Project management methodology has taken a quantum jump recently.S. N. CHOUDHARY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MAINTENANCE & INSPECTION, IOCL
Generally, the accomplishment of a task or a group of tasks, from concept to successful commissioning within a predetermined timeline and cost, is termed as project, begins S. N. Choudhary, formerly Executive Director (Projects) at the Panipat Refinery of Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL), and currently in New Delhi as Executive Director (Refineries Division), Maintenance & Inspection. “We all execute several household projects on a day-to-day basis, but industrial projects are entirely different,” adds Choudhary, during a recent telephonic interaction with Business Line. Our conversation continues through the email.
Excerpts from the interview.
Are there notions regarding project management that don't hold good in real life?
The classroom theory of project management appears to be so simple that most people consider project management to be easy. The client, the consultant and the contractor — the trio — play a pivotal role in project management. The consultant is the arm of the owner who controls and monitors the project. The contractor provides a mutually-agreed schedule of completion of various activities involved in the project, and it is expected that the schedule will be honoured by the contractor. But the real-life situation is entirely different, as the project doesn't include only the aforesaid trio, but also innumerable business partners like the suppliers of equipment and some other materials, sub-contractors working under the main contractors, the State administration, local and demographical factors as regards the availability of skill, the culture and level of commitment, and unpredictable human behaviour.
In our country, the facilitation of project implementation is very often marred due to the inflated ego prevailing among consultants and owners. The relationship between consultant and owner and contractor is vitiated due to feudal mentality, and in most of the cases, it is similar to master and servant relationship, rather than one of business partners. The trio seldom cares for honouring mutual commitments towards one another. The suppliers of equipment, machinery and some other items seldom adhere to the schedules agreed to during the finalisation of orders. The State administration also takes its own time in facilitating project implementation. The infrastructure is woefully inadequate. Most of the contractors are totally insensitive towards the welfare and health problems of the workforce. Thus, while the classroom theory of project management considers the ideal situation, in real life, none of those theories is being practised by any of the business partners, as narrated above.
Are there best practices that we can adopt from across the globe, in project management?
The procedure of award of work on the lowest basis is a thorn in the flesh. The tremendous growth of contractors, with no control parameters to prevent them, presents a problem in bringing the project implementation at par with the developed countries.
Yet, many best practices of the developed countries have been translated into reality. But such measures are only a few drops in the ocean of development, if we have to catapult our project implementation methodology to be on par with the developed countries.
This needs a thorough change in the mindset of all business partners involved in projects, which includes change in legislation, a complete overhaul of labour laws, inculcating a practice of high remuneration, and a generic change in contracting practices, and strong punitive measures, including putting erring contractors on holiday. This also requires an upgradation of academic standards of workmen.