Military Project Management Training Construction Essay

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The key constituent elements that define a successful project are delivering the project to an agreed delivery schedule within the defined and approved budget and completed in accordance with the specification, user requirement or contract specification standards (quality)………..link the two paragraphs….

The financial crisis in Defence that the Government is tackling has been well-documented. In August 2010, the Defence Secretary commissioned Lord Levene and a team of external experts to lead an independent and thorough review into how Defence is structured and managed. This thorough investigative review was completed over a year and concluded that the way Defence is structured and managed contributed to the loss of control over the budget, including projects, and required to change (Levene, 2011).

Although Defence procurement projects are well documented, small construction projects including Capital Works projects are impacted due to the same constraints. Military professional engineer construction projects in developing countries and on Operations [1] are significantly different from those completed within the developed industrial world [2] . Military professional engineer project managers must therefore anticipate these challenges within each stage of the project from conception to delivery. Lessons learned from recent military operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated a clear requirement for military engineer project management development at all levels.  In response, the Royal School of Military Engineering (RSME) have endeavoured to advance career professional development, for Royal Engineer professional engineers, within the area of project management education. By doing so, in July 2011 the RSME was accredited and aligned with the Association for Project Management (APM) for the delivery of project management instruction. With over a year of effective RSME delivered accredited APM training, sufficient evidence is potentially available to research the value of this training provision.

Where Do I Fit In?

I am a military professional engineer, specialising for the last 12 years in infrastructure engineering. I have been employed in areas of design, project management, requirement definition, facilities management and construction supervision in most operational and overseas theatres. I am currently employed as the Senior Military Instructor (Mechanical) at the Royal School of Military Engineering and am also studying on a part-time programme to attain an MSc in Engineering Project and Programme Management at the School of Engineering, University of Greenwich. As part of the research methodology phase, I recognised an opportunity to research an area of benefit for both myself and my RSME employer.

Problems to be Addressed

Intro…

"Is the introduction of the Association for Project Management (APM) training sufficient to improve the military professional engineers' perceived chances of delivering successful projects?"

The key areas for the investigation will initially focus on:

The effects of project management training / learning in the workplace.

The complexity of the military organisation and effect / influence on change management.

Critical Success Factors in Effective Project Implementation.

The impact of completing military engineering projects in developing countries.

Calculating a project management training Return on Investment (ROI).

Beneficiaries and Collaborators

The research aims to analyse the effectiveness of project management education and development, by ascertaining perceived project success, and, where appropriate, identify and recommend potential areas for improvement in the current education process. The major beneficiary of this research review will be the MoD and in particular the Army Recruiting and Training Directorate (ARTD). In order to produce a thoroughly researched and evidence supported analysis of the research topic, I will also require full collaboration from the main beneficiary. Working within this organisation directorate is likely to facilitate this.

The research also provides personal benefits to the author, increasing this area of project management knowledge from an academic perspective, identify potential areas for improvement within the training delivery organisation where the author heads a programme of training and providing the conduit to complete the dissertation requirements for the MSc in Engineering Project and Programme management.

Aim

The aim of this research is to:

Ascertain the perceived effectiveness of project management education and development, delivered at the Royal School of Military Engineering, in relation to the completion of 'successful' military engineer projects on operations, coupled with the identification of potential moderating or intervening variables which may prevent success realisation.

Objectives

The objectives of this research are to:

a. Evaluate the perceived effectiveness of project management development on professional military engineers who have subsequently completed real time projects.

b. Analyse the complexity of the military organisation and effect / influence on change management.

c. Identify the critical success factors in effective project implementation.

d. Analyse the impact of completing military engineering projects in developing countries.

e. Determine if it is possible to calculate a project management training Return on Investment (ROI).

f. Identify and recommend, if necessary, potential areas for improvement in the current education process.

Scope of the Project

Ascertain the number of professional military engineers who have undertaken RSME APM accredited PM education and development.

b. Analyse the course feedback, to establish the initial perceived effectiveness of the education development programme (secondary data collection and evaluation).

c. Questionnaire development.

d. Questionnaire dissemination (primary data collection).

e. Quantitative data collection analysis and evaluation.

f. Development of semi-structured focus group questions.

g. Conduct semi-structured focus groups.

h. Qualitative data collection analysis and evaluation

i. Illustrative exploratory case study conclusions and hypothesis, identify and recommending, if necessary, potential areas for improvement in the current education process.

Key Deliverables of the Project

The main deliverables of the research include:

The production of a research methodology process framework document.

Tested sample group questionnaire, semi-structured focus group questions and statistical analysis.

Illustrative exploratory case study conclusions and hypothesis.

Published journal on approval from beneficiary.

Potential Risks

The following areas have been identified as potential risks to the successful delivery of the research:

a. The MoD and military organisation are a politically sensitive organisation, therefore in order to complete and gain support for this research, approval will be required. By gaining top level support / sponsorship for the study, access to the required sample group area is also likely to be granted.

b. Insufficient data return / questionnaire apathy from sample group will almost certainly affect the production of valid statistical supporting evidence.

c. Accuracy of captured data will affect the validity of the statistics if not identified and filtered out during the analysis stage.

Dissemination of the Results

It is my intention that the case study be published, disseminated and exploited internally within the beneficiary organisation. If sufficient conclusions are found with a more holistic perspective, the case study may be published through the Universities links with relevant and interested organisations, subject to security classification restrictions.

Projected Limitations & Implications

The purpose of this research is not to deliver generalized results on effectiveness of project management accredited training for all companies, predominantly due to the restricted selection of the sample target group of military professional engineers. There may, however, be some basic lower level and less subjective results that may be of use to a wider publication audience.

In order to further define the research into a specific area, the research intends to concentrate specifically on military engineering 'projects' and therefore will not analyse either 'programmes or portfolios'.

It is uncertain at this stage if the results from this paper will be deemed by the MoD as acceptable for publication, due to the security classification level.

Work Plan

The tasks to be undertaken are explained below and are summarised in the Gantt chart at Table 1 (attached at the end of this proposal). The project requires one MSc Engineering Management student for 6 months. Other agencies and collaborators are discussed below.

Phase 1 (Task 1): The researcher will visit the Institute of Naval Medicine, 521 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (Water Development), Defence Information Services and the Technical Information Centre Royal Engineers. Data on raw water samples and the hydro-geology of Helmand Province will be studied. Deliverables: An initial presentation and report on the raw water sources and any early indications on the significant impact that the sources will have on any proposed water infrastructure.

Phase 2 (Task 2): A set of model water infrastructure systems will be designed for the area of Helmand Province, taking into account the requirements discovered from Phase 1. Deliverables: A concept design and initial water safety plan in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines.

Phase 3 (Tasks 3 and 4): Task 3 is the development and study of the design in order to produce a materials list of main plant items with specifications allowing the materials to be sourced. Task 4 is identifying the most appropriate resourcing solution to fit the materials list and specifications. Deliverables: A resourcing strategy for major plant items in accordance with advanced principles of supply chain management.

Phase 4 (Task 5): Task 5 is the comparison of the proposals for logistical management with current resourcing strategies. Advantages and disadvantages will be compiled, and results produced in terms of a comparitive analysis. Deliverables: A report and presentation containing an analysis of the logistical proposals.

Phase 5 (Task 6 and 7): Task 6 is the initial peer assessment of the outline proposals. Journal articles will be produced and presentations delivered to the military infrastructure engineering and logistical communities, personnel from relevant NGOs, other MSc students and other interested parties from the wider professional community. Concurrently, the enabling recommendations for strategic management of the resourcing and construction elements will be developed under Task 7. Deliverables: A peer check of the proposals via journals and presentations.

Phase 6 (Task 8): Task 8 is the production of all of the designing, resourcing, construction and enabling strategic management recommendations, following the inclusion of any recommendations of the peer assessments and any improvements identified by the author during final self-assessment. Deliverables: The final report, journal articles for logistical, management and engineering forums, and a final presentation to peers, the programme leader, supervisors and collaborators.

PART TWO - REFERENCES

Effects of Project Management Training / Learning in the Workplace

The latest project management training programmes attempt to incorporate a workable balance between the technical (quantitative) and behavioural (qualitative) aspects of the project management coursework. Without the correct knowledge delivery methodology, coupled with coaching and mentoring support, this can often be difficult to achieve.

A well planned training course should aim to train individuals with sufficient time to also complete some additional 'on the job' training under a supervisor, mentor or trainer. Research has shown that 'just-in-time' training is therefore often the most effective (Eraut et al, 2000), however, organisations should expect some development during the application of the new skill in the workplace.

Transferring knowledge gained on previously completed training courses is seldom considered in detail within these publications. The military professional engineer completes numerous management development programmes developing their competence in areas such as leadership, planning, communication and management. Most have been involved in technical projects in the planning or construction aspects which assist in their understanding of project planning requirements, allowing them to contextualise these experiences into the project management training environment.

There is evidence of a widespread and growing concern around the current approaches to project management education and training. Thomas and Mengel suggest that 'this level of (classroom based) education fails to prepare project manager students to deal with the increasing complexity that they face in today's working environment' (Thomas & Mengel, 2008). Hartman adds another dimension in respect of developing the project managers' mind. He argues that project managers have been prepared by giving them a toolkit that includes a range of methodologies and some insight into human behaviours ('soft skills') with perhaps some attempt to integrate all of these through some form of experiential learning (Hartman, 2001). El-Sabaa supplements these statements, commenting that 'it is the people that do project work' and their training has a substantial impact on project success (El-Sabaa, 2001).

The complexity of the military organisation and effect / influence on change management

The challenge for large organisations is identifying the most appropriate training needs individuals require to improve business performance. In order to do this, these organisations require to identify their staff's current capabilities and knowledge gaps, before assigning the correct resource (time or money) to rectify the shortfall (Eraut & Hirsh, 2010).

The Corps of the Royal Engineers have embraced the organisational change required to make project management training more effective by also introducing project management terminology into all foundation training and trade instructional courses. In doing so, all individuals can communicate more effectively using a common framework of understanding.

The economic climate and public perception on how Defence projects are delivered is a major factor influencing changes within the MoD (Levene, 2011). Support to other un-planned military campaigns or military humanitarian operations, such as Libya, place additional unaccounted for financial pressure on the Defence budget.

Critical Success Factors in Effective Project Implementation

What constitutes project success is a subject that has been investigated thoroughly as it is the key element that every project manager strives to achieve and central to every project. Although one of the major factors, project management organisations still deliver projects that are not considered successful. Kerzner suggests that a project management company that delivers all their projects successfully are not taking enough project risk (Kerzner, 1998).

The originally defined elements of the 'Iron Triangle' [3] (time, cost and quality) are increasingly viewed as incorrect or even 'dangerous' as determinants of project success (PWG Morris, 1998). There is a growing body of evidence that the single most important contributor to project success is to agree the success criteria with the stakeholder at the start of the project (Turner, 1999). Unfortunately it is likely that different success factors will be more critical to different stakeholders (Cooke-Davies, 2000) and therefore perceived project success is likely to be defined differently by military engineers.

Completing Military Engineering Projects in Developing Countries

Military professional engineer construction projects in developing countries must consider a number of additional challenges [4] outside of the normal project context such as climatic conditions, population of the country, human resources and level of skill available, material and quality of resources, economics, importation limitations, Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and socio-cultural factors [5] (Smith, 2008).

Military project design processes often do not follow the normal 'plan, design, resource, construct' process and often require the process to commence with the evaluation of available resources, therefore a 'resource, plan, design and construct' process. Project planning and success criteria also neglect to account for the fact that, in the nature of military operations, military engineer project delivery is always secondary to the military mission / objective. The result of this is to draw project manpower away from engineering construction projects. Although the highlighted constraints are not exhaustive, when coupled with a only limited understanding across the profession of managing complex projects in the operational environment, military professional engineers often fail to develop a realistic delivery strategy in order to manage client expectations.

Calculating a project management training Return on Investment (ROI)

To determine if project management training offers any form of Return of Investment (ROI) will be difficult to achieve. The majority of military projects do not offer any financial tangible benefits, often focusing instead on increased military capability, operational security and equipment. Within military infrastructure projects, the effect on the ROI is based on moral component and operational security, where the benefit is to the well-being or safety of MoD personnel. This analysis is supported by Rowe, who stated that it is not possible to make measurements that enable a ROI to be assessed or evaluated by utilising intangible benefits and quantitative 'bottom line' indicators (Rowe, 1994).

RSME (RSME, 2012) are currently looking at the feasibility of a ROI by investigating the potential of third party work income generation, by delivering project management training courses to a wider audience.

Research Gaps & Novelty

From the brief analysis it is clear that a company specifically targeted package of project management training, delivered to a high standard and coupled with the organisations support, is essential to achieving project success and project management excellence. Despite the recent growth and popularity within the project management profession, this interest has not transferred into researching the effectiveness of the formal training and project staff development (El-Sabaa, 2001).

Numerous literature studies were reviewed, assessing the effectiveness of project management training and development and reflecting on the delivery success of projects, however, these publications tend to target large organisation structures within private industry. Although small papers have been published on the benefits of project management development within foreign military organisations, I have yet to identify a paper written for the UK military on project management development or on military projects delivered within conflict situations. In addition analysis in the area of project management training effectiveness, has provided background and hypothesis but little available evidence to test. My research intends to offer valuable analysis for the RSME in the area of project management development for professional engineers, in an attempt to provide statistical analysis of training effectiveness, with the intention of exploring potential solutions for improvement, where necessary.

PART THREE - RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Research Philosophy

Positivism…and why

Type of Research Design

With little existing historical data available for analysis, the research design is classified as an early stage exploratory case study, using a predominantly flexible design, although some fixed elements are present within the initial study of course feedback and the analysis of the questionnaire data. and why

Research Approach

The approach deemed to offer the most suitable format to research the subject area is a single Case Study. Although classified as a single case study, the approach will consist of a number of phases of data collection and analysis, to ensure that all areas of interest are highlighted and tested. and why

Research Strategy / Techniques

The research strategy consists of both quantitative and qualitative methods at stages within the exploratory case study: and why

Quantitative in the collection of data from the:

Initial analysis of course feedback questionnaires (or secondary data), helping to assist in the formulation of relevant research area questions.

b. Analysis of data collection questionnaires.

Qualitative in the form of semi-structured focus groups, in order to obtain the perspectives of individuals in specific areas of interest highlighted within the data collection questionnaires which require further detailed investigation, if required.

Ethics

The principles underpinning the British Educational Research Association (BERA) ethical guidelines for education research are to be adhered, voluntary informed consent to be the condition in which participants understand and agree to their participation without any duress (BERA, 2011).

Sample Group

The proposed sample group will be the professional military engineers who have undertaken Project Management APM training at the RSME.

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