Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Recitations: 1 session / week, # hour / session


Dr. Nathaniel Osgood
Senior Lecturer, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, MIT

Course Description

As technological integration and construction complexity increase, so do construction lead times. To stay competitive companies have sought to shorten the construction times of new infrastructure by managing construction development efforts effectively by using different project management tools. In this course, three important aspects of construction project management are taught:

  • the theory, methods and quantitative tools used to effectively plan, organize, and control construction projects;
  • efficient management methods revealed through practice and research;
  • hands-on, practical project management knowledge from on-site situations and field trips.

To achieve this, we will use a basic project management framework in which the project life-cycle is broken into organizing, planning, monitoring, controlling and learning from old and current construction projects (See Figure 1). Within the framework, you will learn the methodologies and tools necessary for each aspect of the process as well as the theories upon which these are built. By the end of the term you will be able to adapt and apply the framework to effectively manage a construction project in an Architecture/Engineering/Construction (A/E/C) organization.

The organization framework, concepts & tools for the course.

The material in the course is divided into five major sections (see Figure 1): Project Organization, Project Planning, Project Monitoring, Project Control, and Project Learning. In what follows, we describe in some detail the material covered in each major section of the course.

Section 1: Project Organization

Project organization involves selecting an appropriate project organization-structure and establishing the Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS) for the project. Through an analysis of the project information-transfer needs (i.e., who needs information from whom), project teams and a reporting structure may be determined. Specifically, several product development processes and the Design Structure Matrix are studied.

Section 2: Project Planning

Project planning involves establishing the Work Breakdown Structure and mapping this structure to the established OBS. Furthermore, a project budget and Cost Breakdown Structure are developed and mapped to the OBS and WBS. The planning phase also includes establishing an appropriate timeline for the project in the context of resource constraints. Finally, the project manager must acknowledge that very few (if any) of the estimates and predictions at hand will prove to be accurate in the future; she needs to account for risk factors and their possible consequences on the schedule, budget, quality and environment while planning a project.

Specific methodologies for planning include:

  • The Critical Path Method (CPM)
  • The Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM)
  • The Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)
  • The Graphical Evaluation and Review Technique (GERT)
  • Queue - Graphical Evaluation and Review Technique (GERT)
  • Simulation Language for Alternative Modelling (SLAM)
  • Dynamic Planning and Control Methodology (DPM)
  • Critical Chain Planning
  • Resource Loading

Many software tools, such as Microsoft® Project, Primavera Project Planner®, Primavera® Monte Carlo, Crystal Ball® and ProChain® are available to the project manager for deterministic and probabilistic planning. In this course we will use the following:

  • Primavera® P3 — for deterministic time and resource scheduling
  • Primavera® Monte Carlo — for probabilistic time and resource scheduling
  • Primavera® Expedition — for documenting multiple and complex projects
  • Pro Chain® — for scheduling with the critical chain method
  • Crystal Ball® — for risk analysis
  • Vensim® — for system dynamics analysis

Section 3: Project Monitoring

Project Monitoring refers to the configuration and metrics used to monitor the progress of a project throughout its life. Particular questions of interest to the project manager are:

  • Is the project progressing according to the schedule?
  • Will the project be completed within the allocated budget?
  • Will the product perform as expected?
  • If there are any deviations in schedule, budget or quality, how efficiently and how fast are they captured, reported and acted upon?

Earned Value Analysis is one project management tool used to help answer these questions. Reports are based on the organization and reporting structure established previously.

Section 4: Project Control

Based on the information gathered through the Project Monitoring system, corrective action may be required to keep a project on track. The Project Control section of the course describes techniques to help realign projects that have gone awry. Corrective action may be needed in many areas such as project scope, product performance, project schedule, and project budget. Project Control also requires a clear trace as to when and how changes are made to baselines as well as a clear understanding and documentation of project configurations.

Section 5: Project Learning

Project Learning is recognized by organizations as one of the most important factors for success in current and future projects. Through life-cycle and post-mortem analysis, the project manager may identify areas to be emphasized or more closely managed in future projects. Such areas include:

  • Resource allocation,
  • Risk and uncertainty,
  • Budget constraints,
  • Project feasibility, and
  • Change management.

A valuable methodology used in recent years for managing learning is simulation. In this course we will introduce the System Dynamics simulation methodology for evaluating certain performance parameters of a project.

Course Organization

Lectures and Recitations

The course materials will be taught through a series of lectures and recitations. Lecture time will be used for teaching course materials and class discussion.

Recitations will be used to support and enhance the material covered in the lectures through a practical application. Specifically, recitations will provide any necessary background materials, discuss examples, and answer questions regarding the application of theory to practice. Please note that attendance to recitations is required.

Homework Submission and Evaluation

All homework will be distributed and submitted electronically. Please submit all files in Microsoft® Office format (if you do not have access to the appropriate software, please see the lecturer after class).

The grade of the course will be assigned on an individual and team basis. For the term project, the work is done by a set of students working together as a company. The team grade of the term project is obtained from the term project documents. From the term project grade, each member will get an individual term project grade depending on her/his efforts and contributions as evaluated by her/his peers in the group. Each individual will receive a grade equal to the term project grade times a multiplier. This multiplier can be lower or greater than one. The average of the individual grades will be equal to the team grade. In that case, working effectively in a team is a precondition to get a good grade, but in the case that circumstances on the team create a difficult environment, individuals will not be blamed for the fault of others. Problem sets that are prepared by a team will also be graded accordingly. The term project, problem sets and class participation account for 100% of the grade.

Your final grade will be calculated as follows:

Problem Sets 35% (seven problem sets at 5% each)
Term Project 50%
Class Participation 15%

For full credit, problem sets and term project phases must be posted before class on the due-date as indicated on the Course Outline. 10% per day will be deducted from late problem sets or term project phases up to a maximum of seven days. Problem sets and term project phases received after seven days will not receive any credit. Under certain extenuating circumstances extensions may be granted. Please contact an instructor or teaching assistant prior to the due-date if an extension is required.

Collaboration among students on problem sets or term project phases to be completed individually is limited to discussing concepts and clarifying issues. Nonetheless, each student is expected to produce his or her own solutions to the homework problems. For a further discussion, please see the section on Academic Honesty below.

Collaboration among students on problem sets or term project phases to be completed as a team is encouraged. The team needs to submit only one document for the whole team.

The term project for this course is divided into four phases with four deliverables (TP I through TP IV) — one for each phase — and is to be performed by a set of students working as a company. As mentioned before, a final term project grade is assigned to each team based on these four deliverables. Project grades are adjusted for each individual based on each individual's contribution to the project. To establish individual contributions, a peer evaluation is performed at each term project phase. These evaluations ask each team member to distribute a financial "bonus" among the team members, provide a recommendation for each member of the team, evaluate the effect of each member to the morale of the team, evaluate the contribution of the team member to the term project and assign a "title" to each member of the team including the person filling out the form. There is the expectation that such evaluation will be filled individually and maintained confidential. It is also expected that team members will behave professionally and honestly while filling the evaluation. Any consultation with other team members when filling the evaluation is strictly forbidden.

Note: Individual class participation involves participation in lectures, laboratories, in-class discussions, office hours, and discussion threads.

Academic Honesty

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering adheres to the strictest standards of academic honesty. An important aspect of achieving these standards is to be sure that students are aware of faculty expectations regarding academic honesty. This statement is an attempt to clarify these expectations as they apply to this course.

Assignments, problem sets and term projects performed by students for submission serve the following two purposes:

  • Assignments, problem sets and term projects are seen as educational devices to help students master the course material. This includes the concepts, theories, methodologies, and tools presented in class and recitation as well as such skills as working in teams.
  • Assignments, problem sets and term projects help the faculty evaluate how well each student has mastered the course material.

Thus, departmental policies regarding academic honesty are intended to balance these two purposes and, unless otherwise stated, apply to all assignments.

Students currently taking this class can work together to conceptualize general approaches to assignments. However, unless otherwise specified for a particular assignment, the work you submit must be done completely on your own. This includes text, numerical calculations, mathematical derivations, diagrams, graphs, computer programs and output. You are also expected to properly reference the source of any information used in a submission that is not your own. This includes any book, article, web page, presentation or personal correspondence that you used for your work.

It is also inappropriate to use assignments, problem sets or projects submitted in previous years as a source, unless otherwise indicated.

If you have any questions about how these policies relate to a specific situation, please speak to the teaching staff of this course for clarification.