Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

On March 11, 2011, Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant shut down safely following a 9.0 earthquake and the series of tsunamis caused by the earthquake and the aftershocks. More than 25,000 were killed or went missing in the event. Following the shut down of the nuclear plant, sea water flooded many generator sites and the emergency generators failed. The nuclear plant broke down under the pressure of hot spots that melted metal and concrete components. As well, a dangerous accumulation of hydrogen gas threatened the land and sea, people, plants, and animals over a wide area. Japan and the world continue to look for signs that unsafe levels of nuclear waste have been lost from the power plant site. At the same time, Canada’s nuclear industry continues to evolve and manage huge financial reserves. Legislated plans for future plant decommissioning and fuel retirement are providing investment opportunity and investment income. The nuclear energy industry continues to lead development of alternate energy business.
There have been two responses as usual to the accident. Some jurisdictions have recoiled from the risk of nuclear energy projects. Other jurisdictions have used the information to mitigate or avoid these risks in their existing or planned projects. For example, in Ontario, Canada where about sixty percent of electrical power is generated in nuclear plants about two dozen projects were put in place to avoid issues raised by the lessons learned in the Fukushima incident on the northeast coast of Japan. In particular, several nonelectrical solutions were put in place to avoid hydrogen accumulations throughout their plants by introducing venting. Certainly Ontario power plants have little risk of being overwhelmed by a fifteen meter wall of sea water, but these steps are being taken to assure that failures of the power plant systems will be manageable.
Fukushima. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, The nuclear industry has reminders around the world of catastrophic failures along with the ongoing success of nuclear power. The science fiction ideas of personal reactors seem far fetched today. However, the nuclear industry has taken its place as an industrial giant in science, in medicine, and in energy. The risks remain, countless issues are being work on today and will need solutions by committed technicians and engineers along with oversight by the public. While it is clear that radiation can be measured, controlled and handled very safely while delivering huge benefits to the world, nuclear power remains a public policy initiative that requires transparent, open communications with consumers and all stakeholders in the mining, manufacturing, and utilization of nuclear products.

I love project management!

I love project management. Project management has been my core competency throughout my career and project management has also been the aspect of my career that has brought me the most happiness. To me, the central purpose of project management is for teams to succeed in completing tasks, activities, deliverables and in this way, to succeed in completing projects. Every day I have the opportunity to work with great people to get something done that, I believe, would not otherwise get done. Even operationally, most problems presented to me have been solved by applying the principles of project management. I believe project management has the tools to deal with every organizational problem and conclude with a solution that is best for the organization.
Since my youth, I have been fortunate that the people around me have expected me to find the answers to our problems. I have not always been able to turn the groups into teams, but as one of my life long learning goals, more groups have become teams as the years passed. In the early years, I was not always successful in completing projects, but as another life long learning goal, my projects are always successful now. A bold statement perhaps, but therein lies my happiness. Like setting the temperature in your house, happiness is in the transition, not at a boundary. Yes, just another way of saying that happiness is found in the journey, not as a destination. My happiness is taking my team to each successful task, activity, and deliverable so that the success of the project is inevitable. In fact, some of the most amazing aspects of my career have happened when stakeholders have been surprised by team successes. Too many failures in an organization lead to skepticism that anything can work.
My tendency is to ask people to report to me using checklists. This tool serves to focus their attention on the measures of success and to consider each on the basis of either being completed or not being completed. We all suffer from “student syndrome.” One symptom of “student syndrome” is attempting to accumulate marks, points, or credit. Much of life can not be quantified or qualified as done, but project management provides a way to assure that every task, activity, deliverable, and project can be quantified or qualified as done. Results matter. Since the beginning of my education in project management, there have been discussions about reporting status. One wise sponsor (boss) told me in those early days, “I can’t tell what 75% or 80% looks like and I can’t ship something that is 95% or 98% All I know is done or not done and that is all I want from you.” A great lesson that has served me well. As project management has served me well.
I love project management!

The Balance of Hard and Soft Project Management Tools

One of the most interesting aspects of project management is the need for a balanced approach.Both hard skills and soft skills are required if project management is going to assist in the success of a project. Yes, the project management discipline cannot make every project successful. Of course, we never know which projects will not be affected by project management in the startup phase, we will only know in retrospect. As a result, the use of project management always provides a return on investment, if only in closing the project down and making use of the lessons learned in the closeout process. So we are well served by finding a balance of the hard and soft skills. The hard skills are the processes and procedures that project managers use throughout the project life cycle. The soft skills are the interactions between the project stakeholders.
The Project Management Institute is the largest project management professional organization. Over the last thirty years, the Institute has led the project management profession through the promotion and provision of training and networking activities. One of the main tools has been the Project Management Body of Knowledge. The PMBoK list nine knowledge areas spread across five process groups. The process groups resolve into dozens of processes and most processes have many inputs and outputs. Often the inputs and outputs require intermediary steps, they don’t just follow.While this sounds very complicated, and it can be, day to day project management becomes second nature to experienced managers until the current step leads logically to the next steps. Most people find the fun of project management in the balance required in utilizing the soft skills – those project management skills that involve people.
The most important soft skills are communication skills and these skills are supported by processes of the PMBoK. Forms, sign-offs and hand-offs, logs and registers, time sheets and budgets are balanced by the people involved in our projects. For example, a budget in itself does not lead to a successful project. It is imperative to have a budget that provides the financial framework of the project, but it is also essential that the team buts into the budget, that the team is aware of the budget, and the team responds throughout the project to the budget. This is just an example of course. I’m not suggesting that all the answers or that the prime motivation should be encapsulated by the budget. The simple point is that budget skills must be both soft and hard if the budget is to be an effective project management tool.
These are easy discussions to enter into and are often part of student and mentoring sessions. To return to the main point, a balance of hard and soft skills is essential to the project management discipline for any company.