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Project management and the civil engineer

John Campbell
establish a profession. It must be subject to an evolutionary process culminating in professional recognition and acceptance mainly through the demeanour of those who practise it. There can be no doubt that education is the basis for the development of any individual and is, in consequence, a prerequisite to professionalism in any sphere. Thus the question to be asked concerns how best to educate and train people to become professional practitioners of project management. PROJECTS AND MANAGEMENT

The civil engineer must have a key role in project management. This conviction forms the basis of this paper along with the understanding that education must be a prerequisite to professionalism in any sphere. Projects are becoming increasingly complex, and the project management team is subject to the influence of social and environmental constraints together with concerns for the control of natural resources. These and other factors indicate the pressing importance of proper training and education to develop suitable skills in the potential project manager. Civil engineering education can be organized in curricula that allow both technical and managerial skills to be developed. Thus the civil engineer will be eminently capable of exercising sound project management. In so doing, he will not have to abdicate important managerial functions to others, often less ably prepared to understand the technological aspects of developing and implementing alternative strategies. Keywords: education project management, civil engineering,

The coming together of project management and the civil engineer is nothing new, although the link is currently being ,reinforced. Project management is becoming increasingly important within the general area of building design and construction, not just as a professional skill but also as a developing profession in its own right. The coalescence of the professional manager and the civil engineer has much in its favour, and aspects of this are explored here. Like any speciality striving for acceptance, project management cannot expect to be able to define or
Department of Civil Engineering, Paisley College of Technology, High Street, Paisley, Renfrewshire PA1 2BE, UK This paper was first published in the proceedings of the 1985 Annual Conference of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering

Both projects and management can be defined in a number of ways, but a reasonable view would be that projects are the creation or the extension of assets, and management is the conduct of controlling this activity. Project management can then be seen as the controlled direction of the use of resources in order to achieve this creative process. These defining statements quickly conjure up pictures of large-scale projects of our time; for example, the design and the construction of an offshore oil production facility, entailing, as it does, a high level of project management skills. However, the basics of project management may not be so novel. Swaddling has described the construction of an ancient Greek temple to the god Zeus. It housed one of the seven wonders of the world, a statue of Zeus, standing 13 m high. The temple took ten years to build and comprised 34 massive stone columns to support its marble roof. Planning and coordination of work must surely have taken place in those days. Managers exercising authority would have been designated, and in consequence a form of project management would have been practised. The type of project now being carried out has changed since then, but current concern for proper education and training in project management does not stem from this, but from the recognition that project



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managers are required to handle the numerous external agencies that influence any modern-day project. By way of example, consider the biblical story of Noah and imagine it in a modern context. His task was to build a large ship in the middle of dry land, given a rough specification and a deadline for completion. On top of this work, for which he had no formal training, he had to gather together animals and birds to fill the ship before the rains came. The ultimate success of this project is known to all, but if it had been commissioned now many more influences would have had to be successfully managed if the project was to be completed to the stated requirements. For example, assembling of planning and engineering teams, appointment of a consultant naval architect, evaluation and purchase of a computer, selection of aesthetically suitable timber, formation of a committee to oversee the animal gathering, and finally, satisfying numerous government inspectors, etc. This illustrates the pressing need for adequate education and training to ensure that suitable Skills are developed in the potential manager of today.

The offshore oil production facility mentioned earlier involves a project of some complexity. A vision of the future, however, has us believe that planning, design, construction and operation of buildings and installations will be even more complex then than it is now. This wili be due to a combination of the industrialization of construction and the types of structures required. At present, and probably also in the future, engineers can be relied on to display competence in solving design problems associated with any project. Their undergraduate training ensures a sound grounding in the appropriate concepts, and this in turn yields a professionalism in design. In the future, however, the engineer will be increasingly influenced by social constraints. In addition, he will become more accountable to society for his actions, having to cooperate with ecologists, economists and sociologists while still being called on to solve complex technical problems associated with development projects. Increasing concern about the balance between man and his environment, together with the proper use and control of natural resources, will play an ever increasing part of the development stage of projects undertaken during.the remainder of this century and beyond. Woodward, in a paper on the development of project managers for the coming century, argues that suitable courses, must be based on the integration of factual knowledge relevant to project management and on the development of personal intellectual skills. He further comments that the most likely participants on such courses would be engineers. These factors ail indicate clearly the pressing importance of proper training and education for the correct development of personnel who will become engaged in project management. One person ideally suited for a role of project manager is the civil engineer. Historically and legally, he is the person at the centre of a contract for the design and construction of a project, and it is contended that, given a complete education, he can become the manager of the project in more than the contractuai sense. If, as is maintained, the civil engineer

has a claim to be suited for the role of project manager, one must consider the implications of anything being missing from his professional background and training. It is frequently the case that instruction in the importance of management is one aspect neglected in engineering courses. Educational establishments do a first-class job in preparing young engineers for the analysis and design of most as ects of any project. . Nevertheless, some industrialists P consider that teaching has become overspecialized in this area at the expense of other aspects of training. The view that civil engineers do not need formal education in certain areas of civil engineering construction ignores an important aspect of the civil engineers professional role in the construction industry. There is a laudable hypothesis that maintains that if the mind is stimulated; then excellence will follow. However, it is a long, hard road from that ivory tower to the reatities of concrete and clay. In a paper written on the theme of civil engineering education, Heintzleman4 states that, Some of the most urgent and difficult problems cannot be resolved by purely analytical problem solving. Further, he clearly warns that, If nonquantitative and/or nontechnical problems are not grasped and answered by civil engineers, then the profession will rapidly be relegated to the role of the technologist. Ten years on and a continent away, McCaffer5 states of the current UK situation, Most undergraduate courses are design biased, and some are highly biased towards analysis as distinct from design; thus it must at best be worth questioning the objectives and content of the undergraduate degrees with respect to future employment. That such a phenomenon exists must call into question the educational emphasis being placed on analytical thought at the expense of imparting an understanding of the implications and limitations of the applications of analytical theory, particularly in the context of human and organizational behaviour.



It was implied earlier that the training received by a civil engineer prepared him for his role as the central figure in a construction project. It is also thought6 that there is an imbalance in this training such that he might be vulnerable to allowing persons trained in other disciplines to take over some of his traditional functions. By way of a prophetic warning, Snowdon highlights this trend and, when calling for engineers to become competent in project management, cites as a warning, the example of how the UK architectural profession, by neglecting the financial aspects of contracts, gave rise to the separate profession of quantity surveying. Having established a sound technical education as a basis for project management, it is necessary to consider any additional education and training that the civil engineer requires to ensure that he becomes a project manager equipped with technical, financial and management skills of the correct caiibre. The improvement of syllabuses is one approach worth considering. Current engineering curricula cover varying lengths of the engineering spectrum, and hence gaps will exist in any graduates knowledge. Improvement as opposed to change is something worth aspiring to. This being so, one might ask whether there are

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topics in existing course syllabuses that are given insufficient weighting or are played down. Warzawski gives some indication of the current position, Nowadays, with engineering design becoming more and more a mechanical process, aided by codes, manuals and computer programs, the managing of construction projects may be probably considered the most challenging professional field in civil engineering practice. A few years ago, a study of the capabilities of recent civil engineering graduates, when measured against subject areas considered to be vital to their professional competence, revealed some interesting results. Four subject areas out of 13 were given a competence rating of inferior. These were: writing and speaking; law, labour and management; economics and finance; construction methods and equipment. Further, there was a gap in the ratings between these subjects and the next subject in the ranking order. In addition, when rating the same original subject areas against their importance to everyday practice, the most highly rated area was that of writing and speaking. Economics and finance were also highly ranked in relation to their importance in practice. Further studies in North America have indicated that the need for constant review of course content is highly desirable so that any such imbalance can be rectified. The UK pattern, as reported by Gifford , is somewhat similar. He presents the results of a pilot investigation which sought evidence of the tasks that young graduates actually have to do in practice. These results confirm that contract procedures and contract management are among the top four activities forming a regular part of the civil engineers daily work. Even more significant and emphatic results have been obtained from a more recent and larger study by Wearne who initially states that, Most ICE members need and want better preparation for managerial problems and responsibilities. The same summary underlines the point that Management is not a subject for separate study at a specific stage in a career. Study of some management subjects should start in undergraduate courses. While admitting that the results of a few surveys are not conclusive evidence warranting change, they do provide the basis for appraisal with a view towards improvement. This is particularly so when such vitally important basic topics as those mentioned above have been highlighted so starkly. It is conceded that the civil engineer of tomorrow must have a sound grounding in engineering theory, but surely the relevance of those topics, poorly rated against competence, has to be recognized. Accepting that these surveys indicate certain current weakness in engineering curricula, a consensus needs to be found on the detailed level to which project management should be taught. Dietz in the USA, and Woodward14 in the UK, while recognizing the difficulties, do not profess to have the unique solution to the dilemma. A number of authors5-y have suggested ideas, and the trend can be seen as being most definitely towards the recognition of the importance of the subject within engineering education. The current weaknesses, mentioned above, and the imbalance caused by these could be rectified by avoiding overspecialization in scientific study. Mentally demanding and rewarding as this experience can be, such study can lead to personal isolation thus damaging

the very qualities that good managers require. A number of contributions have been made on this topic. A UK view has been described by J Y Campbel12, while a similar approach from the Canadian standpoint has been presented by W J Campbell*. The present author lectures at a college where the teaching of project planning and management together with construction methods have been incorporated into its courses* for many years. The courses, being of the sandwich+ type, ensure that students learn as they practise and practise what they have learned. In this way, the problem of the students being unable to identify with a project situation can be overcome as the classroom teaching can be more readily applied to an industrial context. It is considered that this approach goes some way towards bridging the very real gap of which Gabriel wrote when he considered the gap between the theory and the practice of project management. A much wider range of project studies can be undertaken by undergraduates, as a number of the projects can be continued during the industrial training periods undertaken by the students. Some projects produce valuable results, and a few have been described by the present author* elsewhere, but are worthy of note at this point. Further, it has been established that this type of course enjoys favour with industry, and through this a close liaison becomes possible. Experience has shown that this industrial connection helps to produce a clearer awareness of the real educational needs of the construction industry. Again, in the authors college, some of the current evolution of thoughts on teaching, in the area under discussion, has been greatly influenced by suggestions made by industry. These called for additional emphasis to be placed on the teaching of management skills. The initial reaction to these suggestions was that they would be so difficult to implement that changes mightbe impossible: the balance of the civil engineering content of the course would suffer; the base for the general graduate would be too narrow; job opportunities for the graduate would be restricted. Nevertheless, an appraisal of the situation was initiated, a detailed study of the alternatives was made, and reactions from industry were solicited for the proposals formulated. To ensure some compatibility with existing courses, while allowing innovation without endangering the prospects of future graduates meeting the criteria for professional institution membership, a compromise was arrived at. This was formulated into a proposal for an undergraduate course in civil engineering project management. In this, traditional mainstream subjects, similar to those in the general civil engineering syllabus, would be taught to a high level, while some of the existing specialist subjects would receive lesser prominence. Considerable teaching time would thereby be released, and this could be added to the time allocated to construction and management in the general course. The outcome was that topics such as financial management, personnel management, plant management and contract management could then be given proper emphasis. The proposal was then circulated to construction
*Course is the UK term for what is known as programme in Canada. TSandwich is the UK term for what is known as cooperative education in Canada.




industry employers. They were asked, first, if they considered there was a need for such a course and, second, if they would prefer graduates from a course of this type to graduates from more conventional civil engineering courses. The number of replies received to the circular was fairly typical of any enquiry by questionnaire. However, the strength of opinion expressed was emphatic, with 92% being in agreement with the need for such a course and 80% showing preference for graduates from a course of the type outlined. Eight per cent were either not sure or were against the proposals. The inference is obvious. The construction industry requires civil engineers educated in project management skills, with the following capabilities: to satisfy the needs of the client; to motivate, lead and delegate; to communicate and to handle human and hence industrial relationships; to have a clarity of purpose that generates respect; to be absolutely fair and impartial; to appreciate financial and technical implications of decisions. Before the ideas could be finally put into practice, the UK national trends in education were reviewed extremely closely by the engineering profession and by the government . These reviews caused further consideration to be given to the position of project management teaching, and one possible outcome is likely to be that the format for the latter part of a course in civil .engineering project management might be as shown in Figure 1. This could be described as a form of integrated studies, based on a selected project being taken through its various stages by the students, with appropriate lecture input graded to suit the particular stages of the projects development. From the outline in Figure 1, it can be seen that the skills mentioned earlier have been introduced into the educational process, together with controlled simulations of project situations. By these means, it should be possible to advance the project management training of civil engineers and to avoid the damaging polarization between theory and practice.

CONCLUSIONS The contention of this paper has not been that all managers of projects must be civil engineers. However, it is contended that, given a properly balanced engineering education, and by this it is implied that a main element in the education process will be project management, then the civil engineer can successfully fulfil the role of project manager. He will be able to demonstrate the necessary qualities of competence, creativeness, decisiveness and social commitment to a suitably high level. In so doing, he will draw on his project management education to ensure that, as an engineer, he does not have to abdicate important managerial functions to others, often less ably prepared to understand the technological aspects of developing and implementing alternative strategies.

1 Swaddling,

5 6

7 8




11 I 12

J The ancient Olympic Games British Museum, UK (1980) Woodward, J F Development of project managers for the year 2000 Proc. 8th World Congress on Project Management Rotterdam, Netherlands (May 1985) Disque, R D Engineering education needs for the structural steel industry ASCE Conf. Civ. Eng. Educ. (1974) p 380 Heintzeman, W G Observations on civil engineering executive management needs as a part of civil engineering education ASCE Conf. Civ. Eng. Educ. (1974) p 361 McCaffer, R Linking degrees to future employment New Civ. Eng. No 609 (4 October 1984) p 31 Shaifer, E F Construction education -a case of civil engineering indigestion ASCE Conf. Civ. Eng. Educ. (1974) p 544 Snowdon, M Project management Proc. Inst. Civ. Eng. Vol 66, Part 1 (November 1979) p 631 A Construction management proWarzawski, gramme ASCE J. Construe. Div. Vol 110 (1984) p 299 Kimel, W R and Monsees, M E Engineering graduates: how good are they? Engineering education American Society of Chemical Engineers, USA (November 1979) pp 21&212 Jordan, M H and Carr, R I Education for the construction professional manager ASCE J. Construe. Div. Vol 102 (1976) p 511 Gifford, R and Sparke, A N Proposal for an enquiry into the skills of professional engineers and some evidence obtained from a pilot study Proc. Inst. Civ. Eng. Vol 67 Part 2 (December 1979) pp llOl1105 Wearne, S Study shows need for management skills New Civ. Eng. No 618 (6 December 1984)


Financial studies


Figure 1. Possible format of latter part of a course civil engineering project management


P 37 13 Dietz, A G H and Little W A Education for construction ASCE J. Construe. Div. Vol 102 (1976) p 347 14 Woodward, J F Project management education levels of understanding and misunderstanding Znt. 1. Pro;. Manage. Vol 1 No 3 (August 1983) pp 173178

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in project manage15 Gabriel, E Theory and,practice ment training The Project Manager Vol 2 No 5 (1980) pp 2-4 - tools and 16 Campbell, J Y Project management visions through education Proc. 7th World Congress on Project Management Copenhagen, Denmark (1981) pp 215-222 management: educating the 17 Biggs, W Construction next generation Heavy Constr. Vol 1 No 3 (1983) pp 29-31 training 18 Goodacre, P E The place of one-year courses for construction management Znt. .I. Proj. Manage. Vol 1 No 1 (February 1983) pp 29-31 project managers for the 19 Hutcheson, J Educating construction industry in Australia Znt. 1. Proj. Manage. Vol 2 No 4 (November 1984) pp 22CL224 for civil engineering 20 Campbell, J Y Education construction management Proc. CIB W65 3rd
Symp. Organization and Management of Construction Dublin, Eire (1981) Vol 2, B2117-125

W J, Christian, A J and Sharp, J J for professional practice Proc. Inst. Civ. Eng. Vol 74 Part 1 (February 1983) pp 61-77 22 Campbell, J Y Economically planned selection of construction plant Proc. CIB W65 4th Symp.
Organization and Management of Construction

21 Campbell, Education

Waterloo, Canada (1984) pp 353-360 our future: report of 23 Finniston, Sir M Engineering the Committee of Enquiry into the engineering profession HMSO, UK (1980)

John Campbell obtained degrees in civil engineering from Strathclvde and Louahborounh Universities in the UK. After spending many yea&in the chemical industry, where he was engaged in the design, programming and management of rhe construction of large chemical production plants in rhe UK, he carried out research work on computing techniques in management. He is currently a lecturer in construction management at Paisley College, UK.