Building Organizational Project
Learning from Engineering and Construction
CHRISTOPHER SAUER, TEMPLETON COLLEGE, OXFORD UNIVERSITY
The construction industry is widely accepted to have the most mature project management processes. IT project managers envy the accuracy with which their construction colleagues can estimate and predict progress on a building. They borrow their tools and techniques but struggle to emulate their results. They fall back on the conviction that “it’s different in IT.” Thus, they resign themselves to continuing levels of underperformance.
This is a strange response when even IT project managers would agree that there is a core of project management knowledge that is common to all projects—who would doubt the wisdom of scope control in any project circumstance? Failure to leverage the learning of one industry into another is therefore normally explained by appeal to the need for domain knowledge. For example, the rate of change of technology, the volatility of requirements, and the invisibility of software are all supposed to make IT project management radically different. Fortunately, we do not need to resolve the debate about the importance of domain knowledge in order to improve learning.
The central point of this chapter is that industries can improve their own capabilities by adopting a model of project management capability development from the construction and engineering sector. Domain specifics may apply to projects but they do not apply to the structures and processes by which