CPM Mechanics: Must Reading for Construction Project Managers and Field Superintendents

If you are a Field Superintendent (aka, Construction Site Manager), you most likely work for a General Contractor. If you are a Project Manager, you could work for an Owner, a General Contractor, a Construction Manager, an Owner’s Representative, or an Architect or Engineer. Since each different employer typically has a different set of expectations for the role of Project Manager, you will want to be flexible in your interpretation of what you read below.

While there is anything but universal agreement on what these two labels refer to, the general understanding is that Field Superintendents spend 90% of their day out in the field and 10% in the job site trailer, whereas Projects Managers spend 90% of their day in the job site trailer, and maybe 10% out in the field. Where this distinction makes sense, Project Manager responsibilities mainly include:

  • Overseeing the entire project
  • Liaising with the “suits” (Contractor’s Home Office Management, Owner and its agents, Design Professionals, government entities, etc.)
  • Handling all of the paperwork that the project generates.

In contrast, the Field Superintendent “minds the store;” that is, he gets the job built!

You Both Depend On a Quality Project Schedule

Neither of you can do your job, properly or effectively, without the aid of a coherent, credible, and responsive Project Schedule. We know this because the two of you work hand-in-hand, tied to the hip as you are … and your collective and unrelenting assignment (construction supervision) entails: Collaboration, Coordination, Cooperation, and Communication

You need the Project Schedule to do each one of these things.

Across the other pages of this website you will learn a lot more about how the two of you should work, and why all too often you are not allowed to be managing a project as you see fit  … because of the way your mother organizations have been calling the shots.

Why CPM Mechanics is Important Reading for YOU!

And so, on this page where we wish to encourage you to read CPM Mechanics, we divide our pitch into two throws:

  • We respectfully assert that the contents of CPM Mechanics will help you to be a better Project Manager and Field Superintendent, by showing you how you can do your Project and Construction Management jobs better.
  • We also respectfully assert that your employers could do a far better job of setting the project conditions and parameters for your good work, if only they would better understand how Project Ecology assists or obstructs Project Time Management efforts, and Project Management achievement more generally. They can acquire this better understanding by reading CPM Mechanics.

Logically, then, we would encourage each of you to read the pages directed toward your employers. If you work for a General Contractor, read what we have to say to them. If you work for an Owner, read what we have said to them. In fact, you might want to read all of those pages, as each one says something different, and are clearly germane to what you do for a living.

FACE Diamond-smallRecommending the Cognitive F.A.C.E. Diamond

Whether or not your employer ever embraces or adopts the Cognitive F.A.C.E. Diamond concept, we think it would still benefit the two of you immensely if you considered what it has to say about how the two of you could, and should, work together. The four domains work together in a collaborative  manner. Learn More

  • Project Execution: Where the rubber meets the road; where the project is built. [This is the Superintendent’s domain.] 
  • Project Administration: Where the project  is enabled, providing Project Execution with the resources it needs to get the job done!
  • Project Coordination: Where the smooth blending of goals,  interests, priorities, and methods is accomplished.  This is the most recognized role of the Project Manager – to act as a  liaison and informational conduit between and among the project participants.
  • Project Facilitation: Where critical information, the very lifeblood of the project, is  closely managed and communicated.

PMs and Superintendents Have Two Different Organizational Models

Now let’s contrast your two respective mini-organizations.

The Project Coordinator’s Organization Chart

FaceDiamondwith Org C-largeWe will start with the Project Coordinator’s organizational chart (shown to the right).

  • In the Cognitive Project Management model, there is a position called Project Deputy Manager, which serves as the right-hand to the Project Manager. This is a training position, where the PDM on a large project is groomed for a position as Project Coordinator on a smaller project. This provides for a career ladder in the Project Management line.
  • Notice that the Project Facilitation and Project Execution Managers report directly to the Project Coordinator (as does the Project Deputy Manager), but that the Project Administration Manager does not. This is because Project Administration, in many project organizations, is not one individual person or one individual department. Instead, Project Administration for one project is comprised of representatives from several functional departments back at the home office. And so, one of very helpful role of the Project Deputy Manager is to act as a go-between, between the various functional departments and the Project Team.
  • Finally, the Project Coordination domain has a small office staff: secretary, office engineer, and so forth.

The Project Executor’s Organization Chart

Looking quite different is the organizational chart for the Project Execution domain. Under the tight leadership of the Project Executor (aka, General Superintendent) the real work of the project is performed. Principally, the mini-organization is comprised of the various trade contractors.

From the General Contractor’s organization, three primary departments are included: Quality, Safety, and Time. While these three groups are typically considered as functional departments according to the Dominant Project Management model, under Cognitive Project Management, they fall under the auspices and direction of the Project Executor, for he is ultimately responsible for the quality of the work, the safety of the work, and the timing of the work.

So, Who’s the Boss?

Finally, a quick word about who is the “boss.” Under the Dominant Project Management model, the Project Manager is the perceived head of the project organization. But Cognitive Project Management doesn’t think it is that simple. As we see it, there are two different bosses: depending on what you are looking for.

If you are looking for single-point accountability, then the Project Coordinator is the point person you want to speak with. But if you are looking for the person responsible for the performance of the work of the project, then the Project Executor is the person you want to speak with. As we see it, the two positions are, for all intents and purposes, co-managing the project. And supporting both of them are Project Administration (supplying capacity to perform) and Project Facilitation (providing vital information).

Information: the Lifeblood of Project time Management

That last sentence brings us back to the Schedule. For credible, timely, useful, and accessible information is the lifeblood of the project: of Project Management and of Project Time Management. That is why both Project Coordinator and Project Executor are so intimately involved in the creation and use of the Project Schedule. For, at the end of the day, the Project Schedule is also the ever-essential Project Execution Strategy.

Project Managers Create Vastly More Schedules Than Do Schedulers

That’s a fact! It is estimated that 80% of all Project Schedules are produced by Project Managers or General Superintendents, the rest crafted by Schedulers or others. Unfortunately, it is also estimated that 90% of all Project Managers have no formal training in how to design, develop, or maintain Project Schedules. But don’t feel bad: neither do most “professional” Planners and Schedulers.

When training is acquired, it typically comes from one of five places:

  • A single course as part of some broader four-year college degree.
  • A one-week seminar hosted by a scheduling software company or their licensed trainers.
  • A short, one-day or two-day workshop presented by a claims consultant, and aimed at showing how to make your schedule bullet-proof in court.
  • Short courses aimed at preparing you for a credentialing exam
  • An assortment of random textbooks, each written by a different author with a different way to skin the cat.

ICS-Compendium Adopts the Contractor’s View

The ultimate goal and purpose of the ICS-Compendium is to become the de facto reference guide for Construction Project Management, that will find its way onto bookshelves in every General Contractor’s library. The ICS-Compendium is being written from the Contractor’s perspective which, as you know, is very different than how the Owner sees the project. Virtually all existing literature on Project Management is written from the Owner’s point of view.

There is so much that is wrong with how we currently manage our construction projects that the solutions cannot be fully discussed in a single volume. That is why the ICS-Compendium has multiple volumes. Each book speaks to a different aspect of the Problem and Solution. For each Project Management Model (Dominant or Cognitive) there are four volumes, each speaking to a different aspect of the model:

  • Technology Books speak to what we do it with: to the tools, techniques, and technical aspects of Project Time Management. CPM Mechanics is the Technology Book for the Dominant Project Management model.
  • Ideology Books speak to why we do it: the values, beliefs, goals, philosophies, standards, policies, and other intellectual aspects of Project Time Management.
  • Methodology Books speak to what we do: the practices, processes, and procedures performed on a daily basis that bring the Ideology to life.
  • Ecology Books speak to the operational context in which we do what we do: the project’s operating conditions and atmosphere.

CPM Mechanics is Essential Reading!

Not only is CPM Mechanics the first book in the Dominant Project Management Series, it is also the first book in the entire ICS-Compendium, which means that the Cognitive Project Management Series is predicated on it as well. So it all comes down to this: do you want to improve the outcome of your projects?

If you do, then you must understand why you are in the best position to make that happen. You can make unilateral changes in how you organize, deploy, administer and execute your projects. And … you can have a tremendous influence on the Owners you work with, to help them understand and learn about ways that they can improve the outcome of their projects.

One thing is certain:  you cannot bring about improvements by doing the same things that have proven ineffective to date. You need to learn what is good in the current Project Management model, and what could stand changing. Begin by educating yourself. Wipe away the confusion about the technical stuff that has alluded you all along. In so doing, expose the flaws in the current model. Learn what works … and what does not

There is much more to Construction Project Time Management than traditional construction scheduling. Your project management professional training need to take you beyond expand beyond basic project planning and scheduling steps, techniques, or processes. It needs to take you to a mostly-unaddressed aspect of Project Time Management: information usage.

CPM Mechanics is required reading … if you really want to change your Project Management track record.