Planning to reduce the risk of failure on the job

With the role of the project manager becoming increasingly important, Robert Mattia, operations manager, State Group International, discusses how adopting the fundamentals of project management in a technical environment can reap good results.

NASA Group L.L.C, COMMENT, Business

In today's world of ever increasing speed, complexity and competitiveness, technicians and managers find themselves with the overwhelming need to achieve absolute efficiency. This need forces us to organise and direct our energies in more creative ways.

As we surpass one goal, another sets the bar even higher, requiring additional improvements. This efficiency is generally a result of taking our experiences and lessons learned and converting it into an improved method or product at the most competitive cost.

Project management helps bring efficiency to our technical challenges. Originating in the days of pyramids and castles, project management has advanced through NASA and the Space Programme onto modern construction processes and into the worlds of IT and manufacturing. Project management is about achieving a maturity in virtually every industry requiring products or deliverables.

At some point in our careers we have all been involved with, been made aware of, or practiced the principles of project management. It is largely defined as the process whereby you are called upon at the inception of a project or deliverable to plan, co-ordinate and control all the resources required to complete the project or deliverable through to operation within an allotted time, an agreed budget and to a specific level of quality and safety, at a minimum of risk.

So why use Project Management?

As with any task, it makes good sense to create and follow a well thought out game plan. With Project Management you focus on your objectives by documenting your requirements and building your deliverable on paper before committing expensive and scarce resources to it. It produces information which increases your level of confidence and communicates the expectations, as well as forces you to plan your resources, and then use them efficiently and productively.

Projects can range in size and scope from a new product, such as a pipe fitting, to a major industrial construction project, such as a nuclear plant. Each deliverable has its own unique set of circumstances. They can be standard products with multiple quantities, or as in many cases a custom application.
Regardless of how unique the project is, in general all undertakings require some form of control and organization.

The main competencies that make up project management are: scope, time, cost, quality, resources and safety. Once mastered, these will deliver a high incidence of success.

These are not in order of importance or significance. Each unique project will have a set of circumstances that will dictate what priority the criteria should follow.

To achieve a competitive edge it is necessary to take an organized approach when embarking on a project. Project management can help to achieve that success by providing techniques and guidance through each stage of a project's development. Each key competency does not act alone. They each relate to one another in a project. If one of the controls is not managed adequately it will manifest itself on some other control item. For instance, a badly defined scope will increase costs and duration due to excessive contingency allowances.

A poorly executed safety program can result in serious injury which produces emotional and tragic results but also causes resource inefficiencies and increased costs or time delay. Conversely, poor quality or product can force a project into reworking non-conformances using additional unplanned resources.

In conclusion, it makes good sense to consider the fundamentals of project management in your assignment. When a project is small in nature a project manager may be on their own to perform all the major functions of control.

On larger projects, the function of the project manager may be leader and coach guiding a team of experts. Utilisation of project management does not guarantee perfect results in all cases. But if applied and executed properly, project management will reduce the risk of failure and increase the rate of success as you gain confidence and experience from project to project.

If you would like to write for Construction Week in this column, please email angela.giuffrida@itp.com

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