We want you to start here by watching the video below:
Now you may not have the same political views of the commentator, but you have to admit that the Ixtoc spill and its solutions sound strikingly familiar.
Aligned with this video is this story from today’s Boston Globe.
It’s a short story but here are some telling statistics from (this year’s) Gulf oil spill:
- Oil spilled so far: 69 million to 131.5 million gallons
- Oil recovered: 10 million gallons burned off, 25 million gallons collected
- Tools used to collect oil in the 2010 Gulf spill: booms, mechanical skimmers, and oil dispersants.
- Tools used to collect oil in 1979 Ixtoc spill: oil booms, mechanical skimmers, and oil dispersants.
- Tools used to collect oil in 1989 Valdez spill: oil booms, mechanical skimmers, and oil dispersants.
- Investment in past three years in drilling by Shell Oil, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron Corp., BP America: $33.8 Billion
- Investment in past three years in cleanup technologies: unknown, but a tiny fraction of the above
The point of the article, and of Rachel Maddow’s rant above is just really a project management principle: use your lessons learned. There have been several chances to do that, as you see above. And you can’t blame the oil industry for trying to focus mainly on the profitable business of drilling. But when you look at the costs they’ve incurred, you have to shake your head and ask why, with these many real-world lessons learned they wouldn’t have devoted more effort to learning from the other spills and investing in fixing them. Yes, it’s expensive to drill a relief well with each well but it sure looks like that’s the way to go.
As project managers, we owe it to ourselves, our stakeholders, and sometimes the wider environment (pun intended) when we initiate a project.
Have we really looked back – thoughtfully – at previous similar projects, and what went horribly wrong or tremendously right with them? Have we taken that learning and integrated it into our planning? If that integration requires speaking “truth to power”, have we the courage to do that? We assert that having the facts and the history in hand increases your capability to have the courage to confront, convey, and convince. Those facts are there. The video above is striking in the similarity to today’s Gulf problems. I would have liked to have seen that video played during the recent Congressional panels on the oil spill, and would like to have seen Tony Hayward’s reaction.
Again, you don’t have to agree with the politics or even the particular scenario we’ve chosen to illustrate the point. If you get the part we’ve bolded above, you get the “project management point of intersection” here.