Fitness for purpose and meeting the requirements: prerequisites for project success

Where has the last year gone? For me it’s been spent publishing a book on the need to re-balance the “iron triangle” in favour of quality i.e. getting things right to boost project success, and developing courses in that for Sellafield’s Project Academy and UCL.

The book illustrates the principles with real case studies, both personal experiences and public domain.

I recently watched a documentary, just 1 year after the tragic event,  on the collapse of the “Morandi” bridge in Genoa, killing 43 and injuring others. This is a case study I would have used in the book had it not been finalised then.

As with so many disasters, a number of quality failures conspired to result in death and destruction:

  1. The design was not fit for purpose – the design had a single point of failure; if one of the stays failed, the bridge would fail. By encasing the stay cables in concrete to “protect against” corrosion, it made visual inspection of corrosion impossible too.
  2. The build did not meet requirements – the steel stay cables were supposed to be completely embedded in highly alkaline grout that would prevent corrosion, but there were voids in the grout that left steel cables exposed to air and water, leading to corrosion.
  3. Maintenance did not meet the requirements – only two of the 3 pylons supporting the bridge were repaired, when corrosion in them was discovered to be dangerously advanced. The third was considered to be non-urgent due to the state of corrosion being under-estimated – the corrosion measuring techniques were inaccurate and not fit for purpose. This was the pylon that collapsed.

Getting things right is a prerequisite for project success; using completion on time and budget as primary KPIs for project success drives skimping and corner-cutting. These lead to rework, delays and subsequent failures, sometimes with tragic results.

Skimping on getting it right doesn’t save time and definitely doesn’t save money!

“Fairness” is programmed into us…

It’s interesting to see that wanting to be treated fairly is something we share with our primate cousins.

It’s not culture, it’s not ethics, it’s not morals, it’s neurobiology!

Ties in nicely with the news that Microsoft is ditching its employee performance rating system that demanded unfairness.

If Gordon Gekko is listening  – “Greed may NOT be good”.