9/1/2014, and the following has been completed: 2 small maintenance buildings and the recreational area, lighting and landscaping. All that is left to do is build the parking facilities. The...

9/1/2014, and the following has been completed: 2 small maintenance buildings and the recreational area, lighting and landscaping. All that is left to do is build the parking facilities. The project team performs its weekly progress check, and discovers that the parking facility work (which was supposed to start on the previous Tuesday) has not started. A call is placed to the vendor and it is discovered that they are behind schedule on other commitments and cannot start until 10/1/2014.

The scope has been set for each item, but the project is set up so that there is a scope change management process available (which gives the project team some flexibility in dealing with unknowns).

Identify the constraints associated with the variance, and describe a practical plan to overcome the constraints and get the project back on course.

Expert Answers
kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Any good business plan, especially one involving a major construction project, will include variables such as weather delays – a near certainty in most climates.  A one month delay caused by a subcontractor’s failure to plan properly, however, is a whole other matter.  One major obstacle to rectifying the situation, however, may involve the availability of alternative subcontractors or vendors.  If the vendor responsible for construction of the parking facility is unable to meet its contractual commitments, and if the contract provides for termination for cause (in this case, failure to begin the project in question on the agreed-upon schedule), and if an alternative vendor is available, then it is incumbent upon the prime contractor to terminate the arrangement with the original vendor and begin anew with the other vendor.  In the event an alternative subcontractor is unavailable, however, then an agreement has to be negotiated with the original vendor to modify the existing contract in such a way that the vendor is penalized financially for delaying completion of the overall project for a month.  Presumably, that contract includes provisions for just such an occurrence.  After all, the whole point of a contract is to ensure each party meets its commitments or is penalized for a failure to do so.

A scope change management process generally includes provisions for potential problems.  As noted, it is assumed in a major construction project that work can be delayed due to inclement weather.  At least until the outer structure is completed, weather delays are assumed.  The risk assessment that is integral to the development of the plan or process will take that scenario into account.  Measures to accommodate foreseeable problems or obstacles are already considered.  The problems with the scenario provided, however, involve poor communications and an apparently unreliable subcontractor.  That the vendor’s failure to initiate work on the parking facility was not discovered for a week is inexcusable, and management would hold accountable the individual or individuals responsible for making sure all phases of the project are initiated and completed on time.  That individual or individuals face termination for their failure to detect and easily detectable one-month delay in the project’s completion.  Financial penalties could reverberate all through the chain of prime and secondary contractors, and no president or CEO will be satisfied with such a situation.  That president or CEO will demand an investigation into the reasons for the delay, and for the failure of his or her own employees to notice that work on the parking facility had not commenced on schedule.  Someone along the chain of command is in trouble, and may lose his or her job, as the company will be penalized for failure to complete the project on the agreed-upon schedule.  The vendor will likely also suffer the consequences of its failure to initiate work on schedule and, apparently, to notify the prime contractor that there will be a delay.

Coming back to the constraints associated with the variance, however, the issue, to reiterate, hinges on either contractually compelling the vendor to initiate work immediately or identifying an alternative vendor and terminating the original one.  It is difficult to safely get major construction projects “back on course.”  Cement can only dry so fast, and supporting structures constructed safely and efficiently can only be expedited so much.  The one-week delay in the construction of the parking facility need not extend the project’s completion by an entire month, but the key is locating a vendor available immediately to take over the job – assuming the contract with the original vendor allows for termination for cause.  As the student’s question provides no details on the contractual arrangements other than a starting date, and no information on alternative vendors, a definitive answer cannot be provided.  Either the original vendor is compelled under threat of termination with penalties to complete the project on schedule, the original vendor is replaced with a competitor, or the original vendor is financially penalized for the delay but retained for the duration of the project due to an absence of satisfactory alternatives. Construction delays do occur for myriad reasons, including, depending upon the region, labor disputes, but the fact that the hypothetical vendor in question did not notify the prime contractor of the delay does not augur well for its future.  Damage to its reputation may be irreparable, and people may lose their jobs up and down the chains of command.  Getting the project back on track, however, is entirely contingent upon the ability of the prime contractor to locate somebody who can do the job he or she has agreed to do, and a determination that the work can physically be performed in a compressed amount of time.