Pinto - Case Study 13.3 (485-486) – “Dear Mr. President -Please Cancel our Project”

Open Posted By: surajrudrajnv33 Date: 24/10/2020 Graduate Research Paper Writing


CASE STUDY 13.3 “Dear Mr. President—Please cancel our project!”: The Honolulu Elevated Rail Project Speaking on the status of Honolulu’s Elevated Rail public transport system, former Hawaii Governor Benjamin Cayetano had an interesting message for President Trump: “As a lifelong Democrat and former governor of Hawaii, I opposed your candidacy. I must admit, however, that you are on the right track scrutinizing wasteful spending on pork barrel projects.” The admission by former governor Cayetano was prompted by the latest details emerging from a project that the New York Times has written is in danger of becoming a financial boondoggle. The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s (HART) 20-mile elevated heavy steel rail system that has been under construction for six years is now slated to cost nearly $10 billion, or $500 million per mile. If these costs are realized, Honolulu’s rail project would have the distinction of being the most expensive transit project in the country’s history. Honolulu is a beautiful but increasingly congested city on the south coast of Oahu. Residents and visitors have long complained that transportation options, highways, and other infrastructure have not kept pace with the growth of the city. In 2008 and following a close referendum vote, the city approved the beginning of the elevated rail system. To partially offset costs of the system, the mayor and city council instituted a temporary excise tax increase for residents and visitors. They also received $1.5 billion in Federal funding to support the project. Initially budgeted for $4.6 billion, the rail project is intended to start in the western edge of Honolulu, run through the middle of the city, and terminate at the Waikiki beaches. Included in the huge project are 21 stations, of which seven will be elevated and set 60 feet high above the city’s streets, and a 35-foot high elevated rail line that will run four miles through the middle of the city. The project has drawn fire from residents who are increasingly sick of blocked streets, traffic jams, and dirt and noise from multiple construction sites. In fact, a poll conducted in late 2016 showed that only 15% of the city’s residents favor completion of the rail project. Meanwhile, costs continue to rise. The original $4.6 billion budget was readjusted to $6.7 billion, and with the newly-announced delays in construction, being at least two years behind schedule and counting, the city has announced a five-year extension in the “temporary” excise tax to cover what critics are arguing will actually end up being over $10 billion in costs. Critics of the project such as Mr. Cayetano, who argues that the elevated rail “will change the beauty and ambience of the city forever,” also charge that in addition to its aesthetic shortcomings the final environmental impact study revealed that the rail project would, at best, reduce traffic congestion by under two percent and noted, “traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail.” Opponents of the project note, among other problems, that the Honolulu rail project will employ light rail-sized cars limited to about 650 passengers in two-car combinations. Moreover, it can run only up to four cars for peak period service. Thus, they contend that this rail project is the worst design possible because it combines an intrusive and expensive infrastructure including 21 stations, along with a low passenger carrying capacity where over 60% of passengers will be forced to stand and hold handrails. Advocates of the project also appear to have minimized the power needs for adding this rail system to the city’s electrical grid. In fact, the rail project’s power draw is estimated at nearly 50 MW, which is a major requirement. The city’s utility company is requiring the HART to renegotiate a price for the combined cost of substations, power generation, and possible airport utility relocation tasks that are likely to add an extra $500 million to the price tag. Why has the project budget ballooned to its present state? Some of it is due to issues of timing. When cost estimates were first given to voters, the region was suffering from the effects of the Great Recession and construction work was at a stand-still, leading to expectations of low costs. However, after delays from lawsuits took over a year to resolve, Honolulu’s construction industry had dramatically changed for the better and preliminary cost estimates were no longer even close to accurate. “We gagged on the number. It was something over 60 percent higher than the estimates we had in 2011 and 2010,” said Daniel Grabauskas, the executive director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. Other reasons for the cost escalation are more insidious; critics have long charged the project’s advocates and public officials with deliberately low-balling their initial estimates to win public approval, reasoning that once the project was started and “on the books,” it would be nearly impossible to cancel it. At this stage in the rail project, projected future cost estimates are nearly meaningless. Both advocates and opponents of the rail system understand that the summer of 2017 will be a watershed year for the project,

as the next round of bids for construction along the critical four-mile corridor through downtown Honolulu is set to be held. Opponents like former governor Cayetano and Dr. Panos Prevedouros, a civil engineering professor at the University of Hawaii, are adamant that the project’s budget is not supportable. “They cannot complete the four in-town miles because those are very expensive and we don’t have an actual budget for them,” noted Prevedouros, who has run for mayor as an opponent of the project. “Honolulu’s rail project does not deserve a single dollar more from the federal government,” stated Cayetano. “It has become a poster boy for how politics, incompetence, disinformation and outright lies are at the root of wasteful rail projects which do little for the public except raise taxes.”19


Why are public works projects like the Honolulu Rail project nearly impossible to stop once they have been approved, even if later cost estimates skyrocket? 

Project management researchers have charged that many large infrastructure projects, like this one, suffer from “delusion” and “deception” on the parts of their advocates. Explain how “delusion” might be a cause of ballooning budgets in this project. How does “deception” affect the final project budget overruns?

 This assignment involves that the student read the case study and answer all questions at the end of the case study in a 4-5 page paper. Your answers must include substantial support from at least two (2) scholarly journal articles on project management. 

Category: Engineering & Sciences Subjects: Engineering Deadline: 12 Hours Budget: $120 - $180 Pages: 2-3 Pages (Short Assignment)

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system. It also has a duty to determine the degree of project adaptation and success in achieving the project's objectives. Performance refers both to the action and the result of that action. In other words, performance is defined as today's action which is the prelude to produce a certain amount of the person's output value. After evaluating performance and determining compliance or non‐compliance with the PMBOK standard, continuous improvement to achieve the optimal expected limit, i.e., creating Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3), continues.

Neely expressed the seven main reasons of desire to measure performance in an article (1999):  Changing nature of work  Increased competition  Innovative activities for improvement  National and international quality awards  Change of organizational maps  Changes in foreign demands  Impact of Information Technology

It should be noted that change in criteria effect the organizational behavior such that the organization adopts those criteria for improvement and gaining higher scores and takes steps for implementation on this basis. Questions that will be raised before establishment of a performance evaluation system are as follows: What should be measured? If the focus is on the performance in the project environment, what is to be measured is performance. But is what we measure performance process or performance outcome? Do we want to know the sectional proof of performance and whether managers can work on a certain standard over a period of time? Do we want to do that measurement individually or as a group? Do we merely measure what managers and supervisors do or we also consider how well it is done?

Several questions raised in the evaluation and assessment also show the subsequent key features. In a system of measurement that is consistent with a standard, focus on performance results and evaluation of managers is during a regular period. The important point is whether the performance evaluation assesses competency (Bayati, 2006) or excellence. What is essential in performance evaluation is the level of compliance with the standard of project management knowledge and this compliance should be evaluated in comparison with all management processes. The goal of any performance measurement system (Bolourian et al., 2007) is to determine the success or the level of harmony between the components for achieving objective of the performance measurement system. Accordingly, the performance measurement frameworks provided by the researchers are divided into two types of structural and procedural measurement frameworks. The difference between structural and procedural frameworks is related to system definition. Procedural measurement frameworks try to design a step by step procedure to create and implement a measuring system and pay

more attention to the system's third dimension (relationship between components); and because of lacking the structural dimension (components), they do not allow for the selection and management of unique performance criteria. Similarly, the structural frameworks regard the second dimension of performance measurement system and provide a specific guidance for defining criteria based on measurement dimensions.

The performance measurement (Teymouri and Ali, 2009) system includes a number of performance criteria.

By identifying the key criteria and indicators in PMBOK processes in the project population as well as interviewing and distributing questionnaires, the level of project management maturity is measured. First, the project manager, managers, and supervisors are encouraged to complete the questionnaires by self‐declaration. After collecting the questionnaires, the items contained in them are audited using detailed interview. Due to the unique characteristics of each project, evaluation is performed to assess the standard application level of project management in the general framework of evaluation process in areas of standard PMBOK. This is done using a general assessment and self‐ assessment questionnaire based on Dennis Bowles model as well as detailed evaluation tool of project management. 5. Developing evaluation indices

The first and most important step in designing the performance evaluation system is to identify and develop the practical measures commensurate with the responsibilities of the project manager and project team managers regarding their position in accordance with the process groups in the project. These indexes must be based on PMBOK standard to be measurable. This means that the indicators should be measurable. For measurement, the indexes should certainly be quantitative. Measures and criteria are defined based on the following indices:  Key indicators: set of parameters measuring a specified criterion for a component.

 Key criteria: conditions, predefined values and measures determined in the scoring model for assessing alignment with the objectives.

 Key performance indicators: a measure which provides the possibility of assessment and reporting. Audit is a systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining evidence and its factual evaluation for meeting the criteria. The criteria were extracted and classified

commensurate with the duties of directors and high‐ ranking officials in the project management team by getting comments of each and regarding the requirements of PMK areas in accordance with the PMBOK standard. The important point is that all the criteria must be instances of the areas of knowledge management so that we can audit them after

Khashayar Bagherinia, Masoud Olapour / International Journal of Advanced and Applied Sciences, 3(9) 2016, Pages: 10‐15 


quantification based on performance evaluation process.

Examples of performance evaluation indicators based on objective, measures, and output in accordance with the standard PMBOK

According to the following table, the expected outputs are defined and categorized for each area of the project management knowledge based on standards (Table 1).

Table 1: Categorize project management knowledge area

Area Goal Metric measurement target Main outcomes expected Integrity

management Identify, define, combine and

coordinate project management processes

Contrary to other metrics

Project charter, project plan

Scope Management The project must consist of the works required for the project The ratio of scope

changes Detailed statement of

scope Time management Timely completion of project Time performance Project Scheduling Cost Management Completion of the project with approved cost Cost performance Cost planning

Quality management

Fulfill the committed qualitative requirements

Duplication ratios, customer satisfaction

Quality design, reports on control and quality


Human Resource Management

Supply and logistics, maintenance, human resources required for the


Satisfaction of authorities of

responsibility centers, Productivity and job satisfaction of staff

Project structure, project team

Communications Management

Production, collection, distribution, maintenance of project information

Accuracy and timeliness of data of each beneficiary for

his share

Communications program, Performance reporting,

Expectations of stakeholders

Risk management Planning, identifying, analyzing, and responding to project risks Ratio of unmanaged

risks Risk program

Procurement management

Providing products and services of projects outside it

Suppliers satisfaction, customer satisfaction (in this case, the

project implementation team)

Procurement applications, purchase contracts

The results were analyzed after audit of the

authorities in accordance with descriptions of duties within the project organization framework and in field of the related knowledge using self‐declaration and interview methods, .It is obvious that a method should be used for scoring the quantified criteria. To facilitate assessment, some weight and scores were considered for the indexes and then, regarding the weight of each index, AHP (Farahani, 2006) was used to analyze the scores obtained in audit. 6. The issue of selecting options on the basis of criteria

In general, decision‐making process is divided into two categories regarding decision space: continuous and discrete. Decision making in discrete space is divided into two categories of single criteria. The criteria are also divided into three qualitative, quantitative, and mixed (qualitative and quantitative) categories. Hierarchical AHP is a method that allows correct decision making in the presence of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed criteria. 7. Performance evaluation and scoring the project management checklist

After finalizing indexes and weighting each of them by getting the comments of authorities and the project team as well as previous experiences in using AHP for each index, we defined a number for each index from zero to 100 according to Table 2.

After preparation of the final scoring table in the project management checklist, self‐declaration questionnaires were distributed and completed by the project management team. Then, audit was done in the final assessment using interviews (Figs. 2 and 3). 8. Conclusions

The final result is obtained from the study and comparison of the audit scores in process groups of 9 knowledge areas of project management in compliance with the standard and based on the following graph.

It is observed that project management performance shows the average condition in comparison with the process groups and knowledge domains based on PMBOK standard. The organization is weak in areas where it has attained scores less than 50. It should be tried to improve the areas where the score is more than 50 in order to achieve organizational maturity and OPM3 model (Fig. 4).


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Khashayar Bagherinia, Masoud Olapour / International Journal of Advanced and Applied Sciences, 3(9) 2016, Pages: 10‐15 


analysis and recognition of the root causes of problems and weaknesses of each process are defined.

Hence, project management performance can be evaluated by assessing the process groups as the outputs of 9 groups of project management knowledge; and performance of each director in the

project can be assessed and scored. By defining the weaknesses in each field of knowledge, the expected outputs can be strengthened and correctly used and also the ultimate goal of performance evaluation, enhanced efficiency, and managers' effectiveness can be achieved.

Fig. 4: Project management performance in comparison base on standard

9. Suggestions and recommendations

Since the evaluation of the process by which the performance of project managers and formally evaluated at regular intervals and assessed at each stage of the project life cycle to identify and confirm knowledge of strong managers with motivational levers to improve their operational performance. In addition to identifying the weaknesses of managers with accurate planning is necessary to fill.

May be one way process groups is audited and evaluated and even establish a way they are implemented but standard implementation and success of the project simply is not the main goal, but profitability and gain market share experience and lessons learned should be taken into account It is recommended that, at the end of the project re‐ evaluated performance in addition to compatibility with standards referred cases re‐examined Finally, the utility and success to be measured. References

Bayati A and Naseri H (2006). Project management association: Project manager competency development framework. Rasa Publication, Tehran, Iran: 12– 16.

Bolourian E, Arab H and Makvandi A (2007). Creation of centers of excellence in project

management, Bulls, Dennis. 1st Edition, the National Petrochemical Company, Tehran, Iran: 43‐56.

Farahani M (2006). Implementing standard PMBOK processes using analytical hierarchy process (AHP). 4th International Project Management Conference, Tehran.

Kamandi PK and Darabi H (2009). Project Management Institute (PMI). PMBOK Guide, 1st Edition, Hami Publications, Tehran, Iran: 31‐36.

Osouli H, Shakeri A, Samimi M, Mokhtar A Manouchehri M and Naseri H (2008). Comprehensive project management maturity model. 1st Edition, the National Petrochemical Company, Tehran, Iran.

Shafae'i R and Sarmadi P (2008). Performance management in manufacturing industry. 1st Edition, Nasir Publications, Tehran, Iran.

Teymouri L and Ali AMH (2009). Measurement of business performance.1st Edition, University of Science and Technology, Tehran, Iran.

Zoka'ei AM (2008). Project management institute, PMBOK. 3rd Edition, Adineh Publications, Tehran, Iran: 54‐63.






1‐ Integration management

2‐ Scope management

3‐ Time management

4‐ Cost management

5‐ Quality management

6‐ Human Resource management

7‐ Communications management

8‐ Risk management

9‐ Procurement management



Attachment 2




Project Management Journal, Vol. 45, No. 1, 67–75

© 2014 by the Project Management Institute

Published online in Wiley Online Library

(wileyonlinelibrary.com). DOI: 10.1002/pmj.21395

February/March 2014 ■ Project Management Journal ■ DOI: 10.1002/pmj 67

02/18/2014 11:15 AMpmj_21395.indd 67


This paper reviews the problems of project

management as reported by 1,879 individu-

als employed in the construction, manufac-

turing, process, and service industries in

North-West Europe over 23 years. Data

obtained by a written questionnaire confirms

that organizational relationships need the

most attention. The data exhibits no trends

over the 23 years. It indicates that many of

the problems of project management are

“institutional”; in other words, they are due

to organizational cultures rather than inher-

ent in project work. The evidence supports

the view that poor discipline at the front-end

of projects results in too much “fire-fighting”

in project execution to overcome problems

that could have been prevented. Prevention

of these institutional problems requires

action at the level of corporate governance,

above the level of project management.

KEYWORDS: project problems; avoidable problems; “fire-fighting”;

project governance

Evidence-Based Scope for Reducing “Fire-Fighting” in Project Management Stephen Wearne, Management of Projects Group, School of Mechanical, Aerospace & Civil Engineering, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom


M any publications have presented the results of investigations into problems of achieving project objectives, particularly with atten- tion to delays, cost over-runs, poor quality contractual and sup- ply chain faults, their causes and consequences for project and

program successes and failures (Bredillet, 2008). Those studies proceeded with questions to organizations and individuals—including of course project managers—and were planned to obtain information and views on their cho- sen subjects.

This paper is complementary to those investigations; it presents the results of open-ended questions to people in project management on prob- lems that should be studied. The data was obtained about the problems and their causes over 23 years from individuals employed by asset owners, suppli- ers, contractors, and consultant organizations in the construction, manufac- turing, process, and service industries based in North-West Europe.

A total of 1,879 respondents provided data. Their job titles varied greatly, and although titles are an imprecise guide, they indicated that most worked in technical, commercial, and middle management roles for projects. The opportunities to question them were taken when they were entering profes- sional development and post-experience project management programs run by various training and university organizations. Although they were not a random sample of people in these roles in their industries, they had been selected by their employers for courses and were likely to represent their able and more promising employees and thus serve as knowledgeable and constructive guides to the problems. The data was obtained using a short written questionnaire. The questionnaire asked each individual what he or she considered to be the greatest problem of project management, the cause of the problem, and whether the problem was common to both large and small projects. Asking what was the “greatest” problem was designed to force a single statement rather than a list of problems. The first purpose of asking each person what he or she considered to be problems of project manage- ment was to guide course leaders and speakers on adapting their programs to the interests of the people attending them. In this context, valid and reliable information was expected.

The Respondents’ Statements on the Greatest Problems of Project Management The respondents to the questionnaire were free to use their own words in stating the greatest problem. Classification of their statements was there- fore needed to look for changes over time or differences between industrial sectors of employment. For this purpose, a set of categories was chosen, which met these two criteria:

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2007; Meredith & Mantel, 2006; Morris & Pinto, 2004) and they correspond with the factors defined by various authors as the main threats to successful proj- ect management (Clarke, 1999; Cooke- Davies, 2002; Nelson, 2007; Yeo, 2002). It is therefore not surprising that they are dominant in the data on the greatest problems of project management.

More surprising was the relatively small reporting of some other catego- ries, particularly Risk, Quality, and Safety. The word “risk” appeared in some of the statements of the causes of problems of Organization, Time, Project Definition, Change, Contracts, and Cost. Poor quality was mentioned in stating the causes of problems of Organization and Contracts. As stated earlier, Risk, Quality, and Safety were included as separate categories of prob- lems because the practical value of their concepts and techniques had been increasingly emphasized in papers and reports. In reviewing the data obtained, Dobbins (2003) suggested that their low ranking may be because the empha- sis on them in papers and reports has stimulated the development of effective risk, quality, and safety strategies in companies and public authorities—to the point of preventing most or all the potential problems. The low reporting in the Quality and Safety categories may also be because, to people employed on projects, these are seen as constraints

The data in Table 1 shows that 33% of the greatest problems fell into the Organization category and that, together, the two categories Organi- zation and Time encompass 54% of all the statements of the greatest problems. The dominance of these categories of the problems is illustrated in Figure 1.

The Greatest Problems

The categories Organization and Time, along with Resources, Project Definition, Cost, Contracts, and Change, are the topics given the most attention in the literature (Cleland & Gareis, 2006; Lock,

• To use the words that appeared most frequently in the respondents’ state- ments of the greatest problem, for example: communication, cost, time, and resources

• To cover the topics stated in papers in leading journals as important in project management, for example: quality, risk, and safety (Themistocleous & Wearne, 2000; Bredillet, 2008)

Based on these criteria, 11 catego- ries were used to classify the statements of the greatest problems:

Project Definition—including busi- ness objectives, customer’s need, project scope Resources—including personal time, priorities, management support Organization—including roles, com- munications, structure, leadership, teamwork, trust Time—including planning, schedul- ing, delays, time over-runs Cost—including estimating, budget- ing, earned value, cost over-runs Quality—including standards Safety—including health, environment Risk—including uncertainty, risk allo- cation, and risk management Contracts—including buying or sell- ing hardware, software or services, sub-contracts Change—to scope or priorities Inexperience—including lack of knowl- edge

To be brief, the 11 categories are referred to by the first words in the above list in the remainder of the paper.

Some of the statements of the great- est problem fell into more than one category. As reported in a review of the data obtained up to 2004, classifi- cation of each of these was guided by the answer given to the question on the cause of the problem (Hussain & Wearne, 2005).

The Data

Table 1 shows the totals of the respon- dents’ statements of the greatest prob- lem in each of the 11 categories.

Category of Greatest Problem N % Project Definition 202 11

Resources 222 12

Organization 624 33

Time 399 21

Cost 98 5

Quality 14 1

Safety 0 0

Risk 48 3

Contracts 102 5

Change 121 6

Inexperience 49 3

Total 1,879

Table 1: Numbers in each category of greatest problem of project management.








700 Organization



Project Definition







Figure 1: Dominance of some categories of the stated problems of project management.


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try. Figure 3 shows the distribution of the statements of the greatest problem of project management stated by the respondents in each of these sectors.

Figure 3 shows some differences between sectors of industry in the reporting of the greatest problems of project management. Outstanding is the clearly greater reporting of the Organization category of problem in the Construction sector. This greater reporting is logical for the sector in which essentially people and their resources move from project to project to deliver to the other sectors as the receivers of the assets constructed. That the Construction sector sees Project Definition as less problematic than do their project customers in the other sectors is also to be expected. The data indicates other lesser differences but shows that the Organization, Time, and Resources categories are dominant as the greatest problems in all these sec- tors of industry.

Year to Year Data Figure 4 shows the pattern of the 1,879 respondents’ statements of the greatest problems in project management over the years of using the questionnaire to obtain the data.

the greater number of people employed on any one project, and Time problems would be greater because size requires more activities in parallel and there- fore more time interdependence. On the other hand, we expected that Resources problems would be greater on small projects because, as in the authors’ and others’ experience, small projects com- mand less attention in companies, and thus may have to “fight” the larger ones for resources. The data displayed in Figure 2 confirms those expectations. The ranking of the 11 categories of prob- lems does not vary greatly with size, but as indicated, Time was stated by some delegates to be more a problem of large projects, and Resources more a problem of small projects. Organization was stated to be less of a problem for the smaller projects, also as expected, but all these differences are small compared with the differences between these and the other categories of problems. The Organization, Time, and Resources cat- egories of problems were dominant for all project sizes.

Sectors of Industry The delegates were employed in the Construction, Manufacturing, Process, Services, and Utilities sectors of indus-

rather than variables in project deci- sions. As a result, the problems are expressed in terms of poor organization or project definition and the conse- quent impacts on time, resources, and cost. The practical result is that Risk, Quality, and Safety are not themselves seen as great problems.

Change was also not stated to be a major category of problems. Some 6% of the answers fell into this category. The word “change” appeared in a few statements of the causes of problems of Organization, Project Definition, Time, Resources, Contracts, Cost, and Risk. Changes are not necessarily negative in impact or “tragic,” as pointed out by Terwiesch and Loch (1999) in a study of change orders in an engineering orga- nization; rather, they are parts of the process of development of a project and coping with uncertainty. Changes can thus be opportunities for real improve- ments to help achieve project objec- tives, but they can greatly affect the planned use of resources, budgets, and schedules. Leading authors consider that controlling changes is therefore a major task in managing projects, but they do not present it as the greatest task or problem (Hass, 2003; Meredith & Mantel, 2006; Turner, 2009).

Size of Projects In answering the questionnaire, 64% of the respondents stated that the greatest problem they had defined was com- mon to large and small projects. A minority stated that the problems dif- fered depending on the size of the project. Of this minority, 75% stated that the problem they had defined was more a problem of large projects, and 25% stated the problem occurred more often in small projects, as shown in Figure 2.

Many authors state that the needs of small projects are different from those of large projects (for instance Loftus, 1999), but no reported studies have pro- vided quantitative data. We expected that Organization problems would be greater on large projects, because of












Large Small Common






Project Definition




Figure 2: Greatest problems of project management—Comparisons between large and small projects.

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Comparable Data Mantel (2003) reported the responses from over 500 U.S. project manag- ers when asked about the single most important problem they faced in their day to day work as a project manager. Coping with change was the absolute majority response. Those U.S. project managers were questioned during the late 1980s and early 1990s, overlapping with the start of collecting the European data shown in Table 1. Economic or mar- ket fluctuations over time seem unlikely to explain the apparent differences between their statements. Mantel sug- gested that the difference in responses may be due to the wording of the ques- tions asked. His guidance to the U.S. project managers defined “importance” in terms of “the amount of trouble the problem causes you as a manager,” rather than in terms of potential or actual economic impact on the project. They were asked for the issue causing them the greatest managerial problem in their role. The European respondents were asked about the greatest problem of project management, not the same question, and they responded more in terms of the consequences of problems of Organization and Project Definition and their impacts on Time, Resources, Contracts, Cost, and Risk. Mantel (2003) commented that among the U.S. project managers coping with change was often described in terms of problems of com- munication.

In a review of studies of causes of IT project failures, Nelson (2007) followed other earlier studies in grouping them into four categories: People, Process, Product, and Technology. He found that people and process mistakes were dominant. Motivation and relationships appeared to be the largest influences on the People failures, corresponding well with our Organization category as the greatest problem. Nelson found that wasted time and optimistic underesti- mating appeared to be the largest influ- ences on Process failures, corresponding to our finding that Time and Resources are the next greatest categories. Nelson












Co ns

tru cti


M an

uf ac

tu rin


Pr oc

es s I

nd us


Se rvi

ce s

Ut ilit








Project Definition




Figure 3: Greatest problems of project management—Comparisons between industry sectors.












1991- 1993

1994- 1995

1996- 1998

1999- 2000

2001- 2003

2004- 2005

2006- 2008

2009- 2010

2011- 2013







Project Definition




Figure 4: Greatest problems of project management—Comparisons between year clusters, 1991 to 2013.

As illustrated in Figure 4, the relative importance of the categories of the great- est problems fluctuated, but the same categories of problems—Organization, Time, and Resources—remained domi- nant over the 23 years. The fluctuations could be due to differences in the proj- ect work of the respondents from year

to year, for example, as projects pro- ceed from stage to stage from feasibil- ity studies through to completion and hand-over. The general result significant for defining the demands on project management is that the data exhibits no trend for any of the categories to become more or less dominant.


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project management education, train- ing, and assessment.

“Organization” as the Greatest Problem

Because Organization was the larg- est category of greatest problems reported by the 1,879 respondents, the 624 responses placed in this category were reviewed to see if they constituted two or more distinct categories, which should be considered separately.

The statements in the Organization category referred to problems of author- ity, delegation, influence, interfaces, procedures, relationships, and related issues. A random sample of 1 in 20 of these statements is shown in Table 2. The word “communication” appears in many of the 624 Organization state- ments, but was used mainly to embrace a variety of related problems rather than form a distinct sub-category. Few of the problems as stated could be classified as relating only to structure, systems, leadership, or to other possible sub-cat- egories. Therefore there appeared to be no practical value in considering sub- divisions of the Organization category of problems. This conclusion is consis- tent with the academic and managerial literature on organizations; structures, systems, and leadership are the three sub-headings commonly used, but with emphasis that these are interdependent (Handy, 1999).

The respondents’ references to communications support the view that lack of attention to systems may be one underlying cause of problems. This has been observed elsewhere as a common weakness in engineering and other industries (Parnaby, Wearne, & Kochhar, 2003). Structure, systems, and leadership all need attention. Defects in any one of these are not compen- sated by the others. In other words, all organizations need some structure of direction and accountability, systems for information flow and decisions, and personal skills in relationships between individuals and groups. It is the relative importance of structure, systems, and leadership that varies with the culture,

to answer questions based on a list of topics presented to them rather than choose openly. They were not required to select one topic. As a result, most top- ics scored over 50%. Again, those results are therefore not directly comparable with the data presented in this paper, but they are consistent in that their top ranked topic Leadership corresponds with the top ranked Organization cat- egory of problem (as shown in Figure 1). Although all the above studies asked different questions in different indus- tries and at different times, the results obtained complement the conclusions drawn from the 1,879 statements of the greatest problems. The classification of these statements can thus provide an empirical typology for further research into the problems of project manage- ment and their causes.

Project Management Bodies of Knowledge In their respective Project Management Bodies of Knowledge (PMBoKs), the Project Management Institute (PMI, 2006), the International Project Mana- gement Association (IPMA, 1999), and the Association for Project Management (APM, 2012) list sets of topics or skills they consider to be relevant to educa- tion, training, and assessment for proj- ect management. The data reported here confirms the common view reflected in these professional bodies of knowl- edge and in textbooks that the tasks of project management encompass the range of topics classified here as Organization, Time, Resources, Project Definition, Cost, Contracts, Change Risk, Quality, and Safety. All the categories of problems reported above are covered in those project management bodies of knowledge. The data therefore does not show that the bodies of knowledge need revision. It indicates that the problems are similar in all the roles and industries represented, so that the same core top- ics should have greatest attention in all of them, although some topics are seen to be more prominent in practice and need greater attention than others in

found size to be the largest contributor to Product failure, along with ambi- tious goals, requirements gold-plating, and feature creep, corresponding to our findings on Project Definition and the secondary effect of project size. Nelson found that optimism and switching during a project were the greatest contributors to Technology failures, cor- responding to our ranking of Change.

Surveys conducted in the United Kingdom and the United States to deter- mine the knowledge needed for com- petence in project management have shown that some project management topics are seen by practitioners as more important than others (Morris, Patel, & Wearne, 2000; Morris, Jamieson, & Shepherd, 2006; Smith, 2003). The equivalent Organization topics scored most highly in those surveys, but the respondents to them had been asked to give views on what should be known and understood in project manage- ment, rather than state the problems experienced. They were asked to answer questions based on the lists of topics presented to them rather than choose openly. Also, they were not required to select one topic. As a result, 35 top- ics out of a total of 44 scored over 50%. Those results are therefore not directly comparable with the data presented in this paper. They do support the obser- vation that some categories of problems of project management are more promi- nent than others and the Organization category is highest among them.

Samples of professional engineers in various industries in the United Kingdom questioned in 2002 stated that some managerial skills were more important than others in their work (Dudman & Wearne, 2003). Similar results were obtained earlier from professional engineers in Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, and Western Canada. All these engineers indicated that what were classified as ‘Leadership’ skills were most needed in their work, relative to other busi- ness skills and techniques. In those sur- veys the respondents were also asked

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displays a random sample of 1 in 100 of these statements classified in this way. A question mark indicates those not classed as either institutional or inherent.

Allowing for the uncertainty about the meaning of some words used in stat- ing the causes of problems, the results indicate that more than 75% of the prob- lems are due to institutional practice within organizations rather than inherent in their projects. Many of these problems of project management could therefore be avoided, or at least reduced by early attention to their causes. As a result much of what is called “fire- fighting” in project management—urgent actions on prob- lems that should not have been allowed to occur—could be prevented. To do so requires action on the pre-project pro- cesses of assessing ideas and oppor- tunities to improve project birth. The evidence supports the arguments in sev- eral recent papers, notably by Williams and Knut (2010), Edkins et al. (2012), and Samset and Volden (2013), for improve- ment in the “front end” decisions on project objectives, implementation, and risks before pro jects are selected for implementation.

The words used by the respondents in their statements indicate that these institutional problems are due to corpo- rate culture and decisions. They shape a project but they are above and out of the control of a project manager. They indi- cate the lack of a system that manages the management of projects, a meta-role needed at the corporate level in organi- zations. The corporate control required is akin to the brain’s hypothalamus function, as suggested long ago by Beer (1972). In other words, project sponsors’ organizations need what is now called “project governance” to provide “the structure through which the objectives of the project are set and the means of attaining these objectives are deter- mined” (Turner, 2006). The institutional problems reported in the data are strong evidence in support of the need for orga- nizations to pay attention to their cor- porate project governance advocated by

Greatest Problem of Project Management—Sample of Statements of Organization Problems Managing information supply

Management understanding of what is involved

Getting the balance between delegation and monitoring

Ensuring others complete their tasks

Knowing all the facts, too few people, time

Get a good mixture on teams, common goals

Other people, their actions, behavior at planning

To keep control over outside partners—client, suppliers, subcontractors

People not doing what they said they would. Realistic plans are not accepted

Lack of procedures and organization support

Communication and moving parameters

Improvements never get followed up

Getting results on time from people—people management

Co-ordination of all involved parties. Lack of central focus & information. Timing

Getting the workforce to buy in

Lack of communication or miscommunication!

Conflict of interests

Communication between teams/customer—supplier/etc.


Alignment among the team on; processes, responsibilities, decision authority

Integration of diverse work package to deliver an optimized system which relies on very high levels of inter workstream communication

Definition & recognition. Image—some project managers give a “bad” name to project managers. It’s not an exact science. Striking the right balance

Managing interfaces between internal & external stakeholders

People management

Management or influence without direct authority

Communication—lack of communication, proper communication between PM and the client, PM and Engineers, QS’s, etc.

Communication. Technical support

Getting project management team and stakeholders to share/accept project mission

Lack of understanding of projects by stakeholders

Interface with all stakeholders in functional organization

Table 2: Statements of organization problems—Random sample of 1 in 20 (of 624).

the uncertainties of the work, and the size and autonomy of an organization.

Are the Problems Inherent in Project Management?

Risks to projects can be classified as institutional, meaning due to how their organizations manage their projects, or as inherent, meaning due to the nature

of projects (Wearne, 1997). Applying this distinction to the data, all the respondents’ statements of the causes of the greatest problems of project man- agement were reviewed to classify them as either institutional (e.g., “Lack of in-house control systems”) or inher- ent (e.g., “Number of people involved and complexity of project”). Table 3


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chains, safety, and project definition. All this should have reduced the impact of the problems and increased confi- dence in anticipating them. Yet, over the 23 years of data, these same categories of problems appear to remain the main tasks of project management. The word “unique” is used in some definitions of a project, but many writers have observed that the life cycles of all types of projects are similar. So too may be the categories of problems that need anticipation and control through any project.

The product or service produced from a project is the result of work by other people. Compared with the time and cost techniques first thought to constitute project management, it comes as no surprise that the great- est need is attention to organizational structure, processes, and leadership.

The data obtained over each series of programs made it possible to look for trends in the underlying causes of the problems. Rather than showing any clear trend, so far as represented in the data, the greatest problems appear to be enduring characteristics of project work.

The growth in industrial and profes- sional attention to the needs of proj- ects indicates much more awareness of the potential problems and how to manage them. Wearne (2008) summa- rized how industry, public services, and the project management community have learned from their experience and ideas backward in time, starting over 30 years ago with attention paid chiefly to delays and cost over-runs delivering projects. Since then, much attention has been directed to quality, organizational behavior, risk management, supply

the Project Management Institute and the Association for Project Management (2011), particularly on directing the pro- vision and use of “appropriate methods, resources, and controls” for projects. The concept of the project management office (PMO) is now well recognized for providing guidance and support to the management of project execution (Bolles & Hubbard, 2012; Cuthbert, 2012; Pemsel & Wiewiora, 2012; PM Solutions Research, 2012). It could first be applied corporately before project selection.

Conclusions The first purpose of the questionnaire was to obtain feed-forward to guide edu- cation and training leaders and speak- ers on adapting their programs to the interests of the people attending them.

Sample of Statements of the Causes of the Greatest Problem of Project Management Inherent or Institutional

Difficult to quantify until well into project Inherent

Different groups have different priorities and ways of working Institutional

Lacking experience or knowledge. Conflicting ideas of parties involved Institutional

Top management targets, and resources changes during project ?

Business unwilling to instigate R&D on a long enough timescale Institutional

No common understanding Institutional

Others require my time, work load Institutional

Lot of work is unique and forecasting based on subjective criteria Inherent

Individuals not understanding system of work Institutional

Under resources—Staff—Skills Institutional

Lack of communication with these third parties at the early project stages. All must have visibility to the plan and regular contact with the project manager to update on progress


Conflict of priorities and differing objectives Institutional

Understanding all the linking procedures and owners interpretation/expectations Institutional

Mostly due to very diversified source of people, different priorities & cultural aspects, poor implementation of risk management processes and interface management


Pressure to meet stage gates at prescribed time intervals. Deliverables become snapshots in time regardless of their quality at the time of gate review


Significant pressure on market due to very high activity level in our industry Inherent

Different objective and priority from other parties Institutional

Structure & business strategy alignment Institutional

Team ownership of the promised dates Institutional

Table 3: Causes of the greatest problems of project management; random sample (1 in 100 of 1,859 statements. Note: No cause stated by 20 respondents).

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Asking about their causes has indicated that many problems could be prevented by directing greater attention to corpo- rate systems and decisions at the “front- end” of projects. What is needed may be well recognized within organizations. Priority in further research could there- fore be given to how external forces con- dition institutional practice and how the PMO concept can be applied to improv- ing the decision processes that launch projects.

The data reviewed here is what the respondents reported at the time. Statements of current problems do not necessarily represent future needs, and as Morris warned (1998), the problems of projects as stated by employees do not necessarily correspond with what their employers recognize as impor- tant for their business. The people who provided the data perform or lead the work that influences the success of their organizations’ investments in projects. If what they said is correct, corporate actions are needed to reduce the prob- lems. If what they said is wrong, corpo- rate systems need to learn why they are wrong. The delivery, quality, safety, and cost of new products, processes, and services depend greatly on the mem- bers of project teams such as those represented by these people. Corporate actions that don’t appear to address the greatest problems as seen by them could fail for lack of support.

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Stephen Wearne is Senior Research Fellow, Management of Projects Group, School of Mechanical, Aerospace & Civil Engineering, at the University of Manchester and former- ly employed in the engineering and project management of large hydro power and nuclear power projects in South America and Japan. Professor Wearne is Emeritus Professor of Technological Management, University of Bradford and the author and joint author of books and papers on project organization, joint ventures, procure- ment, and the management of urgent unexpected projects. He can be contacted at [email protected]