A paper presented to the International Seminar on Project Management for Developing Countries, September 4 to 6, 1991, in New Delhi, India. The audience was made up of mostly construction people, but much of the following content could equally apply to large projects in other areas of application.

Executive Summary  | Index | Part 1 | Part 2 | Conclusions | References

Introduction to Part 1

Project management of medium and large construction projects has become well established as a way of developing and creating a new capital facility. This form of management is particularly appropriate where the work is of quite long duration, involves many different design skills, construction specialists and trades, and in the end result must satisfy many different groups of people. This qualification certainly applies to most public works programs and projects, industrial complexes and private commercial developments.

Yet the application of this management process does not necessarily assure a successful project. Many are the complaints of schedule and budget overruns, or complaints with the quality or productivity of the resulting facility. Or dissatisfaction with the contractual arrangements may be evidenced by the proliferation of disputes and litigation between the contracting parties. Why should this be, and how can performance on current and future projects be improved?

The very reason which makes project management appropriate, namely the necessity to involve many people in the planning and implementation of the project, is at the same time its weakness. This is because those involved are not all necessarily familiar with this unique form of management. This may be attributed to the players often having their individual conflicting agendas, but in any case the number of people on most large projects who fully understand the process and broader purpose of project management is still quite limited.

How then can the sponsors of the project and senior executive management satisfy themselves that the desired end results in terms of quality and productivity will in fact be achieved. That the project will be favorably received by those affected by it during and following completion, and that the project goals and objectives have not somehow been changed in the interim, or, indeed, that they are still appropriate?!

How can this required "comfort level" be assured? Rely on project status reports? Perhaps, but not always! Project reports tend to have a relatively narrow focus on work accomplished and the status of cost and schedule. In any case, what if the project status reports clearly indicate that the project is not going according to plan?

The answer seems to be some form of independent project management assessment and corresponding recommendations. Such an assessment should be designed to scrutinize the project's management, test its effectiveness, and if found wanting, to make recommendations for corrective action.

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