Project Management Principles: Sainsbury Laboratory Case Study


Stanton Williams is a London based organisation specialized in services such as architecture urban planning, public spaces, exhibition/set design, and renovation. The company was founded in 1985 by Alan Stanton and Paul Williams, and has 50 employees. It has five directors and seven associates. It is well known for exceptional architecture and a strong commitment to quality and spacious designs. The design culture and integrity of the organisation, matched with special attention to detail makes the company’s designs and architectures to become successful and stunning. The mission of the company is to enable people to experience places and allow such places to affect them positively. Its work connects people of Britain to their environment through a cautious manipulation of material, space and light quality. The organisation also provides spaces that boost the exercise of contemporary life. The team of employees and managers at Stanton Williams are guided by the passion for art and architecture. Since it was founded, the company has won more than 50 awards for urban design, interior design projects, masterplanning, and exhibition. These designs and architecture are focused on certain themes including research, sports, culture, commerce, residential, retail and education projects. One of its famous award winning projects is the Sainsbury Laboratory project in the field of education.

The main focus of this project review is the Sainsbury Laboratory designed by Stanton Williams in 2010. This project was chosen because it is a successful project which has become useful in the society.  The project located in Cambridge has a research programme, a historic site and a big laboratory designed for the University of Cambridge and the entire city of Cambridge. The project has received prestigious awards and has played a crucial role in the education sector of UK. Stanton Williams took time to understand and design this project. The site was also carefully chosen to meet the needs of the people and its intended purpose. Michael Bienias, the director of Estate Management in Cambridge University praises the project and says that the Sainsbury University has received prizes due to the excellent design skills of Stanton Williams. Indeed, the project was managed and executed successfully.

The project is called Sainsbury Laboratory because it was sponsored by Lord Sainsbury. However, Stanton Williams is the organisation behind the design of the project. This project review will discuss the project management approach of the organisation as they designed the laboratory. In this case, the project review will highlight some of the project planning elements that may apply to the real-life project.

Section 1 – Project Management Principles

In order to assess Sainsbury Laboratory in terms of real-life project management, it is necessary to understand the theory about project management principles. A project is a set of activities organized in a sequential manner to achieve a given objective (Richman, 2002). It involves the development of an idea and establishment of an approach to carry out activities in order to implement that idea. In the process of pursuing success in a project, it is always likely to face risks and challenges. Therefore, success is not guaranteed for projects. In this regard, project management requires risk management skills. The main risks and costs faced by projects are financial. Projects require huge sums of money in order to be implemented successfully. The concept of risk in project management necessitates project planning so that uncertainties are taken into consideration before the project is undertaken and during the project implementation process.

Projects are often categorised into four types. Industrial projects are concerned with quarrying, mining, construction and chemical activities (Project Management Institute, 2004). Manufacturing projects deal with the production of plant or equipment. Thirdly, management projects include introduction of new policies, relocation of premises, and installation of technologies. The fourth type of projects is research projects.

Project management is often carried out by a project management team headed by a project manager who is required to be most specialized in the project area. For instance, the implementation of the Sainsbury Laboratory project should be headed by a project manager who is specialized in education because the project involves architecture in the field of education. It is not necessary for the project manager to be a senior executive member of the organisation as long as he/she has a strong background in the specific field of the project (Project Management Institute, 2009). The project manager should also have good communication skills to communicate the vision of the project effectively. He/she should also be able to control individual members of the team and coordinate activities effectively.

In order to effectively manage projects, it is important for the implementing team to identify and predict difficulties as much as possible. This enhances effective control and coordination of activities by the manager.

External factors are also considered in project management. For instance, the project manager needs to consider factors such as seasonal variations and health and safety issues affecting the project.  Inflation, exchange rate fluctuations and other economic factors may also affect the financial plans of a project. This is always common in projects that involve high costs.

Project management involves key project phases namely; initiation, planning and scheduling, Execution, and closure. Initiation stage involves the assessment of the project’s scope and purpose. It defines the problem and objective of the project and identifies an idea (Project Management Institute, 2004).  In the planning stage, the project management team identifies the tasks the tasks to be executed and allocates resources to each of the tasks. Risks are also analysed in this stage and the criteria for success/failure is defined. In the execution stage, the project is fully implemented through the performance of the main activities of the project. This stage involves the fulfillment of project objectives and solution of emerging problems. Lastly, the closure stage entails the conclusion of project activities.

Project management systems and processes are used to achieve the project objectives. Project management system ensures that the project is conducted in an effective and smooth manner. One of the project management systems that can be used by project management teams to implement a project is Project Information system (IS). This project management system is flexible software that project managers use to monitor and control information concerning a given project (Pries & Quigley, 2013). The project management information system contains documents that are needed by the project manager to manage the project. Most projects use standardized project management information system which allows users to find relevant data easily during the course of the project management.

Project management systems are used to evaluate key project areas such as control, materials, structures, resources, and progress. Project management systems also integrate resources in the project activities (Project Management Institute, 2004). The project management team should understand how long each phase of the project will last, and what type of resources will be used in each phase. As the project progresses, various resources interact. This may lead to uncertainties and risks if the research project team does not manage them well. Resources used in each stage of the project management depend on each other in an integrated manner. To utilize resources effectively, the management team should conduct the project in an orderly and sequential manner.

Another component of project management system is an audit trail. This system records financial transactions that occur during the entire project (Pries & Quigley, 2013). This determines the amount of costs incurred and the highest contributing factors of such costs.

Section 2: Project Planning

Success/failure criteria for the project

Project planning for the Sainsbury Laboratory involves several steps. First, the project management team of Stanton Williams needed to devise success/failure criterion to determine how success can be achieved and how failure can be avoided in the project. In order to determine the level or extent of success in the project, it is necessary to compare the outcome of the project with the objectives provided during the initiation stage of the project. For instance, one of the objectives of the Sainsbury Laboratory was to provide a research programme, a historic site and a laboratory to be used by the students of Cambridge University within a period of one year. When determining the success criteria for this project, the manager should consider whether the three aspects of the project were met in the outcome. The defined project objectives need to be SMART (Pries & Quigley, 2013). The project scope, project objectives, and project strategy should also be developed as a way of determining the success/failure criteria for the project.

The success criteria of the project also involve a set of objectives highlighting measurable and quantifiable end results as well as cost estimates. The Sainsbury Laboratory project was estimated to cost £82 million. This operational cost estimate was expected to take the project to completion in 2010. The success criteria in this case would be achieved if the project did not exceed the stated cost estimate and the time of completion did not go beyond 2010. Therefore, time and cost are the two most important factors when determining the success criteria of the project.

Investment appraisal can also be used as one of the key factors of success for a project. This factor combines the cost and time factors in order to take into consideration the aspect of time value of money (Heerkens, 2002). In this case, the project is appraised by calculating simple and compounded interest rates or discounted cash flows.

Project Scheduling Techniques Used

Sainsbury Laboratory used key project scheduling techniques to enhance its success.  After the main project activities have been established, it is important to draw a time schedule that will detail the dates that each activity will be carried out. Sainsbury Laboratory ought to provide a time schedule using appropriate techniques in order to ensure that each activity is allocated an appropriate amount of time depending on the components of each activity. The project management team of Stanton Williams needed to develop a time schedule that will ensure that each project task is allocated a reasonable amount of time. This scheduling approach not only saves time but also ensures that resources are utilized effectively.

One of the scheduling techniques that could be used by Stanton Williams to implement schedule its Sainsbury Laboratory project activities is the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT). This technique uses a network diagram which lists a series of activities preceding each other as shown below.

From the PERT diagram above, it is clear that activities of the Sainsbury Laboratory project can be arranged in a sequential project scheduling of activities using. In this case, precedent activities are linked to succeeding activities using arrows. The nodes represent activities at each phase of the project management. For instance, the activity of laying foundation for the intended laboratory and architecture is laid down before construction begins. Furthermore, the architectural design cannot begin before the structure is constructed. Materials are also purchased before the architectural design so that the same materials may be installed at the same time when the architecture of the building is designed.

Project Performance Measures

Performance of the project at each stage should be measured to determine whether it is in line with the project plan. Monitoring and control are essential performance measures tools that can be used to provide judgment concerning the overall performance of the project. Some activities cannot be undertaken without the completion of others. This means that the project begins slowly but picks up faster as more activities come into play. In this case, the costs of the project increase with the advancement of project activities.

One of the project performance measures that apply to the Sainsbury Laboratory project is the earned value control mechanism. In this case, project performance is assessed through the combination of time and cost together. This measures the project in terms of work done. In the case of Sainsbury Laboratory project, the project is measured by considering the number of rooms or floors constructed for the building. As mentioned earlier, the total cost of the Sainsbury Laboratory project is £82 million. When the value of activities completed reaches £41 million, the project is said to be half complete.

Another performance measure is cost estimation. In this case, project tasks are assessed in order to determine whether capital has been invested effectively. Cost estimation also enables the organisation to focus on areas that incur high costs. In the Sainsbury Laboratory project, the tasks that took most of the project costs were the construction and architectural design of the Laboratory. These areas therefore needed special attention and a lot of time from the project implementation team.

Resource allocation is also an essential element in project performance. Scheduling therefore takes place in two forms: resource-limited scheduling and time-limited scheduling techniques. Stanton Williams used both of these techniques to implement its Sainsbury Laboratory project. Project completion date and human resources were considered in scheduling the activities.

Project Change Control Procedures

Change is common in some stages of most projects. Change needs to be initiated in line with the timescale of the project so that the project is completed within the scheduled time. Project tasks need to be given some level of flexibility in order to allow for the changes to occur. A rigid change control mechanism will hinder the progress of the project rather than supporting it (Kerzner, 2001). In the case of Sainsbury Laboratory project, Stanton Williams had a good project management team that allowed the project to be flexible at every stage in order to allow for changes. The organisation dedicated a long time to the project’s development, which allowed them to develop a flexible change control mechanism that involved the project manager and the project team.

The contractors and in-house project managers involved in the Sainsbury Laboratory project identified some areas that need improvement at each stage of the project. For instance, whenever the architectural design was found to be different from the needs of Cambridge University, the project manager was informed. The project manager then communicated some changes that should be included in the succeeding tasks in order to bring the project back to the intended progress.

Changes in the project were brought before a change committee which analysed the extent of such changes and their implications on the project in terms of cost, time, stock level, and reliability. The change committee in most projects also takes appropriate steps to rectify any damage caused by negative effect caused by changes.

Project Termination Process

Project termination is an essential consideration of a business in its project progress. It is a decision that needs to be made by both the project management team and the control committee. Every project comes to an end eventually, and appropriate mechanisms need to be used to close it. Some of the factors that need to be considered in project termination include: technical objectives, ROI achieved, engineering design, and intellectual property rights (Chartered Institute of Building (Great Britain), 2010). Project termination may occur due to successful completion of the project or complete failure.

Sainsbury Laboratory project was terminated because it was successful. Therefore, it was approved as a formal part of the organisation’s architectural designs. The project termination process involved the transfer of resources such as materials, equipment and personnel used in the project to other uses within the parent organisation (Stanton Williams). All the contractors are also assessed and appraised for success and given their last payments as they head back to their organisations (Turner, 2003).

The variety of project termination for the Sainsbury project is positive because the scope has been completed successfully and the client (Sainsbury) has accepted it. As part of the project termination, the product of the project (laboratory, historic site, and research program) is released to the client for use.

Section 3: Project Human Resources

Human resources are required in both the leadership level and the project team of the project management in order to carry out tasks of the project successfully. Leaders ensure that the project is completed according to the required standards of the project as contained in the constraints, targets, project schedules, deadlines, and budgets (Pries & Quigley, 2013). The team members on the other hand play key roles in the project implementation by participating in project activities. The relationship among team members and leaders is also important for the project management team to achieve its project objectives.

Project Organisation structure

The human resources required for a project management exercise form an organisational structure that influences the project management significantly. The success of the project management largely depends on the organisational structure. Sainsbury Laboratory project management team also developed its own organisational structure composed of the project sponsor Lord Sainsbury, a project manager, employees of Stanton Williams, supporters and other stakeholders.

The organisational structure of every business project management should have a mission, aims and objectives that are clearly set and communicated across the entire project management team (Lewis, 1998). These need to be formulated at the time of drawing the project plan so that the project management team knows beforehand what it is expected to achieve in its project management exercise. The aim of Sainsbury Laboratory project was to design architecture with a research programme, a historic site and a Botanic Garden that will serve the educational needs of Cambridge University which is the main beneficiary and client for the completed project. The organisation structure of the project management intended to achieve these objectives. This mission provides broad strategic aims that the team needs to accomplish in the project. The mission statements and aims of the organisation are essential elements of the organisational structure which show direction for the progress of the project.

The project management team is also structured according to the functions and processes of the project (Richman, 2002). In this case, human resources are organized in terms of their areas of specialization. The organisational structure of a project management can be designed in such a way that various departments are interconnected and different levels of management are organized from top level management to the bottom level management.

Project management team of the Sainsbury Laboratory project was organized from top level management, middle management, the support staff, infrastructure and operating core. The top level management was composed of the project manager and the sponsor while the middle staff was made up of departmental heads. The operating core was composed of the project team members who carried out the main activities. This management organisation is shown below:

The figure above shows that the support staff and infrastructure help the operating core and the middle management to perform the project tasks and report to the top management (Portny, 2007). The top management also delegates duties to the middle management direct daily activities of the project.

The organisational structure of the Sainsbury Laboratory project is also represented by a functional structure in which various departments are interrelated to run the activities effectively. This can be shown in the figure below.

The diagram above indicates a functional structure whereby various levels of management may be organized in each department of Stanton Williams as members of the Sainsbury Laboratory project management team. From the figure, the project manager sits at the top while the middle level management for each department is organized at the middle. A1, A2, B1, B2, etc. are members of the operation core in the project who carry out the specific tasks of the project.

Project leadership

Project leaders are members of the project management team who are interested with leading others to complete project activities according to the required standards of the project. They ensure that the project core team follows predetermined schedules, deadlines and budgets to achieve the set targets and objectives (Project Management Institute, 2004). Leaders also build relationships among various members of the project team. A project management operates like the management of a conventional company whereby leaders set a vision and mission for other team members to follow in order to meet project objectives.

Leadership of the Stanford Laboratory project acted as transformational leaders and paid as much attention to people and relationships as to the tasks. They used effective communication skills to communicate the purpose of the project and brought together all members of the project management team through teamwork in each project task. The middle level managers acted as effective leaders by achieving a balance between getting the job done and enhancing work relationships among the members of the project management team.

Team leaders in project management need to develop certain leadership qualities in order to lead others towards the achievement of project objectives. They should be calm, controlled, trustworthy, and respectful. They should also be able to communicate and make decisions effectively. They should trust members of the project team and call for collective spirit and teamwork. This enhances cohesiveness in the team. Sainsbury Laboratory project was designed through an effective leadership. Rodger Freedman, who is an advisor to the Sainsbury Laboratory, says that Stanton Williams has distinguished itself with the way in which it planned and understood their roles. This indicates a good quality of leaders in a project.

Project HR Requirements

There are various HR requirements for each project management. All resource requirements are important for project management process, but the most important are is workforce (Desmond, 2004). Careful planning and scheduling of human resources is essential if the project is to be run in a smooth manner. The resource requirement of Sainsbury Laboratory project was determined by planning and estimating the needs of the client. The project work involved construction of a building, architectural design, and furnishing. The resource requirement was therefore determined by analysing these activities. The workforce was then derived from the fields of architecture, construction, engineering and carpentry. Procurement experts were also involved in the project so that they could purchase materials and equipments for the new laboratory.

This shows that it is necessary to estimate the requirements of the project tasks and matching them with the appropriate human resources. Certain factors can hinder the effectiveness of human resources. Such factors include illnesses, injuries and conflict in the project management team. Therefore, human resources requirements should provide room for absenteeism and errors in their estimations.

Section 4: Project Evaluation

The project is considered successful if it has achieved the intended aims and objectives. The project is also successful if it has been completed within the required budget, time schedule, and resource requirements. For the case of Sainsbury Laboratory project, success is achieved if the building has been constructed, designed, and equipped within the period of 1 year projected, and within the £82 million budget that was established from the beginning. The project was completed successfully, and now stands out as the best award-winning project in London. This is because the project’s planning and estimation was done successfully by Stanton Williams.

Monitoring and control procedures also determine the success of a project (Lock, 2007). The success of Sainsbury Laboratory project shows that the project was monitored and controlled effectively by the project management and the change committee as it progresses. Proper termination procedures were also applied to ensure that the project moves on to a new use immediately without any pitfalls.

The project plan for Sainsbury Laboratory was also designed appropriately by the project management team in order to enhance success of the project. The plan allowed various departments of the project to utilise its resources including human resources effectively to meet the set objectives without incurring a lot of costs. According to Sainsbury and his advisors, the project was done to their satisfaction because Stanton Williams applied appropriate estimations, plans and ideas to guide the project towards the achievement of its objectives. Planning for the project was successful because activities were scheduled well and the project’s feasibility was assessed by the two directors of Stanton Williams. Cost control, human resource requirements, and estimate techniques were also assessed appropriately to ensure that the project activities meet the desired objectives. The functional organisation structure of the project management also ensured that there is an appropriate management and coordination of activities in the project.

Project performance measures for the Sainsbury Laboratory project have been analysed by the project team to determine the success of the project. This led to project monitoring and control procedures which ensured that the project is kept on the right path from the beginning to the end. This approach ensures that the project rolls according to plan and that the project activities will be achieved. Generally, Sainsbury Laboratory project was successful because the project management team applied all the project management processes and procedures beginning with planning, scheduling, performance measures, change control, and project termination.


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