This article will provide my personal examination about the case of the hidden costs and dangers of the shortcut in a project management perspective. It will address how adherence to standards, the impacts analyses to the stakeholders, and a stronger communication to the all the parties involved would have prevent the infrastructure failure. It will also answer the question about the trade off between being creative and innovative and being strictly adhering to the rules.
Adherence to standards, impact analysis to the stakeholder, and stronger communication
I agree that the issue could have been avoided if the project manager maintain his adherence to standards, analyzed the project’s impact on the stakeholders, and establish strong communication. Project management professionals must understand the importance of these three aspects as they can determine a project’s success or failure.
In a construction project, there are usually project standards regarding safety and the environment. In my country, every big construction project should obtain a special permit saying that the project adhered to safety and environmental standards. The permit can only be given after an independent certified third-party inspection of the project. By adhering to the regulation, project disasters, as told by LaBrosse (2010), can be avoided.
This issue could also be avoided if the project manager carried out a thorough impact analysis of the stakeholders and established strong communication. Using impact analysis, the project managers would find out that compromising safety will put the stakeholders at great risk, not only to the people involved but also to the general public that may be affected by the project. Establishing strong communication with every stakeholder can be a catalyst to ensure that the project meets their expectation. A study in another industry has found that 65 percent of project failures were caused by issues related to people management (Levasseur, 2010). Strong communication can prevent these issues.
Being Innovative vs Adherence to Standard
I disagree that innovative people can not be also people who adhere to rules and standards. Standards may become a constraint for a project. However, constraints are not an enemy of innovation. Instead, it guides and drives innovation. Sull (2015) argued that pursuing innovation without any boundaries will overwhelm people with a large number of options and set aside well-established practices that encourage innovation.
While rules and standards should always be ready to be challenged, there must always be a solid and valid reason behind them (LaBrosse, 2010). Project managers should acknowledge these reasons and the risks involved. They can innovate within the boundaries of the rules and standards, without compromising the risks related to them.
In the story, the project manager filled a spillway to a dam as a reservoir. He might look at the decision as an innovation that can reduce cost and time, but it turned out to be devastating. It does not mean that project managers should not try to innovate to reduce costs, but they should pursue innovation within the boundaries. These boundaries will spark positive creativity instead of a dangerous one.
There are standards that were established strictly and thoroughly, such as standards in safety and health. Innovation that violate these standards without proper analysis may turn to be harmful. The alternative that puts people at great risk will not be feasible if he tried to innovate while also maintaining his adherence to standards in terms of safety.
The most crucial project knowledge areas and project life cycle
In my opinion, the most crucial knowledge areas in the PMBoK are those aspects related to the management of people, since people comprise the most essential resource and risk of a project. The competencies and behavior of the people involved in a project are the main drivers of successful project management (Nieto-Rodriguez, 2021).
Zwikael (2009) surveyed 783 project managers from different countries and industries and found out that most project managers perceived time, risk, scope, and human resources management as the most important knowledge areas. I can argue that excellent human resource management can elevate a project’s time management, as well as scope and risk management.
Of the ten aspects covered in the PMBoK Guide, only three are covering human-related soft skills: communication, human resource, and stakeholder management (Nieto-Rodriguez, 2021). Holmlin (2015) argued that stakeholder management is the most important out of the ten, based on his experience of over four decades of being a project manager. Surprisingly, stakeholder management was not incorporated in the PMBOK Guide until the fifth edition which was released in 2012 (Nieto-Rodriguez, 2021). In this case, I think stakeholder management and communication management are as vital as human resource management.
Stakeholders and human resources management should be thoroughly planned and analyzed in the initiation and planning phase of a project. In the initiation phase, the project objective will be identified as well as the alternatives to reach the objective and the feasibility study (Watt, 2014). Internal and external stakeholders must be involved in the process. This phase will serve as the foundation of the project. It will ensure that the project solves the right problems that meet every stakeholder’s expectations.
While every phase in the project life cycle is important, I think the initiation phase should be given the utmost attention. A project usually costs a huge amount of resources, and so, solving a wrong problem or choosing an alternative that will raise disputes among stakeholders will cost as much as the project cost, if not bigger. A problematic initiation phase of a project will most likely cause a problematic project, regardless of how strong the planning, implementation, and closing phases are executed.
References Holmlin, R. (2015, May 1). The Most Important Project Management Knowledge Area. Project Management. https://www.projectmanagement.com/blog-post/13048/the-most-important-project-management-knowledge-area LaBrosse, M. (2010, February 5). The Hidden Costs and Dangers of the Shortcut. Project Smart. https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/case-studies/the-hidden-costs-and-dangers-of-the-shortcut.php Levasseur, R. E. (2010). People skills: Ensuring project success—A change management perspective. Interfaces, 40(2), 159-162. https://doi.org/10.1287/inte.1090.0473 Nieto-Rodriguez, A. (2021). Harvard Business Review Project Management Handbook: How to Launch, Lead, and Sponsor Successful Projects (HBR Handbooks). Harvard Business Review Press. Sull, D. (2015, May 1). The simple rules of disciplined innovation. McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/the-simple-rules-of-disciplined-innovation Watt, A. (2014, August 14). Project Management. BCcampus. http://opentextbc.ca/projectmanagement/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Zwikael, O. (2009). The relative importance of the PMBOK® Guide’s nine knowledge areas during project planning. Project Management Journal, 40 (4), 94-103. https://doi.org/10.1002/pmj.20116