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British Petroleum Versus New British Library Compare and Contrast Essay


Construction projects can achieve desired outcomes in a relatively short time and with relatively minimal resources. However, for this to occur, then certain criteria must be adhered to as seen in the construction projects of British Petroleum (BP) at the Andrew Field and the New British Library (NBL) project.

Comparison of the projects

British petroleum’s Andrew Field was completed not just within the scheduled time but four and a half months before the deadline. The company had decided that it would achieve first oil within 6 months from the commencement of the project (Latham, 18).

Therefore, the six weeks completion was a sign that they had exceeded expectations. BP was able to achieve this owing to their careful use of man hours. They dedicated one hour per tone towards the re-commissioning of the project which such a great achievement was given the fact that their counterparts had been using about 20 man-hours per tonne for the same.

Operating costs for the entire British petroleum project were kept under a tight lid hence explaining the success of this project. First of all, the company had intended on spending 450 million pounds on the project. However, as the project went on, this eventually reduced to 290 million pounds.

BP was able to achieve this through continuous brainstorming and re-examination of their construction processes so as to determine which processes could be made more cost effective (Latham, 24). The company continuously allowed autonomy over decision making amongst the members of the team.

This put them in a place where they had the power to challenge the status quo and think of new and creative ways of achieving their cost reduction goals. At first, the latter company did not expect to save so much since it had been expected that the probability of achieving such a target would have been ten percent.

However, this project team was able to contravene those negative expectations and thus direct the savings towards greater earnings. It was shown that the company’s profits went up by 45 million pounds and this is directly attributable to the operational savings. It should be noted that profits of such nature are not even common within the construction industry so theirs was definitely something worth noting.

On the other hand, the NBL project went over and above its budgets and was highly inefficient in resource usage. Initially, the group had set aside cost changes at a maximum of 10,000 pounds. However, this soon changed to 25,000 pounds within the course of the project. One of the reasons for this haphazard use of project funds was the fact that the budget and project scope were not well defined.

Most additional costs had not been accounted for and NBL had left important phases of the construction such as technical variations and the design development at the discretion of the project director and superintending officer’s contingency fund.

This was definitely a step in the wrong direction because instead of being proactive in budget making the NBL project team was being reactive. Budget increases would only be done after costs had already spiralled and this was not a very wise decision (Bourn, 5). Budgetary control was only achieved late in the project i.e. in 1995 after much wastage has already occurred.

It is worth noting that BP has such a strong sense of direction when carrying out the project. This was largely because the latter organisation had created very clear goals before the onset of the project. Furthermore, they had all understood their specific expectations for the Andrew Field operation and therefore were in a position to work towards those outcomes without having to waste time on clarifying them again.

Team roles were well identified and so were the results that each of the members was expected to deliver or at least work towards. Conversely, the New British Library team suffered from a lack of direction. In the 1980s, the latter team did not even have a preset project scope, timetable or committee. They had deliberately allowed things to be undefined because they had assumed that this would lead to greater flexibility.

However, it was very clear later on in the project that this had been mistaken thinking. Lack of role definition during the New British Library’s implementation process contributed to poor performance because there were certain overlaps.

The government body has a superintending officer yet the project needed a construction and project manager. These were all roles that existed in the project and they led to ineffective time usage as well as poor resource use (Bourn, 4).

The Andrew team was not afraid of borrowing new concepts from other industries and applying them in their project. This particular case was ideal for illustrating how the construction industry can benefit from waste reduction strategies as well as other initiatives during construction. This group employed the Cost reduction initiative for the new era initiative.

The BP project was able to make its mark as a landmark agent for change within the construction industry owing to this dedication towards new initiatives. In the tendering process, British petroleum did not focus on conventional ways of procurement; it laid down ten criteria that would determine the minimum conditions that such an entity was expected to achieve in order to enhance some of their outcomes.

New British library had very serious problems with these issues. The procurement process within the New British Library project was as effective as it should have been.

There were problems with supplementary agreements as well as problems with contractor’s counterclaims. If the NBL team had been very clear on their expectations during procurement then perhaps some of the challenges they went through may have been eliminated.

All BP project contributors were working with one another as members of one unit. They did this after a call to behavioural change by the project’s manager. At the onset, he asserted that he wanted the members of the team to go through a revolution and this would only be made possible if they considered behavioural change. It was eventually made possible through a rigorous change in different aspects of their behaviour.

Everyone was firmly committed to the project and they considered themselves as one group. Conversely, the New British Library did not have a sense of ownership of the project. Management had never been placed in the hands of the latter entity. In fact, out of the seventeen members selected for the project in 1992, only one came from the British Library and he had not even been allowed to contribute towards the design of the project.

The New British Library project was managed by the Office of Arts and Libraries at first and then transferred to the National Heritage Department. This continual transference of managerial powers came in the way of establishing a firm commitment to the project by the said team (Bourn, 3).

As if the latter was not enough, the NBL project continued to be implemented by an inefficient team until it was eventually realised that some managerial changes needed to be instated.

A project review revealed that the steering committee was superfluous. Team work was not very common and most of the project members were not working together. There was a need to ensure that this changed hence explaining why 1996 saw the creation of Departmental change to the project (Bourn, 6).

Indeed, a thorough commitment to the quality of the BP project was one of the reasons for their exceeded expectations. The team made sure that they carried out every stage of the implementation with utmost care and in the most efficient manner. However, the same thing cannot be said about the NBL project.

Here, quality management had been put at the periphery during implementation and the group paid a heavy price for choosing to do so. For example, cabling was done improperly and at a later stage of the job, the group soon came to find out that the work was faulty.

Furthermore, NBL was in a position where it could not undo some of the damage that had been done due to poor quality management in the job; this would prove to be too costly for them. In the end, an audit report showed that they were about 230, 000 elements that were faulty.

This was definitely something that was unacceptable in construction and could have been avoided if the team had been dedicated to quality management. The difference between these two projects in terms of quality control lies in the fact that the New British library waited for completed work in order to carry out quality control while their counterparts at British Petroleum kept doing this throughout the entire process.

Their commitment towards finding minor faults within the project prevented them from having to dismantle an already complex system in order to rectify some of these problems. The opposite case arose at the New British Library Project because they waited too long in order to capture most of their defects. Reactive decision making was at the heart of this major hurdle in project implementation.

How the delivery of the New British Library might be improved

Egan (27) explains that the major problem with the construction industry is that entities tend to put too much focus on practical implementation of the project while placing design elements on the periphery. The same thing happened to NBL as they were carrying out their project. Experts recommend that this is flawed thinking and it needs to be reoriented.

One way of achieving this is through a through dedication of project time and resources towards project design. This can then be tied in with implementation or actual construction. If the NBL team members had done this, they would have benefited from increased integration of subcontractors and suppliers in the process. As noted before, NBL was having a hard time integrating their subcontractors and this needed to change.

As stated earlier, the distinction between the two groups started with a lack of clear goal and role clarification. Consequently, for NBL to do well, it needs to set out these common objectives. One of the methods for achieving this is the creation of common objectives. It should be noted that BP was slightly different from NBL because two clients were involved in the NBL project while only one client procured the BP project.

Nonetheless, this does not imply that NBL should have resigned itself to mediocre work. Instead, they should have worked together to create a unified team with firm commitment to the project. This is exactly what the project team needs to do now in order to be able to move forward.

Alternatively, NBL have the choice of establishing one comprehensive client to be in charge of the entire project. It is always complicated when two clients are working together in one project because this creates a lot of rivalry and time wastage (Bourn, 7).

NBL should also borrow a leaf from construction experts in the industry. It should be dedicated towards quality control so as to avoid all the wastages that the company underwent throughout the project. Since quality is a major issue in the process, then it should be included in the design phase of the project. The team members had made the mistake of dwelling too much on cost while ignoring the quality aspects.

These are all important issues during project implementation and utmost care should be given to both of them. It should also develop a culture of right time first as suggested by Egan (27). If NBL employ computer systems that facilitate the design process then they may be in a position to improve their quality control systems.

There are several simulation programs that can be helpful in ensuring that defects in a construction project are identified and prevented. This could definitely be helpful to NBL because the latter party has been having problems in preventing occurrence of flaws.

The company also needs to be very vigilant about budgetary and financial matters. One way in which it can do this is by proactive budget allocation. Contingency funds need to be set aside only for unforeseeable expenses but all other major aspects of the project should be planned for in advance.

The New British Library team needs to change their procurement process. They can do this by comparing all the suppliers that have made an offer to them and then utilise industry standards in order to assess which ones will deliver the best outcomes for them. Furthermore, the procurement process should also be characterised by performance targets.

Participants should know what is expected of them through the use of these targets. They should contain expectations on major project milestones as well as targets for the budgets to be utilised in the construction process as well (Egan, 31). It should be noted that since NBL is a public body then this process may not be as straight forward.

However, for the latter project to move forward then some sacrifices have to be made. The said individuals need to be such that they can be fully involved in determination of the participating contractors. One way of achieving this is by taking control of the procurement process themselves.

Lastly, technology can be an effective way of transforming the mode of operation within the NBL project. It should be noted that most players in the construction industry will rush to use a certain piece of technology without necessarily considering the existing work culture within an organisation. NBL would be mistaken to use the same approach.

They need to first look at all the processes in place and then identify the challenges existent in them. Thereafter, they can look for other ways of integrating technology into these processes. Additionally, the use of computer aided design (CAD) software can go a long way in creation of prototypes.

So much wastage can be eliminated by the latter groups if they can look for certain simulations in carrying out these processes as they go about completing the construction.

It should be noted that CAD as a form of technology is not merely restricted to new constructions; it can be employed in the process of redesigning as well (Egan, 28). Instead of always enacting redesign processes on site, the New British Library team would be more informed or better off if they had utilised this approach.


The major variations between the two project teams were differences in making clear cut roles for team members, differences in quality control implementation, differences in the design phase as well as differences in teamwork and cohesion.

NBL might have done well if they made quality control an ongoing process rather than end process, also, if they utilised technology more efficiently and directly to redesign or design the building and also if the team had been more vigilant in procurement as well as budget making processes.

Works Cited

Egan, John. Rethinking construction. Report of construction taskforce, 1998, 18-29

Bourn, John. Progress in completing the New British Library. London: HMSO, 1996

Latham, Michael. British Petroleum Management report. Latham Report, 1994

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