W28_SJP_Knowledge Enhancement for GPC ELPC Examinations (Part 7)

Issue Identification and Appraisal

The final blog in this series of knowledge shortfalls that require enhancement to increase my opportunity of a successful result in the GPC ‘Expert Level’ examination. As previously mentioned, the GPC’s self-assessment questionnaire uncovered a few deficient knowledgeable areas that need addressing, and in order to better understand the subject areas the author felt that developing blogs would assist in a quicker learning process in the deficient areas. All of these blogs have the same problem statement, “What subject areas need knowledge advancement prior to undertaking the GPC Expert Level Project Controls examination?”

Feasible Alternatives

The deficient subject areas can be termed feasible alternatives, and these are:

  • Monte Carlo Simulation – covered in Blog 23
  • Configuration Management – covered in Blog 24
  • BIM Modelling – covered in Blog 25
  • Project Forensics – covered in Blog 26
  • Stakeholder Engagement – covered in Blog 22
  • Contract Selection – covered in Blog 27
  • Management Competencies – to be covered in Blog 28

The above list is based on the results from the GPC’s self-assessment which was performed in May’2017 and is a summary of seven areas that need enhancement in the coming weeks. Hopefully a blog can be developed for each item during the remaining weeks the course runs. For Blog 28, the subject will be “Management Competencies”, a position the author has held many times during his career, but prefers not to have given the choices available.

Develop the Outcomes for each

Each remaining blog will develop an outcome for each “Feasible alternative” (FA) subject as the subject gets reviewed, it will not identify an outcome for the other FA’s in that blog.

“Management Competencies” is included within Module 2 – “Managing People”.

Below is the list of items that this blog will address.

Table 1 – Management Competencies items in GPCCAR Self-assessment

As can be seen from the assessment there are 3 items to address.

Selection Criteria

The criteria for this blog is found in several sections in the GPCCAR;

  • M02-1 “Introduction to Managing People”
  • M02-3 “Developing Individual Competencies”
  • M02-4 “Developing Management Competencies”

Analysis and Comparison of the Alternatives

Let’s look at the GPCCAR sections, where possible the wording has been crafted to the authors own wording, however in some situations what has been written is not different to how the author would have word-smithed it whereby full credit goes to the GPCCAR authors as noted in the references below. In all the blogs 23 thru’ 28 this has been the case, and there has been no intent to plagiarize any work by others.

Item 1 – The background supporting Managing people (GPCCAR Module 02.1.3)

The table below (Figure 1) was provided by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and is broken down into the top traits/attributes which prospective employers are seeking when they hire employee(s).  Applying Pareto’s “80/20” Rule, it can be determined that the top two attributes are LEADERSHIP skills and the ABILITY TO WORK IN A TEAM.

Figure 1 – NACE Attributes desired by employers (GPCCAR)

Item 2 – Communications (GPCCAR Module

One of the key skills Project Controls practitioners need to master is that of the art of communication, from the lowest level upwards, and more importantly as the Controls Manager, when communications are both internal (management team) and external (stakeholders, etc.,). Project Controls positions are seen as key when dealing with claims/disputes and at times practitioners are called upon to be expert witnesses, where communication to others in simplistic forms is important to allow people to understand what has occurred.

Effective communication has four ingredients; clarity, concise, easily understood, honest and complete. Figure 2 below shows the sender/receiver communications model.

Figure 2 – Riley Communications Model (GPCCAR)

There are many different communications models, however the one most applicable to project management in general and project controls specifically, is the Riley Model.

The elements in this model are:

  • Encode: To translate thoughts or ideas into a form of language that can be understood by the receiver; eg, written English, spoken French or a drawn diagram.
  • Message: What is sent: the output of encoding
  • Medium: The method used for sending the message (face-to-face, telephone, email) • Noise: Something that interferes with the sending or understanding of the message (distance, culture, language differences)
  • Decode: The translation of the message by the receiver from the medium into their thoughts.

A single communication is complete once the feedback-message has been decoded by the sender and checked for accuracy against the original idea. Once this loop has been closed both people have a common understanding of the idea. This does not require agreement or concurrence, but if there is to be a disagreement, it helps if everyone has the same basic understanding of the issue or idea in dispute.

Effective communication requires both the sender and the receiver to be engaged. The sender needs to check that the ‘message’ has been received and validate the feedback: “Can we just summarize our discussions to make sure that I have not left anything out?” The receiver needs to check that he/she has absorbed and understood the content of ‘message’ “Can I just summarize our discussions to make sure that I am clear on the details and objectives?” This is active listening and feedback.

Dimensions of communication; Communication can be categorized in a number of different ways. The four primary considerations are: Written or Oral, Formal or Informal, Direction of communication (upwards, downwards, outwards, side wards), and internal or external.

The communication plan is an important part of the overall project management deliverables. Development of the project’s communication plan would normally be delegated to the Project Controls team, as they will be responsible for coordinating and formatting input from various SME’s and the PMT. The plan is an essential element in the communications strategy that will work to support the success of the project. If the plan is inadequate it may lead to problems such as delays in message delivery, the communication of information to the wrong audience, insufficient communications activities, and misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the messages communicated. To avoid these problems and facilitate the development (and then implementation) of an effective communications plan people with the following knowledge and skills are needed:

  • Understanding the politics and power structures in the organization and the wider stakeholder community, including customers and sponsors;
  • Knowledge of the environment and culture of the organization and the key stakeholders;
  • Knowledge of the industry and type of project deliverable;
  • Knowledge of communications technologies;
  • Knowledge of corporate policies and procedures regarding security, legal and other requirements affecting communications.

Project controls cannot function if there is a lack of or no communication, as it is the purpose of group to develop information that can be used to influence/inform actions and decisions. If the information is not communicated effectively and accurately to the stakeholder(s) that needs it, it will not be used, there is no point in producing information that is ignored or remains hidden from the people that need it. Similarly producing information that is communicated in a way that renders it inaccurate or incomplete in the perception of the receiver can lead to wrong, or less than optimal decisions or actions being taken. Basic communication theory and planning ensures the ‘right information’ is provided to the ‘right stakeholders’ at the ‘right time’ and in an optimum format to allow them to make efficient use of the information in the course of their work. Communication monitoring goes beyond ‘document control’, document control focuses on records management and access to information, while communication monitoring asks the question was the communication effective:

  • Did the right people get the information?
  • Did the information achieve the desired effect?
  • How can the communication process be improved?

The choice of communication technology used affects the way information is communicated to stakeholders and team members.

Factors affecting the choice of technology include the:

  • Urgency of the need for information. What is the urgency, frequency, and format of the information to be communicated? This is likely to vary over the life of the project.
  • Availability of technology. Ensure that the technology that is required for distribution of project communications will be available and accessible to the relevant stakeholders throughout the life of the project, or their involvement in the work.
  • Ease of use. Ensure that the choice of communication technologies is suitable for project participants and that proper training is planned where appropriate.
  • Project environment. Factors in the project environment that affect communication technology decisions include: o Are the team be co-located or working in a virtual environment;
    • Are they located in one or multiple time zones;
    • Will they will use multiple languages for communication; and,
    • Are there are any other project environmental factors, such as various aspects of culture, which may affect the choice of technology?
  • Sensitivity and confidentiality of the information. If the information to be communicated is sensitive, confidential or classified; additional security measures may be required and the methods of communication restricted.

The range of ‘technologies’ used to communicate information are very wide and can range from simple written documents (physical paper or electronic formats such as PDF) to extensive integrated documentation which can be only accessed via specialized software. Online technologies include interactive databases, and websites; social media technologies integrated with various computer platforms and mobile devices to enable various forms of collaboration and information exchange. The methods used to communicate information among project team and stakeholders can vary significantly, but the following list includes some communication tools and artefacts that can be used:

  • Noticeboards (physical or virtual);
  • Does the organization have an effective knowledge management system that can be used? • Letters to team members; • Press releases; • Various forms of reports; • Emails and intranets;
  • Web portals and other information repositories (for ‘pull’ communication);
  • Phone conversations;
  • Presentations;
  • Team briefings and various types of meetings;
  • Focus groups and facilitated workshops (for ‘problem solving);
  • Face-to-face formal or informal meetings between various stakeholders;
  • Consultation groups or staff forums (face-to-face or virtual);
  • Social computing technology and media – this is becoming a more fashionable method; however, it seems to abuse the context in which it was originally intended for

The design of each communication needs to be based on the needs of the receiver and focused on ensuring the ‘controls message’ is communicated efficiently and is understood and acted upon by the receiver.

Item 3 – Modern Functions of Management (GPCCAR Module 02.4.3)

All Project Controls Practitioners will develop their own individual competencies, but their managers need to be guiding role models which hones these competencies into expert craftsmen. The GPC was heavily influenced by the following management guru’s:

  • Henry Fayol with his “5 Management Functions” and “14 Principles of Management”
  • Clarence “Kelly” Johnson of Skunkworks fame with his “14 Rules of Management”
  • Edwards Deming and his “7 Deadly Diseases” and his “14 Principles of Management”

More recently, the GPC has also been influenced by the work of Peter Drucker, Henry Mintzberg and Patrick Lencioni and much of the “best tested and proven” practices” are based on the work of these researchers. While this Module 02 covers the fundamental theories of Fayol, Johnson, Deming and Drucker, it also included the more current thinking of Mintzberg, Tuckman and Lencioni, the latter two having a strong focus on team building and identifying & fixing dysfunctional teams. Featured in Module 02-4 – Developing Management Competencies is Tuckman’s “Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning” which is so important, especially in project based environments (refer to Blog 01 posted many months ago). This supports the #1 attribute identified by the NACE research shown in figure 1 above.

The following are quotes from the Druker and Mintzberg (GPCCAR)

Below are 10 quotes from Peter Drucker which have important relevance to the project control managers of today and tomorrow, particularly those who are managing the Millennial Generation.

  1. “Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right.” For planners and schedulers in particular, this has relevance especially during the early phases of the project development. Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3, as subject matter experts we need to be willing, as part of our assumption testing, to ask whether or not this project should be done at all.
  2. “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” This is why the GPC BoK has taken some strong stands on certain issues. There are many “best tested and proven” practices that we SHOULD do but have gotten in the habit of not doing. Given that projects fail with such alarming regularity, we have a moral if not legal obligation to do our part to increase the success rate.
  3. “There is nothing quite as useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.” Here again, this comes back to the planner/scheduler as subject matter expert. We must be willing to challenge some of the projects we are being assigned to.
  4. “What gets measured gets improved.” Isn’t this the very heart and soul of Project Controls? In particular, Module 10- Managing Project Progress?
  5. “Results are gained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems.” Very powerful words. When we get to Module 4- Managing Project Risk & Opportunity, you will see that the GPC has put as much emphasis on managing opportunity as we put on managing risk.
  6. “So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.” Here again, this simple statement has potentially profound meaning for planners/schedulers. Are our schedules actually making it EASY for people to work or are our schedules actually making it difficult to work? This is going to become an even bigger issue when we start creating schedules using BIM. The reason being, building a project in a computer is unlikely to even come close to what will really happen in the field. As planners/schedulers, we need to be able to look at what the 4D BIM has produced or created and apply the appropriate contingency from Module 4-Managing Project Risk/Opportunity and adjustment factors from Module 5- Managing Resources to make the schedules more realistic.
  7. “People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.” This concept is covered in Module 4- Managing Risks & Opportunities. Both risks and opportunities WILL happen. Our job as project control professionals is to help identify them, and alert the appropriate decision makers so they can take appropriate actions.
  8. “Meetings are by definition a concession to a deficient organization. For one either meets or one works. One cannot do both at the same time.” In terms of project controls, isn’t this why we are moving to web based dashboards to help us communicate project status quickly and more efficiently?
  9. “Long-range planning does not deal with the future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.” Again, in terms of project controls, doesn’t this help explain the rationale behind what we know as “Rolling Wave Planning”? For the future, this is why we are more than likely moving beyond the traditional forward pass/backwards pass scheduling programs and will eventually be using systems dynamics software which requires the use of feedback loops, something we cannot do with Primavera and MS Project.
  10. “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things” Lastly, the relevance of this is it represents an ethical question that is going to engulf the practice of project management, including project controls. Should we as project team members, be held accountable if we know a project is doomed to fail and we don’t do something about it? Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) in the USA, Audit, Investigations and Community Enterprise) Act of 2004 in the UK and a host of comparable laws in the European Union are holding management at all levels, including project managers (and with them, potentially project control managers?) legally accountable if projects knowing cause shareholder value to be negatively impacted.

Below are 10 quotes from Henry Mintzberg which have been selected for their relevancy to project control managers to reflect on and consider, whether you manage as a team leader or a full project control department.

  1. “The great myth is the manager as orchestra conductor. It’s this idea of standing on a pedestal and you wave your baton and accounting comes in, and you wave it somewhere else and marketing chimes in with accounting, and they all sound very glorious. But management is more like orchestra conducting during rehearsals, when everything is going wrong.” This analogy has a lot of significance for project control practitioners. Given that projects are “unique one-time events” and given that we only have one shot to get them right, what are the contributions that the project control professional can or should make to ensure that projects consistently finish on time and within budget? This is what has driven the GPC to adopt Double Loop Learning as the basis for our continuous process improvement model.
  2. Corporations are social institutions. If they don’t serve society, they have no business existing. Organizations are communities of human beings, not collections of human resources. The relevance of this philosophy to project controls is what (if any) responsibility to we, as project controllers have in terms of corporate social responsibility? (CSR) What can or should we be doing within the practice of project controls to support or enhance CSR?
  3. I describe management as arts, crafts and science. It is a practice that draws on arts, craft and science and there is a lot of craft – meaning experience – there is a certain amount of craft meaning insight, creativity and vision, and there is the use of science, technique or analysis. Look at the Guilds Competency Levels. Isn’t one of the major components of those levels based on EXPERIENCE? And not just the same experience, but increasingly more challenging experience, under the watchful eyes of a mentor? So here Mintzberg’s philosophy has served to shape the development of not only our GPC BoK, but also the competency assessment model we have developed.
  4. Everyone is against micro managing but macro managing means you’re working at the big picture but don’t know the details. Here is yet another common thread found in the GPC BoK. That project management is about managing the details. This is the concept underlying Activity Based Costing (ABC) (Module 8) and Module 9- Managing Project Progress, which is based on Activity Based Management (ABM)
  5. Basically, managing is about influencing action. Managing is about helping organizations and units to get things done, which means action. Sometimes, managers manage actions directly. They fight fires. They manage projects. They negotiate contracts. In project controls, our roles, especially as planners and schedulers, is to influence action- first we facilitate the creation of the schedule baseline, then we track and report against this baseline, making recommendation based on our analysis. This is covered in Module 07 – Managing Project Planning & Scheduling and again in Module 09- Managing Project Progress, but the concept is found throughout the GPC BoK.
  6. Management is a curious phenomenon. It is generously paid, enormously influential, and significantly devoid of common sense. This is one of the challenges we face as key project management team members. What happens when management has instructed us to create a schedule and/or cost budget which we know to be unrealistic? This comes back to the ethical if not legal obligations we have if we are to earn the right to call project controls a profession.
  7. You can teach all sorts of things that improve the practice of management with people who are managers. What you cannot do is teach management to somebody who is not a manager, the way you cannot teach surgery to somebody who is not a surgeon. This is why the Guild of Project Controls is not encouraging companies who “teach to the exam” and why our competency assessment model has been based on that used by the licensed trades and other professions such as commercial aircraft piloting and commercial truck drivers.
  8. What I have against M.B.A.s is the assumption that you come out of a two-year program probably never having been a manager – at least for full-time younger people M.B.A. programs – and assume you are ready to manage. This philosophy is what shaped the decision by the GPC to focus on EXPERIENCE in our competency assessment model. And not just any experience but progressively more challenging experience, conducted under the watchful eyes of peer reviewers.
  9. We’re all flawed, but basically, effective managers are people whose flaws are not fatal under the circumstances. Maybe the best managers are simply ordinary, healthy people who aren’t too screwed up. Our job as project control professionals is to help project and program managers keep from screwing up. We help them create a reasonable and achievable plan, then we track and report progress against the plan, with the objective to help the program or project manager lead the team in keeping to the plan.
  10. No job is more vital to our society than that of the manager. It is the manager who determines whether our social institutions serve us well or whether they squander our talents and resources. This applies not only to program and project managers, but to project control managers.

Modern Management (distributed authority) – in today’s environment it is impossible to attempt to a ridged hierarchy based on formal instructions as lead to inefficiencies and communications breakdowns. An effective leader needs to establish clear guidelines and protocols regarding the chain of command and how the team will operate, so that everyone in the project team knows what they have to do and who is accountable. This should unify the actions of the team based on the leader’s intent; Once this framework is in place, properly trained team members can go straight into the performing stage of their activity. A successful Team is both trusted and empowered, with an open communication dialogue, all being mini-leaders and motivating one another, as a high-performance team. This concept was developed by the Prussian military at the beginning of the 19th Century with its core tenet of ‘bounded initiative’. It is imperative that people within the organization hierarchy have proper training and fully understand their leader’s rationale and objectives, once this is understood, lower tier personnel can formulate their action plans and tasks appropriately.

Selection of Preferred Alternative

There are no preferred alternatives in this case, all 4 items listed above are needed to enhance current knowledgebase ahead of the GPC ELPC Examination.

Monitoring Post Evaluation Performance

Post evaluation monitoring will be to see if what has been provided above has been fully understood and useful to assist successful passing of the examination, and then used on future projects to demonstrate the effectiveness and value of what a Project Control Practitioner provides to the project team, and decision-making process.



2 Replies to “W28_SJP_Knowledge Enhancement for GPC ELPC Examinations (Part 7)

  1. EXACTLY the type of posting that will help you prepare for the 5 CROSS MODULE questions you are going to be seeing on your 5 hour long GPC ELPC exams.

    Keep up the great work and I truly am going to miss reviewing your blogs and papers after the course is done…..

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia


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