Learn strategies and tactics for navigating the most common Advanced Work Packaging implementation challenges
Whenever I speak or write about Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) implementation challenges, someone in my audience invariably asks why I’m so focused on the negative. When it comes to AWP, we should be selling success, right?
This criticism has always bewildered me, because Concord is not in the business of selling Advanced Work Packaging, or even construction-driving capital project execution strategies. We are in the business of helping companies deliver predictably — on-time and on-budget — and AWP is simply the best system we have for doing that, right now. We sell results.
When you’re in the business of getting results, you’re in the business of facing reality. And the reality is that sometimes companies fail in their efforts to implement construction-driven project management systems like AWP. Many more implement AWP programs without rigor, and so they see some benefits, but not nearly what they might if the programs were implemented properly, by people with skill and experience.
Our unwillingness to discuss AWP failures prevents us from learning how to succeed. Michael Jordan, widely considered to be the greatest basketball player of all time, famously said: “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Failure is perhaps the most effective teacher we have. Everyone encounters Advanced Work Packaging implementation challenges, and it’s how you deal with them that determines whether you succeed or fail.
In this article, I will walk you through six of the most common Advanced Work Packaging implementation challenges I see in my work, and provide you with the opportunity to learn from the failures of others. Let’s jump in.
Top 6 Advanced Work Packaging Implementation Challenges
1 | Inadequate Training
Inadequate training is the surest route to failure. Not only does it betray a stunning lack of respect for your employees, it sets them up for failure individually and all but guarantees that your AWP implementation as a whole will fail as well. My advice is simple: If you don’t have a training budget, don’t try to implement AWP.
More advice: Train your whole team. I once worked with a company that sent only their scheduler for AWP training. I have worked with more than one company that trained North American teams, but not teams in other parts of the world. I worked with a company that believed investing in new procedures alone would be enough to transition the company to construction-driven project execution. None of this worked, because AWP is not a virus and people don’t “catch” it from schedules, procedures or trans-atlantic Zoom calls. People need training.
Here’s the reality: For most companies, the move to construction-driven project execution marks a significant shift in the way work is planned, organized, executed and evaluated. Roles change. Workflows change. Objectives change. Training is one of the biggest Advanced Work Packaging implementation challenges, and one-hour powerpoint won’t cut it — a successful transition to AWP requires comprehensive, professional training and certification for everyone with a key position on the org chart. No exceptions.
2 | Poor Company Procedures
Failure to develop custom procedures that will work for your business and your employees is a common mistake. Likewise, many companies run pilot projects and assume that the procedures developed for a single project will automatically translate to the organization as a whole.
Advanced Work Packaging requires an enterprise-level implementation, and organizations that want to succeed must develop comprehensive, detailed, custom procedures designed for broad implementation.
3 | Weak Change Management Processes
Change management is perhaps the most misunderstood — and underestimated — Advanced Work Packaging implementation challenge. Our industry as a whole has never paid much mind to change management; I’ve seen many companies develop a procedure, add it to the library, and simply expect employees to follow it. No training, no guidance, no oversight or support — nothing. Is it any surprise that the implementation failed?
Companies that want to succeed in implementing AWP adopt robust change management programs that start with comprehensive training and offer support and oversight to teams during the transition. Change management is an area of expertise, and a solid program acknowledges the role of culture and leadership along with strong objectives and KPIs. A solid change management program should last at least 18 months!
4 | All Hat, No Cattle
Another serious Advanced Work Packaging implementation challenge occurs when Owners or leaders talk a big game on AWP but don’t have the knowledge or systems in place to follow through. Owners mandate AWP but don’t name an Owner Rep, or don’t have the internal capacity to oversee or manage the Contractor’s approach to construction-driven project execution. Leaders mandate AWP, and even put it in the contract, but don’t understand or practice AWP themselves. It’s a recipe for failure, and it’s really bad for morale.
5 | Too Much Turnover
The skill set required to execute a construction-driven capital project is still relatively rare, and the number of people who have done this work successfully is still quite low, globally. If you are running a successful project using Advanced Work Packaging, the people who are driving that success are key targets for headhunters. If they get poached — or if they leave for other reasons — you’re looking at serious delays, at the very least. I’ve seen at least one project collapse entirely after a key player left.
Don’t let this happen to you. Ensure that your company has a clear career path for people who pursue training and leadership roles on construction-driven capital projects, and that their compensation package is commensurate with their value. Ensure that you have a plan to prevent turnover and keep your key people on the project. In my experience, the team needs to be stable for at least 18 months for a project to succeed.
6 | Initiative Fatigue
Consider this common scenario: A consulting company shows up, sells your organization a bunch of stuff to do, and then signs a three-year contract to help you do it. Software, procurement systems, AWP, you name it — everything is changing so fast that the ink on your best practices documentation never has time to dry. Leaders trumpet “transformational change” and shareholders exchange high-fives. Employees, meanwhile, become frustrated and overwhelmed. Productivity and morale decline. People quit.
Here’s what I know for certain: the “move fast and break things” approach may work for big tech, but it does not work on capital projects. Initiative fatigue is a silent scourge that doesn’t just destroy projects, it destroys companies from the inside out. At Concord, we always begin our work with a comprehensive Maturity Assessment, followed by an AWP Blueprint that lays out a clear, achievable strategy for your organization.
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