Make Reality - Questions With Christophe Dubi

Christophe Dubi Photo

Christophe Dubi, the Executive Director of the Olympic Games at the International Olympic Committee, knows a great deal about managing uncertainty. Responsible for overseeing all aspects of organizing the Games, Dubi has been involved in formulating the IOC’s response to COVID-19 while working with and fostering confidence among all stakeholders of the upcoming Tokyo Games.

Speaking to PMI during the Virtual Experience Series (VES), Dubi discussed how he is able to manage the high expectations of putting on a global event and the vision for future Games that he would like to make reality in this exclusive interview for PM Network®.

PMI: When did you first realize the importance of project management? 

Dubi: It was during my studies at school. I was not a great student, but I realized that in order to manage several activities at the same time and deliver on the goods, I needed to be organized. I don't say I'm perfect now—far from it—but I realized that if I wanted to reach my goals, the only way was to be aware and cognizant of project management.

PMI: What is the most challenging project you've ever worked on?

Dubi: I’m working on my most challenging project right now, the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Planning for an event in uncertain times means that you have to look at different scenarios and the way each of them will unfold. Each of the scenarios requires various countermeasures that would be applicable in a given set of circumstances. So, it's a huge range of expertise that needs to be put into this effort, and then streamlining all of it into projects to be delivered in Tokyo that make sense from an operational and strategic standpoint.

PMI: Were you able to apply lessons you gained from similar challenges in the past?

Dubi: Yes. The Olympic Games Rio 2016 were also quite challenging. Beginning about 18 months before the Games, there was a rapid degradation of the social and economic context in Brazil. To deliver the event, we had to find really pragmatic and creative solutions. We had to deliver according to expectations for Cariocas [residents of Rio de Janeiro], Brazilians and those watching from around the world. This was a very, very high-pressure delivery.

PMI: When it comes to project management, can you give our community a piece of advice to help manage projects better?

Dubi: I have learned many key lessons in these circumstances. Your approach has to be tried and tested, and tried and tested again, whether you are organizing an important meeting or the Games. Also, the people side of project management is tremendously important. How you give confidence to the team around you, how you bring people on board and point them in the right direction is essential. You might have the best tools and the best processes, but it's also immensely important to consider the human factor.

PMI: The 2020 Olympics [the Opening Ceremony will now occur on 23 July 2021] were featured as #7 on PMI's "Most Influential Projects" list, which reflects how project managers and changemakers have found ingenious ways to keep initiatives moving forward in the face of unexpected obstacles. As a member of this select list, can you share a key learning that might resonate with our audience?

Dubi: The information that you deliver to your key constituents and how you keep everybody informed when you are under pressure is tremendously important. In our case, for example, making sure the athletes understand whether they can seek qualification or not, because about half of them were not qualified at the time that we announced the postponement. Information and transparency are incredibly important. 

It is an honor to be on the Most Influential Projects list. When you are in a position where you have to make a number of important calls, you have to accept the fact that responsibility comes with a certain pressure. You also have to consider that there is trust, because there is a whole system behind you that feels that you are able to assist and to deliver. You have to recognize the expectation, but you have to embrace the fact that you are placed in such a position. I feel it's a fabulous privilege to be in this position.

PMI: What is your moonshot idea that you would love to assemble a team around and make reality?

Dubi: The Olympics are all encompassing for me right now. But I am always interested in seeing how we can take the Games to the next level for the next generation. This requires a lot of ambition, expertise, innovation and collective intelligence. And, most definitely, this is something I'd love to work on with a wider group of people. There are fabulous people and organizations that really wish to contribute to the ongoing evolution of the Olympic Games because they have such a positive impact on the host community and society at large.

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