American Society of Civil Engineers

Human Systems EngineeringTM — A Trilogy, Part II: May The Force Be With You: Anatomy Of Project Failures

by William M. Hayden, Jr., P.E., F.ASCE, (Senior Member, The American Society for Quality, former Chief Operating Officer of an A/E design engineering firm, and president of Management Quality by Design, Inc, in Buffalo, New York. E-mail:

Leadership and Management in Engineering, Vol. 6, No. 1, January 2006, pp. 1-12, (doi:

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Document type: Feature Article
Abstract: This paper was derived from research I conducted at three professional design engineering service firms concerning their perceptions of the "sudden" surfacing of conflict within a project team. The data collection methods included confidential one-on-one employee interviews, employee surveys, interviews with the firms’ clients, and feedback from subconsultants (suppliers) to the firms. A review of workplace conflict literature within the design and construction industry, and also in other workplace settings, was compared to proprietary data from management assessment reports of the three firms. This second part of the trilogy will present practical conflict "navigational" guides, including project team assessment for constructive versus destructive conflict, theoretical basis and practical application of Lewin’s force field analysis, three universal metrics of project success, brief anatomies of project failures, an estimate of the cost of unresolved conflict, and a proactive risk assessment checklist.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Construction management
Engineering firms