New Orleans, Louisiana, USA was a dark place in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina paid an unwelcome visit. About 40,000 military families were affected when the hurricane damaged the Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility. The damage was so bad, the hospital had to be totally replaced.
The US$1 billion project, which wrapped up this year, was selected as the 2018 PMI® Project of the Year. The use of sound project management principles made this success possible. Scope changes were limited to those necessary to deliver better patient care. The team took advantage of lessons-learned databases from previous VA projects. Better upfront planning ensured realistic timeline goals and helped foster a culture of good communication and problem solving.
The project team went the extra mile to secure buy-in of stakeholders: veterans, families and the community. The latter group had grown weary of delays in rebuilding their city after Katrina; this project offered hope.
Extra care was taken to mitigate risks connected with any future hurricanes. For example, heating and cooling systems and mission-critical equipment were placed on higher floors and floodgates were incorporated in lower floors so elevators wouldn’t flood. Windows were designed to withstand winds of up to 130 miles (210 kilometers) per hour.
The project was delivered on time and came in about 14 percent under budget. The facility has an increased reach now, serving more than 70,000 military veterans and employing 2,263 staff, up from 1,600 before Katrina.
OK, the robots have not totally taken over all hiring functions, but there’s a fairly good chance that automation could play a role in winnowing down a stack of résumés to an initial cut.
What do you do? A little strategy is called for here.
This means customization. Make sure your résumé emphasizes the same keywords as the job description.
“Take the first five roles and responsibilities the job posting mentions and tweak your profile, key achievements or recent experience to reference those requirements,” Ms. Scott says in her column. Then take your two most recent projects and use hard metrics such as budget and benefits delivered to complement the descriptions of your achievements with numbers.
Ms. Scott says the whole process of customizing should take 10 minutes each time you apply for a new job, and less than that in time. The approach also will screen openings for you to show if your experience truly aligns with those openings. If your CV doesn’t support each of the job’s top requirements, it’s time to move on to the next opportunity.
Check in with “Career Q&A” every other month in PM Network. Lindsay Scott will help you check all the right boxes to keep your career in growth mode.
What has your experience been with résumé customization?
Are you managing an automation project? Better get ready to up your risk management game. Whether it is robotic manufacturing or analysis of large amounts of data, project managers must be extra careful about errors that might be magnified in deployment.
One of the severest consequences of an automation problem happened in Britain when an algorithm failure in an automated health service system prevented women from receiving a digital reminder to schedule their mammograms. Some 450,000 patients in England missed breast-cancer screenings.
The cover story in October PM Network® will tell you how to anticipate the worst in automation projects. It also goes into what happens when you don’t take care to thoroughly plan, test and execute. Project managers quoted in the article recommend sitting with workers who perform tasks that will be automated to check whether their actions align with what was previously documented.
Leaving something out is a big, big risk. A telecom project team failed to fully integrate the operations and business support systems, resulting in customers receiving services but not getting billed for them. Uh-oh. A 20 percent budget increase was needed to fix the problem.
Testing is key to identifying unknown risks and ensuring effective deployments. The testing phase must be well-planned and comprehensive. But project teams need to balance the testing need with the reality of potential post-deployment problems. Having good data and documentation will help mitigate those risks and ensure the automation project delivers long-term benefits.
Finally, do not ignore the human risk. That refers to team members and other workers losing their jobs as a result of automation.
What is your experience with automation projects and the associated risks?
Project managers face many challenges every day. Whether it is a risk that suddenly becomes an issue, a deadline moving backwards or other unanticipated changes, the project life is rarely a picnic.
One challenge project managers don’t want to see is problem behavior by sponsors. Projects need sponsors to provide executive support and resources. So it is essential for the project manager to find ways to have working relationships with all types of sponsors.
An article in September’s PM Network® provides a roadmap of cringe-worthy sponsor behavior—and advice on how to deal with it. Sometimes the advice might appear counterintuitive, like offering calm empathy to an angry or even bullying sponsor. But it works!
For the micromanaging sponsor, a project manager might have a team meeting to review the governance and function of each team member. But don’t forget to find out why this type of sponsor feels the need to “get into the weeds”—there may be a legitimate reason.
The poor communicator makes it difficult to get answers—and answers you get tend to be vague or unspecific. Project managers might need to build more rapport with this type of sponsor and start with more open-ended questions. If this doesn’t work, perhaps a third party of similar or higher rank than the sponsor can trigger more complete communication.
A rubber-stamping sponsor might seem like a good thing, making approvals quick and easy. But if a project veers out of strategic alignment, this type of sponsor might not be helpful. If this happens, the project manager should talk with the sponsor about strategic alignment and seek to focus the sponsor’s attention on that. In some companies, the project manager might have to go to a higher-level manager once in a while to confirm strategic alignment.
Finally, the “AWOL” sponsor is just too hard to track down. How can the project manager get on that sponsor’s calendar? The answer to pinning down an overbooked sponsor might involve being available outside the usual working hours, or limiting a meeting request to 15 minutes. But if sponsor absenteeism is causing the project to slip, the project manager might have to suggest the use of a backup sponsor.
What have you done to keep projects on track despite these types of sponsors? Please share your stories in the comments below.
I confess that I have a strong interest in transportation, especially trains. So I am thrilled with the cover photo on this month’s PM Network® magazine, which shows a train in a tunnel from London’s Crossrail, the largest infrastructure project in Europe.
For those working on major infrastructure projects, the thrill is not necessarily the train; it is the systematized effort to produce and share lessons learned from one megaproject team to future teams. The U.K. Parliament insisted the team creating Crossrail capture and curate lessons learned to help future megaproject teams be efficient and navigate complex challenges.
The initiative, called Crossrail Learning Legacy, generated and shared around 650 documents from decades of planning and 10 years of construction. All these lessons, ranging from contractor oversight to limiting environmental impact, are shared on Learning Legacy’s website.
To ensure the lessons’ value, the Learning Legacy team captured feedback from institutes representing areas such as civil engineering and occupational safety and health. Crossrail used that feedback and a review of a similar effort done by the 2012 Summer Olympics team to organize the information into 12 knowledge subject areas.
It was critical that each document explain what happened, what went well and what needed fixing. Finally, the information needed to offer recommendations for future projects.
So what were some key recommendations for future megaproject teams? Set up a governance structure to make sure the team could handle high-stakes contracts with large amounts of taxpayer funds; develop a benchmark to drive and improve contractors’ performance; increase project teams’ environmental awareness; and assess health and safety metrics frequently.
Did your project team ever do a major lessons-learned initiative to share your experiences? Please tell us how that worked in the comments.