Introduction: true story (with pictures)

Page 7


Frequently Asked Questions: Advice to the (new) Project

If I were your Project Executive, I would advise three or four properly selected VIP’s (see my post) to be conducted early on, plus two (or three) Interim Project Reviews (see my post): generally at the 20-30% Engineering Progress and at the 70-80% Engineering Progress Stages (with a third at 30% Construction progress, if applicable).

Note: several major companies now offer formal Project Training for Executives with non-project centered backgrounds. These can be useful.

Executive Class

If I were (the inquisitive) Project Manager, I would make sure that I was ready (McKinsey-like ready!; see post) for the VIP’s and Reviews, listed above. (see also “the bottom line”… at the bottom of this page)

Project Manager Class

And as (the inquisitive) project scheduler, I would NOT be beholden to generating a 5,000-10,000 activity Primavera (or equivalent) schedule from day one. What WOULD I like to see?

I like tracking physical progress (field verified) and the manhours used, which will generate manhours-per-percent complete (a good leading indicator), as you will have seen in the project described above. This can be an Excel worksheet (see below) or a roll-up within a well-statused Primavera type system.


Team Member Class

In terms of granularity, I like 10-20 activities times 10-40 systems (in my case: 13 activities times 28 modules = 364 mod-activities times an average five tasks = 1800 mod-activity-tasks).

Geek note: If you use, say 4-8 tasks per activity, then you would generate an average 6 tasks times an average 15 activities times an average 25 systems or 2,200+ system-activity-tasks. This is reasonable and has proven to be a tractable number. (Consider selection of systems in conjunction with the start-up specialist, ordered by your commissioning sequence.

If tasks correspond to work packages (clearly defined, measurable physical progress that a typical engineering or construction crew can produce in a few days or weeks) then you are especially golden!

Also, I like parallel, geographical cuts. In my case, this was the 5 shipments, each of which devolved to a number of (five to six) modules, but more typically might be 5-20 geographically independent cuts.

Both activities by system and activities by geography can be either manhour (for progress forecasting) or earned value (for progress payments) weighted.


Most importantly, as (the inquisitive) scheduler, I would enlist some help structuring things (see my post: “The Italian Job”). An engineering/procurement guru plus a construction guru would be best, but an engineering guru plus a procurement / expediting guru, plus the construction manager plus each of the subcontractors’ scheduling gurus is a more typical mix (this is also the typical work-product of Constructability VIP’s I, II and III).

Publish the (appropriately presented) base estimate engineering and construction manhours (as per below).

What are the appropriate targets / objectives to publish? Given the uncertainties, contingencies and risks inherent in every project, the following have been successfully used in the past. Use 30% probabilities for contractor targets, 50% probabilities for the project team, and 80%-90% probabilities to the executives planning the operations of the new facility.


Also publish the engineering sequencing; the material order, delivery and marshalling plans; and work-package level construction sequencing (including layout and craneage).

Attached, is a downloadable Excel spreadsheet based on the data presented for the above project. It could be used at the Activity level, rolled up to a system or geographical or overall project level.

With my compliments: here



Bottom Line

(see my post, here)

“The bottom line of Project Management is letting loose the reins as much as possible within an acceptable level of confidence”

-Jack Heyden, Exxon Project Management Conference, London, 1980





One Comment

  1. Justin Smith
    Posted August 28, 2007 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    I found the summary of this posting (page 8) very useful. It is clear that you have a lot of good insight into the oil industry. I would like to learn more about the political pressures -internal and governmental- your projects faced, and your recommendationed solution for overcoming/circumventing these obstacles.

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