Category Archives: project management

project management

Outcomes not Outputs

Another thumping good read dropped onto the doormat this morning in the shape of New Civil Engineer magazine. The problem of air pollution is brought into sharp focus by an OECD graph which shows that air pollution currently accounts for 3 million premature deaths globally every year, with that set to rise to 9 million by the year 2060. The EU and Russia are the only regions charted which show a significant fall in predicted air pollution deaths, whilst India and China deaths are predicted to more than double.

Another chart shows that UK CO2 emissions arising from power generation have fallen from 180 metric tonnes in 2005 to 100 metric tonnes in 2015. However transport hasn’t improved, with 130 Mt in 2005 and 130 Mt in 2015. So it is not surprising that other articles focus on how transport can be made greener.

There is an interesting piece on aviation with an eye-catching photo of a blended wing aircraft being developed by Boeing and NASA. The idea seems to be that by making the aircraft virtually all wing, and putting the seats in the wing, you end up with something much more efficient. Other, perhaps less ambitious developments, include making the drink and food carts lighter as well as other items like seats.

Of course we don’t have to be aircraft engineers to save a life. We can avoid unnecessary car journeys by walking or cycling where possible. Apparently just 20 minutes brisk walking a day brings us significant health benefits, yet only a third of Londoners report achieving this much activity. In Scotland physical inactivity results in 2,500 premature deaths a year, seven a day. There is a great article describing how we can make our city streets more pedestrian friendly through simple things like de-cluttering pavements to remove extraneous signs, improving crossings, providing seating and public toilets on walking routes.

I checked the front cover, when I wondered if I was the victim of an April fool story, but no, putting cat litter into concrete really is a way to cut CO2 emissions. There is a Bath University research project showing that the absorbent granules present in cat litter can be used to carry a material which can absorb or release heat depending on temperature, thereby helping to keep a building at a constant temperature.

In the editorial, civil engineers are asked to open their (our) minds and learn more quickly what people need; to be focussed on outcomes rather than outputs. Sounds like Project Sponsorship to me.


Project Managers, Nature or Nurture?

Many of my posts have been inspired by articles in New Civil Engineer magazine. Today, I think, I write my first inspired by Project, the APM magazine. There were two articles written by Martin Samphire who I knew at Foster Wheeler Energy Ltd. In his opinion piece on the failure rate of projects and why they fail he starts with a story. He talks about a chap taking the dog for a walk to the park and buying some groceries. He needs to get home by 11:00 in order to take his wife to the doctors. This chap Bob meets a friend on the way to the park and goes for a coffee. Later he takes a phone call from his daughter during which the dog wanders off. He gets home late, doesn't get the groceries and never reached the park.

My wife and I have many things in common, one of which is we're never late. We're always early. Yet we have many friends who are congenitally late. If I'd been Bob I would have made my excuses to my friend and arranged to have a coffee another day. I'd have asked my daughter to hold while I secured the dog to the lead. I would have checked my watch every few minutes and quickened my pace if necessary to achieve my objectives. But my congenitally late friends lead successful lives and if I'm brutally honest I would admit to a touch of OCD sometimes. How many times do I really need to check key things like passports and tickets if we're going away? But I've never missed a flight whereas I know a few friends who have.

If Bob had taken a project management course, done a risk assessment and written a method statement and project execution plan before setting off, would he have got his wife to the doctors on time? It would certainly have helped, and simply having OCD doesn't make a good project manager. However I do think that project managers need to be a bit obsessive or compulsive about achieving their objectives, it's disorder that isn't good.


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