Foreshadowing of failure: Lack of front end planning

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The lack of front end planning and adequate early spending is a key reason why projects fail, or at the very least take longer and go over budget. Or to phrase it another way, lack of early investment leads to failure.

People and organisations often drag their feet and are slow to really commit to a new project.

It’s tempting to look at the workload of the team in the early days of the project and believe that extra resources are not yet required. Or that it’s too early to get certain team members involved. An example would be engaging the construction manager in the design phase of a project

While the cost of engaging these people early in the project has a clear and obvious cost. But what is not obvious is the cost of not engaging them. Paying this hidden cost is done not directly but indirectly through miscommunication, misunderstanding and ‘accelerated timelines’ later in the project. An example would be the design team developing and approving a design which presents unnecessary challenges to the construction team. This results in a rushed design iteration during the early construction phase or the construction team undertaking additional work in the same amount of time.

Often the reluctance to engage these type of people early is due to budget restrictions. The budgets have often been created and set by the bid team. A team which does not bear the responsibility for delivering the project. Often, looking at the spending plan for a project it has been foreseen not engage a construction manager until the start of the construction phase. Early engagement of this manager would require additional budget.

There’s an argument to spend early to reduce costs later. If you look at typical S curves for a project, projects tend to underspend early in the project cycle and overspend in the last half.

I would encourage project managers to spend early. Spending more on the right things early will help you stay on track, avoid miscommunications later in the project, achieve a design consensus and design freeze earlier.

These factors make it easier to stay on schedule and within budget over the long term.

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