I read a news article today about a "staircase to nowhere" that really stood out to me, as it illustrates the importance of utilizing good project management practices.
The principles and procedures we follow as project managers have real value, and are critical to the successful execution of any project.
Take a read through the following excerpt from this news story, and think about all of the steps that resulted in this situation.
What do you think went wrong here?
What crucial steps in the project management process likely led to this situation?
What lessons can be learned from this project?
Credit: Josh K. Elliott (CTV News)
Published July 26,2017
While residents of New Westminster, B.C. fret over a puzzling “stairway to nowhere” installed on a busy street corner, the city’s mayor insists the $200,000 project will ultimately go somewhere.
“It will not be a staircase to nowhere,” Mayor Jonathan Cote told CTV Vancouver on Tuesday, amid growing outcry over the puzzling staircase.
The detached three-storey metal staircase was put up earlier this spring to serve as a fire escape for a nearby heritage building, after the building’s old route through a nearby parkade was demolished.
However, construction was paused on the project before it could be completed, leaving the staircase one crucial step away from being useful. That crucial step just happens to be connecting the stairs to the building they’re meant to serve.
“It’s not money well spent if it doesn’t get you through a practical function,” one area resident told CTV Vancouver.
“If it doesn’t serve a purpose then it’s really of no use, is it?” added another.
Harm Woldring, who runs a craft winery beside the unfinished stairs, says he’s heard plenty of opinions on the matter. Some have labelled it an eyesore and a waste of taxpayer money, while others have mistaken it for an art installation.
“Half the city says it fits in the industrial atmosphere of the street, and the other half are (saying) it’s ugly, and get rid of it,” he told CTV Vancouver.
Woldring says he just wants the project to be completed as soon as possible.
The mayor says the staircase has faced some unexpected challenges, and won’t be finished until some exposed overhead wires are dealt with.
He also hinted at opening the stairs up to public artists, in the hopes of making them a little easier on the eyes.
“They were a little bit larger and more visually intrusive than I think many residents and business owners thought, but ultimately they’ve been built to code and there doesn’t appear to be any other viable options,” he said. Saving Changes...
From my perspective this project process was flawed from the start, and was exacerbated by poor planning when the parkade next door was demolished.
"The detached three-storey metal staircase was put up earlier this spring to serve as a fire escape for a nearby heritage building, after the building’s old route through a nearby parkade was demolished. "
"...ultimately they’ve been built to code...."
The technical needs of the project appear to have been outlined, but not the overall needs of, or impact on the community.
"Some have labelled it an eyesore and a waste of taxpayer money, while others have mistaken it for an art installation"
"They were a little bit larger and more visually intrusive than I think many residents and business owners thought..."
It's also clear from those two statements that stakeholder engagement was minimal or non-existent. Many in the community appear to not even know what purpose the stairs were intended to serve.
In fact, one gets the impression that no one involved fully realized how imposing the design of this staircase would be once erected.
Most telling about the lack of planning here is the following statement;
"...the staircase has faced some unexpected challenges, and won’t be finished until some exposed overhead wires are dealt with."
Proper planning and risk assessment would have accounted for this risk long before execution/construction.
Ultimately, this project is facing failure because the most important phase of the project management process was not given the attention it deserved. Planning.
My intention here is not to be an armchair critic or to point out the failings of others.
Rather to use it as a learning experience. To highlight the importance of the project management process, and the added value that a good project manager can bring to an organization.
With that said, we all make mistakes. We all have projects that didn't go as planned, and required some creative thinking to get back on track.
These are not just failures, but valuable learning experiences that help us become better.
"(The Mayor) also hinted at opening the stairs up to public artists, in the hopes of making them a little easier on the eyes."
With the right kind of creative thinking, we can create success out of even the most difficult of situations. Saving Changes...
I have also see highway/freeway exit to nowhere in Quebec City, where an artist painted a entrance in the rock facing the exit. Other exit to nowhere could be see in movie such as the Blues Brother! Saving Changes...