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By Morley Selver, P.Eng IPMA B

Project Execution Plans Are Not Fixed.

All projects should have a Project Execution Plan which outlines to management how you plan on executing the project. There are numerous sections, one being the  Construction Plan. As a project manager, you should realize, the Project Execution Plan is a living document which is updated as you go through the project life cycle. All projects involve change so, we anticipate some changes as more information comes in, however, we should not be expecting too many changes from the original plan. Ideally this is what we want, but, projects do not always work out as planned. 

Called Up On The Carpet.

In this particular facility they had 3 alliance contractors. Contractor A was the Mechanical / Structural contractor, Contractor B was the Electrical Contractor and Contractor C was the Civil Contractor. We were working on an safety compliance project that had a defined completion date. There had been an accident at another facility and the company had done in-house safety audits. The audit report pointed out the issue this project was to rectify. Since the audit had the backing of corporate headquarters, they expected the problem to be rectified, otherwise facility management would be “hauled up on the carpet” to explain to them why they ignored the requirements. 

Down To The Wire

The project involved a large excavation to hold a liquid spill, regrading around tanks, containment berms, ditches, and paving. The facility had been given three years to comply with the audit report. As it would cost a lot of money to do the work, it was never on the front burner. We were now down to having to design and construct the work  within six months, so the push was on to get the project completed. Since management had dragged their feet for two and a half years, all the good weather had passed and we now were looking at winter work. 

Okay, Here’s The Plan.

How the work was to be done was not clear-cut and required some investigation. So, we were working with Contractor C, the civil contractor, to see how we could get it done as quick as possible. Once we had figured out what were going to do, we submitted the proper authorization documentation to management including a Project Execution Plan, with a Construction Plan, outlining how we planned on doing the construction. Management signed off for the funding including the Project Execution Plan.  We did the design, with a lot of Contractor C input, as they were the alliance contractor we planned on using. We put together a bid package and went to Contractor C to got a T&M price quote from him to do the work. 

From Out Of left Field

Once we received the pricing from Contractor C we wrote a purchase order. When the purchase order got to procurement they told us we couldn’t use Contractor C anymore because he was no longer the alliance contractor for civil work. While we were working on the details of the project, getting pricing, and getting funding, procurement were renegotiating their alliance contracts. Contractors A and B were okay, however Contractor C did not submit the low bid and another contractor was chosen as the new alliance civil contractor.  Procurement wanted the project to use the new civil contractor for the project. 

Are You Kidding Me?

The new civil contractor did not know the site and had previously only done minor work in the facility. We were now down to three rainy months left before the project had to be complete and we did not have time to start all over again with the new civil contractor. We could not convince procurement to let us use Contractor C. Procurement’s solution was to either use the new civil contractor, or go to Contractor A to do the work. We went to Contractor A who was familiar with the site but this was not his type of work. He had not been involved with the upfront discussions on how to do the work in the fastest possible way. Contractor A was reluctant to do the work, in fact, was wondering why we were talking to him. We had to get the work done, so we ended up giving the contract to Contractor A with the understanding he would sub the work to Contractor C. Contractor A poured the concrete that was required and Contractor C did all the regrading, paving, and excavation. It was a tough construction project as we were into winter works. One day would be sunny, the next day and/or week would be pouring rain, sometimes it was frozen ground, it was take every day as it came. In the end we did complete the project on time and saved management from a reprimand from headquarters.

Pick Your Fights.

So, although we do Project Execution Plans and do not anticipate too many changes, they are a living document. This was a case of an extreme change in the Construction Plan. It also shows that you do not want to pick a fight with your procurement group as you will always lose. Procurement is there to protect your company from all the legal issues that flow around the purchasing of equipment and contracts. On this project, even with the a reprimand from corporate headquarters hanging over their head, facility  management backed procurement and would not allow us to give a contract directly  to  Contractor C. 



Upcoming Workshops

Contact the author at for information on the following project management workshops

Certificate in EPC Project Management

December 10-14, 2012 Vancouver BC

January 6 - 10, 2013 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

January 21 - 25, 2013 Toronto ON

Fundamentals of Project Management

February 20, 21, & 22 2012  Calgary AB

March 18, 19, & 20 2013 Houston TX

Fundamentals of Capital Project Cost Control

February 15, 2013 Prince George BC

February 27, 2013 Nanaimo BC

March 6, 2013 Cranbrook BC

March 27, 2013 Terrace BC

May 8, 2013 Castlegar BC

May 15, 2013 Fort St John BC

Project Cost Control Basics 

April 30 - May 1, 2013 Vancouver BC

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