Rising from the ashes

Mike Sullivan, Director, Pentagon Renovation and Construction Program Office, Arlington, Va., USA

Mike Sullivan, Director, Pentagon Renovation and Construction Program Office, Arlington, Va., USA

THE PHOENIX PROJECT restored THE PENTAGON AND redefined GOVERNMENT PROJECT MANAGEMENT ALONG THE WAY.

2003 PMI PROJECT OF THE YEAR FINALIST

by NATALIE BAUER

photography by
MATT MENDELSOHN

AT 9:37 A.M. EDT, ON THE MORNING OF 11 SEPTEMBER 2001, hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the west face of the Pentagon, the Arlington, Va., USA, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense.

In a moment, the Phoenix Project began—all without reviewing a strategic plan, using project selection methods or producing a project charter. It was an unconventional start to an extraordinary project.

More than 400,000 square feet of office space were destroyed in the attack, and an additional 1.6 million square feet were damaged. Wasting no time, project leaders set an aggressive deadline to demolish and restore the point of impact no more than one year later.

With an intensive, integrated project management culture already in place, the Phoenix Project team raced ahead of that stringent deadline: The project was completed 28 days ahead of schedule and nearly $194 million under budget. “Given the project's magnitude and the number of workers, there would have been a significant amount of ineffectiveness, scrap and rework [without project management],” says former Deputy Program Manager Mike Sullivan, now director of the Pentagon Renovation and Construction Program Office. “Project management gave the leadership guiding [the project's 3,000 workers] the tools to help them visualize where they needed to go.”

Practice Makes Perfect

Offices in the Pentagon form a concentric series of five rings. The “A Ring” is the innermost section, from which emanates Rings B through E. Ten corridors radiate from the building's hub, defining the building's five “wedges.”

When Flight 77 hurtled through the Pentagon's limestone shell, reconstruction of Wedge 1 was near completion as part of the Pentagon Renovation Program (PenRen), a $1.2 billion, 20-year initiative to rebuild the defense headquarters. Much of the Phoenix Project's success resulted from this effort: Project leaders based much of the Phoenix Project's structure on the PenRen program's organization.

img     THE PHOENIX PROJECT     img

img
The 3,000-member project team completed demolition one month and one day ahead of schedule

The 3,000-member project team completed demolition one month and one day ahead of schedule.

More than 400,000 square feet of the Pentagon's office space were destroyed in the attack, and an additional 1.6 million square feet were damaged when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the west face of the Arlington, Va., USA, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense

More than 400,000 square feet of the Pentagon's office space were destroyed in the attack, and an additional 1.6 million square feet were damaged when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the west face of the Arlington, Va., USA, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense.

The project's “ultra-fast track” schedule allowed early installation of the limestone façade, main electric vaults and roofing systems

The project's “ultra-fast track” schedule allowed early installation of the limestone façade, main electric vaults and roofing systems.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

img Integrated project management teams enhanced communications and produced tighter and more accurate integration of project plans.
img An “ultra-fast track” schedule enabled earlier installation of the exterior limestone and for multiple crews to work concurrently in the construction life cycle.
img Project leaders saved time through use of a design-build project approach.
img Contractors were motivated financially to perform on cost and on schedule.

“Fortunately for the Phoenix Project, the Wedge 1 Renovation was still active, although it was about to close out,” says Bob Codichini, operations manager for General Dynamics, which has offices in Needham Heights, Mass., USA, and Arlington, Va., USA. “The Wedge 1 Renovation Project became a very valuable source for input into creating the Phoenix Project schedule and plan. All the activities and soft dependencies had already been defined.”

img One of the most critical elements derived from the Wedge 1 renovation was its integrated product team (IPT). On the very day of the attack, the Phoenix IPT formed, and resources were quickly reassigned. The IPT was critical to individual empowerment, team-building and issue resolution, and its positive results led lower-level workers and contractors to create their own informal IPTs. “With all of the stakeholders around the table,” says Clark Sheakley, PMP, a PenRen client liaison with General Dynamics, “it was possible to update plans on the fly and keep everyone informed.”

Phoenix Project crews removed approximately 56,000 tons of contaminated debris

Phoenix Project crews removed approximately 56,000 tons of contaminated debris.

Pre-existing integrated product teams enabled project leaders to assign resources on the very day of the terrorist attack

Pre-existing integrated product teams enabled project leaders to assign resources on the very day of the terrorist attack.

Project leaders opted for a design-build approach that allowed design and construction to operate as a single entity under one contract, which helped to speed the assigning process

Project leaders opted for a design-build approach that allowed design and construction to operate as a single entity under one contract, which helped to speed the assigning process.

Former Deputy Program Manager Mike Sullivan says the Phoenix Project's success came down to two things: people and project management

Former Deputy Program Manager Mike Sullivan says the Phoenix Project's success came down to two things: people and project management.

Ultra-Fast

The primary constraint in developing the project schedule was the self-imposed one-year deadline. Project leaders wanted to complete the project by the first anniversary of the attack. The schedule was very informal during the first month after the attack, because there was no access to software or historical data. Once the Federal Bureau of Investigation released Wedge 1, the schedule went through more formal development using the existing renovation schedule.

img To accelerate construction, KCE Structural Engineers, Washington, D.C., USA, developed an “ultra-fast track” schedule. The project area was divided into three horizontal stages of construction sequence, while the building's three outer rings within each stage were sequenced independently, allowing early installation of the limestone fagade, main electric vaults, main mechanical and roofing systems. For instance, smaller sections were poured so crews could work simultaneously, rotating through each of the construction sequences rather than waiting for an entire floor's worth of concrete to be poured before sending in subsequent crews.

at a glance: PROJECT CHALLENGES AND HIGHLIGHTS

img

img  Schedule 30,000 activities

img  Month One 646 issues were logged and tracked, equating to 21.5 issues per day during a seven-day work week.

img  Demolition and Removal 400,000 square feet of structure and 56,000 tons of contaminated debris

img  Fabrication and Installation 2.5 million pounds limestone facade using original drawings from 1941; 21,000 cubic yards of concrete poured; 3,800 tons of reinforcing steel placed

img  On the Clock 3 million man-hours worked within 11 months

img  Off the Clock 5 single-day lost work incidents

img  Wartime Construction The missions of the various military agencies were changing daily, causing constant revisions to the program, system, and furnishing and equipment requirements.

img  Hiring and Site Access Heightened security restricted activities.

The cause and nature of the project provided a strong emotional driver for the Phoenix team and helped develop the team's common priorities. “To get there, you need dedication from your project team,” Sheakley says. “Whether you're the project sponsor or project manager, you must win the hearts and minds of your project team, especially in a matrixed team structure. Book knowledge will only take you so far. Phoenix did in less than a year what it took two years to do previously because we had a compelling reason to go above and beyond.”

But emotion will only take a team so far. Breaking the workload down into manageable chunks helped not only to speed operations but to keep workers focused. “On 12 September, we had 250 construction workers lined up outside the gate ready to get to work, ready to start rebuilding, to help out in any way they could, before any contract had been awarded, any promises or any plans were made. They were already a patriotic, highly motivated workforce, but when you're working 24 hours a day, it's difficult to maintain that level of motivation and effort, regardless of the cause without strong leadership,” says Brett Eaton, communications team leader for the Pentagon Renovation and Construction Program Office. “Unless you have that project management in place and you can clearly identify your goals and the steps you need to take to reach those goals, you're not going to be able to maintain that same motivation for an entire year.”

Due to the fast pace of the project, keeping the schedule current was difficult. Many times it served more as a benchmark than as a primary guide. “At times, the schedulers could not keep up with the work because it was so far ahead,” Sullivan says. “It simply became that if we were on the schedule, we would make our completion date. If we were ahead of it, then we knew we must be OK.”

End-user changes on the Wedge 1 renovation were common and a source of significant schedule delays. Phoenix Project schedule delays due to tenant changes were mitigated by communicating the constraints caused by the one-year deadline. Tenant change requests that still emerged were evaluated based on tenant need.

Flexibility, Eaton says, was key from the start. “Our initial goal was to have the [outer] ring finished and reoccupied by the one-year anniversary,” he says. “We wanted to start [construction] with that outer ring first, but that design was much more complicated than the internal ring, the level of detail that had to go into that, so when they completed the demolition [a month early], the design of those exterior rings was not yet complete. To keep working, they started construction with the inner ring and actually changed their whole construction schedule to work from the inside out rather than the outside in. It was that level of flexibility that allowed us to keep working.”

Real-Time Updates

img The project's tight timeframe led to concurrent scope development, project integration and other planning activities. “Before plans were finalized or even in draft form, the project was underway, albeit via unplanned activities,” Sheakley says.

embrace CHANGE

Early into the project, PenRen management realized change management was stalling progress. Mike Sullivan, then-deputy program manager, stayed on site to sort through the issues. Change and issues meetings occurred twice daily and then daily once the team had caught up. An IPT change process was instituted, with a mandate to make decisions within a 24-hour window. The process followed these steps:

img Assign a contractor contact and government contact

img Conduct a walk-through of where the change is to occur

img Document the scope of work

img Document and agree upon assumptions between both parties

img Contractor submits a rough order of magnitude; depending on the urgency of the change, the government could issue a contract with a not-to-exceed limit

img IPT meeting scheduled to approve or reject change.

img

On 12 September, we had 250 construction workers lined up outside the gate ready to get to work, before promises or any plans were made.

Brett Eaton, Communications Team Leader, Pentagon Renovation and Construction Program Office, Arlington, Va., USA

Change was inevitable. London, U.K.-based AMEC, the prime contractor, had $50 million in changes on a $205 million contract. To mitigate risks and keep team members in the loop, daily early morning walk-throughs enabled better troubleshooting and timely decision-making. Floor monitors assigned to each of the wedge's five floors provided hourly updates. Sullivan stayed on site to sort through change issues, and an IPT change process was instituted.

The program prioritized change requests according to their impact on schedule, quality and cost, which Sullivan removed if the price was reasonable. To accelerate the process, change requests were required to be resolved in 24 hours, with tiered dollar thresholds determining the signatures required on proposed changes. At the lowest threshold, for example, the change was approved immediately, and schedulers were on hand to adjust baselines.

img Overnight, the cost to renovate the Pentagon was estimated and submitted to the U.S. Congress, which authorized $700 million in emergency funds. Made in the early hours after the attack, the resource plan relied heavily on the Wedge 1 renovation plan. But as the scope of damage became clearer, so did the budget, which dropped closer to $500 million. Incentivized contracts transferred much of the risk of cost estimating to the contractors. “You set clear goals, and you reward them when they make it through an award-fee plan and concept that clearly articulates what is determined to be necessary for success,” Sullivan says. “If they meet those [criteria], you reward them.”

Speak to Me

The nature of the Phoenix Project put PenRen under the microscope of public scrutiny and required a complete communications strategy. The fluid nature of the situation and the immediate need for information made agility imperative. Immediately following the attack, the communications process was facilitated by on-site command posts. PenRen assisted the FBI and Arlington County Rescue teams just hours into the recovery effort by supplying architectural drawings and firsthand knowledge of the impacted areas. The team worked out an agreement with a local printer to remain open 24 hours a day to supply any required documents, and it established 24-hour command centers, located at the attack site and PenRen offices.

Daily 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. briefings became the single best source of information for the 25,000 Pentagon employees to get updates about the recovery effort. Biweekly construction progress meetings and monthly program manager's review meetings facilitated internal communication between the Phoenix Project, PenRen program managers and other ongoing construction projects. Reports detailed Phoenix Project actions for the previous 30 days and for the next 30 days. Daily 6 a.m. on-site meetings became the best way to disseminate information on upcoming activities to first-line supervisors and workers. Internal communication also improved through a new PenRen intranet.

A carefully crafted message that the Pentagon would be rebuilt on budget, on schedule, and stronger and safer than before was disseminated to external audiences. Project milestones frequently were accompanied by high-level ceremonies presided over by the secretary or deputy secretary of defense, drawing heavy media attention. Press days allowed access to the project site, and separate days were set aside to specifically target the foreign press. From 11 September 2001 to 11 September 2002, the communications team coordinated more than 300 individual on-site interviews or press events and approximately 220 tours of Phoenix Project activities for congressmen, dignitaries, military officials, professional associations and government agencies.

phoenix PROJECT SNAPSHOT

Project: Pentagon Phoenix Project, PMI 2003 Project of the Year Runner-Up

Owner/Client: The U.S. Department of Defense

Project Background: Hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the west face of the Pentagon on 11 September 2001. The airplane and subsequent blast destroyed approximately 400,000 square feet of the Pentagon.

Project Management Roles and Responsibilities: The Phoenix Project became part of the Pentagon Renovation Program, a $1.2 billion, 20-year initiative. Integrated project teams (IPTs) already were in use in some areas of the original Wedge 1 and Wedge 2 renovation projects, and the Phoenix Project expanded the use of IPT. The success of IPTs at the managerial level resulted in workers creating their own informal IPTs for on-site decision-making, a requisite to meet the tight deadline.

Result: The 3,000-member project team completed demolition and reconstruction of the damaged section 28 days ahead of schedule and approximately $194 million under budget.

Sharing the Load

Cost savings from performing risk management enabled the Phoenix Project to fund other optional activities, including the construction of the flattop roof, which provided more float in the schedule.

In addition, the procurement plan was structured to divest the government program office from system integration responsibilities. Contractors were fully responsible for the integration of systems, subsystems, components and support equipment, and they had to ensure no performance degradation after integration. The approach decreased construction time, increased product quality, and reduced costs, data, program office manpower and engineering change orders. “It was a challenge to manage all the resources at any specific point in the project, given the magnitude and the number of resources,” Sullivan says. “But the bottom line is that you hire good people and you let them do their jobs.”

img The design-build approach allowed design and construction to operate as a single entity under one contract, contrasting with the standard government approach of design-bid-build, which can create conflict between design and construction contractors and owners.

Closeout was a continuous process. As tenants moved into the space, that part of the Phoenix Project was turned over. Once all tenant space was accepted, the Phoenix Project ended. Administrative closeout required archiving all quality records for each tenant space.

In all, Phoenix Project team members say its success comes down to two central elements: people and procedure. Project management molded the team's motivation into a tangible process that enabled the project's massive achievement. “The lesson is that if you get a bunch of people who are dedicated and committed to achieving a goal, there's not much that you can't accomplish,” Sullivan says. 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.

PM NETWORK | MAY 2004 | WWW.PMI.ORG
MAY 2004 | PM NETWORK

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