In case you don’t know who Dr Who is, he, or she (it varies these days, but I will stick with ‘he’ for convenience) is a UK TV character, conceived in the 1960’s, who has a wonderful time machine in the shape of a British phone box. He has adventures dashing backwards and forwards in time, fighting villains, people, creatures, aliens, rocks and machines. In fact, if you can imagine an evil villain, he has fought, or will fight them, somewhere in space and time. The series was still on the BBC last time I looked, still going strong almost 60 years later. Busy guy!

And you know what? He’s never really lost a fight. You just have to ask why, don’t you?

Well the secret must be the time machine, mustn’t it? When I was a child I thought it would be wonderful to have one, to be able to travel to the future and see it; to have all sorts of fun on the stock exchange and get rich. The problem is that now I have a time machine, it doesn’t seem to work. Well, not quite true, it may work perfectly well, but it didn’t come with a manual and I haven’t figured out how to drive it.

“Hang on!” I hear you say, “YOU have a time machine?”

It seems I do… and there is better news yet. So do you… and so does everyone involved in construction! Great, eh? Except, I very much doubt yours has a manual either, and so we are in the same boat. Cool toy, just don’t know how to work it properly.

Anyway, I can already hear you asking where this is going, so I will get on with it. What has this got do with any clockwork contract? Whatever one of those may be.

Well, today is the day our clockwork contract is going to be

born. Our employer uses his time machine to go forward in time, see what it is he wants to do, writes down what he thinks he wants to have built, and then writes this down very, very clearly in a set of requirements.

His designer then uses his own time machine to see what will be needed in the technical documents. He makes sure that whatever is going to be put together will have been done the way the employer wanted it to be done and that it will cost no more than the employer will be ready to pay. Of course, this is also transcribed, with laser-like clarity, into formal contract documents.

A bunch of contractors then all use their own machines to nip forward a couple of years, check the resources each of them will need in order to build what they will eventually plan to do and how they will do it. Then each of them draws a beautifully detailed portrait of what they saw.

I am sure your designer, planner and contractor are all thinking the same thing and have the same vision… aren’t they?

Now all of these time machines scoot from A to B directly through hyperspace, point and click, bypassing all obstacles along the way. But there are obstacles, and they need a bit of thought by young Pablo the planner. Unlike the big bosses, he doesn’t have much time himself and so does a quick review along the timeline and produces a rough sketch of a path around the obstacles he can see, [those he can envisage], he checks it doesn’t disagree with either the contract or possibility and that it leaves enough flexibility that he and his boss are comfortable with. It’s a bit rough, but he’s no Picasso and time (sic) was short.

Now back to present time. All of the contractors then proudly present their pictures to the employer, pictures which differ a bit from each other, and indeed from the employers’ own idea of what the future should be like. Nobody even thinks to ask themselves why there are so many different futures… but after a bit of discussion the employer finds the one that most closely resembles his own, shakes on the deal and then contracts out the works.

Great. Now Pablo has a little more leisure time, he redraws his road map as a more detailed picture of the path to the future, calls it a ‘baseline’ programme and asks everyone else to check the records from their own time travelling. They agree that it’s correct and represents what they are all going to do, and then get on with building it.

Hang on a minute… ‘baseline’? Baseline? But everyone has a time machine! Everyone has seen the future and agreed what it holds. This, here, on the paper in front of us all, IS the immutable future, what can go wrong? Oh yes. Just like me and you, no-one actually has a time machine manual. So, what happened to the various futures each of them saw?

Read Part Two on Tuesday 21 April 2020.

Quantum Executive Consultant, Dean Packer is a UK degree qualified management and PMP professional with over 36 years of experience, of which more than 20 years has been in remote and challenging environments. He started in production and buildings technology moving up through quality and project management.

Dean has a thorough understanding of all processes relating to civil engineering, earthworks, pavements; buildings, hydraulics, aerodromes and water treatment as well as extensive contract management experience as a Project Manager on EPC/FIDIC yellow, ICE and EDF forms of Contract from tender through planning and execution to handover.

Having worked in Europe, Mozambique, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Qatar, Dean is now based in Quantum’s office in Amman, Jordan.

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This article is published with the purpose of promoting discussion only. The contents must not be relied upon or applied without first seeking professional advice.