Project Team To Liaise Extensively With Air Force Construction Essay

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This report has been prepared to critically analyse the human resource management aspect of the P0004 National Airfields Capital Works Project, being undertaken by the Capital Facilities and Infrastructure Department within the Australian Governments Department of Defence.

This report will provide a background into the project including who has initiated the project, how the scope for the project was identified and what stage the project is currently at.

The report will then provide an in depth discussion on the notion of Human Resource Management. It will consider many theoretical perspectives with regards to what constitutes a stakeholder, how an organisation can be structured, what constitutes a project team, how it is constructed and how conflict can be handled when it occurs with the project environment.

A critical analysis comparing the theoretical views with the actual construction of the P0004 project will then be conducted and various issues and risks associated with the findings will be discussed.

Following this a conclusion based on the report will be documented and recommendations for future human resource management strategies will be nominated.

As this report is based on a Government Project that includes information that is of a classified matter some elements may be left out and certain topics may not be discussed as in depth as others.

2. Project BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT

The National Airfields Division, situated within the Capital Facilities and Infrastructure (CFI) Branch of the Australian Department of Defence, is responsible for all maintenance and capital works associated with Airfield Pavements and Airfield Lighting at all Government owned Airfields within Australia.

Project P0004 is one of four Capital Projects that is currently being managed under the National Airfields Program (NAP). The Airfields targeted by this capital project were identified in the 10 year forward programming schedule and the detailed scope was updated following the review of annual and biennial Pavement Inspection Reports (PIRs) that are carried out by specialist engineers for each Airfield.

P0004 is sponsored by the Air Force and covers Airfield pavement and Airfield Ground Lighting (AGL) works at four (4) Airfield Bases across Australia and the Project has just progressed into the delivery stage. As part of the design stage a Project Manager/Contract Administrator (PM/CA) was engaged, a Project Development and Delivery Plan (PDDP) was developed and approved, designers were engaged and the scope of works and costs associated with certain design options were agreed on following design workshops conducted with the major project stakeholders.

The Project will be delivered throughout the 2013/2014 financial year, in four stages, so that full operational capabilities will only be interrupted at one of the four Defence Airfields at a time. The main objective of the project is to conduct routine works on the airfields to keep them in a safe and manageable condition and maintain their full operation capabilities into the future.

The main issues identified with the project were the need to completely close the runways at two of the bases, requiring the project team to liaise extensively with Air Force to enable a closure window to be negotiated.

3. STAKEHOLDERS

Often there are many stakeholders that can be identified within the project environment and depending on the type of project, or furthermore the stage or phase of that project, there will be a variation in the membership of the stakeholder community (Bourne, 2009). Therefore taking the time to ensure that the appropriate stakeholders are identified during the planning of a project is vital, as dissatisfied or disillusioned stakeholders can often cause a project to fail (Gardiner, 2005). A project stakeholder management strategy is a tooled used to help formalise the process of identifying stakeholders and help the project team to develop the best strategy for dealing with them. The objective of adopting such a strategy is to encourage positive stakeholder response and to restrict adverse stakeholder reaction, thus making it particularly important on large and complex projects (Calvert, 1995).

The first simplistic definition of a stakeholder was discussed as being anyone who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organisation's objectives (Bourne, 2009). Since then theorists such as Caroll and Mercier have tended to break this down and differentiate stakeholders as either primary or secondary (Perquex, 2004). Primary stakeholders being those who are seen to have a legal contractual relationship to the project and have the responsibility and authority to manage and commit resources according to schedule, cost, and technical performance objectives. Such stakeholders will generally have a direct strategic or operational role in the project, either by participating in the design, engineering, development, construction, or after sales logistic support of the project outcomes. Primary stakeholders will usually belong to the project team and its supporting organisational infrastructure (Cleland, 1986).

Secondary stakeholders then are those who influence, or who are influenced or affected by, the project but are not regularly engaged in transactions with it and may not be essential for its survival. An example would be the media or special interest groups who can mobilize public opinion in favour of or in opposition to the project's purposes and performance (Perquex, 2004).

Calvert (1995) discusses a similar approach to breaking down the notion of stakeholders, referring to them as internal and external. Internal being those close to the project with direct responsibility; and those external who are affected by the project or have an interest but are not part of the main project team (Turner, 2005).

Due to its nature, and scope of works covering four Airfields, Project P0004 has a wide range of stakeholders. Table 3.1 outlines the major primary /internal stakeholders that will be examined further in this report and also provides a brief summary of some of the secondary/external stakeholders to the project. As many of the primary stakeholders make up the actual project team, their roles and responsibilities will be examined later in the report. Project P0004 and Table 3.2 below shows the the relationship of the primary stakeholders diagrammatically.

Table 3.1 - Project P0004 Stakeholders

PRIMARY/INTERNAL

SECONDARY/EXTERNAL

Sponsor (IDA-AF)

Project Director (DNAP)

Project Manager/Contract Administrator (PM/CA)

Project Officer

Design Services Consultant (DSC)

Head Contractors

Defence Estate Engineering Policy (DEEP) Branch

Legal Team

Base Stakeholder Representatives (Engineer and Aviation Safety Officers)

Civil Aviation Safety Authority

CFI Finance Team

Environmental Team

Work Unions

Media

Government Agencies

Civilian Airline Operators

Equipment suppliers

Local base communities

Pilots

AusTender

Local councils

Table 3.2 - Primary stakeholder relationship

stakeholders

During the initial development stages of P0004 the Project Director took the lead on developing a stakeholder management strategy. Generally a stakeholder management strategy will involve distinct stages and processes, such as the project manager identifying the stakeholders and analysing their expectations before the project team begin to engage and collaborate with them (Gardiner, 2005). However the process for P0004 was done in an opposite manner.

The strategy for P0004 commenced with identifying all primary stakeholders, but this was done to ensure they were all engaged and consulted with from the beginning. It involved arranging project start up meetings at each base, with all primary stakeholders in attendance, and opening the floor for everyone to discuss the scope and timing of works. By ensuring the full scope was agreed on by all stakeholders in the early stages it minimised the chances of stakeholder disgruntlement and gained commitment and buy in from everyone. In essence the strategy gave all primary stakeholders a degree of influence if they could justify the needs appropriately, however ultimate decision making powers rested with the project director as they control the budget.

Following the start up meeting regular design workshops were held at specific design milestones, again with all primary stakeholders in attendance. This ensured everyone was up to date with the program and any issues arising were discussed and solutions agreed upon by all.

In addition to these major stakeholder meetings fortnightly design meetings were conducted between the Project Director, PM/CA and DSC to ensure communication lines were always open and issues were addressed and discussed in a timely manner.

4. Organisational structure

An organisation is a group of people who are required to manage their activities in order to meet set objectives. Coordination is therefore extremely important and requires strong communication and a clear understanding of the relationships and interdependencies that exist among the group (Kerzer, 2002).

There are a variety of organisational structures that can be adopted and this is usually dictated by factors such as technology and its rate of change, complexity, resource availability, products and/or services, competition, and decision-making requirements (Gardiner, 2005). Generally top management will decide on the authority structure that will be used to control the group (Bishop, 1999), and this can range from the traditional hierarchical approach all the way through to a more modernised network-based or self-directed team process (Cleland & Ireland, 2006).

Whatever structure is selected, formal systems must be developed so that each individual has a clear description of the authority, responsibility, and accountability necessary for the group to function effectively and the project to be a success (Kerzer, 2002).

Making it more difficult for project managers to effectively manage a team within an organisational structure is the current trend emerging where organisations are starting to outsource parts of their core processes due to shortages of staff or skills (Pinto, 1998).

Most Government agencies are structured in the traditional hierarchical way (Bishop, 1999), and the CFI branch, in which P0004 is being controlled, is no different. The sponsor has passed control of the project to the CFI branch and the branch heads have then passed on this authority to the NAP Director, and they hold ultimate responsibility for the project, and thus decision making rests on their shoulders.

However, due to the branch not processing staff with the appropriate project management skills the project director is then responsible for organising this position to be filled by an external agency. Table 4.1 shows the hierarchical structure and the flow of control from the sponsor to the project director and finally to the project manager.

Table 4.1 Organisational structure of P0004

Having employed a third party project manager they are required to again source another agency and contract them to provide the design expertise for the project.

This is generally where the use of the traditional hierarchical structure becomes inefficient. Technically the project manager has been made the Director's representative and should be responsible for directing the designers and making decisions that concern the scope and cost of the design options. However in the case of P0004, the director has identified they feel the project manager has not showed sufficient expertise to warrant having the delegated responsibility and thus everything now comes back through them. This has added delays to the decision making process and in essence the role and authority of the project manager has been stripped back.

As discussed earlier a project team is generally made up of primary stakeholders who have the responsibility and authority to manage and commit resources according to schedule, cost, and technical performance objectives (Cleland, 1986).

The P0004 project team is made up of two members from the CFI branch, who fill the roles of project director and project officer. The other roles of project manager/contract administrator, designers, and legal and probity advisors are filled by agencies external to the CFI branch.

5. Roles, responsibilities and relationships of project team members

Challenging business environments create the need for project teams that are dynamic and can resourcefully work towards achieving set organisational goals (Thamhain, 1998). Team members appreciate being led by a project manager who displays competence, makes clear decisions, gives precise, achievable instructions, delegates well, listens to and accepts sound advice, is enthusiastic and confident, and thus generally commands respect by example and qualities of leadership (Lock, 2007). As leadership and management are different qualities it is not always possible to find one person who can provide these assets to a project (Cleland & Ireland, 2006)

The role of a leader is to persuade, motivate and bind a group together is order to pursue the defined project objectives eagerly (Patel, 2008). The role of a manger includes activities such as planning, organizing, and decision making and as a result a project manager becomes responsible for completing the project on time, within budget, and according to specification (Wysocki, et al., 2000).

In most modern organisations the leadership and project management roles will be separated and as a result a project manager becomes both a leader and follower, operating in an environment where formal and informal networking exists. In such environments networking goes beyond the project manager's formal authority and as a result the leader is required to use their authority to provide influence over peers to affect the outcome of the project (Cleland & Ireland, 2006).

As indicated earlier the project team for project P0004 is made up of a majority of the primary stakeholders. Table 5.1 below displays the project team members and gives an outline as the roles of each of them.

Table 5.1 - Roles of the project team members

TEAM MEMBER

ROLE

Project Director

Sponsors representative - Defence CFI member with overall responsibility for the project - coordinates Government Approval for the project, the appointment of legal, PM/CA, DSC and initiates initial contact with Base Stakeholders Representatives. Chairs primary stakeholder meetings and provides leadership to all team members.

Project Officer

Defence CFI member - assists Project Director with their tasks, provides contract administration duties for Legal, PM/CA and DSC.

Project Manager/Contract Administrator

Defence CFI representative - overall project management responsibility - coordinates the design effort, project schedule, prepares and manages Head Contractor negotiations and manages the delivery and close out of the project.

DSC

Design team responsible for evaluating and finalising the scope and documents with input from other stakeholders. Assists in the appointment of Head Contractors and provides the on-site technical supervision throughout the construction delivery stage of the project.

Head Contractors

Deliver the construction aspect of the project

Legal Team

Assist in the preparation of all tender documentation for the appointment of the PM/CA, DSC and Head Contractors. Ensure the appointment of these teams and the delivery of the project in conducted in the appropriate manner

As the table shows the P0004 project team contains a project director and a project manager. The project director is the sponsor's representative and due to their lack of available time and lack of people in their team with appropriate project management skills and experience they effectively become the project leader, and the project manager role is filled by a contracted agency.

This arrangement allows the project director to hand certain aspects of authority and decision making to the project manager, which effectively puts them in charge of the design team and head contractors. It creates a chain of command whereby the design team and head contractors must report back to the project manager and then the project director receives regular updates and reports from the project manager. Overall authority and decision making is held by the project director and thus guidance is often sought by the project manager on any decisions that are deemed major.

Working in the Defence environment, whereby base stakeholders generally come from a Military background, the role of the project director, who is a higher ranking Military member, becomes even more important as they are able to provide guidance and authority over base stakeholders when information is required or decisions must be made.

6. Project Team development and conflict

Project teams can be selected in a variety of ways, generally this will be determined by the organisational structure in which the project team will operate (Bishop, 1999).

The most important aspect when selecting and building an effective team it to consider not only the technical skills of the available people, but also the critical roles and chemistry that must exist between and among the project team members (Wysocki, et al., 2000).

As described earlier P0004 is a Government airfields project and is being coordinated by the NAP team, with the help of contracted specialist team members. As a result the project director role was an automatic selection and the project officer was then chosen based on the workload of the current staff in the NAP team.

Generally when it comes time to select a vendor or agency to provide contract specialist personnel to fill the team roles the project manager will consider using either one or both of the following types of proposals; a Request for Information (RFI), or a Request for Tender (RFT) (Wysocki, et al., 2000).

An RFI is used when an organisation is looking for information relevant to a particular process or product and generally a written specification is not provided. The purpose of an RFI is to discover vendors and products that the organization will investigate further by issuing then with an RFT (Wysocki, et al., 2000).

An RFT then includes a specification that identifies the features, functions, physical specifications, performance requirements, and environment in which the requested deliverable must operate and is used to find a vendor that can provide the best solution or value for money (Panneerselvam & Senthilkumar, 2010).

Once the RFTs are submitted they are evaluated in accordance with the criteria in which they are meant to address and ranked according to value for money to the client. Often more than one agency who submitted an RFT is chosen, and negotiations will commence to try and gain better value for money for the client (Wysocki, et al., 2000).

Once negotiations are finished and a preferred agency is selected to provide the necessary service and skills, a contract is signed and the vendor begins to deliver the contracted work. The role of contract administration, in making sure the contracted team members meet their duties under the contract, then becomes the responsibility of the project manager (Cleland & Ireland, 2006).

Being a Government run project P0004 has strict guidelines in terms of the process for approaching the market and selecting the contracted specialist team members. Due to the CFI branch employing a number of specialists across a wide range of projects they have established a list of specialist contractor agencies, known as the Defence Infrastructure Panel (DIP), which the contractors must be selected from. This saves the project director time as they are not required to issue an RFI and evaluate large volumes of agency responses before advancing to the RFT stage.

An RFT is issued directly to members of the DIP and responses are generally received and evaluated within a 6 week period. For project P0004 the RFT process to fill the positions of probity, legal and project manager/contract administrator was coordinated by the project director and the project manager then coordinated the RFT process to select the design team and head contractors for the delivery of the works.

The selection process is conducted in strict accordance with the evaluation plan that was submitted and approved by the CFI Branch Director, as part of the PDDP required to commence the project.

It is important that the project manager coordinates and plays a role in selecting the designers and head contractors as ultimately they are the ones who are responsible for administering their contracts and ensuring that conflicts are kept to a minimum and the project is an overall success.

Conflict is generally defined as a disagreement between hostile or opposing elements or ideas (Gardiner, 2005). Traditionally conflict has been viewed in a negative way, however the notion of constructive conflict has started to emerge as a useful tool during decision making processes (Johnson, et al., 2011).

It is generally acknowledged that conflict will occur at some stage throughout a project life cycle and can come from a variety of sources and exist for a myriad of reasons (Wysocki, et al., 2000). Some of the most common sources of conflict include the competition for rare resources, violations of group or organisational standards, differences in opinion over goals or the means to achieve those goals, threats to job security, long-held biases and prejudices and interpersonal conflict (Pinto & Kharbanda, 1995).

The importance of communication was discussed earlier as one of the main ways to avoid the occurrences of conflict. Communicating in ways that are vague and lead to different interpretations, and unintentionally communicating in ways that annoy or anger other parties are the main instances that lead to conflict (Meredith, 2012). For example if a message is interpreted incorrectly due to lack of clarity, a project manager may be surprised and annoyed by the work of a team member who genuinely thought they were adhering to the direction given. Likewise, a project manager may criticise a team member in the hope of correcting their performance, however if this constructive criticism is not delivered effectively and in the right manner it may come across as destructive or unfair (Pinto & Kharbanda, 1995).

When conflict does occur there are a number of ways in which it can be addressed and handled (Johnson, et al., 2011). Table 6.1 identifies and describes the five most effective tools used for conflict resolution (Gardiner, 2005).

Table 6.1 Conflict resolution tools

Method

Description

Obliging/smoothing

Satisfy the other members concerns, or at least cooperate with little or no attention to your own interests.

Dominating/forcing

Use your position and authority to require that other members follow your wishes without significant consideration of their needs or concerns.

Avoiding/withdrawing

Passive withdrawal from the problem or active suppression of the issue

Integrating/problem solving

Confront the problem and cooperatively identify the issue, generate and evaluate alternative answers, and select a solution

Compromising

Reaching a middle ground with the other party. Both parties seek to offset losses by equally valued gains.

Throughout the lifecycle of P0004 there have been numerous occurrences of conflict, generally due to poor communication as described above. Subject on the nature of the conflict, and between which parties it is occurring, will depend on who is responsible for managing it and the tools they use.

For example P0004 experienced conflict in the transition from design to delivery stage when it came time to negotiate the contract price for both the project manager and design team. As the project director is responsible for administering the project manager's contract it was their responsibility to manage this conflict. Alternatively as the project manager was responsible for managing the design teams contract it became their responsibility to manage that conflict.

In both instances comprising was the tool of choice to solve the conflict, as both parties eventually negotiated a contract price that was deemed acceptable and the project was able to move forward into delivery phase.

Other conflicts have not been as easy to manage throughout the project. There have been instances of continued conflict between the design team and the project manager throughout both the design and delivery phases. These conflicts have resulted from lack of action from the project manager in terms of responding to questions by the design team that have been critical in ensuring appropriate design options are addressed. On numerous times the design team has accused the project manager of not meeting their obligations under the contract and being incompetent.

These instances of conflict may result back to past clashes of personalities, but as both the project manager and members of the design team are contracted members, their past history and dealings are hard to determine. Generally it is up to the project manager to handle these instances of conflict, as the conflict exists between them and a team member for whom they are responsible. In most cases it has been our observation that the project manager tends to avoid the conflict or tries to oblige and not make a big deal of it. It has however escalated a number of times and as a result the project director has decided to step in and generally calls both parties together for a meeting and utilises the problem solving tool, trying to reach an agreement from both parties, acknowledging their responsibilities and getting renewed acceptance of their commitment to their roles and objectives of the project moving forward.

7. Conclusion

P0004 is a Government owned and operated project and as a result the organisational structure is of a very traditional nature. There are strict guidelines in terms of where authority and decision making powers are held, however the need to use external agencies to provide specialist skills and expertise to the project can somewhat confuse the process. Ultimately the major decisions are still made by the project director, however the contracted project manager still has authority to manage the design specialist and head contractors throughout the project lifecycle. As the project progresses the project director will determine the level of authority they will allow the project manager to hold, based on their performance and reliability in making what they deem the correct decision.

The role of project director is critical in providing leadership to the project, as it covers a vast area of works and therefor the list of stakeholders is quite large. The stakeholder list contains both Military and civilian people and by appointing a Military member as project director this has added valuable authority that makes giving orders and making decisions an easier process.

The large lists of stakeholders also creates added conflict, which can be dealt with at a variety of levels depending on whom is causing the conflict. Overall if the project manager displays competence in being able to appropriately run all aspects of the project effectively and efficiently then conflicts will be kept to a minimum.

8. ReCOMMENDATION

The use of contracted agencies to provide specialist project management and design skills to a project can be an effective way to help increase the likely success of the project.

However, if management fail to select the appropriate agencies to provide these skills, then conflicts can occur and the likely success rate of the project can decline.

In the instance of P0004 conflicts have arisen as a result of the selected project manager not being able to effectively and efficiently meet their responsibilities under the contract. This adds extreme pressures to the CFI branch staff, i.e. the project director and officer, as they are then required to not only perform extra duties to ensure the project continues to run successfully, but they must also manage the conflicts.

As the CFI branch has strict guidelines about which agencies must be contacted to provide these services, and how to evaluate and select the best, the procurement of ineffective project managers basically comes down to agencies themselves not having enough appropriately experienced members to perform the role of project managers and the CFI directors basically being forced to choose the 'best of the worst'.

This report would recommend the CFI branch start to invest in acquiring more staff and training them to be able to provide the skills in house so that levels of authority and responsibility are decreased and the branch directors themselves become responsible for providing both the leadership and project management skills to each project.

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