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Lets Get Real About CxM

Lets Get Real About CxM

Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 236).

“Managers manage the known and leaders manage the unknown” (Tim Armstrong on The Prof G Podcast).

“What is essential, is invisible” (the Prince and the Pauper)

I would add to this, MEP Commissioning Managers manage the chaos, the known and the unknown via deep domain expertise.

Lets get real about Commissioning Management (CxM). It is a time based professional service and NOT a fixed lump sum commodity. If you sell CxM on an outcome based, fixed lump sum basis you deserve to lose money.

There are “firm” and “soft” deliverables with any CxM scope of work. Firm deliverables are tangible and can be offered on a fixed fee basis. Examples of this are commissionability design reviews, submittal reviews, reports etc. Typically, desk top work relating to CxM.

It all comes down to what is in your control. Firm deliverables based on desk top activities are in the Commissioning Managers control, onsite activities are not.

CxM on a fixed price is risk and responsibility without authority and that is a losing game. Why is this? The verb “manage” requires authority plus control of resources as well as skills. You cannot manage what you do not measure, control or have authority over.

Within the design and construction process, the CxM has no real control or authority. Yet CxM firms are asked to “manage” where they have:

  • No ability to instruct.
  • No access to spend budget.
  • No authority over any contractors, sub-contractors or design team.
  • Zero control over factors of production or construction.

Why do large, experienced contractors ask CxM’s, without laughing out loud, to take responsibility without authority on a fixed price?

The answer is, they think CxM firms are desperate and stupid. Also, in my experience many of them think, based on their lack of understanding, commissioning is a form of “magic” that will fix all the design and construction screw ups for no cost.

CxM is a soft power based on deep domain knowledge. It is high value add, based on being able to see and know things other players do not. It must add value or it would not exist, nést-ce pas?

CxM is a 50/50 mix of hard technical skills and soft skills. The “management” part of CxM must be:

  • Time charge as a professional service.
  • Executed by people with deep domain expertise.
  • By appointment of the main contractor / owner / developer as a form of “extreme” compliance to ensure CxM soft power can influence project teams.

I call on all CxM firms, not TAB firms pretending to be CxM firms, to start a campaign of professional disobedience and refuse, to take CxM work on a fixed price. You are abused and paid late as a CxM firm because you let them do it to you. Have you not noticed that software firms always get paid? However, be clear this strategy requires you be great at your job, so you are essential.


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Twitter: @BLDWhisperer

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