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Project Execution in 2016 and Beyond: Secrets for Achieving Best Results (Part-1)

The economics of the commodities’ sectors have changed dramatically over the recent years, including the oil and gas sector, and these changes have seriously impacted countries whose economies are heavily dependent on commodities, e.g., Canada, Middle East countries, Russia, Nigeria and so on.

The situation is expected to remain uncertain and volatile in the coming years. Under the prevailing circumstances where capital for new projects will be allocated after most rigorous financial analysis, the project execution will require a different approach and mindset, almost akin to modern day special ops forces approach, skills development, training and implementation.

Project management methodologies, tools, softwares etc. are well known and already in place. But the key differentiator between ‘mission success’ (on time, within budget project completion) and ‘mission failure’ (delays, cost over-runs, complications) will be the people who make up the project management teams because they will ensure the proper implementation of the ‘mission strategy’.

Some key elements of a typical modern day special ops force operating concept are:

  • Culturally-aware and skilled/trained Operators
  • Understanding and influencing narratives
  • Deliberate macro- and micro-level operations linking engagement activities and operational missions in time, space, and purpose
  • Dispersed vs episodic engagement
  • Command, Control, Communications network
  • Networking, relationships and partnerships

How do the above relate to project execution in 2016 and beyond, and how can they be adapted to ensure ‘mission success’ in project execution? We will look at each element one at a time.

Project management is now viewed as a tactical and competitive weapon part of a wider project execution strategy. In the light of this, let’s look at first element: “Culturally-aware and skilled/trained operators” – this is perhaps the most important ingredient towards ensuring mission success.

Gone should be the days when people would be just rotated or randomly picked and placed in the project management teams. This approach will need to be overhauled.

So, what’s meant by: “Culturally aware Operators”? This would mean people who share, breathe-and-live the mantra of finding and implementing most cost effective solutions during project execution are also aware of the organization's core culture. It is the mindset that will make the difference between a mediocre approach and an innovative approach.

On to the second part: ‘Skilled/trained Operators”: This connotes that there should be no ‘square peg in a round hole’. The project management team – right from the project director to the project engineers – need to comprise of people who have the necessary skills and who have been trained too for their roles. People with the proper skills set and the training are fundamental to successful integration of the other elements cited above.

Without the successful integration of all the key elements, the mission can fall apart – whether a special ops mission or project execution mission. Thus, the first step is to have the ‘round pegs in the round holes’ – the right people in the right role.

The above holds true for project management teams for both the owner companies as well as the EPC/M companies. Numerous projects have failed because the folks in the project management teams were not competent for the roles assigned to them. It is, therefore, very critical that the companies realize the importance of this aspect and act accordingly.

What structured ways for developing the project management teams would you suggest?




Partho (Parth) Mukherjee is also Co-Sponsor/Coordinator of the Center of Excellence in Project Execution, Calgary, Canada.

Grateful reference acknowledgement: USSOC reading material available on internet.

Anirudh Kumar