Commissioning Certificate: Crunch Time! The Last Two Weeks In A Project. Arguably, the most difficult time in a project is the last two weeks of a project…especially large ones! This is what I like to call ‘crunch time’ because of how crucial this final stretch is. Picture this: you have been managing a large scale project that has been running over 4 years and it is finally coming to an end. You are in the last two weeks (AKA crunch time) before the final handover. There has been millions of man-hours invested, you have guided this project from its infancy into its prime, the sweat and challenges overcome have been leading up to this point. Right in front of you, within view the key stakeholders are getting ready to sign a single A4 page called Commissioning Certificate which ultimately leads to the Certificate of Practical completion. This is the crowning moment.
First of all it is a great achievement to have the commissioning certificate in view within these two weeks and the target is to get the commissioning certificate signed, because it means the job is done and the project is ready to handover. That’s right, your baby is all grown up. However, during this two weeks, there are so many issues and last minute activities to complete that the sheer amount of issues may just blow your mind. Think of these final two weeks as a rite of passage for your project; as if it is taking the first few steps without your help. The pressure is immense especially during this time period because if your work doesn’t speak for itself then there is no commissioning certificate and there will be issues about LAD’s due to delays and other issues.
To manage this last mile in the project well, you need to manage yourself to stay grounded and remain clear what you do and what you expect from your team. Finger pointing or shouting does not help at all (even though we may think it will make us feel better). In fact, this will just create more stress, so best to keep the yelling to a minimum. All team members are under pressure and they need to focus on the task which is important in order to commission the job without some guy breathing down their neck! To avoid this unpleasant scenario, daily or even hourly coordination with the team is required (just don’t micr-manage them…they hate that). Again, you need to manage yourself and your time as well. You have to be able to communicate with the key stakeholders who will sign the commissioning certificate. If they are convinced that all is well, and you are communicating with them frequently eventually they will sign off on the paper and you are home-free. If they raise any concern, it needs immediate attention to avoid last minute turmoil in the project and it requires a person and a team to facilitate these concerns (that would be you).
The final activities, which finally lead to the signature on the Commissioning Certificate, are so immense and important that you really have to monitor and control the team to make it happen. Think about what can go wrong and check the work again and again. You have to confirm in person, face-to-face that all stakeholders understand what to do and what is needed. The way I do it is in a presentation from general understanding to the working detail in order to get people aligned during the meetings and to follow one guideline, one plan, one document. It should be as simple and concise as possible. Attached to a letter, it becomes official and formal, presented in the expert group, it generates feedback and input. Ensure that especially those stakeholders who will sign the Commissioning Certificate are involved in this presentation and also are included in the documentation procedures. Ensure that they sign-off on the procedure as lined out and presented in order to achieve the final signature.
Again, follow up is essential. You may need to do this on a daily or even hourly basis to be completely in control of what is happening so you are in the know and can respond to any issues or challenges that arise. A plan B may be helpful, but typically you would need too many plan B’s and you do not have time to think about this in the final stretch of your project. If something goes wrong, take immediate action with your team and involve the management that they know what you are doing in order to support your actions. I recommend that you do the actions with your team or with key people, otherwise you will loose control. Keep yourself free to jump in if there is a crisis or just an urgent job that needs to be done.
In summary, the final stretch, the crunch time is one of the most (if not the most) crucial phases of a project. This is when you need to be present, on your game and attentive. Don’t celebrate too early, tasks and projects are not done until they are done!