Successful Program Delivery – Part 2


Successful Program Delivery Starts Long Before the Program Does – Part 2

Frank R. Parth, MS, MSSM, MBA, PMP

CEO, Project Auditors

California, USA

In part 2 of this series we follow up on the discussion of part 1 by examining the current approaches to these projects as being used by both private industry and by the academic community. We then review two common assessment approaches to determining the thoroughness of the planning and execution stages of the projects.

  1. Survey of Current Approaches to Large, Complex Projects

The approach to managing these projects over the past 30 years has evolved from the “classic” waterfall approach to a much broader approach as we learned to appreciate the impacts of stakeholders and that long projects face significantly greater impacts from the outside environment.

There has been an increasing body of evidence from private organizations such as Independent Project Analysis, Inc. (IPA), from professional organizations such as the Construction Industry Institute (CII) and research sponsored by PMI, private for-profit industries such as Shell, Anglo-American Mining, Saudi Aramco, and Chevron, and academic research that the most critical decisions, the ones that are most likely to make a project successful or to fail, are made by the business decision-makers long before the design and construction stages start.

With this in mind, this Front End Development (FED) approach to stage-gating the project should begin long before the engineering design/EPC phases begin. The seeds of project success are sown in the very earliest set-up stages of a project, before the engineers ever get involved (Williams, T).

One of the first organizations to emphasize a Front End Development approach seriously was Royal Dutch Shell around the year 2000. In 2001, they revised their Project Management Guide to take into account the change in emphasis from a pure execution oriented approach towards an approach with heavier emphasis on the early stages of the project.

There has been some recent academic research to re-define when these complex projects begin and end. Sato and Chagas (Sato and Chagas) propose to ”redefine” the concept of Project Lead Time (PLT) to encompass the time between the project initial idea and the moment in which success is being assessed, which can be beyond the project close-out. Unfortunately they reach no firm conclusions, ending that saying management should use whatever criteria is appropriate for the stakeholder at that moment in time.

The conventional project life cycle does not count for the long term effects of the megaproject, which can have a significant impact on the perception of success. Sat0 & Chagas’ approach ignores the long period prior to EPC and just follows the definition used by IPA, where success is measured two years after the end of the project and encompasses the impact on operations of decisions made early.

There has been much written about the poor performance of megaprojects, particularly in the area of public works projects. Flyvbjerg (Flyvbjerg and Bruzelius) has published significant material in this area. For many of these projects the original justifications are based on wishful thinking regarding both the costs and the benefits of the project. Winch (Winch, G.M.) uses the Channel Fixed Link (the “Chunnel” between France and England) to emphasize that these early justifications are based on “future perfect strategizing” where risks are downplayed and the future is perfectly predicted in terms of project cost and future revenues.

4.1     Hutchinson and Wabeke

Hutchison and Wabeke (Hutchison and Wabeke) came up with a similar model for the phases of complex megaprojects. Their model has five phases: Identify and Assess, Select, Define, Execute, and Operate. They plotted the value of each phase as shown here:

To read entire paper, click here


About the Author


Frank R. Parth

Rancho Santa Margarita

California, USA



Frank Parth
, MS, MSSM, MBA, PMP is the President of Project Auditors LLC, a past member of PMI’s Board of Directors, and is currently on the core management team for PMI’s PMBOK Guide version 6. Mr. Parth brings 35 years’ experience in project and program management to his teaching and consulting work.

He had a first career designing satellite systems for the US government and in 1993 he set up a consultancy and began consulting in program management and systems engineering. He has created PMOs for several Fortune 1000 companies and for companies internationally. He consults to clients in multiple industry sectors, including telecom, construction, high tech, chemical processing, utilities, government, healthcare, mining, financial services, and aerospace. He is currently supporting Saudi Arabia’s Saline Water Conversion Corporation in improving their project management processes and in developing a PMO.

Mr. Parth teaches project management courses throughout the world and has taught over 4000 students worldwide in preparing for the PMP certification exam. He is a guest lecturer at USC’s Marshall School of Business, the University of California, Irvine, and at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) in the UAE, is an accomplished international speaker, and does pro bono teaching of project management in Vietnam.

He has co-authored or contributed to multiple books on project management and has published numerous papers in project management and systems engineering. He is actively involved with PMI, serving on local and national committees and was PMI’s Project Manager for the Standard for Program Management, 2nd edition published in 2008. Based in California, Mr. Parth can be contacted at [email protected].

To view other works by Mr. Parth, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/frank-parth/