Future 50
A New Generation of Leaders Has Arrived

For taking charge to deliver energy around the world

Arman Köklü got his start at GE through a leadership program aimed at accelerating talent development. Since then, he’s contributed to energy projects around the globe, including an initiative to provide 200,000 under-resourced households in Ghana access to power. Here, he highlights lessons learned from four other engagements.

Fast Track

Project: 25-megawatt (MW) power plant in Gurayat, Saudi Arabia

Challenge: The team was asked to relocate an existing facility to another state in 14 days—that spanned a national holiday. Köklü compressed the usual schedule and the team pulled it off, setting a world record in the process.

Lesson: “We could have resisted the initial request. But customers determine our success in The Project Economy. The ultimate value delivered through this was the unconditional trust of a strategic customer, which has led to many more projects and further cooperation in the Middle East.”

Blown Away

Project: 200-MW wind farm on three project sites in Ontario, Canada 

Challenge: Build a wind turbine 120 meters (394 feet) high, even as temperatures at the project site dipped to negative 20 degrees Celsius (negative 4 degrees Fahrenheit) with a windchill of negative 35 degrees Celsius (negative 31 degrees Fahrenheit).

Lesson: “The site team has to be empowered for decentralized and daily decision making. Unless there’s an empowering culture embedded in your project team, you are most likely set to fail.”

Special Delivery

Project: 50-MW wind farm in Rietz, Germany

Challenge: Getting a 50-meter-long (164-foot-long) wind turbine blade to the site earlier than expected might seem like a win, but with tight contractual delivery dates and a strong process-oriented culture, it almost sparked customer backlash.

Lesson: “Communication is the backbone of almost any project. Even a very well-planned and established risk mitigation action can turn into a risk introduction unless it’s communicated in-depth and on time to all stakeholders.”

Shift Happens

Project: Liquid petroleum gas plant in Accra, Ghana

Challenge: When the global pandemic hit during execution, the team made daily shifts to resources, timelines and project plans to let work continue. 

Lesson: “When knowledge is constantly updated, transferred and shared among project team members in real time, it enables evidenced-based, data-driven decisions to be made—even in this chaotic global crisis. You must cultivate this kind of adaptive and flexible approach in your organizational DNA.”

Q&A: Arman Köklü on Africa’s growth, data-driven decisions and Leonardo da Vinci

What’s the most influential project you’ve worked on?

Building a 250-megawatt power plant in Ghana. Sub-Saharan Africa might represent less than 20 percent of the world population, but it also represents almost 50 percent of those who don’t have access to consistent and reliable power. Not only did this project bring power to around 200,000 homes, but it led to several other investments in the region. That’s vital for the exponential growth need of Africa as a continent.

What’s the one must-have skill to succeed in The Project Economy?

A mindset that embraces flexibility and adaptability every single day. Only if you are willing to continually learn can you deliver value in today’s world where even the best laid project plans can shift dramatically in few days as new environmental conditions arise. 
In the future, it will be the ability to make data-driven decisions, fast. Through connectivity and intelligence technologies, like 5G, IoT, blockchain and AI, I expect the real-time data, processes and decisions to become more and more parallel activities in a world that’s fully and heavily connected.

How are young people changing the world of projects now?

Millennials and even Gen Z are becoming a dominant part of the tech industry. Project teams now have no other choice than allowing near real-time collaboration. This is leading to increased productivity and efficiency while increasing the risk exposure through the amount of information flowing everyday.

What famous or historic person would you want on your project team?

Leonardo da Vinci. His interest in rationality and the scientific method formed the foundation of human thought in our time today. Such a team member, with an overall genius and amazing range of studies, would add enormous value to almost any project I could imagine.