Dealing with problems outside of the Project Manager’s control - 21.02.12

I’ve often been asked to describe how a project manager can deal with problems outside of their control.
-Weather.
-Latent conditions.
-Disasters.
-Unions.
Most project managers rely on the well known “nothing I can do. That’s someone else’s problem”. “We’ll just ask for more money and time when and if it occurs. It’s covered in the contract anyway, there isn’t anything we can do anything about it anyway”.
What if a client asked the contractor to cover it?
What if the contractor did indeed take the risk?
More recently we’ve been seeing some forms of contract, along the lines of partnering, which supposedly allow both the contractor and the client to jointly manage this risk. They are reputed to be very successful contracts, delivering within the budget and the time allowed.
I’m not sure of any scientific analysis that has been completed to examine these claims, but I’m pretty sure that the budget and time within which the projects were successfully completed has been more than what was required. In many cases, it could have been less, with different approaches to managing the project.
It has been said that there are a lot of infrastructure projects just not getting the green light because the budgets and time allowed in the feasibility stage are more than the feasibility will allow. I have also read that the cost and time allowed expands to fill the time and cost originally estimated, where the original time and cost allowances have had significant contingency amounts included in the estimates.
So. Laziness? A risk averse position? A lack of confidence? What then?
Assume that
1. you are not lazy,
2. you are not risk averse, and
3. you have confidence
Then I have the answer for you.
But there is no steak knife thrown in, unfortunately.
Do the following, which is a very brief summary.
1. Get organised
2. Consult widely
3. Communicate effectively
4. Proceed confidently, with an exit strategy at key points
5. Make sure that the reason why the project was considered feasible in the first place is at the forefront of every ones’ mind

Getting organised means at least four things.
1. Knowing the constraints that resulted in the scope and objectives that make the project feasible
2. Knowing who is going to influence how the project is going to be delivered
3. Moulding the project to fit the needs of those who will influence how the project is delivered, within the constraints of the project
4. Being innovative, knowledgeable, and able to quantify your solutions for the risk events, to proceed with a known and accepted chance of success within the constraints

The last part of being organised is a complex thing.

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  2. The PMO
  3. Building Education Revolution implementation – problems delivering – one of a number of possible solutions
  4. difficult project teams and how to handle poor performers
  5. Public workshops second half 2011

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