Project Management View from Rail Transit Programs and Projects

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 6 of 10-The Book that Most Impacted My Career-Excellence in Engineering

Part 5 of 10-The Book that Most Impacted My Career-Excellence in Engineering

Part 4 of 10-The Book that Most Impacted My Career-Excellence in Engineering

Part 3 of 10-The Book that Most Impacted My Career-Excellence in Engineering

Part 2 of 10-The Book that Most Impacted My Career-Excellence in Engineering

Part 6 of 10-The Book that Most Impacted My Career-Excellence in Engineering

This blog will cover sections of Excellence In Engineering by W.H Roadstrum, 1967, and relate them to Project Management Institute’s Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK).

In Chapter 4 of Excellence In Engineering, Roadstrum identifies Project Controls as three elements – Scheduling, Monitoring and Controlling.   As discussed in Part 5, the first of three elements of Project Controls was presented – Scheduling.   In this Part, the Monitoring practices will be highlighted.   

As I have learned through a career in project management, keeping the team focused on the project vision, mission, objective, and benefits, which are identified and committed to through the Project Charter, is an essential function of the project leader.   But an equally important part of the business of project management is to advise the team on performance to project metrics. 

 Roadstrum builds on the work flow and scheduling practices to define the practices for monitoring the baseline schedule within established milestones, dates and goals.

Good Engineering Practices for Monitoring

  1. Follow and monitor performance (time, cost, technical progress) on a regular basis.

  2. Include all contributors in the monitoring process so they are also “self-monitoring”.

  3. Plan at least general alternatives for each principal contingency.

  4. Keep the goal and its broad alternatives clearly in mind.

Poor Engineering Practices for Monitoring

  1. Because of preoccupation with novel and challenging areas of the project, allow unmonitored tasks to run far off schedule.

  2. Because of failure to identify critical items, do not follow these or provide alternatives.

  3. Wait for other people or the turn of events.Raise no questions on schedule progress until critical deadlines have been missed.

  4. Mistake proper rate of expenditures for adherence to technical schedule.

  5. Allow an old schedule to become so outdated as to be useless.

PMBOK – Fifth Edition Chapter 6, regarding Project Time Management, covers scheduling and schedule control tools and techniques common for monitoring of the project schedule, and the respective performance indicator (s), which are shared across schedules and estimates under the project controls function.

Section 6.6.2 identifies tools and techniques for monitoring and updating project schedules using subject matter expertise and software.    The project team can make improvements in achieving scheduled dates, planned progress goals, and in creating recovery plans for projects with poor performance indicators.    The actions may be created by several means:

  • Network Analysis – This involves showing where various activities converge or diverge with dependent activities.

  • Critical Path Method - This involves using the predecessor and successor connections with activities where the estimated duration has fixed start and end dates and contingency in scheduled duration with other activities.  

  • Critical Chain Method - This involves using buffers in activity durations to account for limited resources.

  • Resource Optimization – This involves using resource leveling and resource smoothing to adjust the duration of activities and align with available resources.

  • Modeling  - This involves  conducting trial and error changes to the baseline to detect potential schedule risks and to improve schedule efficiency and production effectiveness.

  • Leads and Lags - This involves adjusting the activity relations, such as start-to-start, finish-to- start, and finish-to-finish, to establish modified connections in the predecessor/successor relationship, such as start Task B 60 days prior to finish of Task A.

  • Schedule Compression - This involves  Crashing - shortening activity duration with corresponding increases in resources, and Fast Tracking - re-sequencing work activities to increase overall progress rate and to shorten the project duration.

Posted on: April 17, 2018 06:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Part 5 of 10-The Book that Most Impacted My Career-Excellence in Engineering

This is Part 5 of a blog about a book that most impacted my career - Excellence In Engineering by W.H Roadstrum, 1967, and relates it to Project Management Institute’s Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK).

My work experience includes varying roles in managing projects and integrating the deliverables from Project Controls such as estimates, schedules, progress reports, financial reports, and project performance reports.   In all cases, the project team was responsible for the quality and implementation of the deliverables from Project Controls.   These deliverables were essential tools for the team to manage project performance to scope, schedule, budget, project objective, safety and quality goals, and customer expectations.  

The effectiveness of the tools is a function of the organizational assets that are inputs to Project Controls, and from which the project management office establishes requirements, processes and procedures to create, generate, measure and assess realistic project metrics.

In Excellence In Engineering-Chapter 4, Roadstrum emphasizes several points on Project Controls:

  1. Good technical engineering work will be obscured (and can even be completely nullified) by poor administrative control.

  2. Good technical work will not by itself control a project.A project can not control itself.It must be deliberately controlled by the project team, especially the project engineer.

  3. Plan and schedule for almost every engineering project will change significantly during the work.

  4. It is a surprisingly common belief among some groups of engineers that technical work can not be effectively controlled.This attitude prevails at times even in high places.Such a conviction sometimes reflects the influences of a manger who feels the same way, or of previous ones who did.

  5. The idea that projects can not be effectively controlled is a self-fulfilling prophecy for the engineer who thinks this way.

  6. From a business standpoint, company management naturally expects that technical work will be administered effectively.

Work flow for initial schedule development consists of:

  1. Establish initial overall concept.

  2. Determine critical factors in each area.

  3. Specify all interface conditions and alternatives.

  4. Establish estimates {for each of the activities.

  5. Establish final configuration and make recommendations.

  6. Complete proposal document and costing.

Good Engineering Practices for Scheduling

  1. Schedule the whole project vat the outset.Recognize interdependence of parts.

  2. Identify the critical items early.Keep a current list of them.

  3. Seek out the best time and cost estimates available on critical items.

  4. Modify and update schedule as needed.

  5. Bring all contributors or contributing groups into the scheduling process.

Poor Engineering Practices for Scheduling

  1. Make no schedule or only a trivial one.Never go into the critical detail which will determine the success of the project.

  2. Fail to recognize the interdependencies in schedule.Schedule unrealistically.

  3. Make schedules in too much detail.Include non-critical detail.

  4. Select schedule milestones which are difficult to follow and assess.

Chapter 6, PMBOK-Fifth Edition provides some guidance on inputs and outputs for the schedule development and maintenance cycle.

In PMBOK Section  6.6.1, the inputs for an effective schedule include: 

  • Activity list

  • Activity attributes

  • Logic ties between activities

  • Interdependencies between work packages and other projects

  • Enterprise factors, such as manpower and equipment

  • Organizational assets and processes used by participants, including the contractor and client.

PMBOK Section defines the product for Project Schedule, which is created using the input and expert knowledge of project staff and applying scheduling standards and tools defined in the Project Management and Scheduling Plans.    The section describes the project schedule as an output of a schedule model that presents linked activities with planned dates, durations, milestones, and resources.  At a minimum, the project schedule includes planned start date and finish date for each activity.

Posted on: April 08, 2018 06:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Part 4 of 10-The Book that Most Impacted My Career-Excellence in Engineering

This is Part 4 of a blog about a book that most impacted my career -  Excellence In Engineering by W.H Roadstrum, 1967, and relates it to Project Management Institute’s Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK).

My design and construction project experience covered a full-spectrum of scope in the transportation industry including diesel locomotive procurement, rolling stock retrofits, abatement and remediation, control centers, signal and communications systems, power systems, and joint projects with Amtrak and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.   

In Excellence In Engineering Chapter 6, Roadstrum writes about engineers solving problems as a standard process of engineering work.   Whether to ensure compliance with standards and codes or to create an extra-ordinary design to accommodate unique requirements, the engineer develops a standard approach for his work.

His approach can be conveniently broken down into six steps:

  1. Define the problem.

  2. List assumptions.

  3. Consider available solution methods and select one or more.

  4. Solve.

  5. Check carefully, particularly the effect on assumptions on solution and vice versa.

  6. Generalize and extend results.

In his book, Roadstrum  describes the Problem Solving process and the skills needed by engineers to succeed on projects and in their profession.    After “Be sure that your computer is your slave and not your master.” – the Chapter ends with the attributes for Problem Solving Practices:

Good Engineering Problem- Solving Practices

  1. Recognize that the biggest part of an engineering problem situation is to decide what the problem, if any, is.

  2. Look for the problem or problems involved in any situation that is out of the ordinary or disturbing.

  3. By good judgment discover and attack problems at the right time-not before a solution is possible or useful, and not too late to reap maximum benefits from the solution.

  4. Attack problems with a systematic approach.

  5. Check problems to include a careful consideration of the effect of assumptions on the usefulness of the answer and the effect of the answer on the validity of the assumptions.

  6. Solve problems by an iterative process which starts with an estimate and continues with successively more sophisticated solutions until the results required are obtained.

Poor Engineering Problem-Solving Practices

  1. Confuse the scholastic examples used in teaching technology with real engineering problems, thus failing to recognize and attack a problem when it comes along.

  2. Expect the boss to lay out the problem to be solved and to be satisfied with an academic answer.

  3. Attack problems piecemeal, seeking only such information as is essential at the moment.

  4. Neglect to make clear the assumptions under which the problem is solved, and to consider the effect of the assumptions in checking.

  5. Fail to extend and generalize on the solution.

  6. Assume that there is only one solution to a given engineering problem or one set method to attack it.

  7. Use solution methods with far greater accuracy than is required or than is justified by the kind of data available.

  8. Assume that an engineering career consists of looking for the types of problems that one has been trained to solve.

PMBOK -Fifth Edition also provided some guidance on decision making.

PMBOK Section 2.2.2:  Project Governance framework provides the project manager and team with structure, processes, decision making models and tools for managing the project, while supporting and controlling the project for successful delivery.

PMBOK Section  Effective Decision Making.  This involves the ability to negotiate and influence the organization and the project management team.  Some of the guidelines for decision making include:

  • Focus on goals to be served,
  • Follow a decision-making process,
  • Study the environmental factors,
  • Analyze available information,
  • Develop personal qualities of the team members,
  • Stimulate team creativity, and
  • Manage risk.

In PMBOK Appendix A1.6- Executing Process  Group, references the process for monitoring project metrics, developing corrective actions for variances, and for analyzing and implementing changes to improve project results.    During project execution, results may require planning and updates and rebaselining.   This can include changes to expected activity durations, changes in resource productivity and availability, and unanticipated risks.  Such variances may affect the project management plan or project documents and may require detailed analysis and development of appropriate project management responses.

PMBOK Appendix A1.6.5 regarding the process for managing the Project Team.    Manage Project Team is the process of tracking team member performance, providing feedback, resolving issues, and managing team changes to optimize project performance.    The inputs and outputs are:



  1. Human resource management plan
  2. Project staff assignments
  3. Team performance assignments
  4. Issue log
  5. Work performance reports
  6. Organizational process assets
  1. Change requests
  2. Project management plan updates
  3. Project documents updates
  4. Enterprise environmental factors updates
  5. Organizational process assets updates


Posted on: April 02, 2018 06:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Part 3 of 10-The Book that Most Impacted My Career-Excellence in Engineering

This blog will cover sections of Excellence In Engineering by W.H Roadstrum, 1967, and relates them to Project Management Institute’s Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK).

Although I am more of a specialist at this time, I was able to build a career from working on design and construction projects, which enabled me to create a path of accountability from Draftsman-Equipment Engineering to Director – FA Management in the PMO for capital project programs.    The scope of PMO responsibilities encompassed general contracting management of in-house forces, and construction management of third party consultants and contractors.  

In Excellence In Engineering Chapter 17, Professionalism, Self-Development, Education, begins with “Your engineering career is like an engineering project in many ways.”    Quickly followed by three elements for maximizing an individual’s contribution to the profession and to career development, Roadstrum ‘s research showed:

  • Technology being applied must be completely and usefully understood.

  • Engineers need to better develop their understanding and appreciation of human need.

  • Engineers are continually striving to improve their techniques and performance in putting the technical answers and human need together.

As typical, the Chapter ends with:

Good Engineering Practices in Self-Development and Professional

  1. The engineer looks on his career as a project requiring careful and deliberate guidance from himself as the project engineer.

  2. The engineer recognizes that he must practice engineering as a profession, involving services to others, service to the profession itself, and ethical standards.

  3. The engineer enthusiastically supports the interests and reputation of whatever employer or client he associates himself with.

  4. When the engineer can no longer agree sufficiently with his employer or client to support him whole heatedly, he breaks off the connection.

  5. The engineer recognized the special need for broad self-development as opposed to further technological training alone.

  6. The engineer reads extensively and systematically throughout his career.

  7. The engineer actively supports his profession al society.

Poor Engineering in Self-Development and Professional

  1. The engineer considers his preparation is complete when he graduates.

  2. The engineer feels that his company will take care of him and guide him into the best path.

  3. The engineer does nothing about career planning until cumulative dissatisfaction with a mediocre job finally drive him to look elsewhere.

  4. The engineer looks on his work as mere wage earning, with no responsibility for dedication or service.

  5. The engineer refuses most opportunities in community affairs on ground that other professionals are better prepared for this kind of service.

  6. The engineer fails to recognize that excellent performance on his present job may be grossly inadequate preparation for the next promotion.

  7. The engineer takes company and outside courses as a matter of habit with little regard for what they are adding up to.

  8. The engineer takes no steps for earliest possible registration.

In PMBOK Chapter 9, development of the project team is described for individual member s and the team as a whole.     From Section 9.3:

Objectives of developing a project team include, but are not limited to:

  • Improving knowledge and skills of team members to increase their ability to complete project deliverables, while lowering costs, reducing schedules and improving quality;

  • Improving feelings of trust and agreement among team members to raise morale, lower conflict and increase teamwork; and

Creating a dynamic, cohesive and collaborative team culture to (1) improve individual and team productivity, team spirit and cooperation and (2) allow cross training and mentoring between team members to share knowledge and expertise.

Posted on: March 25, 2018 10:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Part 2 of 10-The Book that Most Impacted My Career-Excellence in Engineering

This blog will cover sections of Excellence In Engineering by W.H Roadstrum, 1967, and relates them to Project Management Institute’s Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK).

My career at Long Island Rail Road, NY involved over 20 years working on teams managing design and construction projects with varied scope including infrastructure, rolling stock and joint agency projects.   Now as a consultant for over 10 years, I continue to use the book to get refreshed and to re-invigorate the work ethic grown from this book.

In  Excellence In Engineering Chapter 3-The Project and the Project Team, the major factor in project success can be traced to cohesiveness of members, a proactive approach to performance and goals, and attentiveness to team performance and planned progress.   Roadstrum listed 4 observations for teams at each end of the performance spectrum.

For Excellent groups: 

  • Technical work generally on time and within budget
  • Engineers busy but give impression of being on top
  • Necessary changes and redirection are made in a timely way and taken in stride
  • Each group member is obviously growing fast in experience, and readiness for bigger assignments.

For Poorer groups:

  • Seems habitually behind on assigned tasks and money
  • Always rushed to meet deadlines
  • Radical changes are made too late, often at the last minute, with traumatic consequences
  • Group members feel frustrated and stagnant and complain that they are learning little.

In PMBOK  Chapter 2, various paragraphs reference the attributes of a successful Project Team.   Here are the implied observations:

  • Acted together in performing work of the project to achieve objectives
  • Comprised of members with specific subject matter knowledge or a specific skill set to carry out the work
  • Committed members for fulfilling defined roles whether in a dedicated or part time basis
  • Structured in the organization with authority equal to accountability in a projectized hierarchy
  • Supported by a strong organizational governance that is decisive and provides adequate resources to the team. 
Posted on: March 18, 2018 05:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

I lie every second of the day. My whole life has been a sham.

- George Costanza