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And We Thought IT Project Management was bad!

This past weekend I moved into my new condo ... and this experience demonstrates that despite the well documented woes associated with large software projects, there are other industries that have big problems!

I will start out with the disclaimer that I love my new home and when all of the "issues", big and small, have been addressed I am going to love it. It is on the 18th and 19th floors, has terrific views of Ottawa and everything is new and shiny!

So ... back to that project management thing.

We bought the unit almost 3 1/2 years ago in February 2006 and the original occupancy date was July 2007, which quickly was changed to September 2007. This suited us just fine because that coincided with our son's enrollment in university ... quickly downsize the house before he comes back to live with us!!! :-)

Over the course of time the occupancy date changed several times until at the beginning of May this year (2009) we settled on a June 15th date. It became clear that date was not going to be met and so we finally moved in (kind of) on June 26th. I say "kind of" because we were able to move in but had no occupancy permit until Tuesday of this week (June 30th).

So ... what happened, what is happening and what lessons can all projects learn from this kind of experience.

1. LOTS of finger pointing and "infighting". I am amazed at the amount of energy spent on blaming everyone else for what doesn't go right rather than everyone focusing on a common goal.

Lesson: When multiple parties are working together it is imperative that the "team" gels and that has to happen from the top. All of those leaders should be supporting each other towards one common goal.

2. Work done ... and done again! It seems to be impossible for people to do "the job" right first time. I am continually amazed at the effort expended in fixing things that were done wrong the first time.

Lessons: I think there are a few here but certainly pride of workmanship has to be a factor. Again leadership needs to instill a commitment to quality and provide training and support to ensure things are done right the first time. That little extra time spent up front would pay off in spades later.

3. Project management tools. My perception is that the project is managed through "the experience" of the project manager(s). I have not seen pert charts, critical path diagrams or any other such tools implemented in this environment. It seems that labour is allocated to the "squeaky wheel" rather than to a master plan. Coupled with all of the work "re-done" it seems to me that there is a huge waste of people's time.

Lessons: I could be wrong, but the application of a good project management software in a project office type environment could really help.

4. Cleanliness. It may tie in with the work being re-done because finished work is often damaged because of poor habits. Workers walking on hardwood floors with stones and other construction dirt on their work boots causes serious damage; workers damage the paintwork and finished cabinetry through neglect and as a byproduct of their dirty work clothes.

Lessons: Get the dirty work done first ... then insist on good practices, take shoes off, clean work clothes etc.

I'm sure there are many opinions about why the construction industry needs to be the way it is ... but change is everywhere and this is an industry that could benefit from a different approach and attitude!

The next time our industry is getting hammered for a failed/late project I will tell them a construction story about a condo that was two years late ... and still lots of work to be done!