Can you answer these questions? Mega Projects Trivia

Please treat this post with a bit of fun! Although we are posting serious questions about mega projects and the management of these massive projects, it good to be relaxed about them. We asked questions about people, team size, communication, and so on. I have to stress, that this blog article and a few others I have and will be posting about, are related to my work on the book Leading Mega Projects, a Tailored Approach. This book will be published by CRC Press, Taylor & Francis before the end of 2019.

Leading Mega Projects, a Tailored Approach

The Mega Project’s Questions

All of these questions were posted on LinkedIn, each one in a separate post. Therefore, if you like to read the discussions, I will put a link with each question.

  1. Can a #PMP calculate how many communication channels exist on a mega project? Link to LinkedIn
  2. How many people should be on the project management team of a mega project? On the project owner side. Link.
  3. What type of organization structure is best for these projects? Link.
  4. What is the typical duration for a mega project? I know it is not fixed but a rough range. Link.

The Answers

Before you continue to read, do you want to guess and try to answer one or all of these questions?

Remember, be cool!

All of these questions are too open and impossible to answer with certainty. Anyone answering with certainty, we encourage you to read more about mega projects, capital projects, and even project management in general. The answers must start with: It depends!

(1) Communication channels

One of the things I hate about leading a PMP class is having to to explain formulas that do not make sense. They are mathematically correct but for all practical reasins they are useless. In other words, to get the PMP you will have to kill a few brain cells. The formula that irriates me the most is the calculatin for the number of communication channel. It is useless. In three decades of project management experience and almost four decades of education and general experience, I have never, seen the formula in used on projects. Did I say never, if not, NEVER.

When we develop our project management plan, inclusive of the communication plan; our focus is on effective communication and not counting channels. For started, the number of people on the project is extremely difficult to count; if we include all of those involved. At peak of a mega project we could have 5000 workers and hundredes of engineers and project management staff at different levels. The numbers go up and down daily, like the stock market.

Sure, we can use the formula on the core team? How many people is there? I got it, instead of counting people let us calculate how many team channels. Maybe that would be more logical, but let me close with this: do you know a formula to tell you how complex, or extremely complex communication can be on a mega projects?

(2) No or people on the Project Management Team (PMT)

The focus of the question was about the project management team size on the project owner side. I cannot even attempt to answer this question since there are too many variables.

My objective of posting this question is a bit sacracastic; be cool!

Why?

Because, over the years, we have seen project owners kill their internal technical and project management functions, assuming they had one. Or, it is likely that the project owner organization never built the project management function or capacity to manage projects, especially mega projects. As a result, they have no choice but to outsource.

The result; the project management team on the owner side (or better call owner reps) could be a few (less than 10 or even 5) or as high as 50 or more. The main criteria are the complexity of the project, how many subprojects does it have, is the owner using a PMC (Project Management Consultancy – management company) or not, and of course the organizational culture and project management maturity.

(3) Type of organization structure

This is too complex to answer here and maybe I will have a separate article about it in the future. However, for those in the certification words that are interested; these are often strong matrix!

(4) Project duration

I love to hear responses to these questions because it shows how we often answe without a parameter or context. Some of you might know the joke about “would you jump out of an airplane without a parachute for $1M?” I am sure the majority would say no; not realizing the trick; the plane could be on the ground. The plane could be small.

For the project’s duration, we must first define the duration of what? Concept to Closure, Implementation only, or something in between? Here is an example:

For projects in the process industry (Petroleum, Minining, Petrochemical), the “execution phase”; from full funding to completion is 3 to 4 years. If we expand this to include the front end phases of the project; this might be 5 to 6 years. If we go back to the idea and concept, it can adds another 2+ years.

Closing Remarks, well kind off

Maybe I should close with a few more questions for fun?

  • How many PMPs or PRINCE2 do you need to manage such a project?
  • One reader once posted, basically implying these the idea of managing mega projects is “an animal S–_” and said “It does matter whether you are managing a backyard shed or a mega dam, project management is the same. What do you think?

Leading Mega Projects, a Tailored Approach

To learn more about building a shed, sorry I mean a mega project, there are a few good books already. Some of them focus on engineering and construction. Other focus on the sponsor or front end loading. Some references are about process industries others are about infrastructure projects. What we working on, via Leading Mega Projects, a Tailored Approach, is to capture all of the learning from these great resources (some of them in the next image); integrate them with the learning of a few case studies, and our own #CAMMP, to propose a model, concept to closure tailored approach, for the leadership of mega projects (leadership, include management). Stay tuned!

The Cover of Leading Mega Projects is just a place holder – not the final cover!