Project Management View from Rail Transit Programs and Projects

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A collection of articles sharing project processes, design and construction experience, best practices, and lessons learned along with operational knowledge related to executing programs and projects in the rail transit industry.

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Part 1  -   Challenges, the Laws of Physics, Project/Construction Management and Reality

Part 7 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

Part 6 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

Part 5 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

Part 4 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

Part 1  -   Challenges, the Laws of Physics, Project/Construction Management and Reality

Project/Contract Quality 

The normal practice in projects is all participants are responsible for quality.   But an Owner’s Contracting Office (CO) professes that a contractor is solely responsible for the quality of contracted work.   Consequently, the Construction Management Office (CMO) interprets that the Construction Manager (CM) is not responsible or accountable for contractor quality and workmanship or for quality assurance in the construction management plan.   As a result, the CO’s belief perpetuates the understanding by the CMO and Project Management Office (PMO) that the contractor is solely accountable to comply with the contract and make corrective actions at their own expense.  

A standard Construction Management Plan (CMP) includes a quality assurance plan that establishes the monitoring practices, tools and techniques and the documentation for validating quality is met.   Quality requirements are identified in contracts, project plans and program plans.   And for projects funded by the federal government, there are specific requirements for an independent organizational silo that is responsible for quality control and quality assurance.  

  • Quality control is the process, means and methods, checklists to identify the requirements and to record actual measurements, and to define pass/fail criteria. 
  • Quality assurance is the process of reviewing quality control plans, monitoring quality control processes, monitoring quality control documentation, verifying segregation of rejected deliverables, and validating corrected products meet contract requirements.

With the contractor solely responsible for the quality of its own work, the PMO supports the CMO’s use of a skeleton staff for observing the work and monitoring progress.   As a result, the CM typically splits work assignments between in-office administrative activities and field visits to multiple construction sites.   While on-site, the CM does not allow its staff to directly execute typical responsibilities in the construction industry such as:

  • Review contract drawings and shop drawings with the contractors’ in-progress or completed work
  • Issue Corrective Action Requests (CARs) to address poor quality, incorrect installations or resolving conflicts with space that is allocated for future contract work
  • Issue Field Change Requests (FCRs) to address differing site conditions or coordination of work with predecessor contract work and adjacent contractors.

By the CO’s interpretation, the PMO and CMO are not required to continuously and proactively monitor the contractor’s work and to direct the contractor, which would mitigate the risk that the work is unacceptable or uncorrectable at final inspection.  As a result, the CO is accepting the risks for: 

  • Poor quality of contractor work will be identified by CM and Owner during the final inspection
  • Corrective action on contractor work after final inspection will impact contract schedule and create consequential costs.     

Reality A

According to the Construction Management Association of America (www.CMAAnet.org), construction management professionals provide a vital service on projects:

  • They typically do not perform the actual construction tasks themselves, but act as advisors, charged with assuring the project progresses smoothly and achieves the owner’s business objectives.
  • These specialists oversee different aspects of the project including: scheduling, safety, cost estimating, design, quality assurance, value engineering, commissioning, construction inspection, risk management, and more. Most CMs have backgrounds in civil engineering; many are contractors or architects. 

Reality B

Quality managers are often under-utilized, under-appreciated by project managers, and miss-understood by many others.   But they are a valuable resource for planning preventive actions to avoid quality problems and for corrective actions to resolve quality problems that occur on purchased materials, construction products and system deliverables.   Under these conditions, Quality personnel will take leadership roles to:

  • Enforce contractor compliance with contract requirements and approved quality plans
  • Verify the CM is following an appropriate construction management plan and project quality plan
  • Monitor PMO implementation of a Quality Management System that uses the best industry practices for the domain scope.  

Reality C

At final inspection, early work that is observed and found non-compliant may not be correctible to comply with contract requirements because it is no longer possible or practical due to limited access and the installation of later work.   As a result, corrective action may require a major construction effort that impacts project expenses and schedule or may create major changes in successor contracts to adapt to non-compliant work that is accepted by the CM, CO and Owner as-installed.

Federal government requirements for construction management can be found at https://www.transit.dot.gov/sites/fta.dot.gov/files/docs/FTA_Construction_Project_Management_Handbook_2016.pdf.

 

Role of the Consultant Construction Manager

For all but the simplest project, you will need project staff with expertise and experience in construction management beyond the capability and capacity of the Agency’s regular employees, for which the Agency will need to retain a (CM) consultant. The CM acts as the Agency’s representative with the contractors, oversees what work the contractors perform pursuant to the contract drawings and specifications, inspects the work as acceptable, and recommends payment of contractor invoices. The key CM staff person is the resident engineer (RE), who is principal point of contact with the contractor and is stationed at the site for larger projects, and for smaller projects visits the construction site one or more days a week.

Posted on: July 12, 2018 07:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Part 7 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

This is Part 7 in a series about a second book that affected the development of my skills in the business of managing projects and program of projects    The book -  Human Factors in Project Management by Paul C. Dinsmore – published in 1990 by AMACOM-American Management Association.  

The series contains articles on:  1)  A Classical View of Project Management.    2)  Planning and Strategy.   3)  Project Interfacing.   4)  Using Managerial Time.    5)  Negotiations.   6)  Decision Making and Problem Solving.  7)  Managing Changes. 

This article summarizes the key points in Chapter 13 – Managing Change Across a Changing Frontiers and it provides commentary relating the content to PMI’s Project Management Book of Knowledge – 6th Edition (PMBOK).

From the perspective of the 1990’s, Dinsmore cites several changes and challenges that the project domain will face including Technology, Environment, Economy, Energy and Politics.  These changes and challenges are just as valid in the 2010’s.   

Concurrently, project management strategies and tactics will evolve from the same project domains changes.   Dinsmore’s assessment is as true today as it was in 1990:

  • Technology will continue to create new opportunities for improving product products as well as improving project management tools for scheduling, estimating, document control and knowledge management.  
  • Environment awareness will continue to create a new stream of projects and government funding to improve and protect the environment for future generations, and introduce for use on projects better materials, alternate energy sources and more efficient equipment, systems and consumer products.
  • Economic conditions will affect the size and frequency of projects.  Strong conditions normally generates more large projects.   Weak conditions normally generate lower scale small projects.
  • Energy conservation will continue to create projects and end-user products that use less electric power and produce less bi-products and emissions that harm the environment. 
  • Politics will affect availability of government funding and provide motivation to challenge schedules, create innovation, assist in streamlining statutory approvals, address community concerns, and to optimize and improve existing project processes. 

The closing paragraph, Dinsmore writes:

People can always solve their own problems – particularly in project management, because problem solving is what project management is all about.   By drawing on the tools of the trade, such as planning, interfacing, training, negotiating and decision making, project managers can overcome event the most awesome barriers.  Although the project arena is complex, with many factors becoming uncontrollable, management tools can be honed to meet the challenges as they appear, especially when manager are attuned to the human side of project management.” 

Coincidently, the new PMBOK – 6th Edition – Chapter 2 more explicitly than prior editions identifies the global environment that directly and indirectly affect the project life cycle from start to finish.   Many of the same topic presented by Dinsmore are part of the environment in which projects operate including:

  • Enterprise environmental factors, such as organizational culture, structure and governance; facilities and resources; distribution infrastructure; technology software; resources availability and employee capability.
  • Organizational process assets, such as processes, policies and procedures, and  knowledge repositories.
  • Organization systems, such as organizational governance, corporate management elements, and organizational structure, including the Project Management Office.

Commentary:   Even after 30 years from Dinsmore’s book, the key environmental factors in the project and project management domains remain consistent.   However, the conditions, challenges, and problems change with the environment created by human progress and evolution.    Project management expertise in dealing with these factors will continue to affect performance throughout project life cycles in the decades ahead.   From my perceptive, knowledge transfer, knowledge management and project management fundamentals will continue to be essential for success.  

Posted on: July 03, 2018 06:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Part 6 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

This is Part 6 in a series about a second book that affected the development of my skills in the business of managing projects and program of projects    The book -  Human Factors in Project Management by Paul C. Dinsmore – published in 1990 by AMACOM-American Management Association.  

The series contains articles on:  1)  A Classical View of Project Management.    2)  Planning and Strategy.   3)  Project Interfacing.   4)  Using Managerial Time.    5)  Negotiations.   6)  Decision Making and Problem Solving.  7)  Managing Changes. 

This article summarizes the key points in Chapter 12 – Decision Making and Problem Solving and it provides commentary relating the content to PMI’s Project Management Book of Knowledge – 6th Edition (PMBOK).

In the opening part of the Chapter, Dinsmore relates decision making and problem solving skill throughout the project life cycle.  He then goes through the process, including problem analysis, decision analysis, creativity in identifying decisions, and the review of facts and opinions. 

To illustrate the process for developing solutions to a problem, Dinsmore cites a problem identified by renters in an apartments building regarding poor elevator service.   From a building manger and engineering perceptive, the solution focused on the vertical movement of residence.   As a result, the solutions proposed adding elevators, speeding up existing elevators, and designating local and express elevator operations.  Each solution included significant cost estimates.   Without a cost effective solution, the building manager consulted building staff, and the solution selected was to add mirrors in the lobbies. 

After the solution was implemented, building management observed that complaints were reduced after the mirrors were installed.  After review, the management determined that the real problem was the renters found the wait for elevators was boring rather than there was excessive waiting time.  The mirrors distracted renters from the time waiting for an elevator. 

Dinsmore’s example amplifies his presentation of procedures referenced to Kepner and Tregoe:  A)  Identify the problem.  B)  Propose solutions.  C) Justify the best solution.  D)  Present the solution implementation plan.   

PMBOK references decision making techniques as part of Chapter 4-integrated change control, and Chapter 5-collect requirements. 

PMBOK references decision making topics as part of Chapter 8-quality data analysis, Chapter 9-acquire resources, and manage the team and control resources, Chapter 11-risk plan response, and Chapter 13-stakeholder engagement, manage stakeholder.  

Commentary:    Participants on the project know that decisions need to be made throughout the project life cycle.   But they rely on the project manager to do the work needed for them to understand the problem, the solutions, and to concur with the decision to the problem and the plan for implementing the solution.    As a result, the project manager and his support staff will present documents, actively solicit and compile input from the project team,  perform all research to specify advantages and disadvantages of solutions, prepare cost estimates and schedules, and to recommend the solution the project recommends. 

Good Practices for Decision Making

  • Specify the project conditions at the time the solution is selected
  • Identify the problem that the solution will solve
  • Describe the criteria for selecting the solution
  • List the expected benefit/outcome from implementing the solution
  • Establish realistic dates the decision and the realization of benefit
  • Determines/specify the inputs needed for the decision process
  • Record the Decision in a document that covers all proposed solutions and the conclusion
  • Assure that subject matter experts within the project and from the organization are providing input
Posted on: June 28, 2018 06:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Part 5 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

This is Part 5 in a series about a second book that affected the development of my skills in the business of managing projects and program of projects    The book -  Human Factors in Project Management by Paul C. Dinsmore – published in 1990 by AMACOM-American Management Association.  

The series contains articles on:  1)  A Classical View of Project Management.    2)  Planning and Strategy.   3)  Project Interfacing.   4)  Using Managerial Time.    5)  Negotiations.   6)  Decision Making.  7)  Managing Changes. 

This article summarizes the key points in Chapter 11 – Negotiating and it provides commentary relating the content to PMI’s Project Management Book of Knowledge – 6th Edition (PMBOK).

Project managers and team contributors continuously negotiation start and end dates and the resources required for executing direct and indirect project activities.   However, this type of negotiations is drastically different from the formal negotiations used by organizations - Buyers for contractual agreements for contracts with consultants and contractors – Sellers.  

Negotiations for selecting the most qualified Seller and for determining the contract costs follow the Buyers’ organized and repeatable processes, which are consistent with industry domain practices most common for the project scope.  

Dinsmore summarized the most common application of negotiations in a project environment:

  • Contracts:  Projects can have multiple contracts for services and products, and each contract can have subcontracts for materials and labor.    Regardless of the contract acquisition method, the Buyer and Seller will negotiate the price, terms and conditions and technical requirement of the contract agreement. 
  • Procurement:   Projects also procure services and materials to contribute to the execution of work, such as administrative office space, office supplies and services, and cleaning and maintenance services.   The Buyer and Seller will routinely expedite and negotiate delivery dates and timeframes that are correlated to changing project schedules.
  • In House negotiation:  Some Buyer’s organization have labor contracts and work rules that affect work performed by in-house personnel assigned to projects.   Interpersonal attributes will have a great impact on meeting the needs of management personnel and personnel represented by a collective bargaining agreement.
  • Negotiation with third parties:   Long standing organizational agreements and memorandums of understanding may affect how project work can be executed.   Planning and negotiating work will need to recognize the agreements and MOU to ensure requirements are met without impacting project plans.
  • Claims and contract closeout:   Buyers and Sellers understand the final stage of contracts includes settlement of changes, claims and disputes.   Similar to the effort to start the contract, Buyer and Seller will negotiate acceptance of work, entitlement to changes, resolve disputes, and reconcile payments to complete the contract and terminate obligations.

Whether formal or informal, the negotiation process has three possible outcomes.   Dinsmore concisely describes the applications, methods, and the results for the Buyer and Seller on: A) Win-Win negotiations.  Mostly tailored to parties with intent to create and sustain a long work relationship.  The process creates give and take compromises that allow Buyer and Seller to focus on the benefits from the agreement.  B) Win-Lose negotiations.  This is most typical for parties that view the agreement as a sole one-time occurrence.   This is tailored to Buyer and Seller that want to demonstrate victory at the expense of the other.    C) Lose-Lose negotiations.   This is often associated with a Buyer and Seller with a history of strained negotiations and poor contract performance.  As a result, the parties take extreme and strong positions that neither can expect to actualize.  

Negotiations are most effective with a plan.   The plan will include: 

  • Research and position statement:
  • Pre-negotiations:   This consists of planning the strategy and tactics for the negotiations, including history between the Buyer and Seller, the company representatives required at the negotiations, schedule of meetings and negotiation dates, and the definition of several positions and outcomes that will be used active negotiations and post-negotiations,
  • Active negotiations:   This consists of executing the strategy and tactics for conducting the negotiations and creating presenting facts and figure to present positions, alternate positions or counter-positions to initiate and complete the negotiation process.  
  • Post negotiations:   This is the activities from the results of the negotiations, including recording the process and result in project records, and as needed, updating contract documents to clarify or change requirements.     

PMBOK references negotiations as part of Chapter 9-develop the team and control resources, Chapter 13-manage stakeholder, and Chapter 12. 

PMBOK Chapter 12 – Project Procurement Management identifies negotiation as a primary personal and team skill.   From project perspective, negotiation is a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.  Procurement negotiation clarifies the structure, rights and obligations of the parties and other terms of the purchase so that mutual agreement can be reached prior to signing the contract…. Negotiation concludes with a signed contract document or other formal agreement that can be executes by both buyer and seller.

Commentary:   Most projects in the rail transit are subsidized with government funding.   As a result, the Buyer’s contract acquisition process is highly structured to ensure government requirements are met, including length of solicitation period, prevailing wage rates for labor, Buy America provisions for materials, defined percentages for subcontracting work to disadvantage and minority businesses, and a wide range of environmental compliance issues.   Each of these added requirements can lead to negotiations for changes at the pre-award, post award and closeout phases of Buyer/Seller contract. 

PMBOK Chapter 9-Project Resource Management offers several techniques for resolving team conflicts.   The tactics are transferrable to the to the negotiation process and include: A) Withdraw/avoid.  B) Smooth/accommodate.  C) Compromise/reconcile.  D) Force/direct.  E) Collaborate/problem solve.

Posted on: June 23, 2018 07:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Part 4 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

This is Part 4 in a series about a second book that affected the development of my skills in the business of managing projects and program of projects    The book -  Human Factors in Project Management by Paul C. Dinsmore – published in 1990 by AMACOM-American Management Association.  

The series contains articles on:  1)  A Classical View of Project Management.    2)  Planning and Strategy.   3)  Project Interfacing.   4)  Using Managerial Time.    5)  Negotiations.   6)  Decision Making.  7)  Managing Changes. 

This article summarizes the key points in Chapter 8 – Using Managerial Time and it provides commentary relating the content to PMI’s Project Management Book of Knowledge – 6th Edition (PMBOK).

Some clients use a percentage of direct labor in design and construction contracts to determine the value of managerial time for a project.    Some consultants may use a similar estimating process.  Some project managers may estimate the managerial costs by hard estimates for activities needed to meet the client’s requirements and expectations.

The contract documents specify managerial activities, services and deliverables required from the assigned management teams.   The requirements are usually concentrated in the Scope of Work (SOW) in a consultant service contract and in the Division 1 specifications in a construction contract.  In addition to the requirements, experiential data may help clarify the estimated cost based on historical averages for manpower usage and expenses on other contract with the client and similar clients in the industry domain.

One of the best ways to understand and formulate the costs is to create a chart of managerial activities, services and deliverables and to assign manhours over a defined period of time, such as monthly – the most common recurring period on construction projects.   Best practices for estimating project management team costs would include input from experienced project managers, including the PM that will be used for the contract.   The managerial items will cover a variety of personnel including PM assistances and  support staff for estimates, schedules, knowledge/records management, quality, safety, budget/financial  administration, contract administration, reporting and process expediter. 

Dinsmore presents a table of managerial items, which was created from survey response from project professionals, that illustrates a good template for generating an estimate of manhours necessary for managerial activities.    Models can be prepared for each contract type, contract requirements, and unwritten client expectations.   The Table includes:

  • Routine paperwork
  • Telephone conversations
  • Project meetings
  • Personal work time
  • One on one sessions with staff
  • Breaks for lunch and social interaction
  • Other
  • Business meetings
  • Updates with supervisors
  • Travel to other project areas
  • Reading and professional development

Once the Models are prepared, activities and manhours can be adjusted based on the available budget negotiated for the project.   The adjustments may means that low priority low value activities can be trimmed or increased accordingly.   However – in some cases funding partners and oversight agencies may not be flexible in reducing the scope for project management activities, services and deliverables.  

Dinsmore identifies behaviors in the project team that cause high manhour usage and create inefficiencies in work flows including:  A)  Difficulty in saying “no.”   B)  Lack of self-discipline.   C)  Lack of time management.   D)  Less than fully competent employees.  E)  Excessive bureaucracy in the organization  F)  Poor utilization of administrative staff.   G)  Tendency to centralize, rather than delegate.  

As a result, Dinsmore discusses other strategies that may be helpful assessing alternatives including:  A) Delegate more.   B)  Do less work.  C)  Let things slide (delay).   D)  Work longer (more hours).   E)  Work harder (faster).   

PMBOK Chapter 3-The Role of Project Manager includes the quality and skills for project leadership.

Focusing on important things including:

  • Continuously prioritizing work by reviewing and adjusting as necessary
  • Finding and using a prioritization method that work for them and the project
  • Differentiating high-level strategic priorities, especially those related to critical success factors for the project
  • Maintaining vigilance on primary project constraints
  • Remaining flexible on tactical priorities
  • Being able to sift through massive amounts of information to obtain the most important information.

PMBOK Chapter 4.3.2-Develop Project Management Plan identifies Expert Judgment for determining the resources and skills levels needed to perform project work, and prioritizing the work on a project to ensure the project resources are allocated to the appropriate work at the appropriate time.

Commentary:    Soft costs for project management services are often secondary to direct hard costs for delivering the intended project assets.   While understandable, the soft costs for project management services should not be underestimated or go overlooked.  PM services are essential to manage execution risks that could affect the project schedule and costs.    I routinely monitor and assess manhour usage and cost of PM services and deliverables with the expectations of the client/owner.   A simple chart of monthly activities and deliverables and the estimated manhours can be reviewed with PMO management and the client/owner to evaluate needed adjustments to PM scope to better align with expectations.      

Posted on: June 14, 2018 06:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
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