Inside the Square: A Case Study

The Federation Square project commenced in 1998 under the Victorian Government led by Jeff Kennett. The project would take six years to complete, involve over 5000 people, cost approximately $467m and would eventually receive a significant amount of public condemnation (Crawford, 2009). The following report will analyze the sequence of events as portrayed in the ABC documentary, “Inside the Square”, against the knowledge areas of the Project Management Institutes (PMIs) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).

Project Scope Management
The Federation Square project had a very aggressive schedule in order to be complete by the centenary of federation, and as such, commenced construction while design elements were still being completed.

This resulted in the project commencing prior to the full scope of works being understood. The direction by the Bracks government to modify the design of one of the four shards during the construction phase presented a significant scope change to the project (ABC, 2002).

These and other scope management issues would plague the delivery of the Federation Square project in all other interrelated knowledge areas.

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The Federation Square project exemplifies the importance of clearly defining, communicating and enforcing project scope with all external stakeholders in order to avoid detrimental effects on other knowledge areas.

Project Cost, Time and Quality Management
The Project Manager is responsible for balancing the competing objectives of project cost, time and quality (Atkinson, 1999). The Federation Square project initially commenced with a clear goal of prioritizing the quality of the end design, however as the schedule for the finalization of the project drew closer, there was an apparent shift in priority from quality to time.

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This sacrifice in quality came much to the dismay of the architects who were primarily focused on safeguarding their original design. Despite being a difficult decision with stakeholder management consequences, it was necessary in order for the project to meet schedule targets. This is an example of the decision making process required by Project Managers when balancing project cost, time and quality.

Quality Management
Project quality management can be characterized by three areas, project quality planning, quality assurance and quality control (Project Management Institute, 2013). It is unclear whether Federation Square management implemented quality planning, but it is clear that in some areas there was a lack of ongoing quality assurance. The most visible quality assurance process was conducted by the architects walking around during the construction process and observing progress.

This was not a systematic approach to quality assurance and resulted in the architects adopting a style of micromanagement generating significant conflict with other team members. The implementation of robust, systematic quality assurance processes would have prevented such a situation.


It was unclear from the case study as to whether there was an effective quality control regime in place. Quality control processes in the Federation Square project largely consisted of approval processes such as the requirement for builders to check with the architect when changes were made that would alter the look of the finished product. There were however circumstances where this quality control process was not followed, as witnessed by the altercation between the architect and builder following the sanding of the floor at the entrance to the atrium (ABC, 2002).

Project Human Resource Management
The project human resource management program undertaken by the Federation Square project was effective in the planning, acquisition, development and management of a team. This was evident in by the rapid acquisition and deployment of internal and contracted personnel given the size and complexity of the project. When staffing requirements increased due to a changing circumstance, the project adapted by modifying shift cycles and employing additional contractors. Team development and management was also
employed effectively by the Project Manager when, upon sensing a loss in project momentum, a group photo was organized to boost morale. These two examples prove the effectiveness of the PMBOK knowledge areas in guiding project decisions.

Project Communication and Stakeholder Management
Perhaps the characterizing feature of the Federation Square project was conflict; the creative vision of the architects clashed with the builders practical constraints of time and money; the project management team clashed with the Bracks Governments mid project scope change and there was internal conflict between the project manager and the architects when a deadline was generated for the opening day. Such a situation needs to be managed by the Project Manager by actively communicating internally within the project team and externally to stakeholders.

The project manager failed to actively engage and manage the situation to ensure the needs of each stakeholder were heard and where possible, met. It is only through effective communication that other project management knowledge areas can be implemented such as integration, scope and stakeholder management.

Project Integration Management
The Federation Square project manager was required to make decisions, balancing the requirements of various stakeholders such as architects, builders and governments against the finite resources that were allocated. A particularly good example of such a decision was the selection of the date for the Federation Square Open Day. The marketing department required a fixed date with sufficient lead time to arrange public events, catering, advertising etc.

The architects preferred a dynamic schedule in order to protect the quality of the project in the event that technical difficulties in the construction phase arose. The Project Manager made a decision to announce the date and in doing so attempted to consolidate and unify the requirements of all stakeholders involved. Whilst the project manager may have used various techniques such as the quality, cost, time triangle to make a decision


(Atkinson, 1999), the application of integration management techniques had to be applied to make the decision outcome effective.

Project Risk Management
The Federation Square project seems to have progressed with at least two areas of high risk that thorough risk management techniques would have identified: the tender award to inexperienced architects and the pursuit of a highly complex design with a compressed schedule (centenary of federation). The “Inside the Square” documentary indicated that mitigation strategies for these two risks had not been identified. Had the risk levels and mitigation strategies been identified, socialized monitored and controlled; the risk levels to project outcomes would have been reduced.

Project Procurement Management
The Federation Square project could largely be considered a successful example of project procurement management. A primarily contracted workforce of approximately 5000 personnel was to complete the large and complex body of work required for the project. The rapid tendering process, award and management enabled the project in the early phase of design and construction to remain on schedule. Whilst the latter half of the project was effected by scope and schedule changes, the Federation Square project is a positive model of how the ongoing management of procurement contracts is vital to the successful completion of a project.

The PMBOK Guide provides a standard of processes, process groups and knowledge areas that assist a project manager to deliver a project successfully (Project Management Institute, 2013). This case study provides examples where the implementation of knowledge areas such as Project Integration Management, Scope Management and Stakeholder Management were conducted poorly and demonstrated the end effect this had on the project.

Successful application of project procurement management, human resource management and quality, cost and time based decision making contributed to a project which, albeit late and over budget, delivered an iconic structure to Melbourne’s CBD. The PMBOK Guide will not guarantee excellence, is not a substitute for experience, but offers a best practice approach for Project Managers commencing the journey of a new project.


Updated: Jul 06, 2022
Cite this page

Inside the Square: A Case Study. (2016, May 07). Retrieved from

Inside the Square: A Case Study essay
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