Avoiding Project Planning Disasters: How to Spot Problem Projects

Disaster Goes Down text with burnt paper around it

From the legal perspective, the delivery method drives the contracting structure and risk allocation.

December 13, 2021
James T. Dixon - Construction Executive

The burden of project planning falls first and foremost upon a project owner. Owners have varying levels of sophistication, and the smart ones fill weak spots on their staff by engaging project managers, construction managers and owner’s representatives.

Typically, the owner then delegates the largest part of the project’s plan to the contractor in terms of creation and execution of a critical path method schedule during the construction phase. Before accepting that burden, a wise contractor will evaluate the project to determine if it is on a path to success or disaster. It is guaranteed that an owner’s problems will become the contractor’s problems in one way or another.

There are legendary projects that were also legendary planning failures. The iconic Sydney Opera House is one. The design competition began in 1955. After selecting the architect, the owner implemented a team that involved that architect, a structural engineer and an executive committee of inexperienced politicians. The original plan included a budget of $7 million (Australian) and a completion schedule spread over four years. That executive committee forced the project to start before designs were complete, doubled the number of theaters and then put a strangle-hold on the payment process, eventually causing the architect to quit and return to Europe with the construction drawings. The Opera House opened for its first performance in 1973—14 years late and $98 million over budget.

Reprinted courtesy of James T. Dixon, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved.



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