Developing project management solutions within cultures

CPM Projecteering Associates

Principal Consultant

Markham, Ontario


[email protected]


Project Efficiencies increases with the provision of optimal project solutions. Learning from the management styles of different cultures can provide this solution. The 250 million-dollar automobile plant expansion that was constructed in Ontario, Canada offers such a project. The contractors were a mix of Canadians, Americans and Japanese. Whereas the Americans and Canadians have worked together on many projects prior to this one and due also to the proximity of the countries, these circumstances have led to similarities in project management methodologies. This was not the case with the Japanese Contractors. A culture that is distinctly different from the North American, that has developed their own methodologies for project management and that offers unique solutions that would be beneficial to all the cultures involved. The purpose of this paper is to highlight these differences in project management solutions on a construction expansion project with the objective of demonstrating that the optimal solution lies in the combination of the excellent elements from each of the culture. This paper is structured by the project management process groups applicable to the construction management project and the project processes within each of these groups with a focus on planning and controls management.

The applicable construction management groups are:

  • img  Construction Scope Management: The area processes for the construction project include: Scope Definition, Scope Change Control. Summary Table of comparisons of cultures
  • img  Construction Time Management : The area processes for the construction project include: Construction Activities Definition, Schedule Development, Schedule Control, Resource Planning
  • img   Construction Quality Management : The area processes for the construction project
  • img   Construction Communication Management: The area processes for the construction project include: Performance Reporting.
  • img   Construction Contracts Management : The area processes for the construction project include: Performance Reporting,

The project process group within each of these groups and the links between them forms the basis for the details of the construction management group. The objective of this paper is to establish the project processes used by the North American (referred to in this paper as GC) and by the Japanese (referred to in this paper as ORO). The objective is the development of an optimal solution for both the ORO and GC systems.

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 1-The Project Processes and their links (PMBOK®, 2000)

Construction Scope

Project Scope Management consists of the processes as in the Figure below (PMBOK®, 2000). Highlighted are the areas of relevance to this paper namely Scope Definition

  • •Initiation
  • •Scope Planning
  • •Scope Definition
  • •Scope Verification
  • •Scope Change Contro

In the phase of the project execution that the construction represented on this project, projects initiation, planning was assumed to be completed. Scope Verification is an ongoing quality control issue. Scope Change Control is applicable but is not covered in this paper.

SCOPE_DEFINTION -Scope Definition involves subdividing the major project deliverables (as defined in the scope statement) into smaller, more manageable components

involves the engineering support and construction of an expansion to and existing plant consisting of the following buildings. Because of the nature of this project-an automobile plant the following areas were easily identifiable and form the basis for WBS and Contracting Strategy.

  • Plastics Shop
  • Press Area
  • Assembly Area
  • Welding Area
  • Utilities Area

The deliverable is a shell of 1.5 million square feet which becomes the housing of the machines required for the different areas used for delivering the ultimate deliverable – an automobile.

The WBS:

The WBS is structured in accordance with the way the work was performed and reflects the way in which project costs and data will be summarized and eventually reported. The WBS for this project is as shown in Figure 2 (the North American General Contractor developed This WBS). The Levels developed were as follows:

Exhibit 1

Fig 2-WBS –Automobile Expansion Project

Level 1- By Areas-established the management and physical summarization of the project. The Level 2-phases namely: Design, Procurement and Installation overlapped as this was a fast track project with the North American general contractor providing design and home office procurement at the initiation process of this project.

Level 3- Work Package-this is the control level of the WBS and the schedule. The breakdown is the same across areas namely: Civil/Foundations, Structural, Mechanical/HVAC, Roofing/Cladding, Electrical, Controls, Architectural/Finishing.

The amount of details in these work packages differ with the area e.g. the Press Shop is where heavy equipment is installed and thus the foundation value is greater. Also the utilities area is where most of the electrical value is for the project.

Construction Contracts

Level 4- Grid Area – is the detail breakdown of the area by the grid breakdown as established in the drawings. This breakdown is common for the various work packages.

Project Procurement Management consists of the processes as in below.

  • •Procurement Planning
  • •Solicitation Planning
  • •Solicitation
  • •Source Selection
  • •Contract Admin
  • •Contract Close-out

These processes were generally maintained by the contract approach.

Contracts Approach

The organization levels are graphically represented in Fig.2 indicating the following:

  • ♦ Owners' Representative (ORO)-Japanese
  • ♦ General Contractors (G/C)- (North American)
  • ♦ Subcontractors (S/C) by Areas-(Japanese, North American)
The Organization Breakdown (OBS)

EXHIBIT 3-The Organization Breakdown (OBS)

The setting up of the construction management organization was of major importance to the Japanese –ORO group. The “open concept” was maintained between the ORO and the General Contractor. Open in that the president of the ORO group did not have walls around him, but was sitting in an open central area of the Office Trailer with the ORO team. The G/C were situated around the central ORO team. Also the ORO team mirrored the G/C team. There were Project Engineers, Civil Engineers and Mechanical Engineers on both ORO and G/C teams. However the project engineer for the ORO team was also responsible for project/construction management. There were no cost/schedulers specifically identified for the Japanese Team, as there were for the North American team.

The processes of solicitation and contract administration and closeout were handled by a mutual understanding and agreement between the ORO and G/C management teams and these processes are not included in the scope of this paper.

Sub-Contractors The ORO team awarded these in the following manner:

#1) S/C - Paint & Plastics Area (North American)

#2) S/C - Press, Welding / Assembly Area (Japanese)

#3) S/C - Utilities (North American)

The ORO team gave total responsibilities to the GC to perform his function. The ORO team tried to create an atmosphere of “participatory management” (Morishita, 2001) unifying the efforts of all participants namely, ORO-GC-SC, into a unifying whole. The ORO team also made it their mission to reward excellence in performance. One of these programs being the Safety Award program. As a result of this program there was competition among the sub-contractors to maintain a very low safety incidence on a monthly basis. This was part of Kaisen which is the continuous quality improvement process.

Construction Time

Project Time Management Processes required to ensure timely completion of the project by establishing the processes of:

  • •Activity Definition
  • •Activity Sequencing
  • •Activity Duration Est.
  • •Schedule Development
  • •Schedule Control

These processes were utilized very well on this project. Activities were defined based on WBS Breakdown and sequencing established. Duration were estimated by the schedulers and verified by Management.

Planning Process

A level of scheduling was done per Exhibit 4 below.

Levels of Scheduling

EXHIBIT 4- Levels of Scheduling

Based on this requirement for time management and establishing Primavera Project Planner™ as the scheduling tool a schedule integration process was put into place (Exhibit-5) by the North American G/C and incorporated by #1) S/C - Paint & Plastics Area (North American) and #3) S/C - Utilities (North American).

In the planning phase of this project the Japanese #2) S/C - Press, Welding / Assembly Area were not prepared for this level of sophistication. Their project manager had done many of these jobs before and provided a very comprehensive Master Schedule for doing this job. This was a hand-drawn Gantt Chart. In his philosophy, based on “Management style is inseparable from cultural uniqueness” (Morishita, 2001), this schedule was cast in stone and there was no reason to think otherwise. After many meetings and training sessions it was agreed that his management style was great, however we also needed to incorporate the North American system approach. A North American consultant was hired to provide the scheduling effort required for this project and the total scheduling system planned in Exhibit 5 –below was achieved.

The schedule Integration Process

EXHIBIT #5-The schedule Integration Process

The plan for the schedule integration processes that were set in place resulted in a 3000+ activities network. The Subcontractors schedule by Area were sub-projects. The General Contractor was the where all schedules were maintained and integrated into the “Integrated Schedule Control Center” per Exhibit #5.

Execution and Control Processes:

These processes were achieved by a combination of reports and controlling tools summarized in Exhibit #6 below. The Schedule System was essentially initiated by the GC-North American Contractors and executed the levels of schedules that were established into place. The detail level schedules developed by the SC were also resource loaded and verified as part of the planning process and continued into the execution and controls systems where it became the basis for the progress curves. The Progress Reporting and statusing system was very graphical mainly due to the input of the Japanese Subcontractor-SC (Japan). Quantity statusing systems were developed for various elements of the project e.g.- quantities of concrete poured, steel erected, building erected, insulation installed etc. This status reporting was color-coded and, in most cases, manually drawn and complemented the scheduling system. There was also progress status reporting done in a mini-cad environment. These reports were done on a Weekly and a Monthly basis. Throughout the execution and control system, Kaizen – a continuous improvement system, was practiced. Kaizen became the cornerstone of Quality and Communication Management controls.

Field Execution and Control System

Exhibit #6-Field Execution and Control System


The way in which each country practices Project Management is an embodiment of each country's long held cultural heritage. To try to force project management styles of different countries and regions into one particular style globally is a folly. Globalization is not to paint the world in one color.(Morishita,2001) Rather the various colors should shine through the canvas of project management through a symphony of colors representing optimal solutions using a multitude of tools and techniques. A combination of a Project Master Schedule, put together by a specialist in his field, becomes a guide for the computerized Master Schedule in the Software of Management's Style. Quality-Kaisen-a built in condition throughout the management cycle of the project. A management style that recognizes the achievements of employees and treats sub-contractors on a project in a similar fashion is a Japanese tradition to regard the firm as a “place to nurture people”; lessons in corporate leadership can be learned from this tradition. Finally computerization is obviously a sign of project management control and expertise, however being able to manually produce graphical display of progress can also be very effective. Of course combining both these skills can produce fantastic results like many of the skills used by both the North American and Japanese cultures can result in an optimization of project efficiencies and thus Cost, Schedule, Quality and Performance superiority on projects.


Kerzner, K 1997, Project Management-A systems approach to planning scheduling and control. John Wiley and Sons, New York, USA and Toronto, Canada

Project Management Institute,2002, Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®, 2000)

Morishita, Yoichi 2001, Globalization and Japanese Style Management, Paper, Global Communications Platform from Japan.

American Association of Cost Engineers International. (1996). Skills and Knowledge of Cost Engineers.

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