Excerpt from Chapter One

This excerpt from Chapter One of CPM Mechanics not only gives you a feel for the book’s writing style but, more importantly, explains the crucial role that the book plays in your continued study of Project Time Management, no matter where you conduct that study (through ICS-Global, or elsewhere).

Chapter One: CPM, A Modeling Method

Even before you begin this book, CPM Mechanics, there is something very important that you need to understand about it: it has a dual purpose.

Introducing the ICS-Compendium

ICS-Global was founded in 2006 with a singular goal in mind: to enhance the Construction Industry’s understanding of Project Time Management. Early studies by ICS-Research, its Think Tank division, discovered that a surprising amount of the prevailing Project Management dogma, as advocated by the world’s leading Project Management authorities, was not especially well suited for the Construction Industry. This discovery seemed consistent with studies by other world-class organizations that reported Project failure rates on Construction Projects as high as 70%, in terms of Cost and Schedule goals not being met.

After long thought and with certain hesitation, ICS-Global chose to authorize the creation of a Project Management model designed specifically for the Construction Industry, which we named Cognitive Project Management. In contrast, we dubbed the currently prevailing Project Management system Dominant Project Management, in recognition of its overwhelming influence around the world.

Once we began peeling away a few layers of the Dominant Project Management onion we found that, notwithstanding an overt name change from the previous Planning and Scheduling label to the new Project Time Management label, there was virtually nothing new or different about how Dominant Project Management envisioned the Time Management of Projects. It still came down to the basic three components: Schedule Development, Schedule Maintenance, and Schedule Control.

By contrast, Cognitive Project Management takes a much deeper and richer view of Project Time Management, especially as it relates to the Construction Industry. We insist that there is much more to Project Time Management than mere Schedule Development and Schedule Maintenance.

As for Schedule Control, Cognitive Project Management discourages its pursuit, since the very notion of control sends the wrong message to those that the Schedule is intended to support. Besides, true control is nearly impossible to attain and may very well work at cross-purposes to the overall objectives of the Project Team.

The profound importance of Project Time Management to overall Construction Project Management cannot possibly be overstated. As the ICS-Dictionary explains:

Project Time Management: The central component of effective Project Management. A basic tenet of Cognitive Project Management is that effective Project Execution simply cannot be achieved without the correspondingly effective use of Time by the Project Execution Team. Project Time Management requires the development, maintenance, and use of products and services especially designed for this purpose.

What we realized at the outset was that there is a symbiotic relationship between Project Management and Project Time Management. From a practical perspective, if we were to change how Project Time Management was to work on Construction Projects, we would also have to change how Project Management itself works — for the latter constitutes the Operational Context (i.e., the Ecology) of the former.

As we saw it, one explanation for why Dominant Project Management does not work especially well on most Construction Projects is that its underlying Ideology is intentionally designed for mass appeal: to work for “most projects most of the time,” across any number of disparate Project Types and different industries. These generalities of principles and recommended practices render Dominant Project Management, as a coherent system, far too non-specific to support the intense operational demands of the typical Construction Project.

With a lump in our throats, we accepted that we would have to develop a new Project Management model, one specifically designed for the Construction Industry. And yet our initial charter and ultimate goal had not been to rewrite Project Management as a whole, but instead to discover and deliver the best Project Time Management system to the Construction Industry. There is much in Dominant Project Management that is good, valid, and beneficial to Construction Project Management. We did not want to throw the baby out with the bath water!

In short, we were quite clear among ourselves that we did not want to get lost in creating an entirely new Project Management model, but instead only those aspects of Project Management Ideology, Methodology, and Technology that could potentially enhance or inhibit effective Construction Project Time Management.

As a result, Cognitive Project Management (as of this writing) is an incomplete Project Management system. The extent of our developmental work can be summarized as these achievements:

Cognitive’s T.I.M.E. Framework: The Cognitive T.I.M.E. Framework is a helpful structure for productive discussion that differs dramatically from the Dominant Project Management view of what comprises Project Management. More on this later.

Note: When it comes to the temporal aspects of Project Management, ICS-Global spent five years in development of a completely new and different approach to Construction Project Time Management. Compatible with Cognitive‘s T.I.M.E. Framework, ICS-Global developed a comprehensive and tightly interconnected set of Technological, Ideological, Methodological, and Ecological innovations which, when taken as a whole and practiced with sincere commitment, are capable of dramatically improving how Construction Projects ultimately turn out, especially in terms of budget and schedule.

Cognitive’s F.A.C.E. Diamond: As a recommendation for a more responsive Construction Project Management organization, Cognitive Project Management recognizes four distinct Project Management Domains at play on each Construction Project. Each domain has its own organizational structure, required skill sets, functional processes, and success criteria. The acronym, F.A.C.E., derives from the names of the domains: Facilitation, Administration, Collaboration, and Execution.

Cognitive Ideology: The Cognitive Project Management Ideology constitutes a radically different set of beliefs and values than are espoused by Dominant Project Management. These Ideological differences impact the choices and implementation of Project Time Management Methodologies and Technologies.

Momentum Management: Borne out of the Cognitive Ideology, Momentum Management embraces both Technological and Methodological innovations aimed at facilitating Project Execution efforts that consistently result in greater temporal (and fiscal) successes. Momentum Management entails planning, measuring, monitoring, directing, and influencing the rate at which Work is being performed.

But beyond introducing these high-level innovations, ICS-Global leaves it to other Project Management interests and future generations of Cognitive Project Management proponents to put meat on the bone with respect to their specific areas of expertise.

We encourage those with a special passion for Cost Management, Risk Management, Human Resources Management, Communications Management, and other essential Project Management areas of focus to find new and better ways to implement Cognitive Project Management Ideology, Methodology, and Technology.

The ICS-Compendium was written with the typical North American Constructor squarely in mind. Our decision to zero in on such a specific target audience arose out of a belief that Construction Projects differ as much among themselves (affected by a host of distinguishing variables) as they do from Projects of other industries.

Constructor: The term, Constructor, refers to a variety of business entities that might have a vested interest in the timely performance of Construction Projects. Included would be Owners, Architects, Engineers, Construction Managers, Owner’s Representatives, General Contractors, Specialty Contractors, and so forth.

As mentioned earlier, ICS-Global disagrees with the notion that a single set of Standards or Best Practices can be devised that will work equally well for “most projects most of the time.” And so, ICS-Global examined the innate characteristics of Project attributes, in conjunction with the temporal goals of Project Management, in an effort to identify the largest set of Projects with sufficient similarity to warrant a common “Solution.”

Note: While the target audience for the ICS-Compendium is Constructors of medium to large Construction Projects in the United States and Canada, this not to say that the contents of the ICS-Compendium might not benefit Constructor organizations outside of this defined group. For instance, stakeholders in small or mega Projects may find much value in ICS-Compendium content.

Likewise, Constructors around the world, regardless of Project size, might also find much within the ICS-Compendium to improve the temporal outcome of their Projects, although a certain amount of translation (of native language, regional terminology, methodological differences, and business culture nuances) might be warranted.

The ultimate expectation and intention is that the ICS-Compendium will find its way onto the shelves of the typical Constructor company library, where it will serve as a set of reference volumes that can inform and guide implementation of highly effective Project Time Management. Owners and Contractors alike will benefit from its advice.

To meet this goal, the ICS-Compendium assumes nothing” about its readers, except that they know how to build Projects. When it comes to Project Management or Project Time Management, the ICS-Compendium “starts from scratch.” Its collective content across ten volumes covers all of Project Time Management, from soup to nuts.

Note: This book, for instance, is one of the basic volumes in the set, and introduces the Critical Path Method as a mechanism for modeling Project Execution Strategy. Other volumes will explain how to employ the Critical Path Method to effectively manage the use of Time in the course of building a Project.

Back to the first sentence of this book, we stated that CPM Mechanics has dual objectives. It all ties back to the current state of affairs in the world of Construction Project Management. On the one hand, Dominant Project Management currently dominates (hence, the name choice) Project Management literature and conventional wisdom, yet it really doesn’t seem to work especially well in the Construction Industry. On the other, Cognitive Project Management is ideal for the Construction Industry but is not yet very well known.

Moreover, in order for Cognitive Project Managementto be practiced on a given Project, certain changes in attitude and approach are required of the Project’s Owner, such that contractual parameters are rewritten to allow for the innovative improvements recommended by Cognitive Project Management. These changes will take time to make their way into an industry that has a reputation for slow adoption of new ideas.

Meanwhile, the Projects go on – and their need for better approaches to Project Time Management has never been greater. If the ICS-Compendium was to be of any practical or real value in the short term, we reasoned, it would have to contain recommendations aimed at facilitating the best application of a currently practiced Dominant Project Management, not just argue for the different approaches of the far more promising Cognitive Project Management.

The ICS-Compendium Development Team grappled for quite some time with how best to satisfy two distinctly different informational needs. In the end we decided to present both perspectives throughout all volumes of the ICS-Compendium. The plan was that, any time we encountered a topic for which Dominant Project Management and Cognitive Project Management held different viewpoints, we would present both.

This decision, we felt, would allow the reader to have the best of both worlds. In the short term, thanks to the guidance provided by the ICS-Compendium, readers would be able to perform Project Time Management as well as one could, in concert with Dominant Project Management theory and recommended practices.

And yet, the reader could also acquire enough understanding of Cognitive Project Management to be able to lead its organization out of the quagmire of current thought toward a more robust and responsive Project Time Management model specifically intended for the Construction Industry in North America.

Consistent with the above decision, the ICS-Compendium contains two subordinate book series: the Dominant Project Time Management Series and the Cognitive Project Time Management Series. Each Series contains four volumes, dealing in turn with one of the four T.I.M.E. Framework elements.

Note: For instance, this book, CPM Mechanics, deals with the Technological aspects of Dominant Project Time Management, which heavily relies upon the Critical Path Method. Its counterpart in the Cognitive Project Time Management Series is Volume 5: Fundamentals of Momentum Science, which is the Technological foundation for Cognitive Project Management.

The ten volumes of the ICS-Compendium are:

Dominant Project Time Management Series

Volume 1: CPM Mechanics (T)
Volume 2: Understanding Project Time Management (I)
Volume 3: Construction Planning and Scheduling (M)
Volume 4: Understanding Construction Project Management (E)

Cognitive Project Time Management Series

Volume 5: Fundamentals of Momentum Science (T)
Volume 6: Introduction to Momentum Management (I)
Volume 7: Applied Momentology: Introduction to PAGUSYS (M)
Volume 8: Principles of Cognitive Project Management (E)

ICS-Compendium Reference Materials

Volume 9: Project Time Management: Essential Desk Reference
Volume 10: Project Management Critical Thinking

Exclusively for Construction Project Management

As just explained, the entire ICS-Compendium was written for the exclusive benefit of the world of Construction Project Management. Actually, even within this world it is directed more specifically toward a subset of Constructors and Projects that fall in size somewhere between (exclusive of) small and mega.

Throughout the ICS-Compendium we use the term Construction Project Management very precisely. It is more specific than Project Management, yet more general than Construction Management.

Project Management refers to a systematic business approach to the achievement of a Project, regardless of industry. In this sense, Construction Project Management zeroes in on Project Management within the Construction Industry in particular.

Consider the ICS-Dictionary definitions for these three, similar-sounding terms:

Project Management: The term Project Management has two distinct, yet interdependent meanings. As a discrete business entity, Project Management refers to a functional organization of specially-trained Project Team members who are tasked with achievement of a Project’s predefined Success Criteria. As an operational system, Project Management involves Technologies and Methodologies that are best suited to achieve Ideological objectives and address Ecological constraints. Project Management can be understood by its Operational Divisions as well as its Areas of Primary Attention.

Construction Management (CM): A set of products and services provided to a Project on behalf of the Project’s Owner, and by a Constructor business entity that serves in a chiefly overseer role, ranging in authority from limited to extensive.

Construction Project Management: The term Construction Project Management refers to Project Management, as performed in the Construction Industry. With this meaning, the word ‘construction’ is an adjective that identifies the industry in which Project Management is being performed. Accordingly, one might similarly refer to Software Project Management, Pharmaceuticals Project Management, and so forth.

For instance, where a CM has been employed by the Owner to act as its ‘eyes and ears’ or to provide advisory consulting to the Owner, the Owner might hold three separate contracts:

  1. The Owner-Designer Contract would employ a design firm to provide design services. The Design Professional(s) would design the facility.
  2. The Owner-Builder Contract would employ a construction company to perform as a General Contractor (GC) on the Project. The GC would construct the facility.
  3. The Owner-CM Contract would employ a construction company to monitor the performance of both the Design Professionals and the builders.

Even though the company providing Construction Management services is a qualified builder in its own right, its role on the Project (as CM) is mainly a supervisory one. That is, while acting in its CM role, the CM organization does not actually perform the work. Therefore, it does not manage the work in the ways that are generally understood to be the responsibility of a Project Manager for the construction company (GC).

This should clarify why we have chosen to use the compound expression Construction Project Management. By doing so, we are referring to the unique application of Project Management Methodologies and Technologies to Construction Projects.

The Three Meanings of the Expression, “CPM Scheduling”

This book is about the Critical Path Method (CPM), a Network-Based Technology used to model, schedule, and guide the performance of a Project Execution Strategy. Since this entire book is about the raw mechanics of the Critical Path Method, we will not stop to define it here. What few people appreciate, even those who have extensive experience in Project Management or Projects Controls, is that the expression, CPM Scheduling, has three distinctly different meanings.

The absence of such appreciation goes a long way to explain why there is so much confusion about what CPM Scheduling can or cannot do for the betterment of a Project, how CPM Scheduling works, who performs CPM Scheduling, when CPM Scheduling takes place in the Project Life Cycle, and so forth.

The three uses of the expression, CPM Scheduling, refer to increasing levels of Project Time Management that build upon one another.

Critical Path Method of Modeling: At its most fundamental, the Critical Path Method is a computer-based Project Modeling Technology, complete with notational symbols and Arithmetic Calculations that can be used to simulate a Project Execution Strategy in notational form. Values derived from these mathematical processes include Earliest Dates and Latest Dates for each of the Activities in the Schedule. In turn, these Four Basic Calculated Dates yield a measure of Activity Criticality known as Total Float. For its part, Total Float is used to identify one or more Critical Paths that weave through the Schedule.

For a mental comparison as to what we mean by the Critical Path Method of Modeling, think of the weather map on the evening news. It contains special symbols and various key statistics (temperature, precipitation, wind velocity and direction, and on) that the fast-speaking meteorologist helps us to decipher.

Here is the ICS-Dictionary definition of this term:

Critical Path Method of Modeling: One of three possible meanings of the expression, CPM Scheduling. This interpretation refers to a modeling technology, complete with notational symbols and Arithmetic Calculations, that can be used to simulate a Project Execution Strategy in notational form. This is CPM at its most basic; a flowcharting system with inherent computational values, formulas, and processes that can be applied manually or with the aid of a computer.

Critical Path Method of Scheduling: But a computer model of a Project Execution Strategy offers little value to the Project unless it is ultimately put to some practical use. This is what we mean by the Critical Path Method of Scheduling, which refers to organizational processes that apply the fundamentals of the Modeling technology to design, develop, and maintain Project Schedules. It is these processes that constitute what many refer to as “Planning and Scheduling.”

Back to our meteorology comparison, the equivalent to the Critical Path Method of Scheduling would be the various practices performed by the meteorologist throughout the day leading up to and culminating in the live broadcast. Using the computer model, she would apply her special training to pre-show analysis of raw data, thus drawing conclusions about current and imminent weather conditions, which she would then explain during the broadcast.

In application, after its initial creation and acceptance as a credible and useful representation of Project Execution Strategy, a Project Schedule is routinely (most commonly, monthly) updated to reflect the latest changes in Project conditions, including achieved progress, Work Scope additions or deletions, changes in risk assessments, and so forth.

One popular report associated with the monthly update is a Total Float Report, which lists remaining work to be performed, sorted by Total Float (in order of decreasing Activity Criticality). The recalculation of key CPM variables (Earliest Dates, Latest Dates, Total Float) is part of the Critical Path Method of Modeling, while performing the monthly update or revising the Schedule to include new Scope, are aspects of the Critical Path Method of Scheduling.

Here is the ICS-Dictionary definition of this term:

Critical Path Method of Scheduling: One of three possible meanings of the expression, CPM Scheduling. Various organizational processes that apply the fundamentals of the Critical Path Method of Modeling to the design, development, and maintainence of Project Schedules. It is these processes that constitute what Dominant Project Management refers to as “CPM Planning and Scheduling.”

Critical Path Method of Managing: But there is more to Project Time Management than the mere development and maintenance of Project Schedules. The Critical Path Method of Managingrefers to the use of temporal information produced through the Critical Path Method of Schedulingin order to inform Project Management as it struggles to take important decisions on a daily basis.

Back to the Total Float Report example (that was produced as a function of the Critical Path Method of Scheduling), the Project Manager may, for instance, choose to include the Total Float Report as part of the agenda for the Weekly Coordination Meeting with the Subcontractors, or in its Monthly Progress Review Meeting with the Owner. Use of a Scheduling report (generated through the Critical Path Method of Scheduling) represents an example of the Critical Path Method of Managing.

Here is the ICS-Dictionary definition of this term:

Critical Path Method of Managing: One of three possible meanings of the expression, CPM Scheduling. Critical Path Method of Managing refers to the use of temporal information produced through the Critical Path Method of Scheduling in order to inform Project Management as it struggles to take important decisions on a daily basis.

The end game for most Project Management stakeholders is the Critical Path Method of Managing. To be clear, however, the Critical Path Method of Managing utilizes the principles and processes of the Critical Path Method of Scheduling, which in turn is based on the core mechanics of the Critical Path Method of Modeling, which is the narrow subject of this book.

Adopting the above distinctions, our guess is that your interest doesn’t stop at the Critical Path Method of Modeling. Why would it? Since the Critical Path Method is rarely applied outside of a Project Management context, it is probably safe for us to assume that your interest in the topic aligns with how the Critical Path Method is, or can be, used to help manage Projects.

This book will only take you part of the way – but it is, in our humble opinion, the most important part. The long journey to fully appreciating why CPM is a favorite arrow in the Project Manager’s quiver begins with an understanding of how CPM works at its core: that is, as the Critical Path Method of Modeling.

To read additional excerpts from this seminal book, click here.

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