January 18, 2015

Rector’s Reflection – January 18, 2015

John and I keep magazines in our “libraries.” Evidently Real Simple and the Mississippi Magazine brides’ issue weren’t really his cup of tea, so ENR magazine has joined the other publications. ENR has some really great articles about advancements in building design and materials and all sorts of engineering stuff. It also has editorials and op-ed pieces, and recently showcased this analysis piece: Project Failures Preordained. (The ‘preordained’ got my attention! John Calvin as an engineer?)

Author Ed Merrow, founder and president of Independent Project Analysis Inc., which studies complex mega-project performance, offered cautionary advice to constructors to test project fundamentals before committing to a project, as failures often are preordained by flaws in “the sequencing of information early on.”

“Failure almost never starts in the field,” Merrow said, in a keynote presentation at a Bentley users conference in London in early November. Errors and omissions in the planning process will generate surprises in construction and lead to project-management challenges. But those problems are only compounded by earlier planning failures. “Project management is the science of planning combined with the art of reacting to surprise,” he said.

Merrow defined the phases of projects and emphasized where fatal flaws often lurk, such as poor project data “shaping.” In other words, bad execution stems from bad planning. He says

shortchanging a project’s scoping, purpose and policy development that underpin design decisions often doom projects before work begins…

“Building is only the last third of the project cycle. Most of the time of a project is spent doing nothing physical,” he said.

Merrow said planners often cite a lack of time or the high cost of front-end planning as a cause of their planning failures. “If you can’t afford to develop the basic data, you can’t afford the project,” he said.

Intriguing. It’s common sense… and not just for engineering projects. This is a concept for life. Jesus had the same take in Luke’s gospel: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. [14:28-32] Merrow may not know he’s a theologian as well as an award-winning expert in the field of construction!

Think about it. Merrow’s sentences could almost be “fill in the blank” sentences.

“Errors and omissions in the planning process will generate surprises in marriages and lead to relationship challenges. Merrow defined the phases of marriage and emphasized where fatal flaws often lurk… In other words, bad execution stems from bad planning.”

“Errors and omissions in the planning process will generate surprises in child rearing and lead to family challenges. Merrow defined the phases of child rearing and emphasized where fatal flaws often lurk… In other words, bad execution stems from bad planning.”

“Errors and omissions in the planning process will generate surprises in spiritual development and lead to spiritual and moral challenges. Merrow defined the phases of faith and soul building and emphasized where fatal flaws often lurk… In other words, bad execution stems from bad planning.”

Of course the critical (and marvelous) thing that sets Christians apart from building projects is the fact that we are the children of a gracious God who rarely grants human beings the opportunity to screw things up completely, but think how much happier we could be if we spent as much time and energy seeking Godly guidance for the future, as we spend praying for God to help us clean up the messes we’ve made.