Dr. Rick Johnson
By Emad Rahim, Endowed Chair of PM Center of Excellence
Dr. Rick Johnson specializes in the architecture, engineering, and construction professions. He has established a high level professional expertise in management science and project management on a global scale. As an inducted presidential member of the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), he has also evolved his leadership skills to a recognized national level through the Sigma Alpha Pi chapter of Lawrence Technological University. As a subject-matter management expert and practitioner-scholar in the building industry, Dr. Johnson provides certified construction contract administration and other management consulting professional services to clients.
I have been working in the building industry for more than 20 years. Primarily, this has been as an architectural practitioner with project management responsibilities. Architectural practice inherently involves managing projects, and I have been a PM on various types from single-family residential to high-rise commercial buildings. Many times I split the role of architect and project manager but this generally depends on the scale of the project. For many years I specialized in religious, retail, and healthcare facilities and each type required management of budgets, schedule, and other resources, which are all prime areas of traditional project management.
The building industry is one of the primary industries in the world that uses project management in dominant ways. In fact, the PMI has developed a construction extension that is specifically focused on project management practices for this industry. It is similar to the PMBOK but has concentrated areas due to higher levels of risk, cost, and time constraints associated with building projects (Project Management Institute, 2007). Construction projects are unique—just like project management is based on unique projects. No two projects are the same, so the path to completion of a construction project requires proper individualized planning in order for it to be managed successfully. Therefore, a prime difference is the integrated impact that the big three project constraints have on the client’s ability to continue or terminate a project before it is totally realized.
The biggest innovative or creative project management development is the intricate interface between technological advances and the different ways that stakeholders stay involved with a project from beginning to end. PMs should be aware of the faster pace that projects are expected to proceed under while also understanding that clients expect more for less. This means that a contemporary PM should be very flexible, but also firm when it comes to following a well-developed project management plan.
LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”. As a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP), I have learned that energy and environmental concerns are more prevalent than may be immediately noticed by the general public. Within the design and construction industry, practitioners are expected to design and build with a minimal degree of thought given to the impact of inappropriate materials. However, LEED requires the practitioner to pay a much higher degree of attention to negative matters of energy and the environment that can be avoided all together. A lot of the discussion taking place today seems to be centered on the cost involved with developing a LEED project. Some owners do not understand the higher upfront cost compared to the perceived benefits they may have down the line. LEED has to be sold to those who do not understand these benefits and this can make the case for LEED more complex if a monetary decision is the presiding factor for acceptance. On the other hand, owners who already understand the benefits and the role they play in reducing their carbon footprint initiate these types of projects with minimal resistance. They need very little convincing in terms of cost and benefits associated with those costs.
Students in current-day construction education programs should be seeking to learn what the true expectations of industry are. For example, many design programs must teach students how to design building projects using traditional drafting methods, but students must also be aware of the limitation of its use in daily practice. Technological skills are highly expected in practice and professional certifications such as those provided by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) would be fabulous for these types of professionals. For instance, the CSI’s Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA) is one of the top professional certifications that a practitioner could have in this area (Construction Specifications Institute, 2011). This is comparable to having the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential as a project manager but specifically in the construction industry.
One particular change in the field is something that is called “Integrated Project Delivery” (IPD). As defined by the American Institute of Architects (2007) “Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a project delivery approach that integrates people, systems, business structures, and practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to reduce waste and optimize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication, and construction.” (p.1). Based on this definition, a gap is present that implies a need for a meta-management system that is capable of adequately measuring and organizing the program and overall scope of an integrated project. This can be complex depending on the scale of the total undertaking.