My dear friends,
Project is a onetime venture with a defined time frame undertaken to achieve a definite objective. For example, construction of a Power Station is a project whereas its operation & maintenance is not. The surgical operation may be a project but not health care. Being a onetime unique venture, a project successfully executed can leave traits of memorable achievements.
Generally, a project involves a large quantum of several kinds of resources viz. Men, Material, Machinery and Money. The integrated patterns of resource utilization and interlinking of thousands of activities make its handling quite challenging. The maximization of benefits with minimization of resources is the ideal dream of everyone, but in reality it is the optimization that has found its way. Project Management is the Art and Science of optimization needing sensitivity and consciousness.
Project Management- Consciousness Approach
The various tools like Operational Research (OR), PERT/CPM networks, Information Systems (OAS, MIS, DSS), Computers and Software’s etc. have all revolutionized the Project Management field. But, the various failures and successes met with in real life situations have time and again reminded and pointed towards one basic thing i.e. Human mind & its potential to make conscious judgments on optimization of all tangible and even intangible variables influencing the project.
The Concept of making human being as the hub of management activities should logically lead us to ‘Consciousness Concept Model’, as it is the man behind the machine who matters and who can think rationally and act with consciousness of mind, using his hidden intuitive power for strategic decisions.
Determinants of Project Management
Traditionally the determinants of project management have been Time, Cost and Quality for a given scope. But with the growing awareness of the impact of the project on its environment and vice versa, environment has become the fourth factor. While the Time and Cost are tangible factors, the Quality and Environment are intangible factors. Though many theories are emerging to explain these intangible factors qualitatively and quantitatively, they continue to be fairly intangible.
Role of Consciousness in Project Management
There are many techniques being applied for efficient project management, but what is most needed is persistent awareness or consciousness not only on the aforementioned parameters but also on many other fronts.
Imagine what kind, what degree and what level of consciousness would be required while managing a project which interlinks some tens of thousands of activities having their own multi-disciplinary requirements viz. technical, economic, design, quality, safety etc.
Determinants as per Consciousness Approach
From the Project Management point of view, the most relevant elements of consciousness for a person who wants to be a successful project manager are:
- Time Consciousness
- Cost Consciousness
- Quality Consciousness
- Environment Consciousness
- Safety Consciousness
- Communication Consciousness
- Planning & Monitoring Consciousness
- Documentation Consciousness
- Human Potential and Social Consciousness
These are pictorially depicted above in the form of a planetary gear system exhibiting their inter-linkages.
1. Time Consciousness
Time consciousness is the most important gear of the project management system around which should move hand-in-hand all the other consciousness elements. Time is the most ‘precious and irretrievable’ resource. In a 70-Year Lifespan, one gets only 10-years for effective work, rest devoted to sleep, study, recreation, illness, travelling, eating etc. By the same logic in a 7-year project, effective work time will only be 1-year.The foremost quality of a successful project manager is his ‘impatience’. Right from the very first day of his assignment to a project, he has to race against the time in order to complete it on schedule. He has to operate within the periphery of countdown calendars for all important packages of the project.
Time consciousness is an extremely effective tool to generate self-discipline which reflects its advantages in the entire sphere of activities. It is not the punishment for delay or the reward for timely commissioning that is so important, but the loss or gain to the country as a whole, should be the basic consideration for time consciousness. Such time consciousness in holistic perspective can be generated by quantifying its impact at national level in real terms. For instance, delay in commissioning of a power project of 500 MW by a single day can cause a revenue loss of nearly Rs. 1 Crore . Further, multiplier effect of electricity on country’s economy (GDP) is more than 10 times!
2. Cost Consciousness
Time value of money is very important to be realized. A perceived Rs 1000 cr. project with a construction schedule of 10 years eventually costs Rs 1650 cr. with 8% escalation on unspent amount as per normal expenditure profile of the project.
Cost-benefit consciousness should go down to the level of acumen. Once a trainee engineer asked the CBI President in U.K. as to why they were spending so much on the training of foreign scholars. The President replied with a smile “Even if one amongst you becomes General Manager of his own Company in his own country with a soft corner and appreciation for British products, after 20 years from now in one single contract, I shall recover all the expenditure incurred on the entire batch of trainee engineers”.
Cost over-runs in case of project activities are reaching an alarming proportion causing concerns in the minds of planners, executing agencies and even a common tax-payer. Loss prevention is another grey area. Leakage of half a cumec of water from the reservoir means a loss of 1 MW continuous in a hydro project operating under 250 m head.
3. Quality Consciousness
“Quality is not expensive, it is priceless” said Mahatma Gandhi.
Quality has an important bearing on all other elements of consciousness. Generally, quality and costs are directly proportional. But in long run the benefits are many. A sound investigation in case of hydro projects for example, can save geological surprises during construction stage. Poor quality materials used may lead to collapse of structure and further compound the problems by both cost and time over runs. Quality has to be imparted at each and every stage of the project and this is possible only by cultivating high level of quality consciousness in the minds of those who matter.
The customer demands quality. How good is good enough? At 99.9% quality, for instance in USA, there would be: 20,000 wrong drug prescriptions/year, 50 newborn babies accidentally dropped by doctors every day, Unsafe drinking water 1 hour/month, No electricity, water, heat for 8.6 hour/year, No telephone/television transmission for 10 minutes/week, 2 unsafe landings at 0’Hare/New York/Los Angeles/Atlanta, etc. airports/day, 500 incorrect surgical operations/week and so on. Continuous improvement should strive for 100% quality in our work with ZERO DEFFECTS.
4. Environmental Consciousness
“There is enough in nature for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed” said Mahatma Gandhi. Environment consciousness has now been globally recognized as an essential component of project management. Projects have to be conceptualized and implemented giving due respect to the ‘carrying capacity’ of the land, water and air which are basic elements of our eco-system. We were always taught in terms of exploitation of natural resources but today it is being realized that exploitation of natural resources by the present generation without any respect to the environment is criminal to the coming generation. Having created a threatening ‘Green House’ with perforated ozone layer for ourselves, the key thrust today is ‘optimum utilization (and not exploitation ) of natural resources.
5. Safety Consciousness
Projects are made for men and not at the cost of men. Human beings are the most precious of all and their safety has got to be foremost. Safety of human beings is jeopardized in project constructions partly due to lack of preventive facilities and partly because of lack of safety consciousness which has got to be generated through awareness campaigns like ‘Save life then time’. In USA, Loss of life expectancy (LLE) in days according to M.A. Robinson is like: Being Unmarried = 2000, Smoke cigarettes (1 pack/day) = 1600, Heart Disease = 2100, Overweight by15 Ibs. = 450, Motor vehicle accidents = 200, Speed limit 55-56 mph = 40, Alcohol = 130, Suicide = 95, Fire, bums = 27, Diet drinks (one per day)= 2, Airline crashes= 1, Spending life time near nuclear plant = 6.4; Can this data generate safety consciousness ?
6. Communication Consciousness
In the year 1984, one of the world’s worst environmental disasters killed more than 2000 innocent people and blinded and injured over 2 lakh due to MIC leakage from Pesticides Factory of Union Carbide, in Bhopal. Many of them could have been saved, had the community around the Factory known that in such an event they should have covered their faces with wet towels, instead of running for life!
7. Planning & Monitoring Consciousness
‘Patience in planning and impatience in execution has worked wonders’. If you have 8 hours to chop a tree, you should spend 6 hours sharpening your axe. In developing countries very little time (10%) is devoted to planning compared to that spent in project implementation (60%) with resultant wastage of time in post-commissioning problem solving (30%). The picture is quite different in the developed countries. There the time spent in planning is 40%, implementation 50% and only 10% in post-commissioning problem solving. Obviously, developing countries’ model entails more cost.
Planning is foreseeing the things and preparing for it and monitoring is for controlling the project schedule. These are the basic functions of management which are to be practiced at all levels at all times. Meticulous planning and monitoring (computer based, wherever required) is a kind of thread going through all the functional areas binding them into a time bound objective.
Successful construction of ‘Lotus Temple’ in Delhi is attributed interalia to the supply of 350 odd drawings made to meticulous details, to the contractor right on the date of order to commence.
8. Documentation Consciousness
Do you know that 90% of customer communications is through documents and 7.5 billion documents are produced worldwide each year? It is also established that 1 in 5 workers spends at least 60% of his time dealing with documents and 82% of organizations say documents are critical to the successful operation of their business.
Projects are lessons in themselves and have a lot to offer if only we could properly record and document them. Documentation of the project progress, its completion report, the challenges posed and the solution found, the failures with reasons and remedies implemented etc., will be an immense help for future generation. But it is a sad truth that, even such ‘awareness’ is either missing or lacking among our best project managers, leave alone inculcating such ‘consciousness’ over a large base. A properly documented project history can provide effective guidance in project planning, cost controlling and many other vital dimensions of project management.
On rehabilitation measures for instance unless we photograph the new dwellings of the project oustees and produce them along with those of earlier huts, documented proof of rehabilitation efforts would be missing.
Human Potential & Social Consciousness
One machine can do the work of fifty or more ordinary men. But no machine can do the work of an extraordinary man. An extraordinary man is just a highly motivated man. Human potential is a wonder instrument. If motivated to the right degree, it can resonate to infinite amplitude of performance. While machine’s capacity utilization can at best be a few per cent more than hundred, human potential utilization can go above hundreds of per cent. The synergetic effect of human potential development can be tapped only by a HRD conscious project manager. Only such conscious mind can get the best out of the employees who have tied-up their aspiration, hopes and a major part of their life with the project they are working for. Similarly, to perform his role towards the society, a project manager needs a sustained conscious mind. A socially conscious mind will never view his role towards society as a mere social “obligation’ but would understand that society is the very purpose for which the project was implemented. Social consciousness is the super-ordinate of all other consciousness.
While constructing a project, post-project perceptions should also be very clear in our minds. There are many considerations at the time of design and implementation of a project which can lead to significant environmental compatibility and loss prevention during operation of the project.
The above elements of consciousness are required to be thoroughly understood and ‘ just consciousness with proper tradeoff needs to be practiced. For example, time saving at the cost of compromise on safety of human life can just not be accepted. We don’t want any mega project at the cost of even one single human life. Similarly a very precise tradeoff has to be evolved on time consciousness vis-a-vis quality and cost. Projects can be made months and even years ahead of schedule by incurring huge costs. Projects can also be made hurriedly by buggering up the quality and environment.
Over consciousness of any of these dimensions would also be detrimental to the project implementation. For instance, over consciousness on environment is forcing people to divert on items other than project itself like catchment area treatment of the entire river basin upstream and so on. A balance between environment and development is very much required today.
If the Project Management has to succeed on Indian soil, we have to develop the Project Management discipline as a Science of Consciousness. Suitable training packages would have to be evolved for the prospective project managers with exclusive modules aimed at generating ‘consciousness elements’ described above and more importantly the terminal modules aimed at bringing a kind of equilibrium amongst them, appreciating the tradeoffs and inter-linkages involved. An appropriately conditioned mind so trained would possess ‘ just consciousness’ capable of taking judicious decisions during project implementation. This would certainly add a new dimension to the Project Management and if pursued in right earnest, can bring results which would surprise many and Indian consciousness and ethos in Project Management would become a guiding light for the future generations.
When I had published the above concept in CPU’s Journal back in 1993, I had received the following comment from the then-Cabinet Secretary, Govt. of India, Shri S. Rajgopal:
“You have explained the entire concept of Project Management from a new perspective and also in a very lucid manner.”
Purpose of this letter would be served if any one of you takes to heart the above concept and follows it through a Project.
Satyamev Jayate !!!
Best wishes and Regards,
BE(Hons), M.Tech., Ph.D., CBI-Scholar, D.Engg. (Calif.), FNAE, Hon.D.WRE (USA)
Chairman Emeritus, Great Lakes, Gurgaon, NCR, New Delhi, INDIA
Former Director General (NPTI & CPRI / REL), Ex. Director (REC) / Executive Director (IREDA)
No job is small or big, the way in which you do, makes it small or big (c)