Project Management Around the World – New England, USA


We’re glad to participate in PMFlashblog #2.  Not for anything – but we gave this thing its name, way back when Shim Marom invented the idea.

It’s a blog.  It’s a flashmob.  It’s a FlashBlog!

So, to business.  Since this one is geographically- based, let’s start with a brief geography lesson.  Where in the world is New England?

New England is made up of six entities (5 states: Rhode Island, Maine, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and 1 Commonwealth – yes, Massachusetts is technically not a state, but a Commonwealth).

map of new england

New England is more than a geographical region of the USA.  It’s a bit of a state of mind.  We love it here.  Yes, it gets cold, and  yes,  there’s lots of snow, but we have the White Mountains, the Green Mountains, the Berkshires, for skiing … we get great spring, summer, and autumn weather.  We have cosmopolitan cities like Boston; smaller but intensely interesting cities like Kennebunkport, ME, Northampton, MA, Mystic, CT, Newport, RI, and Portsmouth, NH, rural areas like northern Vermont, the rocky Maine coast, the most colorful autumns in the world, and don’t forget old Cape Cod, where the beaches are amazing!

And of course we have some of the best Universities (can you say Hah-vid?) and sports organizations in the world. The Celtics, the Bruins, the Red Sox, the Patriots, the Boston Marathon…the list goes on and on…

Boston Red Sox World Series Champions

Just sayin’.

But enough about us – let’s talk Project Management.

I’m going to raise some questions and open some discussion on project management, using two (very different) projects that have been newsworthy in our area of the world…

  • The Big Dig
  • CVS/Caremark removal of all tobacco products from 1,760 stores

Let’s look at them one-by-one.

The Big Dig

We suggest you go here for the official details of this project.  I think what’s interesting about this project is the issue of project success and failure.  According to the official website, it’s a shining success:

“Due to traffic improvements and substantial reductions in traffic delay, the total vehicle- hours of travel on Project highways has dropped 62 percent between 1995 and 2003 and are now providing approximately $168 million annually in time and cost savings to travelers. Residents from south and west of Boston average travel times from the I-90/I-93 interchange to Logan Airport during peak periods have decreased between 42 and 74 percent depending on direction and time of day. A 12 percent reduction in citywide carbon monoxide levels was achieved.”

But ask any New Englander and they’ll have a slightly different story.  They’ll quote you some of the aspects that don’t shine so well, as described by NASA:

“The Big Dig is also famous for cost increases. Its initial estimated cost was $2.56 billion. Estimates increased to $7.74 billion in 1992, to $10.4 billion in 1994, and, finally, $14.8 billion in 2007—more than five times the original estimate. The reported reasons for the cost escalation included inflation, the failure to assess unknown subsurface conditions, environmental and mitigation costs, and expanded scope. Mitigation alone required 1,500 unanticipated, separate agreements.”

The final cost is now estimated at over $24 billion.

Being cynical New Englanders, we write stories like this one – 7 things that cost lest than the Big Dig.  My favorite on the list: the combined cost of the Large Hadron Collider, the Hubble Telescope, and all of Mark Zuckerberg’s shares in Facebook.  All of them together – still LESS money spent than the cost of the Big Dig.

And the other issue is that it simply hasn’t seemed to have an END.  There are still ongoing repairs, still leaking tunnels, and what was supposed to be 5 years is 15 years and not really done.  So the project has some interesting lessons and questions:  What is project success?  When is a project considered done?  And we don’t even have the time here to talk about control of subcontractors, identification, analysis and response to risk, and so on.

mega If you want to read more about this – one of our colleagues, Virginia Greiman, at Boston University (one of those great schools we were talking about before!) has written a book about it – MegaProject Management – Lessons from the Big Dig.  Read and learn more!

CVS Removal of Tobacco products

The other project – and this has got a lot of press, not as a project – even though it IS a project – is the execution of the decision by CVS/Caremark (a Rhode-Island based company) to remove all tobacco products from 1,760 of its pharmacies around the world.  This is a stunning, shocking move, especially when you consider that it removes $2B of revenue each year from the company.  But when you step back and think about it – it makes perfect sense and you wonder why it hadn’t happened before.  And now, it’s a project, with a definitive beginning and end, using resources, and all that goes along with a project.

purpose-cvsWhy is this particularly important to us at EarthPM?  It’s a Green-By-Definition project.  It is a move related to Corporate Social Responsibility.  It’s an example of this Mission-Vision-Values to Strategy to Portfolio-Program-Project connection that we’ve been stressing since our inception 5 years ago.  That thread – connecting a company’s raison d’être to its operations – is fundamental to the long-term existence of the organization (and the planet).  And we as project managers have THE KEY ROLE to play in making that connection, if we only recognize the power that we have.

We actually refer you to another blog post at EarthPM where we describe this in more detail.

So once again it has been our pleasure to be part of PMFlashBlog and we hope you enjoy all of the others in the series.  This particular series takes you “Around The World” – each week a different area of the world will post simultaneously.  Given our focus on sustainability and ‘planetary’ responsibility, the ‘Around the World’ theme is a particularly neat fit for us.

If you’re interested in a virtual tour of the world via Project Management, here is the schedule for this FlashBlogging activity:

  • March3 – North America
  • March 10 – Europe
  • March 17 – Australia & New Zealand
  • The rest of the world – to be scheduled.