Rework in Engineering and Construction Projects



By Bob Prieto

Jupiter, Florida, USA

This paper is focused on engineering and construction projects which will experience increased emphasis as nations increase their focus on economic stimulus[1],[2],[3] and climate change. It deals narrowly with the inevitable rework these projects often experience and which contributes to the cost and schedule growth we all too often witness. The objective of this paper is to:

  • Categorize rework factors into four broad categories – project, human, organizational and complexity
  • Identify rework impacts not just on cost and schedule but importantly morale and trust.
  • Recognize that strategies exist to reduce the potential for required rework
  • Suggest four dozen control points.

Each item identified lends itself to separate treatment and separate papers that will benefit these projects and the project management profession. The impacts of design and construction rework have been well-researched and documented over the years. Despite this, rework remains a systemic industry challenge[4] contributing measurably to the cost overruns the industry experiences.

This paper builds on my paper[5] of the same title published in Project Management Review (China) in December 2020, further organizing my recommendations and providing extensive references related to numerous elements covered in the paper.

Factors that lead to rework

There are many potential ways to categorize the factors that lead to rework. One possible segregation of these factors groups them broadly into four categories:

  • Project – modified (including changed requirements, codes, standards), incomplete or unclear scope[6] (changes); incomplete, unclear or poor-quality design and design documentation (RFIs); site and location issues (improper survey/layout; geotechnical or other underground factors; unrecognized environmental factors).
  • Human – Incomplete or lack of appropriate knowledge or skills (experience) including poor workmanship; lack of diversity of thinking and effectiveness of reviews[7],[8].
  • Organizational – communication deficiencies; inadequate management and coordination including reviews; poor supervision; weak quality systems[9],[10] (including quality oversight of subcontractors) and culture; unrecognized coupling[11],[12] of activities and constraints; poor safety culture and commitment.
  • Complexity[13],[14],[15],[16] – technical, human, execution and informational complexity; unagreed to or emergent objectives.

Impacts of Rework

Rework’s impacts on project performance are expansive and corrosive. Impacts on cost and time are to be expected but the human and relationship impacts cannot be ignored. Select impacts include:

  • Delay[17]
  • Productivity loss with attendant cost and schedule impacts
  • Labor force availability impacts especially when skilled trades involved
  • Increased material and wastage costs
  • Negative impacts on workforce morale and psychology
  • Stakeholder (owner, contractor, engineer, other 3rd party stakeholders) conflict and trust


To read entire paper, click here

How to cite this paper: Prieto, R. (2021). Rework in Engineering and Construction Projects, PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue IV, April. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/pmwj104-Apr2021-Prieto-Rework-in-Engineering-and-Construction-Projects.pdf


About the Author

Bob Prieto

Chairman & CEO
Strategic Program Management LLC
Jupiter, Florida, USA


 Bob Prieto is a senior executive effective in shaping and executing business strategy and a recognized leader within the infrastructure, engineering and construction industries. Currently Bob heads his own management consulting practice, Strategic Program Management LLC. He previously served as a senior vice president of Fluor, one of the largest engineering and construction companies in the world. He focuses on the development and delivery of large, complex projects worldwide and consults with owners across all market sectors in the development of programmatic delivery strategies. He is author of nine books including “Strategic Program Management”, “The Giga Factor: Program Management in the Engineering and Construction Industry”, “Application of Life Cycle Analysis in the Capital Assets Industry”, “Capital Efficiency: Pull All the Levers” and, most recently, “Theory of Management of Large Complex Projects” published by the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) as well as over 750 other papers and presentations.

Bob is an Independent Member of the Shareholder Committee of Mott MacDonald. He is a member of the ASCE Industry Leaders Council, National Academy of Construction, a Fellow of the Construction Management Association of America, Millennium Challenge Corporation Advisory Board and member of several university departmental and campus advisory boards. Bob served until 2006 as a U.S. presidential appointee to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council (ABAC), working with U.S. and Asia-Pacific business leaders to shape the framework for trade and economic growth. He had previously served as both as Chairman of the Engineering and Construction Governors of the World Economic Forum and co-chair of the infrastructure task force formed after September 11th by the New York City Chamber of Commerce. Previously, he served as Chairman at Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) and a non-executive director of Cardno (ASX)

Bob serves as an honorary global advisor for the PM World Journal and Library and can be contacted at rpstrategic@comcast.net.

To view other works by Bob Prieto, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/bob-prieto/

[1] B. Prieto; The Challenge of Infrastructure and Long Term Investment; PM World Journal; Vol. III, Issue XII – December 2014; https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/pmwj29-Dec2014-Prieto-Challenge-of-Infrastructure-and-Long-Term-Investment-featured-paper.pdf
[2] B. Prieto; Classes of Factors to be Considered in Infrastructure Investment Prioritization; PM World Journal; Vol. III, Issue X – October 2014; https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/pmwj27-oct2014-Prieto-classes-of-factors-infrastructure-investment-Featured-Paper.pdf
[3] B. Prieto; Meeting Tomorrow’s Infrastructure Needs; Vol. IV, Issue IX – September 2015; https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/pmwj38-Sep2015-Prieto-meeting-tomorrows-infrastructure-needs-featured-paper.pdf
[4] B. Prieto; Candidate Strategies to Reduce Risks in Large Engineering & Construction Programs; Vol. I, Issue II – September 2012; https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/PMWJ2-Sep2012-FeaturedPaper-PRIETO-CandidateStrategiesToReduceRisks.pdf
[5] Rework in Engineering and Construction Projects; Project Management Review (China); December 2020
[6] Prieto, R. (2019). The Primacy of the Scope Baseline in Engineering & Construction Projects; PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue IX, October; https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/pmwj86-Oct2019-Prieto-primacy-of-scope-baseline.pdf
[7] B. Prieto; Effective Project Review Meetings; National Academy of Construction Executive Insights; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340949649_Effective_Project_Review_Meetings_Key_Points
[8] B. Prieto; Design Review; National Academy of Construction Executive Insights; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342448233_Design_Review_Key_Points
[9] B. Prieto; Redefining Quality; National Academy of Construction Executive Insights; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344597803_Redefining_Quality_Key_Points
[10] B. Prieto; Quality Transformation; National Academy of Construction Executive Insights; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344597803_Redefining_Quality_Key_Points
[11] Prieto, R. (2020). The Impact of Correlation on Risks in Programs and Projects; PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue XII, December; https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/pmwj100-Dec2020-Prieto-impact-of-correlation-on-risks-in-programs-and-projects.pdf
[12] B. Prieto; Coupling in Large Complex Projects; National Academy of Construction Executive Insights; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342452306_Large_Complex_Projects_Coupling_in_Large_Complex_Projects_Key_Points
[13] Prieto, R. (2021). Large Complex Project Success: Have we institutionalized the wrong lessons? PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue I, January; https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/pmwj101-Jan2021-Prieto-Large-Complex-Project-Success.pdf
[14] Prieto, R. (2020). Systems Nature of Large Complex Programs; PM World Journal, Vol IX, Issue VIII, August; https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/pmwj96-Aug2020-Prieto-Systems-Nature-of-Large-Complex-Programs.pdf
[15] B. Prieto; Complexity in Large Engineering & Construction Programs; PM World Journal, Vol. VI, Issue XI – November 2017; https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/pmwj64-Nov2017-Prieto-complexity-in-large-engineering-construction-programs.pdf
[16] Stephen R. Thomas; Modeling and Mitigating Project Complexity; National Academy of Construction Executive Insights; https://www.naocon.org/wp-content/uploads/Thomas-Modeling-and-Mitigating-Project-Complexity-02.08.19.pdf
[17] B. Prieto; Perspective on the Cost of Delayed Decision Making in Large Project Execution; PM World Journal, Vol. III, Issue II – February 2014; https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/pmwj19-feb2014-Prieto-perspective-on-cost-of-delay-FeaturedPaper.docx_.pdf