The Big Lie Inside Construction Project Management

The Big Lie Inside Construction Project Management

Why your construction projects struggle and often disappoint.

The term “construction management” has become more and more common in the construction sector. In simple words, construction management is the amalgamation of the two words, construction and management. It can also be defined as the overall inspection, supervision and management of the quality, cost, materials, processes, practices and several other functions of a building project. Right from the laying of the foundation stone up till the handover and completion of the construction project comes within the scope of construction management.

The goals of construction project management are to provide a project that satisfies the needs of the client while staying within the budget, on schedule, and with an acceptable level of risk, quality and safety. There are usually several stakeholders involved in the process like architects, builders, site supervisors and civil engineers but project managers are responsible for the overall supervision of a building project, from start to finish. They have to lead a team, oversee every phase and constantly demonstrate their efficiency on projects of comparable value.

Today, a lot of project managers are skipping lunch breaks, working for longer hours (including weekends and evenings) and going the extra mile to ensure that their teams meet deadlines, adhere to set budgets and reach targets, only to break down when they cannot figure out why their projects failed.

Reasons for project failures vary but all too often, those failures occur because the managers’ approach to strategic planning wasn’t holistic.

The way project managers handle construction projects is probably broken, though they may not know it because there’s a big lie embedded in their conventional view of project management.

The Big Lie

The Big LieUnbeknownst to many, project management in the modern and current era is pretty much a failure. And, perhaps one of the most credible and reliable sources of data on this failure includes the biannual project success survey (the Chaos Report) of Standish Group.

The survey consists of three classifications of project completion, namely, Successful, Challenged and Failed. And, if we take the data that was collected for the last 10 years –which has been pretty stable and constant – we can see how only 30 % of all construction projects were successfully completed. In other words, many have struggled with issues like budget, quality, availability of materials and labor, scope, schedule, satisfaction and more.

Currently, we are living in the Phanerozoic eon, Cenozoic era and Holocene epoch. In other words, we are in a phase where technological advancements, mass communications and high literacy can create opportunities for humans to thrive. But, a 30 % success in the construction industry is a clear indictment of a huge failure. It seems what we call “project management” is doing very little to ensure project success.

But, what is the reason behind these struggles and failures? What is the big lie?

The Big LieThere is a parable about a group of five blind men coming across –for the first time –an elephant and touching it to learn more about it. The story thus encourages us to develop perspective awareness.

The lie here is very simple yet very complex. Project managers tend to be too optimistic and excessive optimism often comes across as blind to inevitable challenges. Too often, project managers tend to be blind to the lack of detail control, unclear objectives, unrealistic expectations, poorly assigned roles and poor communication. This “ignorance” then emerges and stands as a challenge to project management.

The natural reaction of project managers is to “solve” the problem but they often fail to find the “root” of the problem. Instead of dwelling on “what to do”, determining the root cause of a problem can drive effective problem-solving.


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