Wednesday, September 12, 2012

#PWWCBA Live: Complex Projects

Our second two keynote sessions of the morning were Jim Durkin, SVP, WTC Transportation Hub, Tishman Construction Corporation and Connie Steward, SVP Human Resources & Organizational Development and Lysa Ratliff, Senior Director Cause Marketing and Partner Communications of Habitat for Humanity International.

Jim Durkin spoke on managing complexity and pointed out that complex project teams need to be able to manage: uncertainty, complexity, dynamic interfaces, significant external influences, extra risks that are difficult to quantify, on the spot decision making, prevention of scope creep and more.

In the WTC project (which is actually 8 separate projects) all of these come into play. The organization needs to track literally every piece of steel used from the time it is fabricated and meet various external milestones. The WTC Transportation Hub had to deal with bidding out materials around the world, managing 40 contractors and unions and planning to accommodate over 100,000 passengers per day in the final structure. External influences also created need for various changes, which the project team stays on top of with constant, daily communication: a design change not coming in on time could hold up over 1,000 people working in the field.

Habitat for Humanity Session
Connie Steward and Lysa Ratliff spoke about developing leaders for complex projects. Boundaries of race, culture, gender and more are challenges on Habitat for Humanity projects, build teams may not share a similar language, but these are not the boundaries that are the hardest for leaders in the organization, rather it often comes down to loyalty, respect and trust.

To be a successful leader, focus on processes, relationships & results. Having a common goal, trust and shared accountability will leave you ahead of the game.

Ratliff discussed the shift from managing a project to leading a project and shared the following lessons:
Create the culture first, build an environment of trust.
Get over yourself, it's about others.
Plan for contingencies, but learn to adapt and problem solve.
Focus on details, but don't get lost in them.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA and the voice behind the @Project_World twitter. She may be reached at 

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