Change management in the construction industry: a client's mechanism for control
Coutts, Alister William
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This research project constitutes an attempt to improve the construction industry's change management process by introducing the Form 'X' Control Mechanism as the means of establishing an effective method of project control. The traditional practice in the construction industry of appointing the principal designer as team leader has been challenged with the main criticisms on the traditional practice being his, or her, lack of managerial ability and his, or her, failure to control the financial aspects of the project. The traditional approach has remained essentially unchanged for more than a century but it has become increasingly questioned as the primary means of design management. One aim of the research, therefore, was to ascertain whether the traditional practices currently is use in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong could be improved upon. The research began by examining basic systems and project management concepts and noted the development of project management systems and structures for the construction industry. This was illustrated by reference to a number of articles and it was possible to argue that the industry lacked a comprehensive change control methodology. The research also provided evidence that the mechanisms used to exercise control in manufacturing industries could not be used to exercise control over construction projects. This is due, in the main, to the relatively short duration of construction projects and the transient nature of project personnel. Having examined the difficulties, it has been possible to devise a control methodology which couples communication and control and this mechanism has been adapted to fit existing industry practices. Using this criterion it was possible to formulate a control procedure which obviates the difficulties which can arise using the traditional approach to change management. The Form 'X' mechanism requires the design team to quantify, in financial and programme terms, the effect of design or construction changes, and to obtain the client's specific authority prior to revising the works. In doing so the Project Manager is able to determine the magnitude of all changes in terms of time, money and quality. The system is sufficiently flexible to enable it to be used world-wide, on projects of varying contract values and duration, and it requires only minor modifications to meet the provisions of the standard building and civil engineering conditions of contract. A variant of the proposed methodology was introduced by Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway Corporation and utilised on a number of projects. These contracts were examined in detail, as were a number of Mass Transit Railway Corporation contracts which utilised the traditional approach to project control. The analysis showed that all of the projects on which the Form 'X' system had been used had been completed close to their original contract value whilst a number of the projects which did not use the control methodology suffered from significant cost over-runs. It was concluded that the Form 'X' methodology successfully eradicates many of the control problems which permeate the traditional approach to change management embodied in the standard conditions of contract for building and civil engineering works. The Form 'X' control approach was also shown to be popular with the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway Corporation's senior management team, as well as with the consultants employed in the construction of the railway. The conclusion of the research project is that the Form 'X' procedure is a highly successful change control methodology which could be used throughout the world on a wide variety of building and civil engineering projects.