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No contractor or project manager should contemplate a result that is not ‘fit for purpose’. Therefore quality is not negotiable. Downgrading quality is not an option. That is why ‘performance’ or ‘level of specification’ are more appropriate names for this objective because, in many cases, they are negotiable. Suppose that the initial estimates for a new building are too high and that construction costs must be reduced. One option might be to build on relatively simple foundations instead of using deep sunk piles, which could save thousands of pounds.

A project that is delivered on time, within budget and in line with its specification might provide the contractor with a good profit, beneficial publicity and a warm glow of satisfaction. However, a customer who subsequently discovers that the project fails to live up to its initial promise and does not deliver its expected return on investment will perceive the result as a failure. Other stakeholders might have their own, quite different, parameters for measuring success. 4. However, the project life is now compared not with rates of expenditure, but with some of the factors that determine actual or perceived success or failure as the project life history unfolds.

A sensible method for controlling a pure scientific research project is to conduct regular management reviews and reassessments of the potential value of the project. At each of these reviews, a decision can be taken to stop the project (known colloquially as pulling the plug) or release new funding to allow it to continue at least until the next review. Although this can be unsettling for the scientists involved, the project sponsor is not expected to pour money for ever into a vast hole. This procedure, where continued project funding is dependent upon the outcome of regular reviews, is known as stage-gate control.

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