project parameters in order for a client approved sign off to proceed with the construction document phase.
  5. v.   50% Construction Documents with C/D Budget – Similar to the APF process, this step ensures maximum business value for the time and dollars expended due to the fact that competitive bid packages are released with a number of value engineering options that result in substantial cost savings.
  6. vi.   100% Construction Documents with final C/D budget that will be the basis for the GMP – This is the accumulation and result of a very lengthy, client focused, value driven, and change tolerable planning process.  Like the APF process, this framework is usually 100 percent effective with minimal problems for the client and construction management team.

As evidenced by the aforementioned example, the APF process does parallel the design development process in the construction management industry. There are a number of key factors to consider that make the APF process a viable framework, based on its core values, to use within the construction industry which are(Wysocki, p. 416-417 2009):

  1. i.   Client-focused
  2. ii.   Client-driven
  3. iii.   Incremental results early and often
  4. iv.   Continuous questioning and introspection
  5. v.   Change is progress to a better solution
  6. vi.   Don’t speculate on the future
  7. i.   Active client involvement is imperative
  8. ii.   DSDM teams must be empowered to make decisions
  9. iii.   The focus is on frequent delivery of products
  10. iv.   Fitness for business purpose is the essential criterion for acceptance
  11. v.   Iterative and incremental development is necessary to converge on an acceptable business solution
  12. vi.   All changes during development are reversible
  13. vii.   Requirements are base lined at high level
  14. viii.   Testing is integrated throughout the life cycle
  15. ix.   A collaborative and cooperative approach between all stakeholders is essential
    1. Dynamic Systems Development Method(DSDM) – This process is similar to the Linear PMLC model except that there are some distinct features that make it quite different. The DSDM is an iterative model and follows nine key principles described by Wysocki p. 449 (2009):

Even though many aspects of the key principles are conducive for construction management, I believe that this approach in itself cannot be effective as a process in the construction industry.

    1. SCRUM – This process is the most chaotic and the most client driven approach.  According to Wysocki p. 450 (2009), the process is self directed, operates in successive one month iterations, holds daily team meetings, continuously offers the client demos of the current solution, and adapts its development plan at the end of each iteration.  This process is more conducive to software development and not for use in the construction industry.
  1. Extreme PMLC Model – This model is the most complex model and is  appropriately used on research and development projects. It involves heavy client involvement and is a process used when the goals nor the solutions are known and that the phases repeat all process groups in a linear fashion(Wysocki p. 464 2009). This model uses both the xPM and PMx approaches and are titled extreme just by the nature of attempting to initiate or complete a project with so many unknowns. In this model, ach phase learns from the previous and it is continuously adjusting and adapting itself in order to meet some future goal or objective. There are three basic characteristics described for xPM model (Wysocki p. 485-486, 2009):
    1. High Speed – The projects are fast paced and are groundbreaking, innovative, and critical to the organizations future.
    2. High Change – There is continuous change as there are new discoveries and are similar to APF projects except that the changes are more frequent and regularly accepted.
    3. High Uncertainty -  Due to the nature of not knowing the goals or solutions, there is a high degree of uncertainty on where you are going with the project.

Similarities between an adaptive project management life cycle model and an extreme project management life cycle model

There are a number of similarities of the Adaptive PMLC and the Extreme PMLC.  It must be noted that even though there are these similarities, the models as a whole have very different and distinct processes that may only be conducive to certain types of projects. The similarities are:

a.  In both models the solution or outcome is unclear. The Adaptive PMLC does have a defined goal that may set the path for the solution, while the Extreme PMLC has neither the goal or solution identified.

b.  Both models require client involvement and feedback during the process.  In the Adaptive PMLC, the projects are client-focused and client-driven as there is a set format in planning to engage the client to express their needs and direction for the project. In the Extreme PMLC, the client involvement is even greater as the project may move directions as the client gives their inputs during iterations.

c.  The five process groups are used on both models. As in all PMLC models, the Adaptive and Extreme PMLC models use all five of the process groups; planning, scoping, launching, monitoring and closing, and closing. Both models open with the planning process and end with the closing process.

d.  Both the Adaptive and the Extreme PMLC models require a degree of creativity as the management teams are encouraged to discover, create, learn, and improve during iterations to strive toward achieving some solution or outcome for the project. They are both very complex by nature and are initially both high candidates for risk management. In the Adaptive PMLC, the risks are reduced as each iteration forces the group to a clearer understanding of the project outcome, inc comparison, the Extreme PMLC risks are constant due to the possibility of complete change in direction during the cycle of the project.

e.  The planning process in both the PMLC models does not waste time as it is encouraged to move as in a rapid fashion in order to achieve some sort of result or outcome. The Adaptive and Extreme PMLC models are by nature very complex and it is logical that in both models the management team must be experienced in facilitating information to achieve results.

Differences between an adaptive project management life cycle model and an extreme project management life cycle model

The differences of these two models is what defines the types of projects that they are suitable for.  As I mentioned earlier, the Adaptive PMLC model, specifically the Adaptive Project Framework(APF), is suitable in a hybrid form for the construction industry while the Extreme PMLC model would be difficult by its nature to be used in the standard construction management arena.  The differences of these two models are as follows:

a.  In the Adaptive PMLC model, the goals and project objectives are known while the Extreme PMLC model has no clear goal or objective.  In the construction industry, the Adaptive approach would be acceptable due to the fact than many proposed projects have a clear understanding of the project goals and the parameters of those goals or objectives, while the Extreme process would only be plausible in construction on a research and development project similar to the development of some new standard or process.

b.  In the Adaptive PMLC model, the Project time and costs are more defined and the solution becomes clearer through each iteration.  In the Extreme PMLC model, the time and cost constraints are not as defined and in many cases can seem to be fragmented or chaotic.

c.  The Adaptive PMLC model gives more business value within a given time in comparison to the Extreme PMLC model.  The Extreme PMLC model may require stages or processes to begin over from an initial starting point therefore bringing no value to the costs spent to date. The Extreme PMLC model has no guarantee on deliverables or results.

Conditions that would suggest the use of one model over the other

There are some definite conditions that would preempt the use of one model over another. In the construction management industry, a hybrid of the Adaptive PMLC model using the Adaptive Project Framework(APF) is a process that I have used on numerous projects. I have also used the Extreme PMLC model in rare occasions specifically on researching a process that would resolve certain situations. The following are some conditions for each of the two models with a brief example of how I used these model’s processes and applications.

  1. Adaptive – This PMLC model offers a mind set of change that continuously adapts as each iteration is completed. The APF adopts tools and processes from the TPM and xPM to meet the special needs of the APF(Wysocki p. 415, 2009), therefore, making this approach a more viable and realistic option in the construction management industry.  As I mentioned earlier, this process is followed in design development phase of a project.

Our firm has an extensive background in private large scale development projects and there are certain processes and procedures that we have followed over the years that parallel the Adaptive PMLC model.  As an example, we have a client that will come to us with a land parcel(usually in a downtown metropolitan area), an overall budget, a basic idea of what he wants, and he wants to be a an integral part of the process. Therefore we would begin the preconstruction process basically following the core values of the APF.  As we go through the various iterations, we become closer to our end solution or outcome.  Our client gets very excited a she can see the birth of a new project.  He enjoys the openness and client-focused approach, always making and adapting changes to achieve a maximum result. As in the APF, there is constant questioning and the team is encouraged to make recommendations and changes to improve the overall final solution or outcome. This specific client challenges the team in certain brainstorming sessions and ultimately we develop a number of good results early in the process.

  1. Extreme – This PMLC model is the most complex and least structured PMLC model. This model uses repeated phases as it attempts to find the goals and solutions of a given project.  The model has a high failure rate, however, I have used a similar approach in trying to determine the goals and solutions to specific processes.  

As an example,  I have used an Extreme Project Management approach when dealing with a major material defect on one of our projects.  In this case, I was informed by one of our material suppliers that the Dens-glass provided on the project was materially constructed with an admixture that was susceptible to mold.  The dens-glass material is specifically constructed to be mold resistant and this project had several millions of dollars of this material already installed on the facility. Needless to say, once I received this call, an Extreme PMLC approach was necessary to find what our ultimate goal and solution would be for the remediation of this problem. We set up some specific project meetings and the group was encouraged to be creative in determining what the project goals and solutions would be in order to solve the problem arising from the defective dens-glass.  During the process, many ideas were given and we would go through the iterations but then discover that the goals and solutions wouldn’t work.  Ultimately, we used the INSPIRE(Wysocki p. 479 2009) framework to identify the goals and the final solution for remediation. In this case, the xPM approach was quite effective in solving the problems associated with the defective Dens-glass.

Summary Evaluation

A project manager must have a clear understanding of the best approach to use prior to starting a proposed project.  There are both internal and external factors that enlighten us to what approach is most effective. It has been my experience that the APM PMLC model using the APF approach is most fitting for the construction industry. The Extreme PMLC model can be used in cases where there needs to be some research or unusual development of a process, technique or strategy.

Reference List:

1.  Wysocki, R.K. (2009) Effective Project Management: traditional, agile, extreme. 5th ed. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing. (pp. 297-488).

The Five Project Management Life Cycles


The Five Project Management Life Cycles

As part of the project management process,  the project manager must decipher the best Project Management Life Cycle (PMLC) model to implement based on a number of different circumstances or factors. During the initial planning process, we must determine the type of project we are commissioned to manage and then evaluate the project’s requirements, culture, and management methodology needed to complete the proposed project.  The author refers to this process as evaluating the landscape of the proposed project (Wysocki, p. 299 2009). We will need to understand the various aspects of the four quadrants of the project landscape. By understanding and evaluating the project landscape, the project manager can deduce the best PMLC model to implement on the project.  Additionally, he must take into account each of these models vulnerability in terms of failures and risks. In this report I will identify the five PMLC models, dissect their strengths and weaknesses and assess where I would expect the most failures to occur. I will then propose some mitigating strategies that would be used to minimize the risk of occurrence of these failures. I will also give brief examples in each of these areas of actual projects that I have used the various PMLC models.

Background

Understanding the Four Quadrants of the Project Landscape

Prior to establishing the project management strategy to be used in a proposed project,  the project manager needs to evaluate certain project requirements and factors regarding the best management methodology needed to complete said project.  According to Wysocki (p. 299 2009) he states, “I have built my project landscape around two variables: goal and solution. These two values for each variable generate the four-quadrant matrix. Traditional Project Management (TPM)defines Quadrant 1; Agile Project Management (APM) defines Quadrant 2; Extreme Project Management (EPM) defines Quadrant 3; and Emertxe Project Management (MPx) defines Quadrant 4.”  Project manager’s need to clearly understand the logic behind this matrix and how these four quadrants differ in both goal and solution.

  1. Traditional Project Management (TPM) – This management approach is based on knowing both the goal and solution. In many instances it involves projects that are repetitious in nature and typically there are no hidden surprises because of the constant involved.  In construction, this could be a project that is built over and over, without change and may just be a repeat of a base prototype that was produced.  Even though the author mentions that these types of projects rarely occur in today’s market, I would have to disagree since most retail chains build their developments or building projects on base prototype plans. According to dictionary.com (2010), the meaning of prototype is “the original or model on which something is based or formed”.  Many of the fast food chains, pharmacies, and big box retailers use exact prototypes for their projects and use the TPM approach. I have been involved with a US government project that consisted of 1,200 single family homes based on five standard designs. Each one of these designs were prototype and were built exactly alike with no changes and were based on the same standards and specification.  This project is an example of the TPM approach based on the following reasons:
    1. The project was repetitious and done several times.
    2. There were basically no surprises as each of the five designs were built on the same parcel for nearly 250 different times.
    3. There were no changes that were allowed as each design was approved and selections predetermined.  There were no scope changes contemplated and change requests were not considered.  All the interior finishes were the same; same color, same type, and same specification.
    4. The project was low in complexity as the need for extensive programming and innovation was not required or necessary.
    5. The project was relatively low risk since each conceivable variable was eliminated and the prototype was repeated so many times that the systems used to build were repeated.
    6. The project management office staff and the field supervisors and laborers were accustomed to the prototype that the buildings were built “like clockwork”.
  2. Agile Project Management (APM) – This management approach is based on knowing well defined goals but not the means for a solution.  There is a broad range of projects that fall into this category that range from little known solutions to knowing much of the solution. There are two types of APM approaches which are called Iterative and Adaptive (Wysocki (p.304 2009). The Iterative model the solutions are mostly known while the Adaptive model the solutions are mostly not known.  Many of the development projects that I am involved with follow the APM approach due to the fact that many clients have well defined goals and objectives on what they want to accomplish however, there solution on how to get there is often nonexistent.  Some of our clients might begin with a broad project summary that consists of a narrative with area desired, financial base parameters and certain program requirements, however, they have no idea how to make the project happen. As an example, Hyatt Corporation has come to us stating that they desire to build a 800 room hotel with adjoining conference center to accommodate 5,000 people.  They would state a budget of 400 million and require a 60 month date constraint from start of program design to grand opening. The solution is vague in regards to design, specific budgets, area concepts, etc. so the solution would be very vague on how to get there.  This example would be an APM approach because of the following factors:
    1. The project is conceptual with some basic programming parameters with no or minimal defined solutions to meet the project objective.
    2. This is a new business opportunity for this hotel chain and due to a positive feasibility study there is untapped business opportunity.
    3. This project is critical to the expansion plan of an international hospitality company.
    4. It is essential for the client to be involved with the pre-construction phase beginning with conceptual designs, through schematic and design development.
    5. This approach uses smaller planning teams for strategic planning, specialized task and focus groups, and a highly trained project management staff.
  3. Extreme Project Management (xPM) – This management approach is when neither a goal or solution is clearly defined.  In most instances this approach is used on research and development projects. This type of project sometimes begins without knowing clear goals and solution. These type of projects are very high risk and many times are managed by guesses and trial and error. This type of approach is not conducive for the construction industry because of the following reasons:
    1. All construction development projects are based on design documents and associated specifications.  It would not be practical nor possible to start a project without clear defined goals, objectives and solutions to implement those goals and objectives.
    2. Practically, it would not be possible to obtain the necessary permits and regulatory requirements to begin an xPM project.
    3. The financial or investment groups would not finance or lend project dollars for a proposed project without clear goals and solutions.
    4. The standard project management methodologies for construction would not fir within the parameters of an xPM project approach.
  4. Emertxe Project Management (MPx) – This management approach in which the solution is well defined, however, the goal is not defined. This approach, like the xPM approach, is not conducive to typical construction management projects. This process is used when there is a possible new technology or system that does not have a known application (Wysocki (P.308 2009).

These four management approaches must be considered by the project manager when evaluating a project to determine which PMLC model to implement.  He TPM and APM are the most conducive types of project management approach to use in the construction industry.

Understanding the Five Project Management Life Cycle Models

There are five Project Management Life Cycle (PMLC) models that can be used to manage different types of projects. Each one uses different project management styles, techniques and practices in the sequencing of the five process groups; scoping, planning, launching, Monitoring & controlling, and closing (Wysocki, p. 300 2009).  The author outlines these various models and presents a thorough examination of each of the model’s strengths and weaknesses. The five PMLC models are:

  1. Linear – This management approach is a simple model based on the Traditional Project Management(TPM) approach.  The linear approach deals with the logic that the five process groups are based on a linear type flow process.  The five process group are completed in order sequentially from Scope to Plan to Launch to Monitor and Control and then to Project Closeout. According to Wysocki (p. 329 2009), “The Linear PMLC model is change intolerant”.
  2. Incremental – This approach is very similar to the Linear approach and is also a TPM approach, however, an Incremental approach releases solutions as they are completed.  There are two differences between the Linear and Incremental approaches based on the following (Wysocki p. 330 2009):
    1. The Linear approach does not expect or encourage scope changes while the Incremental approach actually encourages scope change requests.
    2. The Incremental approach releases solutions to goals in parts and then contains though in a typical linear approach pattern,  Certain construction management projects might fit this approach as certain phases of a larger project are released incrementally.
  3. Iterative – This model is based on the Agile Project Management (APM) approach  and is a system that delivers solutions on every iteration.  Many times the solutions are not clearly defined and may require continuous feedback from the client as solutions are developed.  This process is similar to the design development process of a construction project.  As design documents and specifications are completed, the customer gives input in which the solution then iterated through the process of refining the design documents.
  4. Adaptive – This model is another form of the APM approach, however, unlike the Iterative model, this model has minimal information that is known about the solution and also is missing the functional aspect of searching for a solution. This process is widely used by software development companies (Wysocki p. 332 2009).  This process can also be used in the construction management process when dealing with very complex, unordinary projects. This model is in between the Iterative and Extreme models since it deals with a higher level of uncertainty in the solutions possible to meet the projected goals for the project.
  5. Extreme – This model is most appropriately used on research and development projects. It involves heavy client involvement and is a process used when the goals nor the solutions are known and are very high risk and high change type projects (Wysocki p. 332 2009). This model uses both the xPM and PMx approaches and are titled extreme just by the nature of attempting to initiate or complete a project with so many unknowns.

Potential Failures, Risks, and Mitigating Strategies

There are many potential failures and risks with the five models as described by the following:

  1. Linear – As discussed, the Linear PMLC is used when the proposed project has clearly defined goals, solutions, function and processes and is a TPM approach. It has repetitive activities and there are few expected changes to the scope of work. The risks and mitigating factors for this model are as follows(Wysocki p.350 2009):
    1. This process does not accommodate changes to the scope – due to the nature of the construction business, there is always potential for changes in the scope.  This can be caused by a number of circumstances such as a client upgrade, emerging technology in a specific  system, unforeseen circumstances, etc.  This characteristic can potentially lead to a delayed schedule and that ultimately will affect the overall project schedule.

Mitigating strategy: In order to plan for this potential risk, the project manager should adopt a streamlined process for change order approvals.  Also, there should be contingencies established for time and budget creep.

    1. The costs associated are too high – in the construction industry, the costs for preconstruction planning and project programming are considerable.  There is a potential of the “never ending design” that can cause the planning process to be very expensive.  This is frequently caused by customers having too much input from different managers causing a myriad of opinions and ultimate design changes.  These constant design changes can be very expensive.

Mitigating strategy:  The planning team should have specific deadlines for design document review and input. Additionally, there should be s refined owner representative group that has the only authority for input and design changes during the planning phase.

    1. It takes too long before deliverables are produced – most construction projects have a great commitment of time in both planning and implementation that consequently creates a long period of time before a customer can realize and revenue. There is a potential that the project can fail if the schedule is skewed beyond the project schedule due to the costs involved to carry the project.

Mitigating strategy – The financial aspects of the project should be very clear.  Concise source and use of fund strategies should be in place and should be a part of a comprehensive cash flow projection.

  1. Incremental – This PMLC model is a second TPM approach that is similar to the linear however the deliverables are released incrementally through a more aggressive schedule. The risks and mitigating factors for this model are as follows(Wysocki p.361 2009):
    1. The team may not be intact between increments – this is a real concern that a project manager should consider. This is especially evident in design development as certain estimators are very concise in budget planning and have a potential of being moved to other projects if they are sitting idle. This potentially can cause a problem if another estimator is added to replace the original on due to not keeping a cohesive estimating strategy.

Mitigating strategy – The scheduling of tasks of all your key players should be that there is no down time between increments.  Typically, there are other tasks that can be scheduled within the same project to keep all members busy and productive.

    1. The Incremental model takes longer – due to the nature of completing activities in increments, there is a potential that the project could drag on; costing time and money.

Mitigating strategy – The project manager must keep a strict timeline with accountability structures to maintain a steady flow of process and to keep deadlines in check with the project schedule.  The schedule and budget must be monitored to eliminate potential for creep.

  1. Iterative – This PMLC model follows the APM approach and is used when some of the solution is known but the circumstances, features and function are not clearly defined.  The risks and mitigating factors for this model are as follows(Wysocki p.397 2009):
    1. This model requires more client input – this can be a problem if the client schedule is not coordinated tightly with the overall planning process schedule.

Mitigating strategy – There must be clear delineation of responsibilities between the team and client and there needs to be a well defines process schedule with accountability timelines.

    1. Requires co-located teams – This requirement is very difficult since many of our projects have consultant teams from many parts of the world, consequently there is a risk for communication breakdown.  The teams may meet on a weekly or bi monthly basis at a design team meeting, however, the time in between can cause a breakdown in communication.

Mitigating strategy – There must be a well thought and implemented communication plan that incorporates a standard for facilitating accurate information between team members.

  1. Adaptive – This PMLC model also follows the APM approach and is different than the Iterative due to the higher level of uncertainty in regards to the solutions and the processes used to get there. The risks and mitigating factors for this model are as follows(Wysocki p.411 2009):
    1. High level of client involvement – as the Iterative model, the Adaptive requires a great deal of client involvement.  This again can be a problem that can cause a failure  the process because a client is intricate to the process.

Mitigating strategy – Similar to the Iterative model, there must be a system of accountability for the client to make timely decisions to process requests.

    1. Cannot identify what will be delivered at the end of the project – due to the nature of this model, the end solution is not clear until the project has gone through the PMLC approach, therefore, there is a risk of not having the proper funding in place for the final product.  I have seen this happen as clients program requests exceed their ability to pay for them.

Mitigating strategy – There must be concise budgetary estimates given throughout the planning phase to assist the client in balancing program wants to affordability.

  1. Extreme – This PMLC model is the most complex and least structured PMLC model. This model uses repeated phases and has a high failure rate.  The risks and mitigating factors for this model are as follows(Wysocki p.467 2009):
    1. May be looking at solutions in the wrong places – due to the fact that there are no definable goals or solutions at the onset of the project, there is possibility that money spent on the project to date may be wasted. The risk is that funding possibilities may end if there is no definitive progress.

Mitigating strategy – The client should know up front that funds may be lost until the proper solutions come into play.  It is imperative that we find out early in the process that we would be going down the wrong path.

    1. No guarantee for results – due to high risk of failure, the client has no guarantee that their investment may turn a positive result.

Mitigation strategy – There should be stipulations regarding the high degree of uncertainty and high potential for risk in the contract documents with the client.  There should be clear understanding that the process may yield no results.  It should be recommended that these costs be referred as research and development costs.

Summary Evaluation

A project manager must have a clear understanding of the landscape or management methodology needed prior to starting the project.  There are both internal and external factors regarding each project that may help shed light on what PMLC model would be best suited for the proposed project.  It has been my experience that the TPM and APM approaches are most fitting for the construction industry.

Reference List:

1.  Dictionary.com (2010). [Online]. Available from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/prototype (Accessed: 5 June 2010).

2.  Wysocki, R.K. (2009) Effective Project Management: traditional, agile, extreme. 5th ed. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing. (pp. 297-440).

The Matching of Leadership Style to Project Type


The Matching of Leadership Style to Project Type

Over the past twenty five years I personally noticed a dramatic shift within the philosophies that surround the culture of the project management team.  In the eighties, the management team was following more of a top down approach with the project manager being the primary source for leadership, technical guidance, and decision making. This style of management has evolved on more complex projects to more of a team based management system with the project manager comporting like a facilitator or technical coach. From a practical standpoint,  I have had many opportunities to assign project managers to various projects and it was interesting to review the findings in the article by Muller R. and Turner, J.R. (2007)and to examine how their findings parallel my actual experiences in managing a team of over 30 project managers. It is imperative to understand the management styles and leadership idiosyncrasies of your management team and decipher the best type of project manager that would suit a certain project based on their strengths and style. In this summation, I will evaluate the authors’ claim that the project manager’s leadership style influences project success and how certain leadership traits, as stated by the authors, can be unimportant and possibly detrimental to the success of a project.

Background Information

There are various schools of thought in regarding to project management styles, techniques and practices.  The authors outline the evolution of the six leadership schools that have occurred over the past seventy five years along with the three historical schools. The early schools were described(Muller R. and Turner J.R. p. 22,2007) as the following:

  1. Trait School – This school of thought believes that leaders are “born with” a natural leadership capability.  It is interesting to note that there is some validity to this claim as you can discretely observe certain children being “leaders of the pack”.
  2. Behavioral School – This school believes that behavior of leadership styles are developed and taught.  In a modern day application, many leaders and managers attend various “self help” seminars and conferences that deal directly with developing behavior and improvement of behavioral skills.
  3. Contingency School – This school identifies seven traits (Turner J.R. n.d.) of project managers as problem solving, results oriented, energy, initiative, self confidence, perspective, communication, and negotiating ability.  He further states that each one of these styles is appropriate to the stages of a project as listed as feasibility, design, execution, and close out. In reality, I practice this methodology when selecting or assigning project managers to a task, activity, or project. I may select a project manager who has more initiative, perspective and self confidence to a feasibility or conceptual design phase.  I would employ a project manager that is more results oriented for an execution or close out stage.
  4. Visionary School – This school identifies two types of leaders that focus on relationship and communicating values, and implementing process and are referred to as transformational and transactional leaders.  Merriam-Webster dictionary (www.merriam-webster.com 2010)defines transformational as “ the operation of changing (as by rotation or mapping) one configuration or expression into another in accordance with a mathematical rule; relationship based” and transactional is defined as “a system of psychotherapy involving analysis of individual episodes of social interaction for insight that will aid communication; process based”. It is interesting to note that these two types of leaders are present in my present pool of project managers.  According to Muller R. and Turner J.R. p. 22 (2007), “…based on the work of Dulewicz and Higgs and our results from our interviews, we would predict that they would find a transformational leadership style preferred on complex change projects and a transactional style preferred on simple, engineering projects”.  This result does coincide with my assessment that transformational project managers make better facilitators on large projects and transactional project managers are more analytical by nature; being more task process orientated and able to complete more efficiently simple tasks, activities or projects.
  5. Emotional Intelligence School –  This school assumes that all managers have some level of intelligence and what differs is the managers emotional response to situations(Muller R. and Turner J.R. p. 22 (2007).  This school was expanded by Goleman, Boyatzis,  and McKee in a book published by the Harvard Business School Press in 2002 that identified nineteen leadership competencies that were grouped into four dimensions:

a.  Self Awareness (Personal competency)

b.  Self Management (Personal Competency)

c.  Social Awareness (Social Competency)

d.  Social Management (Social Competency)

They also determined six management styles known as visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding. The first four styles were found to be adequate in as a management style while the last two were considered toxic.  Their conclusions are very prevalent in my management organization as that I require project managers on substantial and complex projects to exemplify leadership that is calm and collective with their emotions “in check” to deal with problems, obstacles, and a multitude of personalities on a major project. I assign managers that are self-confident and that are aware of the emotional needs of the project management team and who exemplify an affiliative and coaching style of management.

6.  Competency School – This school encompasses all the previous schools of thought and determined three competency types; intellect, managerial, and emotional and three leadership styles; goal-oriented, involving, and engaging.  The dictates of this school are interesting as Dainty, Cjeng, and Moore (2005) conclude that construction project managers follow two core competencies which are team leadership and self control. Again, you can note that these findings support the “team concept” and that self control (which I would say is selflessness, nurturing, facilitating and uplifting the project team) are key disciplines that are necessary for project managers within my organization.  The article expands on the mechanisms of the “Competency School” and how the styles given are essential to promote the project manager as being well rounded in competencies and styles of management.

Research Model

The authors developed two hypothesis’ as a basis for their study (Muller R. and Turner J.R. p. 22,2007) and are described as:

  • Hypothesis 1 – The project manager’s competency, which includes his or her leadership style, is positively correlated.
  • Hypothesis 2 – Different combinations of project leadership competency are correlated with success on different types of project.

To test these hypotheses, the authors conducted a quantitative study using a questionnaire and a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews.  They developed a comprehensive listing of management styles with interrelated precepts from the various schools of leadership thought. The interviews dealt with the type of projects, their application areas, complexity, strategic importance, culture, and contract type and were conducted by interviewing assigning managers or sponsors.  After the interviews were completed, a web based questionnaire was developed that considered project type, project success, leadership, and demographic. The interviews were conducted with 14 people from various businesses and cultures and the questionnaire had a response of approximately 400 people.

Results and Conclusions

The results of the interviews and web-based questionnaires were tabulated and validated through a comparative process of both the quantitative and qualitative results. A number of conclusions supported the authors’ two original hypotheses and they were able to publish the following results(Muller R. and Turner J.R. pp. 26-31, 2007):

1.  In high performance projects, emotional competencies are significant contributors to project success.  This includes conscientiousness, sensitivity, and communication. As I previously mentioned, the project manager’s role on complex and high performance projects is more of a facilitator of systems and that the methodology used to communicate and implement project directives is key and pivotal to the success of a project.

2.  In engineering projects, conscientiousness and sensitivity are key management competencies with a positive management style of motivation and communication.  Vision was noted as a detrimental  style and I would agree since engineering projects are more scope oriented with task accountabilities and sensitivity to accomplish the project as defined.  Vision is more of a conceptual process that may be part of early vision casting and not part of an engineering process that is already defined within a Project Management Plan(PMP).

3.  It was concluded that “Emotional Competence” significantly contributes to project success, thus supporting my own philosophy that project managers need to be nurturing and considerate to the emotional needs of the project team and be cognizant of the culture of a project.

4.  Hypothesis 1 was supported by the studies that concluded that “Project manager leadership style influences project success”.  Unfortunately, I have discovered this truth the hard way as I have had to replace the project manager on a few projects because their leadership style was not conducive to the success of the project.

5.  Hypothesis 2 was also supported by the studies that concluded that “Different leadership competencies are appropriate in different projects.” And this finding is consistent to my practical assigning of certain project managers to certain types of projects.  For instance, a few years ago I completed a substantial project for the US Department of Defense, this project had fourteen different project managers working simultaneously on different sub-projects.  When developing the management strategy for the project, we established a chart that identified each the management styles and individual competencies of each project manager.  We then reviewed and charted each one of the activities of the sub-projects and matched the project managers accordingly based on their leadership style and the needs of the sub-projects.

Detrimental Factors

The study identified strategic perspective and vision as unimportant and even detrimental in project managers (Muller R. and Turner J.R. p. 31, 2007). I would understand how these styles of leadership would be unimportant since a construction project manager is typically employed after the project has materialized, however, the exception for the use of these two elements would be if a project manager was involved in the initial concept or strategic vision casting phase. Project managers that are visionary tend to be used within the early stages in the design development phase of preconstruction.  A project manager needs to focus on achieving project goals by implementing the PMP and an must be sensitive to the needs of the project.  He must also be able to communicate and actualize the established PMP that has undergone extensive planning during the preconstruction phase.

Summary Evaluation

After reviewing the authors’ conclusions, I have determined that their hypotheses are accurate and with merit.  I have personally experienced the outcomes of these two hypotheses given and have practiced their precepts in the planning and implementation of projects I have been managed. According to the National Institute of Building Sciences (2010), “Assembling the correct team is critical to achieving the best outcomes possible and minimizing risk and loss”. .

References:

1.  Merriam-webster.com reference dictionary (2010). [Online]. Available from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary (Accessed: 21 May 2010).

2. University of Liverpool/Laureate Online Education (2010). Reading Muller R. and Turner J.R. 2007. Matching the project manager’s leadership style to project type [Online]. Available from: University of Liverpool/Laureate Online Education (Accessed: 21 May 2010).

3.  Whole Building Design Guide (2010). Project Delivery Teams [Online]. Available from: http://www.wbdg.org/project/deliveryteams.php (Accessed: 22 May 2010).

The Four Types of Constraints used in Determining Task Dependencies


The Four Types of Constraints used in Determining Task Dependencies

As part of project management planning, it is necessary to develop a concise and detailed project network diagram in order to complete an accurate and concise project schedule.  The establishment of task dependencies allows us to determine the methodologies needed to estimate task duration and the dynamic on how the tasks interrelate. By understanding these dependencies, a project manager can contemplate the best approach toward the overall project schedule and identify tasks that have potential to skew the project schedule.  Task dependencies deal with the relationships between given tasks and how they affect each other. The four task dependencies as stated by Wysocki, (2009 pp. 166-167) are Finish-to-start(FS), Start-to-start(SS), Start-to-finish(SF), and Finish-to-finish(FF). The types of dependencies used depends on the constraints that consist between various tasks that have been identified for the project. Understanding the dependencies of each task helps the project management effort to better understand the intricacies and correlation of each task.  There are four types of constraints in determining task dependency as described in our textbook (Wysocki, 2009 pp. 167-171) which are: Technical constraints, Management constraints, Interproject constraints, and Date constraints. During the preconstruction phase of a project, the management team will hold strategic planning sessions to specifically detail out the project network diagram and the overall project schedule.  I have encountered all four types of constraints in project network diagramming and will illustrate how these constraints have affected the sequencing of the tasks on previous projects.

  1. Technical constraints – These constraints deal with the actual construction processes that are tasked to complete an activity or assembly.  It has been my experience,  that technical constraints are the most common type of constraint and in many instances are based on practicality of building methods and standards. For instance, in constructing a footer assembly, excavation and trenching must first be completed(Task 1), then the forms must be put in place(Task2), then the structural rebar must be set (Task 3), then the concrete must be poured(Task4).  In this simple example each task must be completed before moving on to the next task.  This is known as a Finish-to-start(FS) dependency. The completion of each predecessor task determines when the next task can begin. It may be necessary for the project manager to make some decisions that are discretionary. These “judgment calls” (Wysocki, 2009 pp. 167)are decisions or strategies that the project manager may take in modifying the sequencing of tasks to a Start-to-start(SS)dependency. For instance, if the crew forming the footer assembly is ahead of schedule and there is a risk of rain, the project manager might relocate the crew to another task in order to eliminate the possibility of a washed out footer form. The project manager also may use Best-practices constraints(Wysocki, 2009 pp. 168) as he may use his own experiences from similar tasks or projects to adjust the schedule accordingly.  Using the aforementioned illustration, a project manager may determine that the overall project schedule could be accelerated if the footer crew was split and began performing their tasks concurrently at different sides of the building. I have found that it is quite necessary to communicate with field supervisory staff in order to maximize opportunities that may arise in performing tasks concurrently.  There are also Logical constraints (Wysocki, 2009 pp. 168) that a project manager uses based on his own reasoning due to the way he may think the overall project schedule could be optimized. I believe that we must use logic in all our decisions and that sometimes the use of logic, based on our experiences and past practical techniques, can provoke us to establish a certain constraint on a task. As an example,  I have discovered that “Threshold Inspections” on Federally funded projects can cause a lag variable of up to 10 days after the completion of a certain task, therefore, logic tells me that I have to schedule certain tasks concurrently and shift the resources around the project as not to delay productivity on a project. Unique requirements (Wysocki, 2009 pp. 169) are a type of technical constraints that deal with a critical resource or a task that has a unique requirement that affects the successor task. There are unique requirements usually on all projects that can be from materials testing, regulatory inspections, specialized equipment, and other unique resources.
  2. Management constraints – This type of constraint is a management-imposed constraint and is different than the technical constraint since it can be reversed in comparison to the technical restraint that cannot(Wysocki, 2009 pp. 169). Many times, I have changed a 7 day work week to a 5 or 6 day work week because the project may be ahead of schedule and/or there will be a time that certain tasks may be completed a bit too early for the proper sequencing of the project.  Using double or triple daily shifts are also management constraints that are discretionary and usually can be reversed if necessary.
  3. Interproject constraints – This type of constraint is based upon the premise that a deliverable of one project or task is needed to complete another project(Wysocki, 2009 pp. 169-170). It is necessary to identify Interproject constraints during the early stages of project planning in order to account for any potential delays caused by an outside source. I have encountered many Interproject constraints specifically when it comes to custom or  manufactured systems, machinery or products.  For instance, some of our larger development projects have chiller plant facilities  that exceed 30,000 to 40,000 tons of refrigeration; these plants have custom made boilers and associated equipment that is one of a kind and is custom designed and manufactured off site.  It is critical that these various manufacturers and outside sources attend some of the project planning meetings in order to coordinate lead times for design, production, and delivery. This constraint sometimes is used with the Start-to-finish(SF)dependency when an existing boiler system (Task1)is installed then the old boiler system (Task 2) can be discontinued.
  4. Date constraints – Contrary to what the author says regarding Date constraints, this type of constraint is many times necessary and contractually required by the clients that hire our services.  Additionally, Date constraints establishes time milestones or benchmarks on a project that the entire construction team works toward. The three types of date constraints as described by Wysocki (2009 p. 170) are:
    1. No earlier than – Specifies the earliest date that on which a task can be completed.
    2. No later than – Specifies a date by which a task must be completed.
    3. On this date – Specifies the exact date on which a task must be completed.

I have used these types of date constraints on projects and found them to be very useful in maintaining the overall project schedule.  As an example, the “no earlier than” date is often used when installing certain interior finishes to a project. Many times we would not want a certain finish completed due to the possibility that the finish may be marred or ruined is completed prior to some other relevant tasks. In coordinating mechanical and electrical systems, we often use “no later than” date constraint in order to coordinate the various interconnections of these systems.  The “on this date” constraint is often used when there is a utility shutdown or interface with an outside agency that establishes a certain date for a certain task to occur.

As I have mentioned, date constraints are used often on my projects and are generally a requirement from our clientèle.  The US Department of Defense has very strict requirements for completion of projects and often state a definitive completion date and, if not met, they impose liquidated damages that can be considerable.  Many retail and commercial clients use date constraints in order to forecast leases, marketing strategies and financial cash flow projections.

The process of establishing task dependencies is crucial in understanding the dynamic of a project and the development of a functional project management schedule. Understanding the use of constraints is necessary and how the various constraints interrelate to each other and ultimately affect the overall project schedule. A study by Cheng, Choi, Lee and Wu (1999) warns that we must be cautious with potentially being redundant in using constraints, therefore, we need to review our network diagram as a whole and make any necessary adjustments.

Reference List:

  1. Wysocki, R.K. (2009) Effective Project Management: traditional, agile, extreme. 5th ed. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing. (pp. 167-171)

The Six Methods for Estimating Task Duration


The Six Methods for Estimating Task Duration

During the preconstruction phase of a project, A Project Management Plan (PMP) is prepared to facilitate the implementation of the construction phase of a project.  As part of this process, tasks are assigned to various disciplines that cover everything from the design development and forecasted budget, to the development of standardized systems for cost control, quality assurance, risk, communication, procurement and resource management.  There are six methods of estimating task duration as defined in our textbook (Wysocki, 2009 pp. 149-152) which are: similarity to other activities, historical data, expert advice, Delphi technique, Three-point technique, and Wide-band Delphi technique. I have used these methods on various projects and will illustrate the use of these methods and the variations that occurred comparatively on a 30 story high rise residential structure and a US Department of Defense weapons facility.

1.  Similarity to other activities – This technique is used on all of our projects specifically when it comes up to the Design Development phase of a project. Our typical design process for each project is as follows:
a. Conceptual design with preliminary program budget (30 days)
b. Schematic design with preliminary budget tied to feasibility study (60 days)

c.  50% Design Development (D/D) with revised preliminary budget (60 to 90 days)

d.  100% Design Development with final D/D budget (60 days)

e.  50% Construction Documents with C/D Budget (60 to 90 days)

f.  100% Construction Documents with final C/D budget that will be the basis for the GMP (60 days)

Since we use this standard design methodology in all our substantial design projects, our management team would review  these similar tasks and estimate duration based upon their own experiences to each specific project and the complexities involved with those projects.  In the case of the 30 story residential tower, our team determined that the allocated time for Design Development phase could be reduced by 30 percent due to the fact that the design team experienced many similar projects and that tasks related to D/D could be completed more efficiently.  On the contrary, our team nearly doubled the projected time for the D/D phase on the military installation because of the many unknowns and bureaucratic red tape that typically occurs with government contracts.

2.  Historical Data – When planning a project of similar scope, my management team will review past project tasks and compare the projected schedule that was developed to the actual completed schedule.  Since our firm has completed many high rise residential structures, the development of our tasks for the 30 story residential structure was relatively simple due to the similarity to other high rise structures.  Conversely, we had no historical data that was specific to a unique facility such as the construction of a weapons facility, however, we could dissect similar standardized tasks from other projects and compare area to relevant scope and develop a somewhat accurate forecast. An example of this is the fire suppression systems,  as both projects had a similar fire suppression system, we were able to use historical data on both projects using a formula of historical outputs based on area and size of the structures.

3.  Seeking Expert Advice – Over the past ten years, there has been an increase in the awareness of Green Technology and the use of systems integration in building structures. Our management team has now adopted a standard procedure in which we seek the advice from vendors that are specific to an emerging technology that we might not have sufficient historical data on.  With the 30 story residential project, we asked to help define tasks and duration with the development of an integrated building automation system that included fingerprint technologies for keyless access and HVAC monitoring and efficiency control.

4.  Applying the Delphi Technique – Our management group uses this technique primarily when estimating electrical and mechanical systems.  Due to the specific nature of these systems, a small task group would be assigned to estimate the duration involved in these tasks. On the military installation there was a redundant four pipe mechanical system with a back up generation plant, the task group consisted of electrical and mechanical engineers that individually assessed the tasks involved and estimated duration and then collectively discussed their findings.  They would then repeat the procedure similarly to the Delphi technique and would then report their findings to the management group.

5.  Applying the Three-Point Technique – This technique is used often within our management team in estimating the duration of tasks specific to site development, building structure and interior installations. In many instances the circumstances involving a project may vary depending on location, resources available and the other project specific variables, therefore, we would develop a preliminary task list with projected duration based on some historical data from previous projects and then we would use the Delphi technique to finalize a projected duration. Since there is a diversity of skills and professional affiliations within our management group, we have found that the averages are very close to the actual estimates.

6.  Applying the Wide-Band Delphi Technique – When determining the duration of a task that we do not have historical data or expert advice, our group would employ the Wide-Band Delphi technique. We used this technique a number of times when estimating tasks for the Department of Defense project. Since many of the tasks associated with this project were unordinary in our course of work, we would use this method in obtaining our best task duration estimate.  As an example, this project required the construction of one meter thick walls with 5 centimeter embedded lead plates.  This assembly of building components was an unusual specification, therefore our management team determined best and worst case schedule scenarios and followed this technique in order to determine our estimated duration for this task. This project had numerous proprietary specifications thus requiring our team to often follow the use of this technique.

It has been my experience that the use of these various methods have improved the accuracy of estimating the duration of tasks.  Some of the above methods are used on all projects while others are used in specific situations based on the scope and complexity of the project.  According to  Wysocki, 2009 p. 148, “task duration is a random variable” therefore there are some variable factors that must be considered.  The following are a few examples of some mitigating variables that occurred on the above referenced projects:

1.  Varying skill levels – The skill levels vary from project to project due to location, available resources, existing workloads, and project time constraints.  On the military installation, we were required to work around the clock, therefore causing us to hire various levels of site personnel, some with minimal experience compared to hiring all experienced personnel.  The sheer magnitude of work and along with the time constraints given caused our production to be less than a normal labor projection.

2.  Unexpected events – This can occur on any project and is something that cannot be forecasted except by the placement of proper contingencies. We encountered an unexpected increase in the structural steel package and copper piping package on the 30 story residential project.  This was caused the Chinese government who by an unprecedented move bought iron ore and copper futures causing a drastic delay in the procurement of these materials.  Consequently, the estimated duration for the tasks associated with these materials was increased.

3.  Efficiency of worker’s time – This variable is one of the most difficult to quantify due to the various factors involved including location of project and resource availability. The 30 story residential project was located in a central downtown area that required predominant union labor.  Due to specific union labor standards,  the labor forecasts were increased by 20 percent.  The group came up with this increase based on the increase in breaks and other union requirements.

4.  Mistakes and misunderstandings – According to my experience,  this occurs on all projects especially when the onsite work force exceeds 500 workers or more. Small mistakes are easy to correct and are minor adjustments to the schedule, however, the greater the mistake, the more likely it is to completely miss a duration of some specific task or activity.  An improper application of an elastomeric coating on the military installation caused a substantial delay to our projected schedule.  This was due to improper field communication therefore causing a mistake in the application causing the work to be completed twice.

5.  Common cause variation – Even though our firm gas completed numerous multi story projects, invariably there is always a natural variation in the estimated time it takes to complete a given task.

Reference List:

1)     Wysocki, R.K. (2009) Effective Project Management: traditional, agile, extreme. 5th ed. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing. (pp. 148-152)

The Five Process Groups


The Five Process Groups

In order to successfully complete a project it is necessary to implement the basic tenets of the five project process groups as defined in our textbook (Wysocki, 2009).  Based on my experiences, I have found that these five processes can be integrated into answering most questions that pertain to a new project or program. In many instances the process groups’ methodologies are overlapping and reoccurring during the entire range of the project.

In the area of construction management, the initial thought or idea of development is typically facilitated through various strategic planning sessions conducted by a small group of owner representatives.  During these initial meetings, the group would define “what business situation is to be addressed”.  In many cases, a preliminary report would be compiled taking into a consideration the overall project objectives, financial feasibility and project due diligence. It must be noted that many owners and investors will wait for a positive go ahead from finance before they proceed to the scoping and planning processes.  The reason for this is that there is usually a considerable amount of costs associated with the scoping and planning of a project.

The Scoping Process Group would be used to answer “what needs to be done”.  During this initial phase,  a development team would be formed that would include owner representation,  design professionals, construction management and financial team representatives.  This scoping process is also known as the pre construction phase of a project.  A number of factors are taken into consideration which include code and zoning compliance,  design and constructability issues, systems analysis, owner needs assessment , and overall design development coordination. The preconstruction phase of a project is crucial in balancing the owner’s needs to budget and design development criteria to schedule.

The Planning Process Group would be used to answer “what will you do”. This process is a continuum of the pre construction phase and would expand the initial program outlined in the scoping process and begin the process of design development.  During this phase, it is necessary to confirm the owner’s needs and constraints regarding overall project budget while validating the schedule and major milestone approvals.  A Project Management Plan would be developed as described by the Whole Building Design Guide (2010), “A Project Management Plan (PMP) documents key management and oversight tasks and is updated throughout the project as changes occur. The plan includes definition of an owner’s program goals, technical requirements, schedules, resources, budgets, and management programs. It also provides a vehicle for including efficiencies in the design and construction phases of all buildings. It will also serve as the basis for completed construction documents and outline the commissioning plan for finished execution”

The Launching Process Group would be used to answer “how will you do it”. Prior to the launching of the project, the pre construction phase must address all the appropriate needs in regards to project design, cost, feasibility, resource management, and the development team’s sign off of the design development documents and corresponding budgets.  Only at this time can the design development documents be released to the construction documents phase.  During this phase,  there  will be an expanded overall project completion schedule with defined critical paths and subsequent related tasks that integrate coordination between the owner and the design and construction teams. Various processes will be developed to include quality assurance, value engineering, change order methodologies, risk management, procurement management, and communication strategies.

The Monitoring and Controlling Process Group would be used to answer “how will you know you did it”.  This process is a continuation of the construction phase and is performed simultaneously with the Launching Process Group.   This process includes design reviews, constructability reviews, value analysis, submittal control and approval, mock-ups and on-site inspection and partnering sessions at key intervals of the project to clarify project standards and goals.  Periodic inspections and procedures are developed to include scope reviews, contract compliance and budget to actual cost comparisons.

The Closing Process Group would be used to answer “how well you do”. This process is the beginning of the post construction phase and takes into consideration the overall commissioning of the facility.  During this process, we would establish a system for performance compliance which includes the handing over of new systems and facilities to the maintenance personnel. An Operating and Maintenance Manual would be prepared that includes manuals from consultants, contractors or vendors and the coordination and training of owner’s personnel in the operating and maintenance of systems.  There would be a confirmation that required as-built drawings and specifications are submitted to the owner along with certificates of substantial completion and verification of compliance with the terms of the contract.

It is my strong belief that each and every one of the components of these five process groups are necessary to have a successful project.  I believe that each process is of equal importance and that each process is codependent on each other.

Reference List:

1)     Wysocki, R.K. (2009) Effective Project Management: traditional, agile, extreme. 5th ed. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing. (pp. 27-30)

2) Whole Building Design Guide (2010). Strategic Project Plan and Development [Online]. Available from: http://www.wbdg.org/project/planningdevelopment.php (Accessed: 1 May 2010).

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