Oil Spill In the Gulf – A Project Manager’s Worst Nightmare or Time to Shine?

May 3, 2010

Don’t get me wrong, the oil spill in the Gulf is one of the worst disasters our country has seen since hurricane Katrina (Especially since Seagrove Beach on Highway 30-A is one of my favorite places in the world). However, I have to wonder what I would thinking if I was the project manager assigned to digging that well. Hopefully with such a high dollar project, risk mitigation would have been at the forefront of my mind. I must have had the thought of “The well could explode, killing everyone, and creating a monumental contamination problem; thus causing loss of life, costing millions— if not billions— and damaging our companies reputation beyond belief” on my risk register. Or maybe I didn’t, maybe this was one of those unknown-of-unknowns that is the reason we set aside a management reserve. Though, I seriously doubt the customary ten percent is going to cover it this time.

So hindsight is 20/20 and the point is not whether I could have predicted this situation and put an appropriate mitigation strategy in place. But what if I were the person responsible for working on this team in the Gulf and this disaster happened all of a sudden? I would now have one of the largest scope additions ever. How would I proceed? Well, when you are losing two hundred thousand gallons of oil a day you have to act fast. I would probably want to establish a command center where I could have joint operations with various government agencies, industry partners, and volunteers (staffed around the clock). With such a complicated problem to solve I would immediately need to identify the world’s leading experts and get them on my team, the human resource plan would be very important. Another key aspect of planning for this situation would be an amazing communications plan. The coordination amongst such a large team alone would be mind boggling, but the need to get information to the public about our progress would be essential.

What would you do if you were the project manager in this situation? Would you rise to the occasion and do all that you could to help the situation? Would you give up, change your name, get plastic surgery, and move to another country? Let’s hope that we never find ourselves in this type of situation.

Seriously I wish the best to all of those involved in the cleanup effort. I hope that they can act fast and apply strong project management in order to minimize the impact to our precious environment.



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