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Development of an Ideal Project Law

[+] Author Affiliations
David C. Hall

SRS Risk Management Services, Greenbelt, MD

Ron Kohl

R. J. Kohl & Associates

Roger Graves

Davion Systems, Ltd.

Paper No. IMECE2003-41674, pp. 171-177; 7 pages
  • ASME 2003 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Engineering/Technology Management: Safety Engineering and Risk Analysis, Technology and Society, Engineering Business Management, and Homeland Security
  • Washington, DC, USA, November 15–21, 2003
  • Conference Sponsors: Engineering and Technology Management Group
  • ISBN: 0-7918-3728-9 | eISBN: 0-7918-4663-6, 0-7918-4664-4, 0-7918-4665-2
  • Copyright © 2003 by ASME


Our research collaboration has begun a project to develop an Ideal Project Law (IPL). What we are trying to accomplish is the development of some equation with a mathematical underpinning that can usefully relate Functionality, Cost, Schedule and Risk which can then be graphed, and this graph then becomes a decision making and communications aid. For some of us, the current contention is that a possible IPL is analogous to the Ideal Gas Law (IGL), which relates Pressure (P), Volume (V) and Temperature (T) for reasonably well-behaved gases. (P*V)/T = Constant (where the constant has very much to do with the nature of the gas under discussion). This is due to our belief that the IPL will represent some form of a relationship (inverse or direct) between Cost (C), Schedule (S), Functionality (F) and Risk (R) much like the IGL represents relationships between P, V and T for a given gas. We also expect that at least some of the factors will change based on the type of project, so we might have to develop a range of factors and constants. The Ideal Gas Law informs us, for example, that if you keep V fixed and increase P, then you can expect T to also increase. So “keep this one factor fixed, and change that other factor and then watch the third factor move one way or the other” relationships can be described via the Ideal Gas Law. We believe that this “push on one factor and see what happens to the other factors” feature of the Ideal Gas Law seems to be very analogous to project and operation Cost, Schedule, Functionality and Risk relationships. This law, or some such function, is absolutely essential. Having such a Law that is proven valid will introduce (or rather tactfully enforce) some systematic thinking in the project and operational management set-up. Otherwise, no matter how elaborate a case is made for project or operational risks, the risk decisions will be left to the whims, fancies and moods of the key decision-making person(s) in the organization or project — we are working towards reducing this subjectivity in decision-making. We may determine that it is impossible to have a 100% scientific outlook on project or operational factors simply because human beings are involved, but if that is the case, we may be able to be at least 80% scientific about it.

Copyright © 2003 by ASME



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