Project Management

Going to Extremes: Out-of-the-ordinary project sites force teams to prepare for the worst

Sarah Fister Gale, and PM Network

Polar Plunge

Teams working above the Arctic Circle must be physically and mentally ready.

It’s never easy to complete construction projects when roads disappear. In the Arctic tundra, ice roads come and go with the season, and actual roads can become suffocated with snow. Workers bundled in layers must tolerate windchills that can drop to negative 70 degrees Celsius (negative 94 degrees Fahrenheit). A mere one-week shift in the thawing season can wreak havoc with project schedules. Yet this chilling and unforgiving environment is the project home for Kevin McLeod, assistant deputy minister, department of infrastructure, Government of the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. "There is a lot of pride in managing these projects," he says.

Mr. McLeod oversees infrastructure initiatives across the Northwest Territories, an area that spans 1.3 million square kilometers (501,933 square miles). It includes communities on the Arctic coast that are accessible only by ship in the warmest months when the sun never sets, and by planes when it’s coldest and darkness lasts for months. "If you don’t get your part on the ship in time, or that ship can’t get through the ice, you can lose a whole season," he says.

Risks like these demand that Mr. McLeod start project plans years in advance, analyzing weather…


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"More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly."

- Woody Allen

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