Ratcheting project management up a notch

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PM Industry

In Focus

Louis J. Cabano is president and CEO of Pathfinder, Inc. For more than 35 years, Mr. Cabano has participated in the planning, development, organizing and implementation of multi-million and multi-billion dollar projects throughout the world.

As an instructor, Mr. Cabano regularly directs domestic and international seminars and workshops on a wide range of project management topics for the International Project Management Academy and the American institute of Chemical Engineers.

Prior to forming Pathfinder, Mr. Cabano was vice president and chief project manager for Catalytic, Inc. As division manager for Exxon Research and Engineering Company, he was responsible for project execution of the company's worldwide chemical projects. Mr. Cabano received his B.S. in chemical engineering from Drexel University where he also took advanced studies in engineering management.

As an active member of PMI, Mr. Cabano was instrumental in founding the original New York PMI Chapter and recently served as president and chairman of the Delaware Valley PMI Chapter.

A few weeks ago I heard a prominent television commentator lament: “We are living in a time when leaders pretend to lead, managers pretend to manage, teachers pretend to teach and students pretend to learn. A world where glitz, pretense, symbolism and chicanery are often valued above candor, reality, reliability, loyalty and integrity.” Not a very uplifting characterization of today's world, but certainly a perspective calling for a thoughtful pause.

Looking beyond the cynicism in these particular remarks, it does seem that the image of many of our institutions, professions and heroes have suffered in recent years, leading to increased public skepticism and decreased confidence and trust in the “system” and sometimes in each other. Such disillusionment is insidious, slowing our progress and diminishing the quality of life of our society. We need leaders to admire who help set standards of honor, achievement, commitment, honesty, sensitivity, spiritual fulfillment, and so on.

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THE CHALLENGE

To begin the long road back to restoring people's confidence in the “system” will require that some highly visible group in our vast society step forward and consistently and impressively demonstrate the level of professional, ethical, social, moral and personal behavior performance that we hear so much about, but rarely witness these days. This initiative needs to be widespread enough to draw worldwide attention, observation, respect, admiration and emulation.

What we need is a group that operates in a broad, multidiscipline, highly visible but discrete domain, one that has reasonably well defined performance objectives and where day-to-day activities and conduct are witnessed by a wide spectrum of diverse audiences. Furthermore, the group's activities should be carried out in a reasonably short time frame with readily apparent and quantitatively measurable results.

THE CHAMPIONS

Does any group of that nature occur to you? I hope so. I firmly ,believe that we, the professionals in project management, are ideally suited to start this vital credibility rebuilding process. We are constantly asked to accomplish significant and highly visible tasks involving a diversity of disciplines where people are easily able to witness our intellectual, professional and ethical behavior. What greater fulfillment can be added to our already overflowing platter but to take the lead at this crucial time in restoring human faith and confidence in the basic elements of objectivity, honesty, integrity, fairness, loyalty, respect, dignity, pride, … ?

Over the years I've observed that many of the projects we manage are microcosms of the world itself. They touch virtually every aspect of life—people, technology, engineering, financial, legal, health, environmental, safety, human relations, procurement, transportation, training, quality, construction, commissioning, planning/scheduling, organization, and so on. Thus, the project management domain seems to offer an ideal platform from which to champion consistent, reliable and effective project performance while upholding and respecting the highest order of human values and principles.

If we, as a small but unified and highly visible group of leaders, make a commitment to each other, to our profession and to society in general that we will not only talk about accomplishing things in an ethical, sensitive, fair and dignified manner, but also rigorously and aggressively take up the charge to put these valued principles into practice in all of our project management activities, we can and will make a difference. It is not enough to simply swear allegiance to such a “motherhood” crusade. The real test will come when we find ourselves, as we inevitably do, in situations where we are tempted or coerced into looking the other way or trampling a bit on the fundamental principles of fair play and human dignity.

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It seems that we have become conditioned to believe that “winning” is the thing and that to win we must compromise our ethical, moral and/or humanitarian principles. If the members of PMI, as a unified and worldwide organization, ratchet project management up a notch, to successfully execute projects not only from a purely business perspective, but more from a totally holistic context, we may well be able to turn the tide. If we simply look at the segment of project management that is devoted to designing and constructing new public and private facilities, we find that this segment alone ranks among the top two or three annual financial investment areas throughout the world. If we can improve the performance of this enormous sector of activity, while upholding the other highly valued principles of life, we can be one of the most influential and enriching forces in today's complex social mix.

I hope all my fellow PMI associates will join in the challenge now and demonstrate to our friends, colleagues and associates around the world, what real leadership is, what real management is, how real teachers teach and how committed learners learn. When you look at it holistically, what other element of society is better equipped to lead this march back and extend the “total quality” philosophy beyond the bounds of our professional activities and into the broader spectrum of life?

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Organizational Profile

Pathfinder, Inc. was founded in 1975 to provide project sponsors and organizations associated with industrial capital plant projects with a totally independent source of pragmatic, full-coverage project management expertise to assist in dealing with the complexities and sophisdication of small- to mega-scale project execution challenges.

Company capabilities cover strategic planning at project inception through the full array of project execution phases, including contracting, engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning/start-up activities.

Headquartered in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Pathfinder has been actively involved in over 700 successful assignments involving over 1,100 domestic and international projects in the petroleum, petrochemical, chemical, food processing, pharmaceutical, power and environmental industries, with a total installed cost estimated in excess of 120 billion dollars. Along with the full spectrum of project management assistance, Pathfinder specializes in cost estimate validity reviews, incentive contracting programs, benchmarking exercises and independent project reviews.

The training division of Pathfinder, the International Project Management Academy (IPMA), is an independent institution dedicated solely to the teaching of project management. Offering a comprehensive curriculum of customized intermediate to advanced professional development, team building and training courses, the IPMA provides “total quality” training reflected in the philosophy and performance standards of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).

Other divisions of Pathfinder include ASSET (Advisory Services of Selected Expert Technologists), which supplies expert technical advisory services for all engineering disciplines from selected expert advisors whose specialized skills meet the most sophisticated technical project needs. The Computer Science division provides expert advice and evaluation of stand-alone or integrated project management information and control support systems.

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.

JUNE 1993

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