A short insight from 50 years of Project Management
The past 50 years have seen enormous growth and development in project management globally and well beyond engineering and production. Initially project management was mostly about techniques and hard systems development to achieve the triangle of time, cost, and quality. More recently its evolution has seen the effective linking to program, portfolio and strategic management, but where it has been more challenged singularly is in the realisation of value.
In 1969 the world’s leading Project Management Institute (PMI), was in its infancy. Meanwhile, in Perth Western Australia Paul Steinfort was employed on a ‘Project Cadetship’ to the Australian Government Department of Construction and had joined their first ever Project Management group. The group’s projects were major ones such as the Garden Island Defence Base, development of Perth International Airport, Learmonth Defence Base and many more.
On Christmas Day 1974 Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin and Paul was flown into a challenging program management role in Australia’s most Northern City for three years in the Project Management of the recovery and reconstruction of the City.
He then progressed to the project management of some of the most major and iconic projects of that time, including the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, Collins Place Twin Towers and Rialto Towers in Melbourne (values in the billions of dollars), the complete upgrading of the wheat handling system in Victoria, the global expansion of Carlton and United Breweries and many more.
From these experiences a reputation was built and this enabled the formation of one of the first Project Management Consulting companies in Australia, Paul Steinfort and Associates (PSA) Project Management. PSA PM then went on to project manage the redevelopment of the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), and several other major projects in Australia at the time, again all using the latest in Project Management techniques and methodologies available.
Following the 2004 SE Asian earthquake and tsunami and given his experience of high risk program management, Paul got a call to go to Aceh off the Northern tip of Sumatra, one of the main islands of the Indonesian archipelago as Reconstruction Director. The next three years were extremely challenging, bearing in mind that at the same time the redevelopment of the MCG back in Melbourne was to be completed on time for the Commonwealth Games in 2006 with Paul as project manager.
At that time a long-term colleague of Pauls, RMIT University Professor Derek Walker, with whom he had first worked in the 80s on Melbourne’s Collins Place Twin Towers offered Paul a scholarship for a PhD to study understanding the lessons learned at the front end of any project or program for project management to be successful. This was also supported with a Research Grant from the PMI on the agreement of a book publication titled “What Enables Project Success”. What was proven, above all else over the fifty-year journey, is that the front end of any project management practice needs the definition of the value equation to be agreed, as an essential requirement for project success.
The integral aspect of all this is the consistent need for a form of breakdown structure to precede the formal project planning so that meaningful measurement can be achieved at both the project management and program level. This is seen as a scope document which works ahead of any project time planning input and is focussed on maximising value.
It is a simple, logical framework base which when incorporating the development of a Value Breakdown Structure (VBS) enables agreement on what is essential to value program outcomes and project deliverables.
The VBS defines the problem and resolves a value framework before we go into the response through project management planning. The failure rate of projects is still very high and the VBS can be the key to the solution to that problem. What happens all too often is that the project plan or the WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) is put into place well before the resolution to the best value outcome for the project is resolved - the program is committed to before it is resolved that it is feasible or sustainable.
This Value Breakdown Structure, then, defines the key process which integrates all the value and workflows through from strategic to program to project and then through monitoring, evaluating and transitioning and saves so much time and cost, otherwise lost.
This latest work around Value is one of many results that Paul and PSA have pioneered around the world and which a large number of communities, organisations and people have gained so much value from.
When asked to reflect upon what has been achieved in the last fifty years and what the next fifty years may bring, Paul is sure that strategic, program and project management will be integrated into one process and that value will the key to much greater success than presently. He is sure also that future strategy will much more easily and simply realise real and maximum value