The PROJECT GENERAL COMPANY, Jakarta is a Project Management Consulting firm in Jakarta, Indonesia.  We manage projects using PMBOK, AGILE, and ISO -21500 project management methodologies.  We are not involved in the NJ Transit project we are discussing in our blog, yet we believe that it can be a learning tool for others in our industry as well as Government officials, and people interested in good project governance.

We are writing this blog post as an independent evaluator of the issues in the NJ Transit train line Atlantic City route project. The NJ Transit line was shut down for a safety upgrade in Sept, 2018.  The train line shut down in order to install a federally mandated”… rail safety measure known as Positive Train Control, a task long completed”.

The next step in order to restart the train services was to have a safety inspection “federal rail association” and restart service in early January, 2019. Here is the primary source of information in this blog post:

In any infrastructure project we mange at The PROJECT GENERAL COMPANY we follow strict compliance processed tied to the latest version of PMBOK (currently PMBOK 6), with hybrid project life cycles allowed. Additionally our PMO is a directive model PMO with Center of Excellence form of PMO.

The art and science of PMBOK 6 is not only the mature process grouping and the in-depth widely accepted knowledge areas, it is in the AGILITY and feedback allowed in the planning and execution process groups.  A key to PMBOK 6 (or any older version of PMBOK) is the concept of progressive elaboration.

Progressive elaboration involves continuously improving and detailing a plan as more detailed and specific information and more accurate estimates become available. Progressive elaboration allows a project management team to define work and manage it to a greater level of detail as the project evolves (source PMI). As the project evolves, the project can and should adapt, hence, a key part of agility is met: ADAPTATION.

However, progressive elaboration, is not the root cause of the issues in the case of the NJ Transit Atlantic City line. It appears that multiple failures occurred in the areas that are well defined in PMBOK 6.

We observe failure in the following knowledge areas: Project Integration Management, Project Schedule Management, Project Communication Management, and Project Stakeholder Management.

The first issue noted, is in the project integration management knowledge area. In PMBOK 6 the integration knowledge area is ignored, or not well managed as it appears that the running (integration) parts of the project don not seem to work well as the shut down and the startup or the train did not happen on time. The safety upgrade work has occurred, but the Federal inspection process for safety has not happened, and the train is shut down without a clearly defined date for restart of the services.

The same issue impacts the schedule management knowledge area as we cannot answer when the train services to Atlantic City will resume.

Project Management firms measure the data side of any project: Scope, Schedule, and Cost. Yet the most critical failures of this specific project are rooted in the human side of the projects.

The Stakeholder Management and the Communication Management failures are overwhelming. We are seeing the late term project failures in this project, we see the angry stakeholders, we see the project sponsors and owners showing up to a meeting without a PA system, without answers, in a building without heat to scream at angry stakeholders and to scream at other stakeholders.

How could these issues be prevented?  Firstly, it appears the project was not well planned or executed. That is clear and a relatively easy fix in the future by managing, and implementing the recommendations from the lessons learned from the process and execution parts of this project.

What is not so easy to fix is the human side of the project management.

In Jakarta, we focus on research based project management, for example Leon Kappelman wrote about: the EARLY WARNING SIGNS OF IT PROJECT FAILURE: THE DOMINANT DOZEN.  According to Kappleman IT project risks can be grouped into the three general categories of social subsystem risks, project management risks, and technical subsystem risks (Wallace, Keil, & Rai, 2004), or simply people, process, and product risks, respectively). Kapplelman wrote about IT projects, and at The PROJECT GENERAL COMPANY, we believe that all projects failures primarily fall into the social subsystem (human side), and process (as the NJ Transit project) and then technical issues lastly.

The PROJECT GENERAL COMPANY approaches a project with the early warning signs of project failure in mind. We use tools, including people tools (training) and system tools that ensure process compliance and project governance that meets the strategic needs of our firm for internal clients, and the strategic needs for our clients if we are running an external project.

For example, The PROJECT GENERAL Company manages projects in Indonesia using Automated Project Office (APO) and Automated Insight (AI).  APO/ AI Advanced Management Insight is produced by Computer Aid, Inc. APO/ AI is a project governance tool that works with most major project management software (Primavera, MS Project, and SAP. APO/AI does not replace the tools you have and enjoy, it enhances them and does things they are not able to do.

For example, APO/AI measure the process side of the project (governance), and it measures the human side of the project to predict failures before they happen.  As Kappelman calls then, the social subsystems where projects fail the most. APO/ AI is the only product on the market that predicts project failures before they happen based on process and human failures.

Please feel to contact The PROJECT GENERAL COMPANY, JAKARTA for more information:

The PROJECT GENERAL Company manages projects in Indonesia using Automated Project Office (APO) and Automated Insight (AI)

The PROJECT GENERAL Company manages projects in Indonesia using Automated Project Office (APO) and Automated Insight (AI)Click here for more information on APO/AI: