If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will becontent to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.
Advancement of Learning, Francis Bacon.
It is remarkable that, with so great a recent emphasis on management, withmuch purveyance of courses, books and seminars, so little wisdom appearsto emerge on the essence of the successful management of large complexengineering projects. Major tunnels clearly figure in this category, occupyinga special place on account of the dominance of the construction options andthe constant vigilance demanded in respect of geological uncertainty. Theprincipal defect of so many tracts on management is that the subject isdiscussed as administration, the manipulation of the tools of management,understanding the bureaucratic machine, in preference to management asthe art of blending and synthesis across the diverse contributions to thesuccessful project. There is a great deal of jargon relating to projectmanagement. This language needs to be understood, in order to penetratethe surrounding mystique, but not to be used. Management-speak is nosubstitute for good leadership and clear thinking.Management as administration supposes that the engineering iscontrolled by directives and undertaken in individual cells, each cellconcerned with a particular aspect which is defined and recorded.Administration endeavours to police each aspect to prevent change whichmight otherwise interfere with other aspects of the project. Administration isremote, avoids technical debate, being incompetent, on account of inadequate technical understanding and an inappropriate structure, toengage in interactive leadership, reacting ineffectually to the consequences of change without active engagement in their anticipation.Management as administration is practised by some of the best knownmanagement consultants, who rely upon a formal set of procedures to ensurerigorous compliance with each aspect of a project to avoid interference with
© 2000 Alan Muir Wood