Introduction: true story (with pictures)

Page 8

Concluding Remarks (three plus one)


It is clear that this project fit perfectly within the predictable, controlled factors scheme of things. We did not have major scope changes, the weather behaved, the market for steel did not go crazy, no ships sank. This makes life easy, but is not the case for all projects (see my post “Control Theory – when the Black Box makes sense”).


perfect-timing med


The timing of our executive and managerial actions proved to be propitious (I like the word: setting the stage for good things to happen). We spotted trends early with a bias towards taking effective action. I did not have the phraseology, then – was acting on instinct and experience and training, but I have since found a quote which seems to capture the essence (see my post) regards timing:


-Edward W. Merrow, founder and president of Independent Project Analysis, Inc. ( IPA), “Proceedings of Government/Industry Forum: The Owner’s Role in Project Management and Preproject Planning” (2002) Committee for Oversight and Assessment of U.S. Department of Energy Project Management, National Research Council, ISBN 0-309-08425-3 here.


Project systems by their nature, and especially major project systems, cannot be managed by results. Management by results is a good management consulting phrase, but it is absolutely hollow when it comes to projects. Projects must be managed by the leading indicators.


The other thing is this: You have to all be in it together. The naive Project Manager sometimes assumes the attitude that “he/she should keep their foot on the neck of the contractor”, or on the neck of the vendors, or on whatever other neck presents itself. Please, no! The attitude that “we are all in this together, win or lose “, seems to work better. To get there often includes the “signing up” process described in Tracy Kidder’s 1981 “The Soul of a New Machine” (a Pulitzer winner, the original nerd epic, and a classic!)


So if project excellence is so simple, Why? as the chairman of one of the big four oil companies asked me a couple of months ago: can’t we do it? It is obvious, but why don’t we do it? My answer to him, and I think an answer to almost all companies that have serious performance problems around their capital project system, is because you can’t develop the necessary level of cooperation… to do the job right. That is the single most difficult element of having an excellent project system. You have to all be in it together.

ibid – Merrow



bellbell pulse seq

This was a project organization responsive when we “rang the bell” regards the schedule. There was a good combination of working level ownership and expert guidance (see my post “The Wisdom of Crowds and Virtuoso Teams”) Below us, the managing contractor’s home office had people on board – in part based on our Master Schedule briefing and subsequent (frequent and detailed) communications regarding the need for timely and accurate drawing and MTO issues, and timely owner furnished equipment purchase and expediting. Likewise, alongside us, the module yard fabricator was committed to success and not only willing but eager for help towards that common goal . Above us, the executive was confident based on early studies presented and monthly data and performance (see my post: “The McKinsey Way”), that while our targets were tight they were achievable, and supported them as such. Not every project environment has such resonance when the chips are down.


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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