Manage Expectations and Achieve Total Project Quality with Gap Analysis

Manage Expectations and Achieve Total Project Quality with Gap Analysis

I believe that the approach proposed in the article is a valuable one for project managers. By following these strategies, project managers can increase the chances of delivering a project that meets the client's expectations and avoids surprises.

The words of Pope Pius II towards his architect, Bernardo Rossellino, during the delivery of the cathedral and papal palace of Pienza, as referenced by Hale's work (1993, p. 400), were a testament to his unique perspective as a Renaissance client. He recognized the significance of architecture and even commended Bernardo for his creative handling of the expenses involved in the project. It is a rarity for clients to appreciate surprises in their projects, as they expect a smooth process that aligns with their initial agreements. Dissatisfied clients often arise from unexpected surprises. Therefore, this article aims to propose an approach to project management that prioritizes reducing client surprise.

This article will briefly discuss the existing project management approaches, highlighting their lack of emphasis on the client and the comprehensive project process. Instead, it will introduce an alternative approach inspired by the service quality management literature, which focuses on delivering value to the client and treating the project process as a whole. Lastly, the article will validate this framework through a case study of the successful Glaxo project, one of the UK's largest building projects. While the discussion centers on quality management, the approach is equally relevant to program and budget management.

The literature on construction project management organization has been heavily influenced by the mainstream organization theory of the 1960s and developments in operational research associated with the US defense program of that era. However, this approach has been criticized for being too focused on tools and techniques, failing to account for the implications of managing temporary project organizations, being bureaucratic, and not adapting well to the dynamic and complex environment of contemporary project organizations. This article adds a fifth criticism, which is that project management is inherently fragmented and oriented towards the needs of the producers in the project coalition, rather than the client.

Many construction project management texts focus on managing site operations and assume that the design stages are unproblematic. However, this fragmented approach does not consider the project process as a whole. Additionally, the existing literature has a strong focus on the problems of producers, such as architects, rather than providing value for the client. There is little evidence that the procurement route itself makes a difference in client satisfaction, and what is needed is an orientation towards delivering client satisfaction, not just allocating liability. Therefore, a total project orientation is required to address these issues.

In the service industry, it's important to remember that clients are investing in a service rather than a product. To ensure that we are meeting their specific needs, we can turn to the service quality management literature for guidance. The gap analysis method, introduced by Parasuraman et al. (1985), has proven to be a popular approach. By identifying the gaps between what clients expect and what they actually receive, we can better understand how to improve our services. These gaps can be categorized into five types, including the gap between consumer expectations and management's perception of them. By utilizing this approach, we can focus on the entire process of service delivery and consumer satisfaction, while also ensuring that we are meeting their needs at every stage. This aligns with research on project success factors, which highlights the importance of client satisfaction in measuring project success. While the gap analysis method has been successfully applied to mass services, adapting it to project-oriented production will be discussed in the next section.

The nature of construction projects

Creating constructed products is a journey from uncertainty to certainty, where each step forward brings us closer to our goal. It involves exploring options, making decisive choices, and mobilizing quickly to ensure success. As we progress through each stage, the flow of information is narrowed and uncertainty is reduced. The management of design is crucial, and quality is paramount. We must focus on the quality of design, conformance, and performance, using total quality management and customer-oriented learning to ensure that our objectives are met. With the right techniques and a commitment to excellence, we can create products that exceed expectations and inspire us to reach even greater heights.

The gap analysis model for total project quality

The model distinguishes four prob­ lems to be solved for the minimization of the project performance gap between what the client thought they were going to get and what they actually got.

The smaller the project performance gap, the smaller the  level of client surprise and, hence, the greater the level  of client satisfaction. In order to minimize the project performance gap, the previous four gaps must be management task includes both the setting of project objectives in interaction with the client,  and  realizing the project against those objectives in a consummate manner.

Secondly, the term 'quality' in the triangle is ambiguous; an ambiguity embedded in a much wider conceptual confusion. The following is offered as one way of clarifying the issues. Quality can be defined in four ways in construction, 1 and the most appropriate techniques for managing each vary according to the problem at hand. Firstly, there is the quality of concep­ tion in terms of elegance of form, spatial articulation, contribution to the urban culture and the like. This is best managed through techniques which emphasize the role of peer review such as crits within the architec­ tural design team, and design reviews more widely within the project coalition. The quality of specification refers to the technical standards set for the building and the level of finishes required. Fimess for purpose is the keynote here, and techniques such as value management and life-cycle costing are well developed quality management tools for establishing appropriate levels of specification. The quality of realization is determined by client review of the process, and those techniques associated with total quality manage­ ment such as customer-oriented organizational learning are most appropriate for managing this form of quality. Finally, the quality of conformance concerns the manner in which the objectives set for conception, specifica­tion and realization are met in practice. Here quality assurance and control techniques are most appropriate.

The gap analysis model for total project quality

By addressing the briefing, design, realization, and feedback problems, we can minimize the performance gap and achieve greater client satisfaction. The briefing stage is crucial in turning the client's vision into a concise brief, setting the foundation for successful subsequent phases. The design problem poses a challenge as we balance the client's objectives with public interests such as cultural heritage. Through thoughtful consideration and collaboration with project actors, we can deliver a successful project that meets everyone's needs.

The process of managing construction projects is complex and requires careful attention to detail. The analysis-synthesis-evaluation model has been criticized for being too formalistic, and the conjecture-analysis model is now widely accepted. Throughout the information processing stage, architects and engineers work closely with specialist consultants to define the built facility.

Despite a clear brief, there are many potential pitfalls during this phase. Effective management of the iterative cycles of conjecture and analysis is essential to ensure that the project meets its objectives. The management process of propose and dispose involves proposing and disposing of propositions favorably or otherwise. The main question is who outside the design actors in the project coalition is placed in the role of disposing.

The execution problem involves turning the building definition into a complete description that allows site construction to take place. The choice of procurement route will also have a large influence on who leads the project coalition in solving this problem. The main quality management problem here is the quality of specification and conformance.

The final problem is the conformance problem, which involves building to the complete description of the building and ensuring that it works as a system. The main actors involved here are the principal and trade contractors, supervised by others who were involved in the design and execution phases.

To ensure maximum client satisfaction, it is essential to have no surprises. The key to achieving this is effective communication and understanding throughout the project. The appropriate location of the line of visibility is a key decision in defining project objectives as part of resolving the briefing problem.

IThe effective management of construction projects is essential to minimize the project performance gap and maximize client satisfaction. The Glaxo project, the largest British building project in recent history, serves as a strong example of the importance of using the appropriate management tools and techniques.

A case in total project quality: the Glaxo project

The Glaxo project was a remarkable construction endeavor that required an innovative approach. Through the application of the gap analysis model, important lessons were learned from this successful project. The project coalition was composed of three principal members who worked together seamlessly to ensure the project's success. The client, Glaxo Group Research Ltd, had established a large in-house project management team that played a significant role in the project's management. Each actor in contract with the client was responsible for all outputs of the phases for which they were responsible, ensuring quality management at every stage of the project. The project was completed on time, under budget, and to user satisfaction, making it a resounding success. The research reported was funded by the Euroconception program of Plan Construction et Architecture and an Economic and Physical Sciences Research Council doctoral studentship awarded to the last-named author.

The briefing problem

The Glaxo project was a great success, thanks to TKLP and PAE's efforts in resolving the briefing problem. By actively involving the client and improving communication, the project team was able to understand the client's requirements better. Glaxo's clear comprehension of their own needs and past experiences in similar projects were crucial to providing an effective project brief. The project aimed to eliminate technical and legal barriers to research by offering exceptional facilities and consolidating research in the UK. It also sought to create an environment that promoted communication, motivation, growth, and corporate image, while maintaining safety and accommodating ongoing construction works. The project objectives were focused on delivering facilities that met Glaxo Group Research's obligations under the corporate research strategy, while ensuring cost-effectiveness, safety, functionality, efficiency, and flexibility.

The client's objectives are clearly outlined in the above lists, which are located within the business objectives of Glaxo Group Research Ltd. It is emphasized that high-quality conception and specification are critical components of project objectives. The approach to quality conception was refined through the review of a failed project, where design responsibility had been delegated to multiple contractors. The inappropriate spatial articulation of buildings was identified as a key issue. TKLP, in collaboration with PAE, spent a year developing the client's brief, utilizing various sources of data and analysis from multiple disciplines. The result was the Control Documents, which contained both qualitative and quantitative data for each individual space to be accommodated within the structure, as well as technical information and recommendations for systems to be used. An initial cost estimate and master programme were also prepared. Throughout this phase, detailed review meetings were held with GGR to ensure agreement on the brief for the project.

There are two sections in the Control Documents - the Statement of Criteria (SOC) and the Basis of Design (BOD). The SOC contains criteria and standards specific to buildings on the research campus. It is divided into two sections: Design Criteria and Space Criteria Tables. The Design Criteria section outlines the engineering objectives and constraints for the proposed facility, including architectural, HVAC, and other specific details. The Space Criteria Tables provide detailed information on the requirements for each room. The SOC is a comprehensive document that describes the client's requirements and technical information needed for the project.

The BOD is developed based on the design criteria outlined in the SOC. It recommends specific technical systems to be used in the building and provides detailed drawings where necessary. The BOD is a more detailed and explanatory document that specifies vital project specifications according to the client.

Overall, the Control Documents and layouts are essential in solving the design problem in the gap analysis model.

The design problem

During the process of translating the client's brief into a complete definition of the building, the information flow went through several iterations to elaborate on the building definition. The quality management approach to resolving the design problem and execution problem was codified within the PAE's Project Quality Plan (PQP), which contained procedures for quality assurance at various stages of the process and defined the arrangements for reviews and audits of the process. The PQP included two types of information, procedures for quality assurance and arrangements for reviews and audits of the process. Design reviews were defined in the PQP as a formal examination of the design to evaluate the design requirements and the capability of the design to meet those requirements and to identify problems and propose solutions. Two types of design reviews were specified, Final Design Reviews, and Interim Design Reviews. Design audits were also defined in the PQP as a separate internal examination to determine whether the design activities and related results comply with the planned arrangements and whether these arrangements are effective and suitable to achieve given objectives. Two Final Reviews took place during the design problem resolution, the Concept Review, and the Design Adequacy Review. The Concept Review marked the point where PAE formally took over the responsibility of the project, and the Design Adequacy Review marked the establishment of the complete building definition.

The execution problem

The problem with execution begins with defining the building and gathering the necessary information to start construction. This includes creating general arrangement drawings at a scale of 1:50, detailed drawings, technical specifications, and documentation for the tendering process. Even though TKLP is no longer active and the PC plays a larger role, resolving this problem remains the responsibility of PAE. While design reviews remain important, quality assurance procedures begin to play a bigger role.

The PQP distinguishes between quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC). QA involves establishing project-related policies, procedures, standards, guidelines, and systems to produce quality work that meets the project's requirements. QC is the specific implementation of the QA plan, which includes reviewing design-related activities to reduce the likelihood of errors and omissions.

Two Final Reviews are conducted during this phase. The Final Package Scope Review is done two months after detailed design begins for each package. It confirms that the building is dimensionally coordinated across the design disciplines, checks that the scope statement for each package is clearly defined, and ensures that interface requirements between packages are identified. The Pre-Issue Review is done one week before the design release date for each package. It coordinates the drawings, checks them for completeness and accuracy, and documents interface requirements with other packages.

The PQP places more emphasis on quality assurance procedures during the resolution of the execution problem. The most important procedures specified are design control and coordination and design documentation control. Design control and coordination describes procedures for controlling and coordinating design-related activities to ensure conformance to the Control Documents. Design inputs and outputs are documented, monitored, and reviewed. The use of QAQC forms, which are signed off by the relevant design discipline leader and member of the project executive, approving the work of the design teams, is defined.

Design Documentation Control includes practices and procedures for controlling design documents, including their production, identification, distribution, and filing of the relevant information. It includes procedures for document approval and issue, document change and modification, document control scope, and project-specific requirements.

Additionally, GGR established an Engineering Quality Control (EQC) department consisting of 12 engineers experienced in the design of pharmaceutical process plants, which was responsible for reviewing the output from the PAE in this specialist area. Areas for improvement fell into two categories - those that could be incorporated into the design without delay and cost, and those that required a formal change order. Most improvements fell into the former category. All proposed changes with a cost implication were formally costed by PAE, resulting in a saving of between £4m and £Sm without compromising the functionality of the design.

The conformance problem

To ensure quality on the Glaxo project, standard approaches to quality assurance and control were applied. The Project Quality Plan covered procurement, parcel grading, and the role of GGR. For a management contract, the quality assurance capabilities of trade contractors were crucial in resolving the conformance problem. Qualification before tender was based on track record, financial strength, quality management capability, and commitment to the project. GGR reviewed the tender list prepared by PC and obtained references from the previous clients of trade contractors. Quality Statements were requested at the tender stage, which then became comprehensive Quality Plans for the successful trade contractors. These plans included Inspection and Test Plans, as well as arrangements for in-process inspection of the production of prefabricated elements and on-site inspection. The PC's PQP was reviewed annually and audited for both their own activities and those of the trade contractors.

Work packages were graded based on their criticality for project performance, with M&E installations and production of pre-cast concrete elements given a higher grade than general painting. This affected the Inspection and Test Plans, with a comprehensive quality control regime in place for the highest grade. The PC and GGR were contractually invited to be present at tests where third-party testing was specified. GGR or its representatives were also granted the right of access to the works at all times for inspection and verification. Commissioning reports were crucial in ensuring control procedures, and the reports were included in the QA documentation.


The project was mostly successful thanks to motivated team members, co-location of design teams, effective budget management, and lessons learned from past projects. However, there were some issues with defining complete design and coordinating different CAD systems used by engineers and architects. This caused uncertainty and affected other packages.

The solution was two-fold: co-locating trade contractors and component supplier engineering staff with the PAE and selecting suppliers based on a combined technical and price offer. The PAE also employed separate design coordinators to re-coordinate trade contractors' installation drawings. The client, Glaxo Group Research Ltd, played an important role in problem-solving due to their deep knowledge of the project process.

Despite a significant time penalty, the client was able to procure their new facility for £250m less than projected in 1989. The project emphasized the facility as a whole and the quality of working life within it.

A gap analysis of the Glaxo project

From this analysis, two main points can be inferred. Firstly, the appropriate quality management tools for a project vary depending on the nature of the information flow. During the briefing phase, quality management relied on the professional skills of the team, while the Control Documents established basic quality standards for the project. Design reviews were crucial in monitoring progress and ensuring alignment with the Control Documents. As the project progressed, quality assurance and control procedures became more important, especially during execution. Secondly, the client had a deep line of visibility into the project. GGR staff actively participated in design reviews and site inspections, which helped avoid conflicts within the project coalition. The EQC department played a crucial role in cutting unnecessary costs during the execution phase. While value engineering procedures were not a major quality management tool in this case, the gap analysis model used here provides a comprehensive approach to total project quality management. It treats the project process as a whole and identifies four gaps that allow for deeper analysis of the project life cycle. Additionally, it puts the client at the center of the project process through the concepts of the project performance gap and the line of visibility.


As we explore the realm of construction project management, we must acknowledge the limitations of relying solely on quantitative measures of project performance. It is time to identify alternatives and seek out solutions that can address the weaknesses of current approaches. Business process reengineering (BPR) is often hailed as the answer, but its application to project-oriented industries like construction remains unclear. The process of delivering value to the customer is key, and both BPR and the gap analysis approach recognize this.

By focusing on the process of creating the built facility, rather than solely on the facility itself, the gap analysis approach highlights the importance of design reviews in setting quality standards for conception and specification. The scheduling and participation of project actors in these reviews are essential to their effectiveness. Clients have varying levels of involvement in the project process, and understanding their desired level of involvement early on is crucial.

The Glaxo project demonstrates the advantages of having a proactive internal client project management function that participates in significant reviews. This raises the question of whether such functions are best organized internally or procured externally from project management companies. As we continue to evolve the project management of construction projects, we must recognize that critical decisions are made long before the project reaches the site. The gap analysis approach offers a comprehensive approach to project management that aligns with the principles of BPR. With further research, it can be used to manage quality, program, and budget.