What Can Be Learned From India

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Categories: Risk Management

Everyone has been watching and reading about the recent terror attacks on India's business capital, Mumbai. The events have passed and patchwork has just begun.
    Those who were directly responsible for the security failure have been shown the door either willingly or under pressure from a combination of higher command, media and public anger.
    I would like to discuss it as a project failure and conduct (with reader participation) the post mortem analysis on what went wrong and how it could have been avoided. The discussion should be based upon information available from news analysis.
Let me start with lessons learned that translate to projects:
    Issue #1: The Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) is claiming it had informed the government about a possible attack from seaside but no action was taken. There was a risk identified but no mitigation plan was prepared for it. It is important to monitor risk areas and take preventive action before it gets too late.
    In projects, it is the responsibility of project managers to spread awareness about the risks in their projects and their mitigation plans. Don't take even a minor issue casually. If you don't have time to look into the issue, then assign it to someone else and track it to closure.
    Issue #2: India had a couple of terror incidents in the past but no measure was taken to prevent them in the future. It is a universal truth that prevention is always better than correction so it's good to have check points and preventive measures in place before you lose money and resource time.
    Document lessons learned from previous mistakes and ensure everyone is aware of them. It's better to review the learning database periodically and update it if required.
    Let's keep the conversation going. What other lessons learned can you find in these events?
Posted by sanjay saini on: December 10, 2008 05:27 PM | Permalink

Comments (7)

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Sumit Sakalle
Well you are correct on both the issues. main reason why these are not done are resource constraints. Risk can be mitigated only if we have proper / qualified resources available for same Sumit

Sanjay Saini
Let me rephrase it - We should keep the good resources, do the gap analysis periodically and provide them the required trainings too. The Team should use the latest Tools/Software available for the task to be done Sanjay

Frits Bos
These are very dangerous assumptions you are making. There clearly was no project management related to any aspect of security or threat prevention, but that will apply to any business that is no willing to sponsor a project to deal with a problem. In hindsight it makes no sense to analyse what a project manager would have done if the political will to charter the project does not exist. Also, realize that in a tragic situation such as this there are plenty people with agendas that are aimed at deflecting responsibility. Is the IB job to raise the issue and walk away from it? Is the fix worse than the threat (how would Mumbai operate if the city were kept in a state of vigil)? Would it have been an option to (1) consider a pre-emptive strike on the terrorists or (2) to ask Pakistan to do so? When you conclude a project by reviewing issues that were not deemed in scope your lessons learned are skewed by 20/20 hindsight, just as in this example. The bigger question is why India seemed so totally unprepared in general after the history of prior attacks.

Piyush Govil
A good article in a sense to take a lesson from a kind of project failure. There are numerous causes if we do root cause analysis. If we try to relate or compare with Project Management, it will add a lot of value for project managers to learn. First of all Risk which was never taken into consideration after being identified and left to become an issue. I think we can say in terms of Project Management than I would like to stress that the Communication Management which is most important or has top most role to make any project success or failure. I think government need work upon its communication strategy. Project Managers to make its project success always need to work upon its communication plan which will help him to deliver the various deliverables as defined. Many managers when told by subordinates regarding improvements or problems sometime they simply say "Who's stopping you", I really have concern with this theory as until unless Manager play active role or actively define the standards or work with team for improvements, they can be automatically followed down the line in the team, which could become a problem in the end and then nobody to take responsibility and ownership. This is how we tend to start blame game, which everybody aware has happened after the incident between various security agencies. Thanks

Piyush Govil
Hello Sanjay, Can we write an article on this topic for PMI's magazine, I can be a co-author with you. Please look into my proposal and we can move ahead, if you have not done already. Thanks Piyush

Mathew Joseph
Communication is also an important part of this problem. Even America blundered in Pearl harbor. There was proper intelligence that the Japanese were going to bomb Pearl Harbor and they didn't take timely action. So first and foremost the form of communication is the key. If the Intelligence had been sent to different departments and if it had been flagged as high priority, maybe it could have been a different story. But again it is our country, and a bunch of misfits running it, so don't be surprised if it happens again.

Hitesh Bhatt
It is interesting to read this article. This however does not appear to have any correlation with project management.

Any country's internal law and order situation is an ongoing process (more of an operation) and is definitely not a temporary endeavor to achieve unique results (for e.g. Operation Vijay ...)

The example quoted in the article is more of an intelligence failure with multiple incidents already recorded in the near past.

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