Project Management Institute

Harnessing the power

Sudesh Gambhir, PMP, Energy Northwest, Richland, Washington, USA

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Energy Northwest (EN) provides electricity at cost to public utilities and municipalities across the northwestern United States. The 50-year-old company's energy and business services division is devoted to identifying and developing new energy-generating resources, using both traditional and renewable technologies. Sudesh Gambhir, PMP, EN's vice president, technical services, talks about the powerful role project management plays in the nuclear industry.

How does investing in project management principles help your company further its strategic goals?

EN is committed to operational efficiency and has been investing in project management for over 25 years. Experience has shown us that investing in project management principles, processes and training is essential to the successful execution of projects. Experience has also shown us that a lack of rigor results in projects that do not meet stated expectations.

Executive management at EN has internalized lessons learned from experiences at EN and other nuclear utilities and is encouraging the use of project management principles through training and Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification.

Are there unique aspects to how the nuclear industry approaches project management?

The nuclear industry has formalized processes for sharing operating experience and lessons learned. While the sharing of information is not unique, the level of expectation for sharing at EN and in the nuclear industry is very high.

The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations maintains a database of operating experience and acts as a clearinghouse for sharing experience. Lessons learned are categorized by project phases so lessons can be applied across projects. For example, lessons in procurement and vendor oversight are applicable to all projects and are not limited to ones that have been completed. EN has benefited considerably from benchmarking similar projects and using operating experience from other plants.

Experience has shown us that a lack of rigor results in projects that do not meet stated expectations.

What are the key advantages EN has seen from its project management methods?

The primary benefit has been the successful execution of projects the first time around. Incremental costs of shutting down a nuclear reactor for delays in execution or forced shutdown due to poor quality can result in daily financial impacts of over $1 million on the bottom line. It is therefore important that we deliver on what we promise with first-time quality.

Is there any part of your project management process you're reviewing?

EN is working to improve its ability to manage fast-tracked projects and specifically to minimize unintended consequences and impacts on other projects while maintaining overall safe operations. To address this issue, EN is evaluating an approach that was successfully used at another nuclear power plant where risks, identified through extensive interviews and use of operating experience, were integrated using Monte Carlo simulation techniques. The end-result was a better understanding of risks and their impact on resources and infrastructure.

The goal should be to minimize fast-tracked projects. However, those mission-critical projects that can't wait must be identified as early as possible and receive a much higher level of scrutiny with regard to progress and risk management. PM

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

FEBRUARY 2008 PM NETWORK

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