Managing Complex Construction Projects



Book Title:  Managing Complex Construction Projects: A Systems Approach
Author:  John K. Briesemeister
Publisher:  CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group
List Price:  $71.96 (hardcover)
Format:  Hardcover, softcover, eBook; 244 pages
Publication Date: 2018       
ISBN: 978-1-4987-8311-8
Reviewer: Richard Celotto, PMP
Review Date: April 2023



No more excuses!  In his comprehensive coverage of how to manage complex construction projects, author John Briesemeister has laid out in extraordinary, but also easy-to-read and understand detail, all of the steps that should be taken to achieve project success, from preparing a bid during the initiation phase, to monitoring and controlling the project in the execution phase.  Drawing upon his more than 30 years of experience as a Construction Manager, Site Manager, and Project Manager in both the United States and in foreign lands, Mr. Briesemeister provides invaluable insight into the many pitfalls that can occur, and explicit guidance on how to minimize the risk of them happening by following a tried and true approach that embodies all of the practices defined in the PMI method of project management.

What makes this book so interesting to read, especially for those who may have experience with, or interest in, large, challenging industrial, manufacturing, or civil enterprises, is that unlike for many project managers who have a tendency to ignore some or even many steps in the PMI Book of Knowledge, rationalizing that the discipline defined in the PMBoK is excessive for the size projects they undertake, those involved in very large and complex construction projects as described in this book who depart from the rigor of that bible’s approach would be on a path fraught with danger.

The author’s premise is that there are three systems that are the pillars of sound project management – the Project Management System, the Work Management System, and the Quality Management System – the plans for which must be carefully prepared and integrated.  He walks the reader through each of them in great detail, with plenty of examples of the dozens of planning, scheduling, budgeting, and tracking tools and other artifacts that must be created and maintained.  In each case, he explains the purpose of the measure being taken and often identifies the risk that is generated by not performing the step, with very specific real life examples of the problem that can occur.  The author goes on to describe a fictional but completely realistic example of the early stages of a project in great detail, helping the reader to see exactly how the three systems are applied in very practical and useful terms.

Overview of Book’s Structure

The book is organized to first cover those three foundational systems.  Three chapters are devoted to the Project Management System (PMS), which covers the Initiation Phase (developing the bid and proposal) and the Planning Phase for the execution.  The author introduces the Work Breakdown Structure, an essential building block of the PMS that is a Rosetta Stone for how most of the elements of planning and execution are integrated.  He goes on to describe  the outputs generated by the Project Management System, which includes 8 essential plans.

The book next addresses the Work Management System (WMS) that controls the four major types of work: Civil Construction, Electrical Construction, Mechanical Construction, and Instrument & Control Construction.  The WMS is designed to ensure that the work is closely monitored to ensure that milestones dates are achieved and to give early warning if some part of the plan is falling behind schedule or exceeding its budget, or both.  The author then describes the Quality Management System that is the other key to successful execution.  The QMS implements the Project Quality Plan prepared as part of the PMS, one of numerous examples of the interrelationship of the three systems.  The QMS is designed to ensure that the quality requirements of the contract are met.


To read entire Book Review, click here

How to cite this work: Celotto, R. (2023). Managing Complex Construction Projects: A Systems Approach, book review, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue V, May. Available online at: https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/pmwj129-May2023-Celotto-Managing-Complex-Construction-Projects.pdf

About the Reviewer

Richard Celotto

Maryland, USA


Richard Celotto is a naval engineer who spent his first career as an US Navy Engineering Duty Officer involved in the operation, design, construction, and maintenance of naval vessels.  He participated in five US Navy shipbuilding programs while on active duty and three US Coast Guard cutter acquisition programs as a consulting engineer following his military service, all of them complex and challenging.  Also during his second career in the marine industry private sector, he served as the Vice President of Engineering and a Senior Program Manager at BMT Designers and Planners in Washington, DC.  He currently works for CACI, Inc as a ship acquisition advisor.  Mr. Celotto is a certified Project Management Professional. He can be contacted at rcelotto@verizon.net

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