Lee McDonagh

Operations director in project controls, Mace

If you want a career working on really interesting projects, have a real interest in working with numbers or words, are a bit sceptical and questioning, good at getting people to talk to you and can put a coherent argument across, then project controls could be a really fulfilling career for you. Equally, though, if you prefer analysing data all day, you can – there are so many facets to project controls.” Lee McDonagh, senior leader in project controls

60 Seconds with Lee

  • How did you get into project controls and what is your current role and project?

I'm operations director in project controls for international consultancy and construction company Mace. My current project is working on a complex national construction programme for a major UK government department.

I started out as a civil engineer and got into project controls while recovering from a football injury. I really enjoyed the mix of skills it needed so moved into project management roles. I focused increasingly on planning and controls, eventually joining Mace on the Olympic Park project in 2007. That’s where I truly learned what controls is in terms of a broader role in very complex project delivery. The Olympic Park was a success and UK plc benefited hugely from it.

  • How does project controls contribute to more effective delivery of projects?

There’s a statement that what can be measured, can be managed. Project controls forces you to measure what can be measured and by the very act of measuring it, you start to manage it. When it works well you get the information early enough to be able to do something about it.

The correlation with projects that go well and those that have project controls is quite strong.

There’s a wide range of examples of projects without controls that went awry, going over budget and missing deadlines. Conversely, projects with strong controls in place – like the Olympic Stadium – are generally successful.

  • What would be your advice to anyone wanting to develop their career in project controls?

Ask lots of questions, be curious, find out all you can. If you want a career working on really interesting projects, have a real interest in working with numbers or words, are a bit sceptical and questioning, good at getting people to talk to you and can put a coherent argument across, then project controls could be a really fulfilling career for you. Equally, though, if you prefer analysing data all day, you can – there are so many facets to project controls.

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