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GrandDesignsI was watching Grand Designs. I’m a fan of Kevin McCloud and his show but this one episode struck an uncomfortable chord – which perfectly illustrates exactly what the book (What they didn’t tell you about project management in class) is all about.

It was a re-run of a 2006 episode where retired physicist Peter and his wife Christine were building a split personality house which was apparently going to straddle a hob courtyard wall. From the outside of the courtyard the house would have the appearance of a potting shed. From the courtyard side of the fence, it would look like a contemporary glass walled pavilion.

Throughout the show, Kevin criticised and even mocked Peter and Christine, firstly because they decided to manage the project themselves and secondly because as project managers (and sponsors) they were allowing the building to grow organically with significant changes to the plan.

“You are supposed to resist compromise” Kevin declared. He seemed incensed that, “Peter seems to embrace compromise”. At the end, even in acknowledging the success of the project, and that he ultimately liked the end product, Kevin’s praise was laced wit a catalogue of things he didn’t like.

There may have been elements of the outcome which were not to Kevin’s taste but at the end of a project what really counts is the client’s opinion which was that, “We got just what we set out to achieve”. What’s more they enjoyed the process and the final cost was less than 7% over initial estimates – despite all the plan changes!

Kevin: How many of the projects you’ve observed have had clients bemoaning the stress of the project? How many have delivered ‘exactly what they set out to achieve’? How many projects have come out within 10% of the original budget? Perhaps it’s time to re-think ‘the way it should be done’.

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