The Association for the Capital Projects Engineering & Construction Community.

Start Late. Finish Early.

August 15, 2013

By Tim Rowe, ECC Executive Board of Directors Member

A former manager and mentor of mine used to say about executing projects, “you should start late in order to finish early”. On the surface that sounds like very strange advice, but as I have progressed in my career, I have grown to really appreciate the meaning behind this statement.

A general nugget of wisdom I took away from my former mentor, is that by making a seemingly contradictory and/or controversial claim, it catches a person’s attention and is more likely to make a lasting impression. This is a great way to stimulate conversation and draw people into a discussion. Of course, there needs be a clear and logical tie back to a meaningful message or point to be made.

In this case the message behind the statement was, not to move to the next phase of project execution until the current phase is sufficiently complete. Too many times, I have seen a project team rush into detailed engineering before the front end engineering (a.k.a. FEED) was complete, thinking they would save time on the overall project schedule. In reality, the inefficiency, rework, and lack of constructability input that is typically the outcome from such a premature start, can very easily result in an overall longer project schedule. The same can be said if the construction phase is kicked off too early. Rushing into the field, without having a well thought out detailed construction plan, and/or prior to having sufficient materials procured and on-site, will also quite possibly end up resulting in an overall longer project schedule. Not only can a premature kick-off of a project phase have a negative schedule impact, project spending can also be negatively impacted.

Today, I live and breathe by the advice: start late in order to finish early. For me it is a key guiding principle for successfully executing projects. I believe industry consultants would call it practicing sound project gate keeping; though too often in our industry, this practice is not rigorously adhered to.

For the ECC Future Leaders, involvement in the ECC is a great opportunity to get ideas and advice from industry leaders and subject matter experts on topics ranging from tips on project gate keeping to tips on effective leadership. Whether or not you buy into the above advice, your Future Leader network and the ECC Conference is a great opportunity to have a thoughtful discussion on relevant topics that can help you throughout your career. Sometimes it can be a simple statement that sticks with you, and potentially, one that ends up becoming a guiding principle for your organization.