Managing major projects

Managing major projects

There is a different way: how major projects in Germany could run more smoothly

The projects affected include large infrastructure projects such as the international airport in Berlin or refurbishments of famous cultural institutions such as the Stuttgart State Theater. That this cannot continue has been recognized at the most senior levels, and has led to activities such as in the Federal Ministry of Transport: Since 2015, a ‘Manual of Large-Scale Projects’ containing the recommendations of a panel of experts is available with aims including improving cost truthfulness, cost transparency and schedule stability, as well as the transparent presentation of risks.

But there is no need to wait that long. As most of the reasons for the malaise are home-made, they are basically already known.

They are:

  • User processes and incomplete planning specifications
  • Principal’s organization and responsibilities unclear – Unrealistic cost expectations, failure to perform projections, and lack of risk analysis
  • Ineffective planning and construction processes, excessive project duration
  • Lengthy approval procedures and project interruptions
  • And finally, lack of transparency and an incorrect assessment of the general public.

Generally, any one of these issues is sufficient to derail a complex project. When several occur at the same time, they often amplify each other. But this could be avoided: Known issues are also solvable – if everyone puts the interests of the project as a whole ahead of self-interest.

As Drees & Sommer’s practical management experience shows, cost-effective, timely, high-quality execution of largescale projects is indeed possible. Numerous examples, including the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, the new Trade Fair Center in Stuttgart, and the complex refurbishment of the Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt demonstrate this.

But an optimal process can only be achieved if the principal is prepared to meet the following conditions:

  • Define objectives clearly
  • Adhere to defined objectives
  • Establish a professional organization
  • Make quick and clear decisions after appropriate preparation.

If these conditions are met, project managers and engineers can ensure a project is completed on schedule, within budget and at the required quality:

Effective project management with Lean Management

Modern project management is based on the principle of lean processes during every phase of the project. The entire process is based on lean management principles, which facilitate continuous improvement throughout the project period. The goals of lean management are driven by the principles of the value creation process:

  • Maximization of value-add
  • Reduction of waste in all processes
  • Perfection of processes

Lean management is derived from kaizen, a philosophy developed by the car manufacturer Toyota. Kaizen is translated as Continuous Improvement Process (CIP). To prevent ‘waste’ such as defects, cost overruns and project delays, project management has to delve significantly deeper into content and processes. Initially, of course, this is more time-consuming than a conventional approach. But this extra effort is definitely compensated many times over by reductions in time and costs in the double-digit percentage range.