November 26, 2022

Case Study: Hidden Costs and Dangers of the Shortcut

This post is written as a review based on the article “The Hidden Costs and Dangers of the Shortcut” published on projectsmart.co.uk. In construction project management, we know that there are areas we cannot cut costs. Also, cost management is not about getting the work done using the least cost. There is always a quality factor to manage.

Project management includes the use of resources, tools, techniques, and knowledge to achieve the final project requirements. The project management process includes planning, implementation, and reviewing of the project progress (Watt, 2014). Several constraints need to be addressed and managed properly for any project, which are cost, risk, scope, resources, quality, and time. Good project management skills help to reduce the risks associated with managing projects while dealing with all the contingencies (Watt, 2014). This discussion is based on the article with the title ‘Hidden Costs and Dangers of the Shortcut’, written by Michelle LaBrosse (LaBrosse, 2010).

Hidden Costs and Dangers of the Shortcut

I believe that better adherence to the standards, an analysis of the impacts to the stakeholders, and stronger communication to the parties involved would have avoided the issue described in this article. As mentioned in the article, no contractor wanted to do the project with the least possible cost. They even didn’t want to avoid relevant permits. However, the owner thought that filing a spillway is not a big deal and he tried it with shortcut methods avoiding necessary permits and experienced contractors. Three years later, the disaster happened by taking the lives of ten people (LaBrosse, 2010). Although shortcuts seem appealing during a project, the effects can be short-term or long-term. The errors due to shortcuts will require more time to fix utilizing additional resources (WinShuttle, 2011). In this spillway case mentioned in the article, if the owner followed proper project management adhering to the standards while maintaining better communication with relevant parties, he could have avoided the later consequences.

In this article, the author mentions: “in a world enamored with people -just doing it- and -thinking outside the box-, we need folks who still know how to learn the rules, understand why they exist and create a safe environment for all” (LaBrosse, 2010). Although innovative people think outside the box and find ways to do tasks differently, innovation doesn’t mean forgetting the standards and safe work procedures. Innovation should be within the safe working practices. In project management, there are areas in which project managers can be creative and innovative to deliver the final objectives. However, he should also follow the standard practices. He can be innovative and creative in presentations, meetings, communication, and team motivation. However, still, the project manager needs to know where he should follow the standard practices (Warner, 2012).

 The project lifecycle includes four phases that are initiation, planning, implementation, and closing (Watt, 2014). The initiation phase is important for a project as this is the phase where the project objective is identified. Then, the planning phase is very important as during this stage the project tasks, required resources, and suitable strategies are identified (Watt, 2014). The next phase is implementation where the project plan is in action. This phase is equally important same as previous stages and progress is monitored with appropriate changes if necessary (Watt, 2014). Considering the story described in the article, all these phases are important for the success of the project. In that story, even if the owner failed in identifying the importance of communication and adhering to standards, he could do changes to his plan during the execution. During the execution, he could still hire people with experience and necessary permits to avoid the consequences after completion. The variations are still allowed in managing projects. The 10 PMBoK knowledge areas include project integration management, project scope management, project schedule management, project cost management, project quality management, project resource management, project communications management, project risk management, project procurement management, and project stakeholder management (Hartney, 2016). I believe all these areas are important for managing projects as these are interrelated.

In conclusion, managing projects need project management skills. Although it sounds easy to complete a project by taking shortcuts, the effects are inevitable. Most of the time, the effects of shortcuts are negative and need more resources and time to recover.

References

Hartney, J. (2016). The 10 PMBOK Knowledge Areas. Project Engineer. https://www.projectengineer.net/the-10-pmbok-knowledge-areas/

LaBrosse, M. (2010). The Hidden Costs and Dangers of the Shortcut. ProjectSmart. https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/the-hidden-costs-and-dangers-of-the-shortcut.php

Watt, A. (2014, August 14). Project Management. BCcampus.  Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0, Retrieved from http://opentextbc.ca/projectmanagement/

Warner, P. D. (2012). Creativity and innovation in project management. PMI. https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/creativity-innovation-project-management-6037

 WinShuttle. (2011). The effect of taking shortcuts on projects. https://www.winshuttle.com/blog/effect-taking-shortcuts-projects/

Disclaimer: This paper was written as part of the MBA program.

Amila Gamage

Amila Gamage is the founder of Sihela Consultants and Builtlogy digital magazine. Her experience in the construction industry is over 17 years specializing in contract management. She is also an ACLP certified trainer in Singapore and conducts workshops and training sessions on related topics.

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