Cost influence- It’s all about timing


When the project is in its infancy there seems to be plenty of optimism around; there is time and the budget looks healthy. The team feels upbeat about progress and there is a general belief they will be able to meet deadlines and make a decent profit. If this sounds like a great position to be in, what makes it more promising is how much of an influence the team can have on project costs at this stage. What factors can the team influence-

  • Ability to optimize design to affect raw material – Early on, the design team has flexibility to evaluate several options on design and how design could specify low cost raw material by way of both labor and freight
  • Ability to optimize design for capital cost reduction- Design optimization plays a significant role with constructability options thereby leading to reduced labor cost. This becomes a key cost driver especially for projects in locations where labor costs form a high percentage of project costs
  • Ability to optimize the schedule by managing project float- The early part of the project is always the ideal phase at which time the execution team have the ability to look at options in terms of constructability, sequencing, heavy equipment usage, temporary facility sizing

You got the timing, you got it right. If you now plan to make changes when you are close to half way done, you may be too late! That’s right, its all about timing!


Planning happens between the ears!

The mantra to Project Setup:


  • Know your Contract (Scope and T’s & C’s)

  • WBS-OBS alignment

  • Budget and time ownership and accountability

  • Execution plan- Clear vision and strategy

  • Prescribe project goals and the “food chain”



Blame it on Rio?

With the curtains down on the Rio Olympics, what is it to the Brazilians? After having been the genial hosts for the 2014 world cup soccer and then the summer Olympics this year, what does it do to the country? With the ongoing talks from several world leaders about protecting the country and the earth for their children and grandchildren, one would hope the Rio Olympics does not pass on billions of dollars in debt to their future generations.

When reports of less than 90% tickets sold come out and considering these figures are way less than Beijing and London, it makes you it going to take a generation and a half to clear these debts they may have accumulated?


Not to put a downer on the games, but we certainly witnessed history being made and well, the “victims” of that made up robbery scenario.

Memorable moments-

Usain Bolt, of course- He’s a brand

Michael Phelps, of course- He’s from Maryland

Then, it was Mo Farah- Arise Sir Mo, perhaps?

Simone Biles- Genuine happiness for her by everyone around

Lochte- Embarrassment personified, what else can I possibly add?

What was especially heartwarming was the world record winning performance in the men’s 400 m run by South African Wayne Van Niekerk watched and cheered on by his 74 year old coach.

The oil rich emirates of Bahrain and Qatar did import their athletes from Kenya and other East African nations and these people did them proud! So why are people crying sour grapes! Do whatever it takes as long as its legal .

India- What a fiasco, what an encore of yet another disastrous non-performance. The two ladies that won them medals won them not because of everyone but they won them inspite of everyone. What an insipid show otherwise! How about staying away from the games for a few decades and may be do something to come of the shame shell meantime

Bottomline- Brasil- You did it! Damn good show!

PS- Nemar redeems himself,almost!

This is highly deplorable!

A classic case of an ignoramus reacting to someone from a specific religion. Just goes to show how shallow, ignorant and trashy people can get.  We’re seeing several such instances when these sort of semi-educated, unaware people blurt off something so offensive thereby embarrassing their establishments. Sorry state of affairs!

Its not about Islam, this could have been a Hispanic, an islander or a black. Its about people’s inherent bias and the microcosm they dwell in.

Surely a hard drinking pub culture cannot be an excuse for being boorish! Irrelevant? Not quite! Something I have faced and what some people now go through is most certainly far worse!

Do not be a Wildebeest! Cost vs benefit-$$

Cost vs Benefit? What gives?

It’s a project and yes changes are inevitable and to a large extent, so are delays. On a construction project, a delay could mean a critical path delay which for most part is instantly discoverable when it occurs. A cumulative delay is more of a cancer that continues to eat the project and is usually not discoverable until sometimes its too late. Do not be fooled into a false sense of security; if your end dates are holding just because your schedule says so, that’s only part of the news. Continue looking into how your project is going, are you making physical progress, is your SPI decent?

Back to the main story, when delays happen, project management reacts and most likely they will get all hands on deck and scream “Recover!” Yes, I know panic stations set in and all that but after the shouting, slow down and get down to doing something that will lend some sanity to the situation.

Ok, there is a delay and you have to recover, but here is the catch do you really need to recover? Remember all said and done, recovery costs $$!

A few points to consider-

  1. What do you achieve by recovery? If your project was ahead of schedule and even after the delay you can still deliver when the customer wants it, do you still want to recover.
  2. What do you gain by recovering? Is there a substantial bonus at stake?
  3. If recovery is going to cost you $ X and end results do not matter to the customer as long as product is delivered when the customer needs it, why spend the $$!
  4. If delays are translated into lost revenue for you in terms of liquidated damages amounting to $ X, but if the recovery costs you $x + $y, do you still want to recover?
  5. If the recovery helps gaining net revenue for you and protect your reputation by timely delivery, yes it may be worth it.

If you can truly slow down and assess the real cost-benefit of recovery, you are on the right track. Do not be wildebeest and go with the herd, learn to stand out and think on your own, a lone wolf perhaps?

Planes, Trains, Horses & Automobiles- Peru Hike 2016

A journey that took me to the Andean valleys in Peru was a trip through the customs, a trip through the Quechua traditions, a trip through the vastness and remoteness of the countryside yet a supremely enriching experience. A trip that started with another plane ride evolved into all forms of transport; A locomotive engine, an automobile , horseback ride and of course my own two little feet.

As with most journeys in this land which I’d rather refer to as the Inka kingdom, it starts in Cusco, capital of the magnificent Inka empire. Cusco, at just over 11,000 ft does bring back some memories and feeling like Tintin in “Prisoners of the son” I bask in the warm winter sun feeling may be a little bit out of breath. However as the locals say, cocoa tea is that magic pill for altitude sickness and admittedly its a weak concoction and doesn’t do much for me. So I do what I do, get used to the altitude. Embarking in the week of the Peruvian independence day was a great feast for the eyes watching the schools, local fire and police units parading in the central Plaza de Armas, Sitting on the balcony on a lazy day sipping a Pisco sour watching the locals intermingle with the tourists in a rich colorful array of cultures was a treat.

Then the journey begins into the Lares valley. Our  group is typical of an international contingent with a Peruvian (Quechua Indian) guide and an assortment of French and  Polish folks. Traversing a village meat market where heads and hooves of cows are out on display before we headed out towards the Lares Valley while going over a 12,000 foot high mountain pass. Llamas and alpacas are a common sight and seem to have formed a special bond with humans, being the source of food and clothing for all around.

The first day hike goes up from the relatively low elevation of 10,500 ft to the camp 1 at 12,500 ft. The hike takes us through remote Indian villages where life is at complete peace unhindered by technology and simplicity is at its best.The hike is gradual yet tests out the endurance of the feet and heart; frequent rests become the norm as the altitude gets up to above 12,000 ft. The camp we get into as remote as it can get but yet close to the village of the horsemen, where womenfolk dressed in colorful bright red garb spread out their wares consisting of alpaca wool gloves and scarves. It becomes an instant flea market and you cannot help but admire their tenacity as they are fascinated by us and we in turn are fascinated by them. The camp tents are surrounded by the glorious Andes peaks and as the cold sets in, the silence of the darkness is only broken by the occasional barking of dogs and the soothing flowing of the nearby stream.

The second day hike starts fairly early and as the caravan departs towards the mountain pass the journey has to be made. We have to be at 15,000 feet in under 5 hours. The terrain is rocky, the slopes are steep yet we must march on. Tyros take frequent breaks while the seasoned hikers lead the trail. Passing other hikers, horses carrying supplies but what is most amazing is the endurance and strength of the men and boys that literally are seen jogging up at these elevations like it was a jog to the convenience store round the corner. After a steep climb and some assistance from the horses, we finally make it to the 15,000 ft point, the mountain pass overlooking a gorgeous lake that makes it all worth the effort. Then the rest of the day is about going downhill and hiking for over 4 hours like a billy goat takes us to the camp 2. A warmer place yet superb in its location where we “chill” for the night.The day 2 has probably got to be one of the most grueling days I have ever encountered in my life and turns out that I actually walked close to 25 miles!

The Day 3 is then decamoing, hopping on to a coach to get to Ollantaytambo and walking around this charming town before getting on the Perurail train to Aguas Calliente. Machu Pichu beckons.

Not just hiking in Machu Pichu, but what is absolutely rewarding are the hikes to the Inka bridge and the Sun Gate that makes it special. A must do, if you haven’t done it already! Then the final hike down the steps from Machu Pichu to our base camp in Aquas Callientes.

My highlights-

The valley hike, meeting the locals, great group of people, discovery of new lands and the sheer feeling of serendipity as we hiked some mind boggling trails around Machu Pichu.

Be prepared for high altitude effects; breathlessness, parched throats and remember its a marathon not a sprint.Hike light and let the horses carry that extra heavy hiking backpacks. Lots of water highly recommended alongwith sun protection. It may have been winter but when the sun gets out, it shines down hard.

And spare a thought for the village kids who wear smiles and go on about life with such verve and enthusiasm it is infectious. Consider contacting a local agency if you are keen on supporting their education and development, I am certain there are appropriate avenues.  What is it they say- “A good deed never goes unrewarded”.

The trip has put life in a different perspective and makes me want to do more of this; miles to go before I sleep !


U.S.A- Really ?

Why is America supposed to be different ? Or is it even supposed to be different? The cliche “Melting Pot” is not that hackneyed after all, in fact it is what gets most of the immigrants here and the “land of opportunities” beckons. What’s transpiring in this land of opportunities is nothing short of shame and embarrassment, a series of events that defy the basic human values and transgresses all levels of society. I am not for a moment taking sides here and I take pride in having a circle of friends and colleagues spread across several continents and cultures. Painting anyone or any segment with a broad brush is not only insular but downright moronic. Yes there are cases of police brutality, yes there are cases where a certain community feels victimized but is that reason enough to raise arms and behave like you are in the Middle Ages ! A whole lot of rhetoric is spread across the media but one thing is for sure, no one is entitled and that means the whites, blacks, browns, Asians, Hispanics. If it’s a land of opportunities then we all need to work for our living and make the best of what the country offers. No one, unless they are veterans, disabled or seniors are meant to be mollycoddled. Period. 

I was recently in in this class where they discussed unconscious bias and it now seems so pertinent and I know we are all guilty of it whether it’s color, alumni or even social habits. After the sniper attack on police officers in Dallas Vin Jones discussed this on CNN and I thought that was a very astute observation that encompasses basically all these events that’s been boosting up the network ratings  past few months. 

In conclusion, let’s do what is right not what color the victim is where they came from with zero blatant bias. Unfortunately bad apples are not a thing of the past.