Project Management Institute

Winner's circle

-BY WILLIAM HOFFMAN-

PROJECT OF THE YEAR award winners have rescued troubled international sporting events (the 2002 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA), restored critical economic infrastructure (the Atigun mainline reroute of the Alaska National Pipeline), reengineered popular consumer products in a time of accelerating technological innovation (Eastman Kodak's Advantix advanced photo system) and bumped over extraterrestrial rocks with the Mars Pathfinder. While some project managers remember their award-winning project as the highlight of a career, others are forging on to new challenges—and perhaps new accolades.

2002 Winter Olympics and Paralympics

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1997 Mars Pathfinder

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Hawiyah Gas Development Program

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Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

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SKY'S THE LIMIT

PROJECT: 1997 Mars Pathfinder

COMPANY: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., USA

YEAR WON: 1998

PROJECT LEADER: Brian Muirhead

THEN: JPL Primary Flight Systems Manager

NOW: JPL Chief Engineer

When Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity rolled off their landers and began their remote-controlled reconnaissance of the Red Planet this year, Brian Muirhead took satisfaction in knowing his team had blazed their trails. At Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Mr. Muirhead shepherded the Pathfinder probe through three years of planning and construction to launch, then became responsible for surface operations after landing. “Many of the things we said were new ways of doing business [then] are standard ways of doing business now,” he says.

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Mr. Muirhead beat NASA's $200 million “faster, better, cheaper” budget by $10,000, while his team invented or reinvented 25 technologies—from a parachute that could deploy at Mach 2 in Mars' wispy upper atmosphere to a modern computer capable of operating in the radiation of deep space where no robot had driven before. “Take risks but do not fail,” Mr. Muirhead recalls then NASA administrator Daniel S. Goldin telling him during Pathfinder's development. Pathfinder's success opened the way to economical remote exploration of the planets, he says.

Since the Pathfinder success, Mr. Muirhead has worked on the early planning phase for the proposed biochemistry-focused Mars Science Laboratory, to launch in 2009. His colleagues on Pathfinder have advanced with him; flight systems chief engineer Rob Manning became flight systems lead systems engineer for the Mars Exploration Rovers, while Jennifer Trosper, Pathfinder test engineer and flight director, moved to project systems engineer for the same project.

JPL doesn't measure return on investment in its projects like corporations do, Mr. Muirhead says. “The currency for space science really is knowledge and engagement of the public, the stimulation of our young people to pursue education in science and engineering,” he says. “I don't have the statistics, but my experience is that these missions really do get people excited about science and engineering, and people really do get involved in that.”

LESSONS LEARNED: Mr. Muirhead says the cutting-edge nature of JPL's work—this is, after all, rocket science—required not only setting but enforcing the highest performance and quality standards.

“It's teamwork over paperwork,” says Mr. Muirhead, who adds he deliberately emphasized face-to-face communications, co-location within JPL and frequent interaction with industry partners to meet Pathfinder's three-year project schedule.

ENERGETIC

PROJECT: Hawiyah Gas Development Program, Saudi Arabia

COMPANY: Saudi Aramco, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

YEAR WON: 2002

AT THE HELM: Mohammad al-Juwair

THEN: Department Manager, Saudi Aramco

NOW: General Manager, Saudi Aramco's Project Management

Senior management support was critical to the successful completion of the Hawiyah Gas Development program, according to Mohammad al-Juwair, the Saudi Aramco program manager who had overall responsibility for the project.

The $4 billion Hawiyah program development, which gathered 1.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas from 63 wells in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, allowed Saudi Aramco to fulfill its commitment to provide gas for the development of local industry, Mr. al-Juwair says. The plant, located about 270 kilometers east of Riyadh, has been operating near full capacity since it came online in December 2001.

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PHOTOGRAPH OF HAWIYAH PLANT COURTESY OF SAUDI ARAMCO

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Integrating project management, operations and contractors as one team working together toward common objectives helped assure Hawiyah's on-time completion, Mr. al-Juwair says. “This fully integrated team was able to resolve technical issues faster, reduce unnecessary spending through design and cost optimization, and achieve full control on quality and schedule,” he says. Completing air, water and steam utilities four months ahead of schedule, as well as early placement of long lead-time manufacturing purchase orders, resulted in smoother engineering progress and improved overall program scheduling.

Based on his success, today Mr. Al-Juwair has responsibility for major portions of the company's Capital Program, reflecting more than 70 ongoing projects valued in excess of $6 billion.

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PHOTOGRAPH OF OLYMPIC FOUNTAIN BY LOUIS LESKO

LESSONS LEARNED: Hawiyah convinced Mr. al-Juwair of the necessity for executive buy-in from project inception. “Without their backing and continuous support,” he says, “the accomplishment of the Hawiyah program would not have been possible.”

GOING FOR GOLD

PROJECT: 2002 Winter Olympics and Paralympics

COMPANY: Salt Lake Organizing Committee, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

YEAR WON: 2003

PROJECT LEADER: Matthew Lehman

THEN: SLOC Managing Director of Operations, Planning and Management

NOW: Associate, Sorenson Capital Partners LLP

By any standard, project managers for the 2002 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Matthew Lehman joined the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) as managing director of operations, planning and management in an effort to rescue the games from a bid-rigging scandal that threatened the Games' international reputation. Along with SLOC CEO Mitt Romney and Fraser Bullock, CFO and COO, Mr. Lehman helped turn a $400 million deficit, for which local governments could have been left holding the bag, into a $100 million surplus.

As a result, the 27-day, $1.9 billion event left behind an intelligent transportation monitoring system (Utah commuters now can check Salt Lake area traffic, weather, construction and road conditions via the Web); an Olympic-sized indoor ice hockey and soccer stadium; a $70 million endowment to establish the Utah Athletic Foundation; and accelerated infrastructure improvements at the University of Utah campus. Homeless shelters got the games' leftover office and other equipment. “There was just a ton left behind,” Mr. Lehman says.

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While Mr. Romney went on to be elected Republican governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Lehman and Mr. Bullock, who'd known each other 17 years, launched Sorenson Capital Partners LLP in Salt Lake City, raising $250 million in private equity to fund buyouts and growth in businesses in the U.S. Rocky Mountain states. “I'd always wanted to do this,” Mr. Lehman says.

LESSONS LEARNED: Mr. Lehman says change order management tools and techniques were crucial to managing the dynamics of a live event where changing a TV camera angle might require sign-off by most of 18 department managers to ensure coordination and on-time completion.

Mr. Lehman adds: “Build tools that people can understand, that are very succinct, so people can drill down and understand exactly where they fit in and get involved.”

PICTURE PERFECT

PROJECT: Advantix Advanced Photo System

COMPANY: Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, N.Y., USA

YEAR WON: 1997

PROJECT LEADER: Chris S. Adams

THEN: Kodak Lead Project Consultant in Support of Commercialization

NOW: Kodak Senior Industrial Engineer

The digital photography revolution eclipsed results from the Advantix Advanced Photo System project, says Chris S. Adams, senior industrial engineer at Eastman Kodak Co.

Advantix offered simplified, foolproof film loading, visual indicators of film's used or unused status, three different print sizes and film roll index prints for review and print selection. “It was like introducing 35mm [film] for the first time,” Mr. Adams says of the project that at one point employed approximately 6,000 full- and part-time employees and industry partners.

Yet, by the time Advantix launched in February 1996—about 10 years after conception—digital photography had emerged from its technological infancy. “That has hurt,” Mr. Adams says. In the past year, Eastman Kodak announced it would no longer manufacture Advantix APS cameras, although the film does work in other makes and models. “I'm sure there will come a time when this product would be over with and we would no longer make film,” he says, “but we still make it today.”

Mr. Adams went on to supervise a unit of Eastman Kodak industrial engineers for five years before returning to project management consulting for the company's Picture Maker digital photo kiosk in 2002. Despite Advantix's mixed results, Mr. Adams says his experience with the project “was nothing but positive personally.”

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LESSONS LEARNED: Mr. Adams says Advantix's film base changed midway through that project to work better with the film processing equipment. “It's like designing your car and then deciding to redo the chassis,” he says.

HONOR ROLL

The Project Management Institute will recognize outstanding project management contributions in two new categories at its PMI Global Congress 2004–North America awards ceremony 23 October 2004, in Anaheim, Calif., USA.

PMI Professional Development Provider of the Year will recognize and honor PMI component, corporate/government/association, individual/business and/or academic professional development providers who have demonstrated exceptional skills in the delivery and implementation of a professional development program in project management, says Melissa DiEgidio, PMI marketing planner.

PMI Professional Development Product of the Year will recognize and honor exceptional professional development instruction and/or training material for project management students, trainees or practitioners. This award may be given to a PMI component, corporate/government/association, individual/business and/or academic institution responsible for the creation and production of the instruction.

That makes 10 categories of professional awards to seek in 2005, Ms. DiEgidio says. Review committees will examine the 2004 nominations, with judging criteria specific to each category. More information can be found at PMI's Web site, http://www.pmi.org/info/AP_AwardNominations.asp.

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PHOTOGRAPH OF PIPELINE BY DAVID PREDEGER

IN THE PIPELINE

PROJECT: Alaska Pipeline

COMPANY: Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., Anchorage, Alaska, USA

YEAR WON: 1992

PROJECT LEADER: Bill Howitt

THEN: Alyeska Vice President for Engineering and Projects

NOW: Alyeska Transition Manager for Strategic Configuration

More than a decade ago, Bill Howitt helped restore the Alaska pipeline to assure the steady flow of “black gold” to the United States. Today he's preparing the same pipeline for upgrading and downsizing.

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Working for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., Mr. Howitt helped install nine miles of 48-inch pipe in the inhospitable Atigun River flood plain, about 170 miles south of Prudhoe Bay. The almost $100 million project to address corrosion that threatened the line's carrying capacity was undertaken in the shadow of the first Persian Gulf War. To replace the pipe, the team had to wait for deepest Arctic winter, because the frigid conditions would minimize pipe damage, the chance for avalanches and soil backfill. Success depended, he says, on “attention to detail and not taking any shortcuts, despite having to work in heavy snow, blowing winds and frigid cold.”

It was Alyeska's biggest maintenance project—until today. Now, Mr. Howitt is supervising the replacement of pipeline pumping and control stations that in 2006 will reduce the line's capacity from 2 million barrels a day to about 1 million barrels, as Prudhoe Bay and other oil fields begin to play out. That $250 million undertaking sets a new record for Alyeska's pipeline maintenance projects, he says.

LESSONS LEARNED: Mr. Howitt says project managers and participants recognized failures of pipeline coating quality control that prompted the 1992 replacement and worked closely to avoid repeating those mistakes. img

William Hoffman is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C., USA.

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{ 35 YEARS } PROJECT MANAGEMENT INSTITUTE

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.

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