5
Oversight of Management Consultant

INTRODUCTION

The CA/T project now operates with an integrated project organization (IPO) comprised of staff both from MTA and the management consultant Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff (B/PB). Responding to the challenge of designing and managing one of the largest public-works projects in United States history, this structure evolved to combine the expertise of the management consultant with the longer-term dedication and specialized experience of the owner. This organizational structure exists because of the knowledge that the owner has acquired of the strengths and weaknesses of the staffs and the trust that has developed from years of working together on this project. By most accounts, the IPO appears to be operating reasonably well in this phase of the CA/T project.

During the transition to the IPO structure in 1997–1998, the best-qualified person available for a particular managerial position was selected regardless of organizational affiliation. (The position of project director, who reports to the chairman of the MTA, was reserved for an MTA employee.) In effect, B/PB is no longer in the role of a project management consultant but supplies highly qualified people to augment the staff of the MTA.

This arrangement does not resemble the usual owner/consultant relationship, in which public-sector employees and the consultant’s employees operate independently. Some of the reasons for this traditional structure have been to establish clear lines of responsibility and accountability, to create a system of checks and balances, to eliminate perceived conflicts of interest, and to have a clear understanding of owner/consultant risk allocations.

At the beginning of the CA/T project, the relationship between the state and the consultant reflected this usual owner/consultant relationship. However, as the project moved from design to construction, the structure was modified to address performance problems, enhance communications, reduce the number of management layers, and moderate conflicts between owner and consultant.

Another transition is currently needed, however. With engineering essentially done and construction completion only three years away, the need for the consultant’s staff is diminishing rapidly. Yet the committee observed that a detailed plan for downsizing and elimination of the management consultant staff was not in place.

OVERSIGHT

The MTA project director has the responsibility to monitor and oversee the management consultant. Contractor oversight is accomplished in large part through meetings and key metric reports such as:

  • Weekly interface meetings,



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5 Oversight of Management Consultant INTRODUCTION The CA/T project now operates with an integrated project organization (IPO) comprised of staff both from MTA and the management consultant Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff (B/PB). Responding to the challenge of designing and managing one of the largest public-works projects in United States history, this structure evolved to combine the expertise of the management consultant with the longer-term dedication and specialized experience of the owner. This organizational structure exists because of the knowledge that the owner has acquired of the strengths and weaknesses of the staffs and the trust that has developed from years of working together on this project. By most accounts, the IPO appears to be operating reasonably well in this phase of the CA/T project. During the transition to the IPO structure in 1997–1998, the best-qualified person available for a particular managerial position was selected regardless of organizational affiliation. (The position of project director, who reports to the chairman of the MTA, was reserved for an MTA employee.) In effect, B/PB is no longer in the role of a project management consultant but supplies highly qualified people to augment the staff of the MTA. This arrangement does not resemble the usual owner/consultant relationship, in which public-sector employees and the consultant’s employees operate independently. Some of the reasons for this traditional structure have been to establish clear lines of responsibility and accountability, to create a system of checks and balances, to eliminate perceived conflicts of interest, and to have a clear understanding of owner/consultant risk allocations. At the beginning of the CA/T project, the relationship between the state and the consultant reflected this usual owner/consultant relationship. However, as the project moved from design to construction, the structure was modified to address performance problems, enhance communications, reduce the number of management layers, and moderate conflicts between owner and consultant. Another transition is currently needed, however. With engineering essentially done and construction completion only three years away, the need for the consultant’s staff is diminishing rapidly. Yet the committee observed that a detailed plan for downsizing and elimination of the management consultant staff was not in place. OVERSIGHT The MTA project director has the responsibility to monitor and oversee the management consultant. Contractor oversight is accomplished in large part through meetings and key metric reports such as: Weekly interface meetings,

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Internal review of Project Management Monthly reports, Weekly critical issues meetings/reports, Monitoring month-end close results, Review of monthly Budget, Cost, Commitment and Forecast reports, and Daily progress reports and follow-up. In addition, the project director receives feedback from the FHWA staff who are involved in the daily monitoring and oversight of the project. PEER REVIEW Owners and project managers of complex engineering projects often use independent peer review as a means of quality assurance. Project managers recruit qualified professionals with related experience to review the project team’s assumptions, procedures, and decisions. They challenge the project team members to defend their work and in the process rethink decisions to assure that the optimal choice has been made. Peer review, which essentially provides an outside perspective to identify issues that may have been missed, has been used to review technical decisions as well as project-management decisions. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy has used this process to address problems on projects ranging in size from $5 million to several billion dollars (NRC, 1998). Independent advisory boards have also become customary for projects, such as large dams, that could seriously impact public safety. The committee was told that the CA/T project team conducted peer reviews. However, they were undertaken by employees of the joint venture organizations from offices outside the Boston area and thus were not truly independent. At this point most, if not all, of the technical-design decisions for the CA/T project have been made, which essentially renders moot the value of technical reviews. However, with almost $2 billion in construction still to be completed, a focused independent peer review of project management decisions could yield meaningful savings. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Integrated Project-Management Oversight Finding 10: The integrated project organization (IPO) structure currently utilized by the MTA to direct the design and construction of the CA/T project appears to be functioning reasonably well. Although most of the contracts are now under way or completed, the committee observed that a detailed plan for downsizing and ultimately eliminating the management consultant staff was not in place. Recommendation 10: MTA should implement an aggressive plan to downsize the B/PB staff members who are not essential to completing contracts and resolving claims. At the same time, the MTA should ensure that key staff members remain in place to finalize and close out all contracts and claims.

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The focus of the IPO over the remaining life of the project should be (1) completion of all contracted construction according to a realistic scope, realistic schedule, and the existing budget; and (2) cost-effective resolution of all claims and open issues. Finding 11: The existing management tools and metrics currently in use are sufficient for overseeing the management consultant. Recommendation 11: If the MTA wishes to improve its oversight of the management consultant, the committee encourages it to make better use of the tools presently available rather than develop new tools. Independent Peer Review Finding 12: The CA/T project has had numerous reviews over time for different purposes. However, there has not been a continuing independent peer-review of technical issues, management, and strategic directions. Many organizations have formed technical advisory boards to review their work and periodically provide advice. The MTA Board fills this role to some extent, but it does not have direct involvement in the CA/T project and lacks the range of experience desired in a technical advisory board. From its inception, the CA/T project extended over more than two decades and would have benefited from an independent technical advisory board. In particular, such a board could have aided oversight in identification of operational and technical issues. But it’s not too late. A technical advisory board could still be extremely helpful during the remaining life of the project. And with a corresponding shift in membership, the board could also help in the transition to operations. Recommendation 12: MTA should establish an external, independent peer-review program to address technical and management issues until transition to operations and maintenance is completed. The frequency of reviews and peer-review participants should vary in accordance with the issues to be addressed. REFERENCES NRC (National Research Council). 1998. Assessing the Need for Independent Project Management Reviews in the Department of Energy.Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.