Construction Project Planning and Management Capacity Building in India: A Wholistic Approach to Boost Infrastructure Development
By Geeta Shivdasani, Governance Global Practice, The World Bank
The Indus Valley civilization held cities and towns that shared unique building strategies using different building materials and tools, and the best structural layout for the towns with sophisticated plumbing set-up. The Taj Mahal commissioned in 1632 is one of the most outstanding and legendary examples of competence of Indian talent in the field of architecture and construction. The construction of Bhakra Nangal Dam [1948-1963] which is the second tallest damn in Asia and the highest straight gravity damn in India can be considered as a major breakthrough in the field of construction by India, as there were no big construction companies at that time to take up such a stupendous job, and network analysis like Critical Path Method [CPM] and Program Evaluation and Review Technique [PERT] had not taken formal shape. During its construction, the Indian government realized the need of professional competence in the field of construction. Many years later, Infrastructure Sector is a key driver for the Indian economy.
The Journey of "Construction Project Planning and Management"
A portfolio diagnostic conducted in 2017 identified numerous problems in construction projects financed by the Bank and recommended a tailor-made course for capacity building of implementing agencies. Recognizing that for building institutions, focus should be on people in those institutions, the India Procurement Team launched a major initiative towards building capacity of public sector officials in the field of Construction Project Planning and Management [CPPM]. With a vision to develop Centers of Excellence that could offer such programs on a sustainable basis, it partnered with two premier institutes recognized by the construction industry in India: The National Institute of Construction Project Management [NICMAR] and Larsen and Toubro Institute of Project Management [L & T IPM].
First of its Kind Program
A program with a modular design and project life-cycle approach was vizualized as an enabler to build ownership and existing capacities in developing a high‐quality standard during a project cycle from project conceptualization through implementation, to monitoring and evaluation and project closure, and ultimately, timely achievement of project objectives, while complying with Bank's Environmental, Social, Health and Safety [ESHS] requirements. Additionally, it addressed skills and knowledge required at each stage of construction project execution and critical elements within each stage. Seasoned practitioners delivered sessions and included experts with international experience to bring in international good practices. There were rich interactive discussions and experience sharing of real-life cases, exposure to new construction materials, site visits, and hands‐on lab session on project management technology for smarter project management, etc. Carefully planned breaks enabled building of informal network of knowledge for continued peer to peer learning and problem solving.
Feedback and Lessons Learnt
Nearly 70 participants handling both World Bank and domestically funded projects primarily in Rural Roads, State Roads, Urban and Water Supply and Sanitation sectors attended the program. 70 % of the participants said they would recommend this program to others. Feedback such as "excellent examples given"; "all topics included in this program are relevant to the project; "examples are related to practical and near to actual happening in project"; "the program is well structured, duration is appropriate"; "topics included in the training are very helpful", etc., reaffirmed the value of collaborative team work and the close involvement of the Bank in design and finalization of the program. Average rating for faculty members ranged between 8.2 to 9.4 on a scale of 10. A demo on digital tool being used by a Public Works Department generated a lot of interest. There were healthy discussions on different types of contracting strategies, their pros and cons, and which project was using what type of contract depending on existing capacities. The session on arbitration saw participants share and find solutions to real cases on contract performance. Participants demanded sector specific programs [e.g., separate programs for Roads Sector, Water Supply and Sanitation Sector, etc.] and more simulation/tool-based coverage to link practical scenarios for addressing pain-points.
During discussions it emerged that there are various external factors such as lack of ownership due to senior officials' turnover, delayed decision making, political will, socio‐political environment, etc., under which capacity development initiatives are carried out, that can put a constraint on capacity building efforts. Nevertheless, cumulative value addition of such Programs over a period was regarded as positive.
The Journey Ahead...
Capacity building and development happens where programs and initiatives are based on long-term engagement and partnerships. With the belief that "when we build, let us think that we build forever", the India Procurement Team is committed to building and developing existing local expertise and capacity that will enable contribution to a long-term sustainable change. Going ahead, the Bank will continue to partner with these institutes and support them in becoming Centers of Excellence through such programs delivered for a larger audience beyond the Bank financed Projects to help our Construction Project Managers make a difference in managing their investments in a systematic manner.