Over the past years, the global construction industry has been characterized by an increment in the number of challenges faced. The complexity is mainly associated with the increment in the degree of financial and operational risks. Dikbas and Scherer argue that the “construction industry has many problems such as the fragmented and the inefficient nature and the technology-averse practices” (662). Managing risks in the construction industry presents a major challenge due to the unique nature of projects. For example, projects vary with reference to the number of stakeholders involved and size.
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Despite the existence of challenges and risks in projects, attaining the desired project outcome is a major milestone that should be considered in any project. Therefore, the application of effective management principles should not be ignored. Dikbas and Scherer assert that the construction industry is project-based in which the various project activities are undertaken by different parties (518). However, the construction industry is yet to understand the concept of integration management, hence limiting the productivity and quality of the project. In an effort to deal with the challenges encountered, firms within the industry are increasingly reviewing the most appropriate strategies to adopt in order to improve their productivity.
The cost and time-sensitive natures of the construction industry highlight the importance of the industry players such as the project owners to integrate effective project management principles and practices. According to the “Project Management Body of Knowledge”, project management entails the application of techniques, skills, tools, and knowledge applied in a project in order to attain the project requirements (6). The accomplishment of project management is attained through the integration of diverse processes such as project planning, initiation, execution, project control, and closure. The “Project Management Body of Knowledge” further asserts that project management is an organizational approach commonly referred to as management by projects (6). Developing adequate knowledge on project management is fundamental for organizations and institutions that have adopted the concept of managing by projects.
The UK has appreciated the significance of project management in implementing different infrastructural development projects. Currently, the UK government is in the process of implementing a massive infrastructural project, viz. the London Crossrail. The project will entail the construction of an underground railway connecting East and West London and its surrounding suburbs. The project commenced in 2009 and it is estimated to be operational by 2018. The UK Department owns the cross rail project for Transport and Transport for London and it is expected to provide comfortable together with high-frequency rail transport to over 72,000/hour during peak times. Over 8,000 people are involved in the project implementation process. In order to implement the construction project successfully, it is imperative for the UK government to integrate effective construction technology. One of the technologies that should be considered in the project management process entails the Enterprise Resource Planning [ERP] systems, which include the diverse tools incorporated in an effort to handle diverse project management practices such as project human resource and accounting. The objective of this paper entails evaluating the project management principles and practices advocated by the Project Management Institute [PMI]. The research objective is attained by integrating a case study approach. Thus, the application of the project management practices and principles in the London Crossrail project is reviewed.
Project management principles
In an effort to implement the project successfully, the UK government should consider integrating the project management principles and practices as advocated by the PMI. Some of the most important practices that the firm should take into account entail human resource management, communication management, and time management.
Human resource management
Human capital comprises an essential component during the project implementation process. Thus, project managers have a duty to ensure that the available human capital is utilized effectively and efficiently. According to the “Project Management Body of Knowledge”, project implementation is comprised of different stakeholders, viz. the internal and external stakeholders such as customers, individual contributors, and project sponsors/owners (8).
The London Crossrail project is managed under the watch of 24 Project Managers drawn from different professional project management companies. The project managers’ capacity to improve the attainment of the project outcome will depend on the expertise of the respective project managers. Some of the major aspects that the project managers should consider relate to organizational planning, team development, and organizational planning.
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In its organizational planning, the project managers should identify, document, and allocate the project roles and responsibilities amongst the project team members. The “Project Management Body of Knowledge” asserts that the “internal groups are often associated with a specific functional department such as engineering, accounting, and marketing” (108). In order to improve the contribution of the project team members to the project, the project managers should appreciate the importance of integrating effective project culture, which entails the attitudes, practices, and shared values adopted in the course of implementing projects. The project culture should be diffused throughout the project through the policies and procedures adopted. The project culture developed directly influences the overall project performance.
One of the most important aspects that the project manager should consider in developing the project culture entails the authority relationship. This assertion means that the ordinary project team members should interact freely with the project managers. On the contrary, the Crossrail project is characterized by an ineffective project culture, as evidenced by the lack of participation and ineffective project environment. Boffey asserts that the project team members are not free in their project implementation process due to the rigid control by the senior project managers (par.6). The project managers should adopt a participative management style. This style will improve the likelihood of developing a positive project culture. The organizational structure adopted in a particular project influences information sharing. One of the most applicable structures used in project implementation entails functional organization. The London Crossrail project was based on functional structures. The project was organized into different areas of specialization, which include engineering, accounting, and marketing functions. The effectiveness of the functional organizational structure is influenced by the prevailing reporting relationship.
Alternatively, the project owners should have adopted a “projective” organizational structure. Adopting the two organizational structures would have transformed the project into a matrix organizational structure. The Crossrail project has been characterized by the poor adoption of the matrix organization structure, as evidenced by poor leadership. The contribution of the matrix structure to the attainment of the project outcome depends on the efficiency with which the project managers have integrated leadership and management (“Project Management Body of Knowledge” 24). Leadership is essential in project management, as it influences the extent to which the project team members are motivated to execute the allocated project roles. The Crossrail project is characterized by bureaucratic leadership, as evidenced by a breakdown in the interaction amongst the project team members. Moreover, Boffey asserts that the senior project managers have created an ineffective project culture, which makes project team members terrified of sharing safety incidents and mistakes with the leadership (par.7).
Successful project implementation is greatly dependent on the level of collaboration amongst the various project team members. Project managers have a duty to promote the timely generation, collection, and generation of project information. Communication leads to the establishment of critical links amongst the project stakeholders, hence promoting information sharing. All the project stakeholders should share and receive project information freely in order to foster project success. The London Crossrail project is characterized by a number of challenges due to the lack of effective communication. For example, the project team members are scared of reporting injuries suffered while at the workplace due to fear of being laid-off. The project implementation process is not free from threats. One of the most notable threats entails the death of one of the team members Rene Tkacik, which occurred in March 2014 due to on-site injuries (Boffey par.1).
The existence of fear amongst the project team members may affect project outcomes adversely, hence threatening the likelihood of attaining the desired level of project success. Therefore, one can argue that the project is characterized by the existence of a significant communication gap. In order to deal with the above challenge, it is imperative for the project manager to integrate effective project communication processes. Some of the aspects that the project manager should consider include communication planning, information distribution, administrative closure, and performance reporting.
Communication planning entails the process of assessing the communication and information needs of the various project stakeholders. In order to undertake communication planning successfully, it is imperative for project managers to assess the specific information required by the different project stakeholders, when it is required, the mode of information provision, and the party charged with the responsibility of providing the different stakeholders. In addition, determining the varying information needs and the mode of addressing such needs is critical in attaining project success. It is imperative for project managers to undertake communication planning during the initial project phase. Despite this aspect, it is essential for project managers to review the project communication processes continuously in order to determine their efficacy.
In a bid to improve project communication, Crossrail’s project managers should determine the communication requirements. This goal can be achieved by assessing the type, format, and value of information. The project managers should ensure that the overall project is subdivided into manageable project components. The responsibility of implementing the sub-projects should be allocated to the various project team members. This move will play an essential role in promoting accountability. In order to determine the communication requirements effectively, it is imperative for the project manager to evaluate the needs of various departments, specialties, and disciplines involved in the project.
The project manager should further assess the number of individuals to whom communication should be undertaken. This goal can be attained by implementing a stakeholder analysis (“Project Management Body of Knowledge” 120). This aspect will play an essential role in planning the logistics requirements. Moreover, the project manager should determine the external information needs. Considering the fact that the project is a public undertaking, it is imperative for the project managers to communicate the project progress to the external stakeholders. Therefore, the project manager should consider creating project awareness through the media. This approach will play an essential role in minimizing the occurrence of negative communication regarding the project.
In order to attain communication efficiency, the project manager should appreciate the importance of integrating effective communication technology. Integrating communication technology increases the probability of addressing the information requirements of diverse stakeholders. The “Project Management Body Knowledge” accentuates that communication technology addresses diverse information needs such as the immediacy of information (119). Therefore, the project manager should assess the frequency of information required and the most appropriate communication technology in order to address the immediacy of information. It is also imperative for the project manager to assess the possible constraints that might be encountered in the project communication. The communication process in the project should be guided by a comprehensive communications management plan. The plan should be comprised of the information gathering and filing structure, information distribution structure, the description of information distribution, and methods of information access.
Project communication-management process should further involve the determination of information distribution in addition to how to address the unexpected information requests by the project team members. The development of effective communication skills is fundamental in the effective execution of information distribution. The “Project Management Body of Knowledge” affirms that the communication skills determine how efficient project information is exchanged (121). The information provided to the project stakeholders should be complete and unambiguous.
The fear of reprisal by the senior project managers in the Crossrail project might affect performance reporting adversely. Performance reporting entails communicating the extent to which the set milestones have been achieved. In order to be effective in executing performance reporting, the project managers should undertake project performance reviews. Performance reporting is critical in implementing change requests. The communication breakdown experienced in the course of implementing the Crossrail project might be a major hindrance in implementing change requests. This assertion arises from the fact that the project team members might not be in a position to share relevant information that might influence the project outcome positively.
The attainment of the desired project outcome is subject to the level of coordination amongst the various project team members. Consequently, it is vital for project managers to ensure that the necessary tradeoffs amongst the competing alternatives and objectives are taken into consideration (“Project Management Body of Knowledge” 44). The lack of optimal integration in the Crossrail project has significantly affected project implementation. Project managers should perceive the various project stakeholders as a resource. The “Project Management Body of Knowledge” contends that every “stakeholder has skills and knowledge that may be useful in developing the project” (44). Subsequently, it is imperative for project managers to develop an environment that will promote knowledge and information sharing.
In order to achieve optimal project integration, it is critical for the project managers to appreciate the significance of integrated change control. However, the achievement of this goal is impacted by the collaboration between the various project stakeholders. The Crossrail project is characterized by poor integration management, as evidenced by the ineffective relationship between the project owner and the contractors. Boffey affirms that the project contractors have developed the perception that the project owner is ‘policing’ the entire project implementation process (par.6). For example, the project has been characterized by incidents of videoing and photographing the contractors’ activities in order to identify mistakes. This approach has negatively affected the project team members’ morale. Thus, one can argue that the project is characterized by a negative spy culture. The existence of such a project environment has negatively affected collaboration amongst the various project stakeholders.
The “Project Management Body of Knowledge” asserts that integrated change control entails “the process of influencing the factors that create changes to ensure that changes are agreed upon” (47). One of the most effective tools and techniques that the project managers charged with the responsibility of implementing the Crossrail project should take into account in undertaking integrated change control entails the incorporation of a change control system. One of the most effective change control systems that should be considered involves developing a board that should assess proposed project changes. The project owner in collaboration with the project manager should design an Engineering Review Board. The board should be charged with the responsibility of reviewing the necessary changes, for example, emergencies. An internal analysis by an independent body shows that the project team members who are injured in the course of executing their duties are afraid of reporting the injuries.
Project time management
Projects are expected to be completed within a predetermined timeframe. Thus, optimal time management is fundamental in ensuring that projects are completed timely. The first phase of the Crossrail project is expected to be operational by 2018. Ineffective project time management might limit the attainment of the desired project outcome. The Crossrail project has been characterized by delays. One of the major factors that have stimulated the emergence of such delays entails the strain between the project owner and the contractors. Consequently, the time management methods currently being applied on-site are almost counterproductive (Boffey par. 6).
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Despite the project delays, the likelihood of attaining the desired project outcome can be achieved through effective time management. In the course of implementing the project, it is imperative for the Crossrail’s project managers to appreciate the importance of effective time management. The project managers should take into account a number of aspects in designing the project time schedule. First, the project activities should be identified and documented in order to determine the intended deliverables and sub-deliverables effectively. In the process of defining the project activities, the project managers should develop a Work Breakdown Structure outlining the various activities that will be undertaken. Moreover, a clear scope statement should be designed outlining the project justification. In order to be effective in defining the project activities through the work breakdown structure, the project manager should decompose the overall project into manageable project subcomponents. This approach will play a fundamental role in the successful execution of the project.
In addition to the activity definition, it is essential for the project managers to consider the concept of activity sequencing. This technique entails determining how the various project activities are interrelated. According to the “Project Management Body of Knowledge”, the activity sequencing should be realistic in order to improve the project outcome (67). In order to improve the applicability of activity sequencing, it is imperative for the project managers to consider incorporating the emerging project management software. The rationale for adopting the project management software arises from the complexity associated with the project (“Project Management Body of Knowledge” 68).
Effective activity sequencing depends on the effectiveness with which the project manager defines the dependencies between the various project activities. The various types of dependencies that should be defined include mandatory dependencies, external dependencies, and discretionary dependencies. The mandatory dependencies entail the project activities that are inherently dependent on each other. Conversely, the discretionary dependencies refer to the dependencies that are defined by the project managers, while the external dependencies refer to the dependency between the non-project and project activities. In addition to the above issues, it is imperative for the project manager to develop milestones that should be achieved within a specific timeframe.
Different tools and techniques should be considered in the project time management processes. Examples of tools and techniques that should be considered include the precedence diagramming method [PDM] and the arrow diagramming method. The PDM method entails the construction of a network diagram illustrating the dependencies amongst the project activities. The PDM diagram is designed using the activity-on-node approach.
Moreover, it is imperative for the project manager to undertake an activity duration estimation. Optimal duration estimation will enable the project manager to take into account the possible time lapses. In an effort to improve the effectiveness of activity duration estimation, the project managers should take into account the concept of expert judgment. Consequently, the project owner should seek expert knowledge on project time management from well-established construction companies such as EC Harris.
The implementation of the Crossrail project should further be based on an effective schedule development, which entails determining the expected project start and finish dates. The project schedule should be realistic in order to achieve the desired project outcome (“Project Management Body of Knowledge” 73).
The evaluation of the above project management principles and practices with reference to the London Crossrail project underscores the importance of effective application of project management. The need for optimal application of the principles arises from the complexity and cost associated with projects. The London Crossrail project is characterized by a number of challenges that might hinder the attainment of the desired goal. One of the notable challenges entails the lack of coordination and collaboration amongst the project team members.
In order to attain the desired project goals successfully, it is imperative for the project manager to appreciate the importance of developing effective project culture. The project manager should integrate effective project leadership by focusing on collaboration amongst the project team members. This approach will play a fundamental role in creating an environment that is conducive for creating and sharing new knowledge. Additionally, the various project participants will develop a strong vision for the project. The development of project culture will ensure that the project team members develop a sense of ownership and focus on the assigned project activities. By nurturing collaboration, the project manager will minimize the risk of project failure.
In addition to the above aspects, it is vital for the project team members to integrate emerging project management technologies. One of the technologies that the project managers should integrate into their project management activities entails the Enterprise Resource Planning [ERP] software. This technology will improve the effectiveness with which the various project activities are allocated. Moreover, it is imperative for project managers to integrate computerized time management technologies. The adoption of such technologies will improve the ability of the project managers in collaboration with other project stakeholders such as the project owners to undertake project simulation. This approach will improve the determination of project durations.
Boffey, Daniel. Crossrail managers accused of culture of spying and fear 2014. Web.
Dikbas, Attila, and Raimar Scherer. E-work and e-business in architecture, engineering and construction, London: CRC Press, 2011. Print.
Project Management Body of Knowledge: A guide to the project management body of knowledge, Pennsylvania: Project Management Institute Incorporation, 2000. Print.