Each capital project has its own unique scope, but most projects are progressed in a similar way. And the way in which projects can go wrong: change in scope, delays, cost overruns, are also common. These poor outcomes are often originally caused by shortfalls in project strategy, controls or work processes. By assessing a project for early signs of weakness in these areas, action can be taken before the difficulties materialize. For example, once a project is behind schedule, it is nearly impossible to bring it back on time. But if the weakness in planning or work control that led to the delay can be spotted early, management can take action to prevent the delay in the first place. The health check is designed to spot those weaknesses.
At any stage during the development of a project, from inception to startup, but most effective if carried out shortly after passing a major decision gate. This helps set the project up for success in the next stage.
The project is assessed at three levels: high level project strategy, intermediate project control and low level project work processes. Under ‘strategy’, the topics assessed include risk management, finance and people. Topics under ‘control’ include planning, economic analysis, change management and review. And ‘work process’ topics include engineering input, project execution plan, detailed design and execution.
For each topic, the health check assess how the project is performing, and compares it with a standard set of ‘range statements’ as answers. These are calibrated descriptions of what would be expected to be seen in a project that is considered outstanding, fair, or below standard. The descriptions are based on experience from previous projects where the project outcome is known. This makes the assessment impartial, and a reliable guide to future outcomes.
The health check focusses on how a project team is functioning, rather than reviewing the actual work done. This provides early warning of where problems may arise in future, rather than merely identifying problems that have already occurred. For example, merely reviewing the project schedule and progress against plan would simply confirm whether the project is on track. The health check assesses the way in which the project plan is prepared, risked, and monitored, and thus infers whether the project can maintain progress against plan in future. As a result, preventative action can be taken now, instead of remedial action when it is too late.
This depends on the complexity of the project, but a typical health check will take 2-3 days at the client’s premises.