Reform Management Model

Your call for more team building in the editorial on the collapse at the airport terminal in Paris asks all parties to shake off adversarial pressures and work more tightly as a team (ENR 2/21 p. 56). And, as you note happened after the Hyatt collapse, there will be calls for more oversight and communication. We agree that such calls will have little impact on an industry dedicated to the fantasy that the highest project performance can be achieved by getting the lowest price for each piece.

Having said that, changes in procurement, oversight, communications and team building are insufficient to prevent another collapse or to make significant improvements in project delivery. For that, we must reform the way we think about and manage work in project settings. This can happen when procurement rules change, communication improves and teams are built intentionally. But it doesn’t always, and it won’t happen with increased oversight. The hard truth is that the way we manage work increases risk. A deeper change is required in the way work is managed if we are to expect uniformly better results.

The current approach to managing work in projects is built on a central command and control model that cannot assure predictable workflow. Project controls pressure every one to go fast and minimize cost locally. The adversarial pressures you identify are the result of a failed project delivery model. Teambuilding, partnering and the design-build contracts can help but will remain patches on a system designed to fail unless they lead to deeper reform.

Forget About Metric

Your opinion that the industry is ignoring reality in its shrinking from metrification is in itself ignoring reality (ENR 3/14 p. 56). While metrification, in theory, should reduce costs and make the U.S. more competitive in the global market place, the reality is that it probably does work in some manufacturing markets like automotive that are already globalized. But in our domestic construction market it only slows things down and drives up costs.

Unfortunately the lofty conclusion that metrification would be better for everyone was arrived at by theoretical "experts" in academia and Washington think tanks. Then, our politicians and bureaucrats who believe they know better what is good for us than we do attempted to force it down our throats. No one consulted the practical, experienced people in the construction industry.

The reality is that the construction industry has resisted metrification because we’re just not ready for it. Unfortunately it raises costs in the short term and even beyond. Even our schools are not ready for it. If the industry, with its vast base of suppliers and subcontractors, could see real value in metrification we would have embraced it long ago

James E. Jackson
Cives Steel Co.
Acero Division
Laredo, Texas