Robert C. McCue, P.E.
How can a large, well-funded capital project fail to achieve its technical, cost and performance goals and why is this still acommon outcome? These projects are typically undertaken by teams of personnel from the Owner, Architect and Engineer firms and Contractors. How can such a collection of talent, carefully selected based upon experience and references, fail to deliver? The answer lies in part in the inherent instability1 in the contractual structure of the participants which results in incentives/disincentives to proactively solve problems and engage in CYA activities. Systems Thinking provides a new way to understand and thereby avoid these problems.
A fundamental precept of Systems Thinking is that the overall goal is to optimize the entire system and its output and not the individual parts of the system. Wouldn’t having all the best assets naturally lead to the optimum output? Not necessarily. In fact, optimum output is unlikely to be the result of individual component optimization.
Consider that a friend desires to have the best sports car in the world and asks your help in obtaining it. One approach, and the most fun, would be to test drive all of the models available and select one. However, another approach would be to take the best parts from the best production cars and assemble them, a solution that has inherent appeal to engineers and architects2. Consider which approach is likely to lead to a predictable cost and schedule result. Ultimately, the collection of best parts can be optimized to yield the best sports car, but the interactions of the various parts and their integration into an efficient working sports car lead to obvious compatibility and integration challenges with unpredictable intermediate outcomes.
Purchasing a finished sports car made up of a system of sub-optimized parts that has been integrated allows one to have confidence in the overall performance of the assembled system, certainty of cost and predictable delivery date.
With this in mind, now look at the typical project delivery process in your organization including contract drafting and development, selection of professionals, vendor and contractor selection system and the construction plan for your next capital project. Which of the above models are being employed?
To break the cycle of failure, MDC Systems® can help in providing solutions to these types of challenges!