Project Management Institute

2020 Most Influential Projects: Ingenuity Meets Innovation

Transcript

STEVE HENDERSHOT

The world depends on projects that deliver solid results under predictable circumstances. We need those projects. But let’s also be honest—the projects that truly inspire us are those that are wildly ambitious, those that have the power to change people’s lives, and that teams pull off in spite of serious obstacles.

This has been a banner year for that sort of project. Take the new railway running beneath Sydney.

HUGH LAWSON

I can’t wait for us to open it. I can’t wait for people to start using it. It is going to be truly transformative for Sydney.

NARRATOR

The world is changing fast. And every day, project professionals are turning ideas into reality—delivering value to their organizations and society as a whole. On Projectified®, we’ll help you stay on top of the trends and see what’s ahead for The Project Economy—and your career.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

This is Projectified®. I’m Steve Hendershot.

PMI recently released its 2020 list of Most Influential Projects, or MIP. It’s a full-on extravaganza of more than 250 breakthrough efforts that touch every part of our world and every aspect of the human endeavor. There are, of course, projects directly related to conquering COVID-19, like Iceland’s app-driven COVID tracking initiative. There’s also the Sydney Metro—that new railway you just heard about. There’s Shanghai Fashion Week’s “cloud catwalk” developed in partnership with Alibaba, as well as a giant new solar plant that could help Chile go carbon neutral.

We’re not going to cover all of them today, so I encourage you to pick up PM Network magazine or visit MIP.PMI.org and get inspired. I’ll also add that if you’re scoring at home, we’ve snuck a few of the honorees into recent episodes of Projectified®—and listen up for more in the future.

Each of the projects we’re featuring today is a multiyear effort, so these teams didn’t spin up in response to the pandemic. But think about that—about the agility needed to respond to the challenges of 2020 and stay on schedule with enormous, ambitious, complex projects.

Our sponsor for this episode is PMTraining.com. From live virtual classes to online courses available on demand, PMTraining equips students to earn PMI certifications including the Project Management Professional, or PMP®. And Projectified® listeners are eligible for discounts of up to $400 per class; just enter the link PMTraining.com/podcast.

We’re going to start in Australia with the massive Sydney Metro project, which will cost more than 40 billion Australian dollars. Coming in at number 26 on the MIP list, it stands to transform transportation in the city. I spoke with Hugh Lawson, project director for Sydney Metro City & Southwest. His section runs through the city’s Central Business District—also known as the CBD—and includes building extensive underwater railway tunnels that will soon accommodate autonomous trains.

MUSICAL TRANSITION
STEVE HENDERSHOT

Tell me about the public transportation situation in Sydney. What’s it like now, and how will the new train system fit in?

HUGH LAWSON

Sydney’s got a brilliant public transport network. It’s got heavy rail, it’s got ferries, it’s got a brilliant bus network. It’s got light rail. It’s got all sorts of things going on. There’s a really well-developed, mature public transport network, but Sydney Metro is about taking that to the next level, what’s the next step in terms of the capacity to really move people around the city and in and out of the CBD and how do we take that opportunity to also build places and improve precincts in some of the areas we can go and touch.

When I joined the team, we were still building the Northwest project, which was, if you like, the first part of the overall program of works. And that in itself a massive, massive project opened in May 2019. So for almost a year and a half now, we’ve been running this first fleet of driverless automated trains, 22 million trips so far despite the impact of COVID.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

Having that first line—Metro North West—already running gives you an opportunity to see how the tech works. How have your observations of the completed sections changed the way you’re approaching the work now on Metro City & Southwest?

HUGH LAWSON

It’s brilliant for us because we spent many years trying to explain what metro rail was going to be in terms of the product and how different it would be to, say, normal heavy rail. And actually, having the North West section up and running is fantastic because you can go and ride the train. You can walk through the stations. You can understand the outcomes we’re trying to achieve. You can experience what a fully accessible network is really like with the ability to get from the street all the way through onto the train. Fully accessible, really intuitive signage, all these sorts of things that we talked about. You can experience what a turn-up-and-go service is like with high reliability, high frequency.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

The future metro city line includes the Central Business District. Your teams have been working there through COVID-19, and because of the pandemic and the way it emptied out the city center, you actually were able to do some stuff downtown that otherwise would have happened either later or more slowly. Overall, how has COVID-19 affected the project?

HUGH LAWSON

In terms of impact on the overall project timeline, we still managed to keep going. We keep going; we’re on program. Actually, all our sites are fully active, and there’ve been a few areas where we have been able to actually get ahead of the game and either work more efficiently or do more work.

I think for the team and our contractors, the initial period of COVID hitting and moving to a mixture of remote working and different restrictions in how we worked on-site, adapting to that was pretty tough, certainly for the first couple of weeks—2, 3, 4 weeks—as we made a really abrupt transition from one way of working to a completely different one. But once that’s been done, again, all credit to my team, our contractors. They’ve really adapted well in order to keep the project moving. And there’s, yes, some brilliant examples where the world has changed and COVID’s had such a huge impact. It does create opportunities to look at some of the things we just had as long-held assumptions and challenge them and see if there’s a better way.

A great example of something the team have done—working with our colleagues at Sydney Trains who run Central Station—is just really look at the hours we work. In the world before COVID, you would never suggest shutting down parts of the station during the morning peak. But there isn’t really a morning peak at the moment. Even now, I think we’re down to only about a third of the normal number of passengers at Central Station every day. And building the metro platforms and all the work we’re doing at Central is really in a lot of customer-facing areas. We’ve got nearly a kilometer of hoardings up around the station at the moment, and they move around dynamically day to day, week to week as we progress different bits of work: putting in cabling equipment, digging holes, all sorts of things that are going on.

One of the kind of good things about COVID is everyone’s had to think again. Everyone’s gone, “Stop. It’s changed.” Some of those assumptions we had before, we can break those now. They don’t apply. They certainly don’t apply at the moment. Maybe as passenger numbers come back and we get into recovery, things will change again.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

What’s your vision for how this transforms life in Sydney?

HUGH LAWSON

I think certainly once City & Southwest opens in 2024, I don’t think a lot of people really realize how much of a change it’s going to make to how the CBD works. It is the first time that there’ll be a real, true high-capacity metro through the heart of the CBD. And if you’ve used metro systems in London and Tokyo and Seoul and around the world, in New York and everywhere, you’ll know, it just becomes part of the fabric. And I think within a few years, people will wonder how they ever lived without it, the speed and the convenience that it offers, the ability to move around parts of the city in a way that you can’t imagine with what we’ve currently got.

My hope is that it does enable people to make different travel choices, maybe less dependent on the car, maybe easier to make certain journeys that at the moment are pretty tricky by public transport. I think metro has the power to make that transformation happen. And then when we look at the projects beyond City & Southwest to Metro West and the work at Western Sydney Airport, again, they really are creating a totally different way to move around the city. I think it will take a few years to be able to look back and see it, but it will really transform the city. We’ve seen in the North West already it’s changed people’s lives in terms of the way they think about the opportunities available to them, where they could work now, where they can go, people they can stay in contact with, journeys they can make that they wouldn’t have thought were possible before without access to that kind of public transport.

For me as a project person, I find it great that we’ve got a document called Future Transport 2056, which is a Transport [for NSW] strategic framework which sits within a much bigger picture of how Sydney can develop and ties in with land use and other planning strategies in a really coordinated way. And for me, with my project, it’s brilliant because I really understand what my project is delivering as part of that bigger city-shaping vision. And in Future Transport 2056, you can see these potential high-capacity public transport corridors.

Now, they might be metro, they might be something else, but it starts to piece it together. And when you see it all laid out on the map, the projects already delivered in the North West, underway with City & Southwest, starting delivery with West and Western Sydney Airport, plus the potential future extensions, connections or other lines, you really do start to see that high-capacity metro network taking shape across a whole region—not just one line or a couple of lines coming together. And you start to understand that broader vision that will play out over perhaps the next 30 or 40 years even.

MUSICAL TRANSITION
STEVE HENDERSHOT

Now let’s transition from the tunnels beneath Sydney all the way up to the stars—one star in particular, really—for another project on this year’s MIP list. Coming in at number 17, the Solar Orbiter.

A joint project between the European Space Agency and NASA in the United States, the Solar Orbiter’s seven-year mission is to capture the first high-resolution images of poles of the sun. The orbiter launched in February and has already sent back its first images.

Scientists hope the Solar Orbiter will unlock hidden secrets of the heliosphere. PMI’s Harry Jenkinson spoke with César García, the Solar Orbiter project manager at ESA in the Netherlands, about the project for the Most Influential Projects video series, part of the treasure trove of content on MIP.PMI.org.

CÉSAR GARCÍA

So the heliosphere is the bubble of charged particles in which everybody and everything is in our solar system. Now, the second big question that Solar Orbiter will address is what is making the magnetic fields and the variability of the sun, what is the root cause? The scientists think that the main elements of the magnetic field are flipping north to south every 11 years. However, nobody has been able to look at those magnetic fields from the poles of the sun.

So Solar Orbiter over the years will be changing the orbital plane, and we will be orbiting and being able to see what happens in the north pole and the south pole of the sun.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

The hope is that these new views of the sun will help scientists better predict solar storms that can disrupt critical infrastructure on Earth, such as power grids, and that can also threaten astronauts in space.

CÉSAR GARCÍA

Because we have to protect the Earth, and we have to protect our machines on the Earth. We have to protect our spacecraft on the Earth, but eventually we’ll also have to protect also our astronauts when they go beyond the low Earth orbit. And we are doing this very, very shortly.

So knowing space weather, being able to detect at source these massive effects of mass being ejected from the sun, it could have up 20 hours, 24 hours so that there is a warning time for the more massive events.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

In July, NASA and ESA published the first images from the Solar Orbiter, which show a swirling mass of campfire-like flares. That’s just the beginning of what’s to come over the next several years.

CÉSAR GARCÍA

Because of the resolution of the cameras looking into the details of the sun’s surface, then the scientists could already find out some features that they had not seen before. And those are these campfires. Now what will happen is that as we learn how to calibrate those telescopes better and we take more images, they will be able to look into even more detailed features.

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STEVE HENDERSHOT

This year, PMI expanded its top 10 lists to 30—covering a massive range of sectors and geographic regions. Now, we go to the number one project on the Canada list: the effort to restore Parliament Hill in Ottawa, site of the country’s historic—and still active—campus of governmental buildings.

Let’s walk through the project with Rob Wright, assistant deputy minister with the Science and Parliamentary Infrastructure branch within Public Services and Procurement Canada, a PMI Global Executive Council member.

MUSICAL TRANSITION
STEVE HENDERSHOT

Given the scope of the project and how disruptive it was destined to be to government, how did you anticipate those logistical challenges and think through solutions?

ROB WRIGHT

When we put together this plan, we tried to put a lot of foresight in, and so we built a plan that responded to the building conditions, to the expansion needs and the modernization. But probably one of the secret ingredients is we realized that we didn’t have it all figured out, and actually trying to have it all figured out would lead to critical failure.

So we had this long-term vision, but we paired that with a shorter-term focus on implementation, five-year chunks of work, which allowed us to be very focused on what those priorities were in the here and now, and then on a rolling basis, flexibility was built in so that we could make adjustments over time. And that has I think been fundamental to the success, to be able to make adjustments to meet the evolving needs of security, sustainability, universal accessibility and a whole host of other elements.

Building condition and the needs for expansion and modernization can often easily come into tension, and so the whole approach and sequencing of the projects, we engineered that so that the condition of the heritage buildings were the primary driver, but the strategy was built around addressing those conditions so that we were able to get to buildings before they hit a critical risk of failure, and that drove the whole sequencing. But we drove that strategy in such a way that we also addressed the growth needs and the modernization needs so that we are able to marry the custodial responsibilities of our minister with the functional requirements of Parliament and their needs to support growing numbers of parliamentarians.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

You mentioned these projects have happened in sequence. So Centre Block—literally the centerpiece of Parliament Hill—isn’t going last because you’ve been saving it for the grand finale, but because of how it fits into the overall project plan. How did you decide where to start and then what fit in next?

ROB WRIGHT

While we thought big, we started small, and that has accrued a tremendous amount of benefits. Number one, it allowed us to get things going in a way that we did not need huge amounts of money, and we were able to start on facilities that were not core to Parliamentary operations. If you think of it as a pyramid with Centre Block with an apex project, we really started with the bottom level and creating space to be able to empty out what at that time were facilities for parliamentary administration. So we did not have to displace parliamentarians. It was a displacement of parliamentary administration, which is challenging enough, but much easier, and then we are able to focus on creating space that met the needs of the parliamentary administration, build trust, relationships.

Then we transformed those administrative buildings, heritage buildings that were in great need of being restored and then modernized to meet the needs of Parliament. We were able to do that in a way that didn’t disrupt Parliament and then welcome parliamentarians into those facilities, which were now restored beautifully from a heritage perspective and provided a modern infrastructure for parliamentarians, additional committee rooms as well as modern parliamentary offices. That built, I would say, a fair amount of confidence and momentum and a stronger relationship with Parliament.

So that apex project drove our strategy throughout, and we used what we call the one-stone, three-bird strategy. So every project, we tried to hit that trifecta of restoring heritage buildings that were at their critical risk of failure, of creating expanded operational facilities for Parliament and creating a modern platform for Canada’s parliamentary democracy, and so that’s really the same recipe that we’re bringing to the Centre Block as it’s now hitting its stride in full construction.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

This is the sort of project where each new phase stands to benefit from the lessons of the previous one. How have you worked to identify and incorporate those lessons learned?

ROB WRIGHT

A couple of other key elements that are really lessons learned to Centre Block is really bringing the construction team and the design team right in on day one together, so that the design is getting the benefits of constructability advice as well as the construction manager starting to think through supply chain issues and the best way to order the construction so that we’re able to do it in a cost-effective and as quick a means as possible.

So seeing lots of benefits from that, and we amplified that a bit by creating an integrated project office: ourselves as project managers, the design team, the construction management team, but also the partners. So members from the Senate, the House of Commons, the Library of Parliament and the Parliamentary Protective Service all together in a one-team environment with the benefit of creating a common vision and working through decisions together. We’re seeing benefits of that, and that is leading to greater engagement with parliamentarians, which is of tremendous benefit. It’s helping on a decision-making perspective, creating sense of ownership of the projects, and that at the end of the day means everything because they’re first and foremost buildings to support Parliament and parliamentarians in carrying out their important roles.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

The members of Parliament are big stakeholders here, not only as decision makers for the Canadian government, but also because these buildings are literally their offices. What’s been their reaction to how the project has progressed? 

ROB WRIGHT

When you take parliamentarians around the construction site, it’s really one of my favorite parts of the job. There’s nothing more rewarding to take people around the construction site and for them to be able to lift up the hood and really see what’s happening and have a broad-ranging discussion. But I will say whether parliamentarians think that they will be ever in there as an active parliamentarian or not, the level of commitment that they have to making sure that this building is done right, and the care that you can see really in their eyes, it’s pretty motivating.

They really see it as a bit of a cathedral of democracy, and I wouldn’t say that they see it as their building. They see it as Canada’s building and that the importance of retaining what it was and what it represents and yes, making it modern, but they really, I would say overwhelmingly, what they want to see is when they come back into it—whether it’s as a visitor or as an active parliamentarian—they want to recognize the building that they left. And that’s a challenge, a challenge I think we’re up to: of keeping the best of our history and our traditions and being proud of those traditions, but also having the confidence to lean forward and look forward and bring something new to that conversation in the future as well.

FRENCH TRANSLATION 

STEVE HENDERSHOT

Passons maintenant à un projet au Canada : les efforts déployés pour réhabiliter la Colline du Parlement à Ottawa, un complexe historique (et toujours actif) d’édifices fédéraux du pays. 

Découvrons le projet en compagnie de Rob Wright, sous-ministre adjoint de la Direction générale de la science et de l’infrastructure parlementaire à SPAC, qui est membre du Conseil exécutif mondial du PMI.

TRANSITION MUSICALE
STEVE HENDERSHOT

Étant donné la portée du projet et l’ampleur des perturbations attendues pour le gouvernement, comment avez-vous anticipé les enjeux logistiques et réfléchi à des solutions?

ROB WRIGHT

Lorsque nous avons élaboré ce plan, nous avons tenté d’y introduire autant de vision que possible. Nous avons donc conçu un plan qui répondait à l’état des édifices ainsi qu’aux besoins d’agrandissement et de modernisation. Cependant, le secret de notre planification est probablement que nous avons compris ceci : nous n’avions pas imaginé tous les scénarios possibles. En fait, si nous avions essayé d’imaginer tous les scénarios possibles, nous aurions sans doute échoué.

Nous avions donc cette vision à long terme, mais nous l’avons combinée à une approche à court terme sur le plan de la mise en œuvre, soit des segments de travaux de cinq ans, ce qui nous a permis de rester très concentrés sur les priorités du moment. Ensuite, nous avons mis l’accent sur la flexibilité continue afin que nous puissions apporter des ajustements au fil du temps. Je crois que c’est ça qui a joué un rôle crucial dans notre réussite, le fait de pouvoir apporter des ajustements pour répondre aux besoins changeants en matière de sécurité, de durabilité et d’accessibilité universelle, ainsi qu’une foule d’autres éléments.

L’état des édifices et les besoins d’agrandissement et de modernisation peuvent facilement mener à des tensions; nous avons donc conçu l’approche et l’enchaînement des étapes des projets de façon à ce que l’état des édifices patrimoniaux soit le facteur déterminant. Toutefois, nous avons élaboré notre stratégie pour qu’elle repose sur la prise en compte de l’état des édifices, afin que nous puissions nous occuper des édifices avant qu’ils ne présentent un risque majeur de défaillance, et tout l’enchaînement des travaux reposait là-dessus. Cependant, nous avons conçu la stratégie de façon à pouvoir également répondre aux besoins d’agrandissement et de modernisation pour que nous puissions concilier les responsabilités de notre ministre en matière de garde avec les exigences fonctionnelles du Parlement et la nécessité d’accueillir un nombre grandissant de parlementaires.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

Vous avez mentionné que les projets avaient suivi un enchaînement. Ainsi, l’édifice du Centre – littéralement la pièce maîtresse de la Colline du Parlement – n’est pas réhabilité en dernier parce vous l’avez gardé pour la grande finale, mais en raison de la façon dont il s’inscrit dans le plan de projet global. Comment avez-vous décidé par où commencer et déterminé les travaux qui devaient être exécutés ensuite?

ROB WRIGHT

Même si nous voyions grand, nous avons commencé modestement, ce qui nous a procuré de très nombreux avantages. Premièrement, cette façon de faire nous a permis de mettre le projet en branle sans que nous ayons besoin de sommes considérables, et nous avons pu entreprendre les travaux sur les installations qui n’étaient pas essentielles aux activités du Parlement. Si vous voyez les choses comme une pyramide avec l’édifice du Centre qui présente un projet de partie sommitale, nous avons vraiment commencé par le niveau inférieur en créant un espace pour nous permettre de vider l’endroit où se trouvaient alors les installations pour l’administration des activités parlementaires. Nous avons donc dû déplacer des parlementaires, ce qui nécessitait le déplacement de l’administration parlementaire. Cette tâche est plutôt difficile, mais cette façon de procéder reste plus facile, car elle nous a permis de nous concentrer sur le point A, c’est-à-dire créer un espace qui répond aux besoins de l’administration parlementaire, bâtir la confiance et établir des relations.

Nous avons ensuite transformé ces édifices administratifs, des édifices patrimoniaux qui avaient grandement besoin de restauration, et on les a modernisés pour répondre aux besoins du Parlement. Nous avons pu réaliser ces travaux sans perturber les activités du Parlement. Nous avons ensuite accueilli les parlementaires dans ces installations, qu’on a restaurées admirablement bien du point de vue patrimonial en plus de fournir une infrastructure moderne aux parlementaires, des salles de réunion additionnelles ainsi que des bureaux parlementaires modernes. Je dirais que cela a contribué à rehausser passablement la confiance et l’élan, en plus d’avoir consolidé les relations avec le Parlement.

Ainsi, ce projet de partie sommitale a motivé notre stratégie du début à la fin, et nous avons utilisé une stratégie permettant de faire d’une pierre trois coups. Par conséquent, dans le cadre de chaque projet, nous avons essayé d’obtenir la combinaison gagnante en restaurant les édifices patrimoniaux qui présentaient un risque de défaillance élevé, en créant des installations opérationnelles plus grandes pour le Parlement et en établissant une plateforme moderne pour la démocratie parlementaire canadienne. C’est donc cette même recette que nous utilisons pour l’édifice du Centre, maintenant que les travaux de construction ont atteint leur vitesse de croisière.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

Il s’agit du genre de projet où chaque nouvelle phase profite des leçons apprises au cours de la précédente. Comment vous y êtes-vous pris pour cerner et intégrer ces leçons apprises? 

ROB WRIGHT

Parmi les autres éléments clés qui font vraiment partie des leçons apprises avec l’édifice du Centre, c’est le fait de réunir l’équipe de construction et l’équipe de conception dès la première journée afin que le processus de conception puisse bénéficier des conseils sur la constructibilité, alors que le gestionnaire des travaux commençait à penser aux problèmes liés à la chaîne d’approvisionnement et à l’ordre idéal des travaux pour que la construction se déroule de manière rentable et de la manière la plus rapide possible.

Comme nous avons constaté les nombreux avantages que présentait cette façon de faire, nous l’avons amplifiée légèrement en créant un bureau de projet intégré composé de notre équipe, c’est-à-dire les gestionnaires du projet, l’équipe de conception, l’équipe de gestion des travaux de construction ainsi que les partenaires. Ainsi, les membres du Sénat, de la Chambre des communes, de la bibliothèque du Parlement et du Service de protection parlementaire étaient tous réunis pour former une seule équipe, offrant ainsi l’avantage de créer une vision commune et de prendre les décisions ensemble. Nous constatons les bienfaits de cette façon de faire, et c’est ce qui donne lieu à une mobilisation accrue des parlementaires, ce qui représente tout un avantage. Un tel processus facilite la prise de décisions et crée un sentiment d’appartenance en lien avec les projets. Au bout du compte, tout prend un sens, parce qu’il s’agit des tout premiers édifices qui aideront le Parlement et les parlementaires à assumer leurs rôles importants.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

Les députés sont des intervenants importants ici, et ce, non seulement à titre de décideurs pour le gouvernement canadien, mais également parce que ces édifices leur servent littéralement de bureaux. Comment ont-ils réagi en voyant l’évolution du projet?  

ROB WRIGHT

Accompagner les parlementaires sur le chantier est vraiment l’un des aspects préférés de mon travail. Il n’y a rien de plus encourageant que d’accompagner les gens sur le chantier afin qu’ils puissent eux-mêmes soulever le capot et voir ce qui s’y passe pour avoir ensuite une discussion générale. Je dirai cependant, peu importe que les parlementaires croient qu’ils se retrouveront là un de ces jours en tant que parlementaires actifs ou non, leur niveau d’engagement lorsqu’il s’agit de s’assurer que les travaux de cet édifice se déroulent correctement et l’intérêt que vous apercevez dans leurs yeux, voilà ce qui est vraiment motivant.

Ils y voient vraiment un genre de cathédrale de la démocratie. Je ne dirais pas qu’ils le voient comme leur édifice, mais plutôt comme l’édifice du Canada. Ils ont conscience de l’importance de conserver ce qu’il était et ce qu’il représente et, également, de l’importance de le moderniser. Mais je dirais que vraiment, ce qu’ils souhaitent pour la plupart, c’est le moment où ils y retourneront – que ce soit à titre de visiteurs ou de parlementaires actifs. Ils souhaitent reconnaître l’édifice qu’ils ont quitté. Et il s’agit là de tout un défi que, je crois, nous sommes prêts à relever : préserver le meilleur de notre histoire et de nos traditions en étant fiers de ces traditions, mais aussi en ayant la confiance nécessaire pour nous pencher et regarder vers l’avenir et apporter également quelque chose de nouveau à cette conversation à l’avenir. 

MUSICAL TRANSITION

STEVE HENDERSHOT

Innovation and leadership have been on extraordinary display over the last year, both in response to the pandemic and also because teams have found ways to ensure that a lot of cool stuff that was supposed to happen in 2020 did, in fact, happen, despite all of the obstacles. If you could use a little inspiration—a pick-me-up that testifies to how teams can build and achieve amazing things—pick up PM Network or visit MIP.PMI.org. There’s your proof, 259 examples strong, of what project teams are capable of.

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NARRATOR

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