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Establishing an Appropriate Professional Level “Standard of Practice” for the GPCCAR

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Paul Giamalvo
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Joined: 14 Feb 2011
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There is no question that project management, and by inference, project controls, is failing to develop the same level of professional practices used in medicine, law, engineering or the other “learned professions”.


How do we know this? Published research by Glenn Butts from NASA, Prof Bent Flyvbjerg, Oxford University,; Ed Merrow, from IPA, as well as the most recent research by KPMG with their 2015 Global Construction Owner Survey are all proof that projects are CONSISTENTLY finishing LATE and/or OVER BUDGET.


Given that project control practitioners hold ourselves out to be the experts in both time and cost, what is our obligation as project control professionals to help address this problem?  The first is to establish a standard of practice which is considered to be “best in class” and given that the two most “successful” of the project based professions are medicine and commercial aircraft piloting, those are what your Guild looked to when benchmarking the GPCCAR processes. Despite the occasional medical mistake or airline crash, most of which can be attributed to human errors or malpractice, both medicine and commercial aircraft piloting enjoy considerably more impressive “success” rates with their projects “finishing on time and within budget” than in construction, isn’t this what we as project control professionals, need to be striving to achieve?


For background information, PMI’s ubiquitous PMBOK Guide, 5th Edition, has adopted as their standard, “practices which are generally recognized as good practice, used on most projects, most of the time”. (Paragraph 1.1, page 2) (Prior to the 5th Edition, PMI wasn't even advocating "good" practices"


In comparison, AACE has for many years published their “Recommended Practices” (RP’s), which are surely a step up from PMI’s “average” practices but just because a standard has been “recommended” for use is that truly a professional standard?  Or should we be striving for something higher?


To frame the nuances of the debate in a context everyone can appreciate, consider this analogy.

You are going in for open heart surgery.  The cardiac surgeon is going to open you up and hold your beating heart in his/her hands.  Do you want that cardiac surgeon using?

  1.  “Cardiac procedures which are generally recognized as good practice, used on most open heart surgery, most of the time”?
  2. “Cardiac procedures which have been reviewed and recommended, but are generic, used on most open heart surgery, most of the time”?
  3. “The latest and most current cardiac procedures, specific to your type of heart problem, which have been tested and proven to work for your specific condition”?

Assuming that you selected answer 3, this is the “standard of practice” that the Guild of Project Controls has strived to develop in their Compendium and Reference, (GPCCAR) which is the “Best Tested and Proven” practices.  Implicit in adopting this as the “standard of practice”, the Guild recognized that:

1)      There is or can be more than one practice or solution which has been tested and proven that could work for any given situation ;

2)      That standards have to be contextual; that a process that works in one situation may not work in all situations, even if they are similar and that flexibility and adaptability is expected, based on the application of sound professsional judgement;

3)      That sound professional judgement needs to be applied to determine which procedure can be used “as is” and which procedure might need to be modified to make it work for any specific situation;

4)      That implicit in adopting such a standard of practice, what was a “best tested and proven” standard yesterday may well not be a “best tested and proven” standard for use tomorrow.  Meaning that the standards not only have to be updated frequently but that a robust mechanism has to be put in place to capture, analyze, evaluate and create NEW standards as improvements are made.


These are the guidelines, originating with Medicine and Commercial Aircraft Piloting, the Guild of Project Controls has relied upon when developing the GPCCAR.  This first edition is a STARTING POINT ONLY.  The Guild intestinally designed the GPCCAR to be a “living document”. That means it is not 100% complete today and never will be “100% complete” but by providing PROCEDURES based framework which has the flexibility to be adapted by:

1)      Identifying an initial BASELINE of EXISTING “best tested and proven” practices and documents along with a process which allows for or enables the addition of Regional or Sector specific practices which can be adopted “as is” or adapted for use in other regions or sectors;

2)      Recognizing that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is happening and is likely to influence project controls in the very near future, to provide different contextual or situational applications that can be implemented using Boolean Operators. (If A happens, take Y action, but if B happens take Z action)

3)      That whenever possible “best tested and proven” templates have been provided with the expectation that the professional practitioner has sufficient competency and sound professional judgement to be able to modify them to suit his/her unique or specific challenge, with the understanding that;

4)      If and when this new or improved approach works better, that the knowledge will be shared and the standard updated in as close to real time as possible.