This Guest paper is copyright to Dr. Paul D. Giammalvo.
Published here February 2021.

Introduction | Just the Facts, Ma'am
Asset Life Span Development | What Is an Asset and How Do We Manage Them?
Do Projects Generate Benefits or Do Assets? | Conclusion (Part 1) | PART 2

Just the Facts, Ma'am

There is no excuse for the continuing high rate of project "failures" we read about almost every day.[1], [2], [3] There is clear evidence that the processes of project management have been used by humankind for at least 5,000 years, validated by the Great Pyramids of Giza and many other wonders of the ancient world. As a matter of fact, the "trial and error" method that came to be known around the 12th century as the "Scientific Method"[4] is now being called "Agile".

So Agile dates back even further, 300,000 years ago to the taming of fire by our Neanderthal ancestors and 6,000 years ago to the invention of the wheel.[5], [6] Surely, in the past 6,000+ years humankind could have and should have figured out how to "initiate, plan, execute, control and close" projects? And in a way that enables us to finish them on time, within budget, in substantial compliance with the requirements and specifications while substantially fulfilling the purpose for which they were intended?

While the "success" or "failure" of an ASSET can be judged using traditional financial attributes against the business case (i.e., ROI, ROA, IRR, ERR, NPV Benefit: Cost Ratio etc.) Defining the "success" or "failure" of a project is not always so easy to do as there are so many stakeholders involved, who often have conflicting and often mutually exclusive needs, wants and expectations.

For the purposes of this paper, the terms "success" or "failure" as applied to both projects and the assets they create will be based upon the fundamental management principles that:

  1. A person cannot be held accountable for that over which he/she has no reasonable ability to control and
  2. A person cannot be held accountable unless they have the authority (express, implied or apparent) to act to avoid/mitigate negative outcomes and exploit or pursue positive outcomes. With no reasonable control and no authority, to act means there can be no accountability, regardless of the attribute being assessed.

Consider Scenario #1: A Construction Project Manager cannot control the weather, but in that position, he/she has the implied responsibility, or apparent authority, to take "reasonable" precautions to protect the work from "normal' weather conditions. "Extraordinary" weather conditions become an insurable event, or possibly even "force majeure" meaning that under this Scenario #2, if you want to hold the PM accountable for extraordinary events, then he/she needs to be provided explicit authority to purchase insurance. Implicit in this Scenario #2, rarely if ever should the Project Manager be held accountable for the "success" or "failure" of the asset to meet the "Business Case", unless both these criteria have been met. Normally it is the Asset Manager (CAPEX funded) or Operations Manager (OPEX funded) who make the Business Case decisions, and thus are accountable provided they too meet both criteria. For more on this topic, refer to the requirements for professional liability.

Back around the early to mid‑1950s either Esso or Diamond Shamrock Oil published a model that integrated portfolios of assets and projects, with operations (programs) and project management into a single all-inclusive methodology. This was designed to "create, acquire expand, develop, maintain, repair and eventually dispose of" organizational assets. Attesting to the fact this model works, it is still in use after 65 years by all the major international and nearly all national oil companies today.

What this "tested and proven" model looks like is shown in Figure 2 in the next section.

Introduction   Introduction

1. Butts, Glenn, (2010) "Mega Projects Estimates - A History of Denial"
2. 7 KPMG Construction Survey (2015) "Climbing the Curve"
3. Flyvbjerg, Bent (2017) "Sue the Forecaster"
4. Harris, William, (n.d.) History of the Scientific Method last accessed 02/10/2019
5. Cohen, J History Stories (2012)
Gambino, Megan (June 2009) Smithsonian last accessed 02/10/2019
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