Partnering ; Strategic alliances

It was well understood right from the start that the banks (Client) could not build a tunnel without professional assistance. Effective management from the engineering side would be a critical element. From the perspective of the governments and the promoters, good project management would be necessary if the project were to progress satisfactorily-that is, close to time and budget. Here we analyze the strategic or operational project management actions that could have been taken to better control the project and increase it chance for successful delivery against time and cost targets.

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As mentioned earlier, project management to be effective, must incorporate both organizational design (strategic management) and systems management (operational project management) techniques. At the strategic level project management is concerned with the provision of the organizational and integration structures which are appropriate to the projects and with the provision of appropriate mechanisms for the overall control of project contributors such that project objectives can be attained. At the operational level, project management is concerned with the application of a clearly defined body of knowledge which relates specifically to how particular processes common to all projects should be executed and controlled in order to appropriately define the project objectives and subsequently deliver those objectives successfully.

One of the major reasons why the Channel Tunnel project was not delivered in terms of cost and time is due to the failure of implementation. The tools and systems developed to implement project management at the operational level were applied without a corresponding implementation of practices at the strategic level. So what clearly went wrong? Committed leadership: the project lacked the necessary visionaries to steer it through. To be effective the PM should have been given the respect and authority in order that he or she could control the project without interference from others involved. PM must be a leader and that he/she must be in a position of leadership. Positive control of persons, organizations and authorities is essential to the successful discharge of the project management functions.

Also we must understand that Project managers really need to become politicians at some level in order to deliver projects successfully. Here politics refers to the positive actions of keeping people interest and motivation in a project and ensuring that the necessary support and resources are provided to the project. The greatest resource we have in the construction industry is the human resource and they have to be motivated to achieve the set objectives. Powers bestowed upon Project Management can be effectively used to win the confidence of its support team and help to cross hurdles.

Performance measurement and Benchmarking: though the building of the Channel Tunnel was unique the process of construction was a series of skilled repetitive jobs. For improved performance the project should have set clear measurable objectives, and then given them focus by adopting quantified targets, milestones and performance indicators. By introducing milestones progress of works could be assessed at various stages. In doing so problem areas could have been identified at initial stages, rectified and incorporated to ensure smooth progress. Incentives also should have been provided to teams who made sure objectives were met. This would motivate them to perform to their best.

Fragmentation: the process and the team should be integrated around the product and not fragmented. The use of standardization must be effectively implemented. Building of a rail tunnel would require similar components to link the various manufacture process. There was a potential for much more systematized and integrated project process but this was ignored. Long supply chains are difficult to manage and control. As aptly mentioned in the Egan Report, “It sees the industry typically dealing with the project process as a series of sequential and largely separate operations undertaken by individual designers, constructors and suppliers who have no stake in the long term success of the product and no commitment to it.”

Partnering & Strategic alliances: the supply chain is critical to driving innovation and to sustaining incremental and sustained improvement in performance. If the benefits of partnering are to be achieved both partners must be fully committed and leadership must be solid. Maintaining a medium to long term relationship with contractors and suppliers has its advantage. Their needs become more closely aligned with those of the client organization.

On a practical note cost would have been saved provided the contractor and supplier would not have wasted time on competitive tendering. Project management cannot deliver continuous improvement year on year without technological advance both in process and product. More innovate techniques could have been researched for delivering the project on time, and the risk and cost could have been shared. Moreover the increased trust and reduction in adversarial disputes would have increased the probability of on-time completion and zero defect project handover.

To summarize, we understand the need to involve Project Management at the inception. The project management had the responsibility to liaise with all the involved parties to get the necessary approvals, inform the design team of variations in design, for example the concerns of the safety authorities and maintain a visibility layer between the client to ensure smooth progress. The initial design hence would have been updated with the necessary changes. The Construction Project Management had the responsibility to regularly update the Consultant/client representatives of the various problems, cost escalations; variations etc so immediate action could be taken at the start.

Most importantly, this was a project involving two nations and increasingly under the spot light. An external Project Management team catering to the best interest of the project should have been set up and given the authorities to see to it that the objectives of the client company are met. This would mean unbiased decisions would be made and anything going against the interest of the project would be overruled.

Companies require more out of their projects than ever before. They are increasingly looking to project management teams to provide solutions to many of the challenges. One way to achieve a more efficient result is to adopt newer, swifter and lighter project methodologies. For this investment needs to be put on for Research and development. Projects have significant technical, resource and data components that require management through their life cycle. Project must comply with the correct standards and guidelines to protect the users’ investment in such systems. When implementing a project, a multitude of areas should be investigated to determine what course of action to pursue. The many variables that require management in the complex environment also represent areas that can be exploited to achieve productivity and cost advantages during project execution.

The architect and inventor Buckminister Fuller, perhaps realized the need for a boarder vision when he said, “When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I am finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”


The Channel Tunnel Channel Tunnel Facts