The Pocket Guide for Those Daring Enough to Take Responsibility for Large Industrial Projects
By Jean-Pierre Capron, 2012
This little book of only 120 pages is packed full of practical and pragmatic advice for (as the title says) "those daring enough to take responsibility for large industrial projects". Actually, it is a valuable read for anyone in the exciting world of construction project management, or any projects for that matter that are framed by, and conducted under, a serious contractual relationship. Think in terms not only of industrial plants, but of civil engineering infrastructure projects such as road, railways, bridges, docks and harbours, water ways and water works and so on. You can also include major building works like high-rise buildings, or malls and municipal buildings.
Yet, the book barely mentions any of these, since it is dedicated to the conduct and challenges of project managing such kinds of projects. That's because, as Tom M. Ehret says in his Foreword:
"The management of Large Industrial Projects is not a subject which is classically taught, as such, at college. Not only is it a very challenging subject in itself, but it is also one for which the available academic basis is quite limited, to non-existent. [That's because] the classical project management tools one can learn the use of, in themselves, do not begin to tell you how to run, successfully, a Large Industrial Project".
As author Jean-Pierre Capron puts it: "The tragedy is that those who discourse learnedly on industry often have little if any true experience in it." In short, both teachers and learners of the subject need to have several years of experience directly involved in such contracts, whether as the "order giver" or as the "contractor" on either side of the legal contracting arrangements.
As will be noted from the Table of Contents, the scope of the book covers the whole gamut of construction management activity. That is, from "front end engineering design" (FEED) to the organizational structure that should be put in place, through the necessary management controls, to the final transfer of care, custody and control of the end facility. And that includes closing all contracts, and warrantee and deficiency obligations.
According to Jean-Pierre:
"[Upon retirement] I felt the urge to reflect on the factors and circumstances that led sometimes to success, sometimes to failure. In the course of my readings, I chanced on a book by Derek Wood, published in 1975, titled 'Project Canceled'. In it, the author examines the numerous programs launched and abandoned by the British aviation industry during the years after World War Two. The sense that this rather dry reading leaves you with is that, ultimately, nothing is more wasteful than turning a bunch of brilliant engineers loose on any number of ambitious challenges without first having defined the objectives. [And] set deadlines and milestones and put in place constraints to channel all that exuberant energy."
The emphasis here is ours, because it is equally applicable to any and every project, of whatever type, that we have ever come across. So, every good project manager should read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest these valuable words! However, Jean-Pierre goes on to say:
"That said, based on my experience in the field, I am equally certain that an approach too focused on accounting and bureaucracy sterilizes talent and condemns ambitions as well as outcomes to mediocrity."
"This little book was born of these reflections and I dedicate it to all those who, wearing a variety of hats, take responsibility for achieving one-of-a-kind engineering feats, either by size or complexity."
As one who has had the best part of half a century on one side of the fence or the other in this multi-faceted major project industry, we thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. That's because it brought back memories of the things we did right, the things we did wrong or should not have done, and the things we could and should have done, but didn't.
About the author
Jean-Pierre Capron is French, and for most of his life has worked in France with major French organizations involved in large international projects and all the problems of communication, bizarre foreign laws and delivery challenges that this implies. He started his career as an underground engineer where he believes that he learnt his most important lessons about people behavior and management. Subsequently, he has led deep organizational changes and difficult turnarounds as COO, CEO or President of prominent organizations. Jean-Pierre may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
In case you are wondering, the book is written in impeccable English.
1. Tom M. Ehret is a non-executive director in the oil and gas industry. He is also a Senior Advisor to Oak Tree Capital Management.
2. Capron, Jean-Pierre, The Pocket Guide for Those Daring Enough to Take Responsibility for Large Industrial Projects, published by Fourth Revolution Publishing, Singapore, 2012, p1
3. Ibid, p115
4. Ibid, p29, Jean-Pierre explains that "order giver" covers "owner, client or company", while the "contractor" covers the supplier, engineer, manufacturer and the builder as well. But bear in mind that when the "contractor" lets out "sub-contracts" to those suppliers of goods and services, the so-called "main-contractor" then becomes the "order giver" - and so on down the chain!
5. Ibid, p5