Project Management Institute

Pint of wisdom



Angus Alston, Dunn Interiors, Glasgow, Scotland

Angus Alston spends a lot of time in pubs. As the development director and senior project manager at Dunn Interiors, a design company for the leisure industry, it's all in a day's work.

Along the way, he picked up a few tried-and-tested tips on what works on projects—and what doesn't.

“One piece of advice I often give to my clients who think they can have their proverbial cake and eat it, too, is that there are three main, initial demands a client has at the outset of a project—a quality project, a quick project and a cheap project,” he says. “I always say they can pick any two of them, but it's impossible to pick all three.”

Many of our clients have little experience with the whole process of managing a project. This can be further complicated by the intricacies of dealing with licensed premises, particularly in Scotland, where there are strict rules governing the permissions and approvals required both prior to starting work and before the site can open to the public.

We hold their hand through the whole process—from the first stages of a written brief to the handover.

How is project management helping Dunn Interiors as it expands across the United Kingdom?

The key is avoiding risk—or, more to the point, fully assessing risks at the outset and taking mitigating action. It's always one of the main items on my agenda for the initial brief—to brainstorm any risk associated with the project, then develop an action plan to try and work around them. Often it's the same issues that are out of one's direct control and therefore high on the risk-assessment scale. Other issues that frequently come up are unrealistic timescales and budgets.

How does your project management expertise tie into your interior design background?

I always have two hats on when managing leisure developments—one being the straight-down-the-line project manager dealing with the cold facts of trying to run a project, and the other with an eye to look at ways for improving the design.

I recently did a project for one of my clients where we were struggling to get enough daylight into a large development that was part basement. In looking at the problem from a creative and project management perspective, I realized the client had a rather plush boardroom upstairs that had lovely, large feature windows in it. I sketched up a proposal, cutting out the floor of the client's boardroom completely. The proposal was accepted, and through quick sketches from the engineer and architect, I got the work under way the following day—we canceled a board meeting, locked the door and set contractors to work sawing out the floor.

The net result is a stunning two-story space that has become one of the key features of the development, and the client got a new boardroom at the other end of the building.

Are there aspects of your project management methodology you'd like to improve?

I always feel communication is something you can rarely have enough of—I mean targeted, good communication, rather than the scattershot approach of copying everyone on e-mails all the time. Many projects have fallen to foreseeable hurdles simply because of a lack of good communication between the correct individuals. PM

There are three main, initial demands a client has at the outset of a project—a quality project, a quick project and a cheap project. I always say they can pick any two of them, but it's impossible to pick all three.

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