A New Era Begins: How COVID-19 Will Change Capital Projects Forever

A New Era In Capital Projects

Success in a post-pandemic economy will require new paradigms and new tools. Let’s get started.


Anybody who tells you they know what to do next is lying. In a matter of days, the COVID-19 virus has changed everything about the way we live and work, and nobody knows how our world will change as a result. At this point, the only thing we know for sure is that the post-pandemic economy will look different than the one that came before it. Leaders who want to bring their companies through this global crisis will have to stay nimble in their thinking, embrace new tools, and business and operational model transformation, perhaps even a new culture.

Here is your company’s new mission statement: change or die. 

That’s not hyperbole. The economy that supported multi-million dollar cost overruns is gone, and nothing governments do now will bring it back. Changes that began before COVID-19 hit — the ascent of cloud computingbig data, AI, industry 4.0, fiscal transparency and stainability — all have accelerated at warp speed. Companies that adapt will endure, and others will fail.

If you are sitting at the helm of an EPC or construction contractor company, if you’re the CEO of an engineering firm or the leader of a petrochemical site, it’s already painfully clear to you that your organization is facing radical change. But how do you lead through an unprecedented change like this? Where do you begin? What questions should you be asking? How can you prepare your organization for what’s to come, when you cannot possibly know what’s coming? 

One thing is certain: our industry cannot import our answers from other sectors. If COVID-19 has made anything clear, it is that the IT industry, for example, is fundamentally different from us, having transitioned easily to remote work without the burden of real-world construction sites, not to mention the cultural intransigence that plagues capital project organizations and engineering organizations. We need our own answers.

We don’t claim to have all those answers, but we do have the ability to lead a fact-based, structured conversation about the path forward. For the past three years, we’ve published over 100 articles exploring new tools and ideas that can support capital project effectiveness in a changing world. Through this work, we’ve come to believe that Predictability Thinking™ and principle-driven project management together provide a powerful alternative to traditional, conventional project management tactics. 

Today, as we struggle to gain our bearings in a world transformed by COVID-19, we believe that a new, principle-driven, predictability-centered paradigm can give us a framework for thinking about what comes next for the capital project industry. Here’s how.

Predictability Thinking is a new paradigm that places predictability — on-time, on-budget project delivery — at the center of your organizational strategy. From there, achieving predictability requires that we adopt new principles and practices that support on-time, on-budget project delivery. Principle-driven projects perform better, and this is especially true for principle-driven Advanced Work Packaging. 

We believe that a new, principle-driven, predictability-centered paradigm can give us a framework for thinking about what comes next for the capital project industry.

How can this new paradigm frame your thinking in the months and years ahead? It starts in the C-suite, where the leader’s new, relentless focus on predictability as a core company value will shape the way decisions are made from front-end definition to hand-off, and from the office to the field. Consider that in a post-pandemic world, your ability to foster predictable, disciplined collaboration will become even more important as more people work remotely, and for longer periods of time. Your ability to maintain reliable performance from all stakeholders is as relevant as ever, as is your ability to enhance engineering productivity. You will need to leverage the best technology to make all of this possible. Predictability Thinking can guide you through all of this.

Predictability Thinking is also designed to help surface invisible risks, which is an indispensable asset in a post-pandemic economy. Traditional capital project management paradigms render many risks invisible, and these invisible risks are often the most insidious. Make predictability the cornerstone principle of your project management philosophy, and undertake a systematic effort to incent and support predictability across key project activities. These two steps will help you better identify and address risks that might otherwise undermine predictable project delivery.

The reality is that today, there are no easy answers. We are in uncharted territory, and we have no roadmap. What is clear, however, is that we will not find a way forward by looking to the past. When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, we will be living in a new world. We will need new paradigms and new tools to succeed in building capital projects. 

The time for change is now.

Join The Conversation Today

Join our new LinkedIn group to be part of the discussion around capital project industry responses to the COVID-19 crisis. Click here to visit now!

Share This Post