Tag Archives: Craig Oliver

2019 YP LeaderCon

 

On August 2, 2019 I had the pleasure of attending the second annual YP LeaderCon held by the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. The event was at the beautiful UNCC City Center and brought together emerging leaders from around the Charlotte region. By attending this event I was given an opportunity to learn and grow, hearing from speakers and other professionals in their 20s and 30s while validating the steps I am taking in beginning my professional career and helping to grow my personal brand.

 

The sessions I attended included a range of topics including networking, financial planning, the power of professional organizations, and the importance of mentorship in personal and professional situations. Across these sessions a common theme continually arose which was the power of taking ownership of your actions and directing the course of your life.

 

Beginning a career is certainly challenging requiring an individual to balance paying off debt including student loans, becoming acclimated with the culture of your new job, navigating the job market, and deciding which professional organizations to join and prioritize which events to attend. Sometimes the most important thing to do during the initial years of your career is to establish the skills that will drive your entire career while also understanding what attributes you value. We can become so accustomed to saying yes that saying no to things that do not provide value to our lives should be where we focus our main energy.  Having an understanding of the things we truly value will help prioritize decision making and reduce time spent on unnecessary actions.

 

During the event, a topic that was highlighted across sessions is the importance of seeking help from others.  The session led by Lisa Medley explored the value and importance of seeking out resources through mentorship, sponsorship and coaching. Many people understand the importance of mentorship from the professional sense yet the aspirational, personal, and family should be used to create buckets of different mentors to become a better person across all aspects of your life. This is an area I will look to improve on by seeking additional mentors and using the people around me as resources. By gaining skills and relationships from mentors I will be able to learn from them while also providing them new skills as I continue to form strong relationships through mentorships and as I progress in my career further mentoring others with the information I learn.

 

I value the time and the opportunities I had during the YP LeaderCon and the importance the Charlotte Regional Alliance places on growing young talent in the entire metropolitan region. Seeing professionals beginning their careers I could see the dynamics of the modern workforce as I gathered with young professionals who worked for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and regional firms with a strong presence in Charlotte. One of the top reasons I am proud to call the Charlotte area home is the commitment to fostering business relationships and improve the entire community. The hints of Southern charm that are spread across the shining city of Charlotte shows the power of the New South. The sessions were filled with young people from across the country who have moved to Charlotte because of its robust job market and abundance of recreational activities. This trend should continue as more people and companies are attracted to the region and top talent is retained to ensure sustainable growth across the entire Charlotte region into the future.

Sea Level Rising and What the Future Holds

Where are we headed?

What exactly does it mean to be sustainable and do behaviors that people follow determine if they are or are not following a sustainable lifestyle or does sustainability have to be engrained into the core philosophy of an individual?

I do not know the answer to this question, and I will not attempt to get to the bottom of what drives people to choose sustainable choices be it monetary, spiritual, or moral. In the past few months I have found myself thinking about not what draws people to becoming sustainable but the deeper question of does it matter how we live and how can we, as individuals make decisions that will help protect the earth. The earth needs to be protected not only for future generations but for those of us alive because the world and unexpected climate events are already impacting the world and causing irreversible effects. Instead of playing a blame game of who should take the burden of climate change the only path forward is to work with individuals, non-profit institutions, and corporations. While full cooperation is impossible the world needs cooperation on a stage never seen before to offset the costs on the economy and more importantly the environment.

 

Center for Climate Integrity

A recent report from the Center for Climate Integrity highlights the pressing nature of sea level change and how this one aspect of climate change will have immense impacts on coastal communities, the economy of the entire nation, and millions of Americans. This study highlights impacts of one of the major aspects of climate change being rising sea levels and how to handle the costs of these changes. Coastal regions have vast importance on ecological, economic, and cultural importance with vibrant communities. These communities also are home to many marine mammals, birds, and unique ecosystems including salt marshes and lowlands which add to the beauty of the coastal communities and can help as carbon sinks in marshlands that can reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

 

Coastal Impacts

Beyond the beauty of these coastal regions, commercial fisheries and farms in these coastal regions provide fresh food and jobs. Many of the areas which will be hardest hit by the increased sea levels are popular tourist destinations which provide a valuable tax base and employment opportunities to communities. From the Florida Keys to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the Outer Banks of North Carolina popular summer destinations face increased risks of rising sea levels. North Carolina, faces the third highest cost in the lower 48 from rising sea levels with projected increased costs in the Old North State to be over $35 billion by 2040. This places the economic costs behind only Florida and Louisiana and part of the total costs which could exceed $400 billion over the next 20 years with many of the costs incurred over the next decade.

 

Projected costs to build sea walls by state. Credit Center for Climate Integrity

 

Now what

The first step in advocacy is understanding the issues at hand, gaining background information about the causes of climate change and sea level rising will allow for beginning the dialogue on these issues. Here in North Carolina, some unique geography in the northeast part of the state means the one congressional district, the 3rd District, has the highest economic impact of any congressional district in the nation representing over 80% of the total cost in the state from sea level rise. While congressional district boundaries change the impacts of coastal changes from rising sea levels will dramatically impact the tourist centers of the Outer Banks.

The small coastal communities that many people only think about during yearly beach trips or when shrimp cocktails are order face uphill battles and will bear the brunt of the burden of rising sea levels. All is not lost. Actions can be made which will help protect the coastal communities including reaching out to local politicians, beginning conversations about how to combat climate change, and making purchases when possible to companies that value sustainability. The fight to protect our coasts is not over and by understanding that actions can be taken the coastal ecosystems can be protected.

The costs of climate change can not be thought of as after thoughts because communities are already dealing with the effects of climate change and rising sea levels. The impacts of climate change are not set in stone and can be minimized through advocacy, taking individual decisions to reduce your carbon footprint, and taking the steps to hold large corporations accountable for their carbon emissions and incentive sustainable investments.

 

Sources

Debruyn, Jason. “Rising Seas To Cost NC $35B In Just 20 Years, New Study Finds.” WUNC 91.5 North Carolina Public Radio. Retrieved from https://www.wunc.org/post/rising-seas-cost-nc-35b-just-20-years-new-study-finds.

“Study: U.S. Costal Communities Face More Than $400 Billion in Seawall Costs by 2040.” IGSD: Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. http://www.igsd.org/study-u-s-costal-communities-face-more-than-400-billion-in-seawall-costs-by-2040/.

Salesforce Heads North

In June 2019 Salesforce announced that it would be purchasing Tableau in a deal worth over $15.7 billion. This deal will allow San Francisco based Salesforce to expand its presence in Seattle creating a second headquarters in Seattle, home of Tableau, like what Seattle-based Amazon did with its HQ2 competition last year. I was in the Seattle area on vacation as the news broke and was able to read local newspapers on this deal from the local perspective which went beyond the financial terms of the agreement.

This deal represents the second largest acquisition in the history of the state of Washington and shows the power of the technology sector in the Pacific Northwest and willingness of companies to expand beyond Silicon Valley (Romano, Seattle Times). With a presence of 1,000 employees already in Seattle, Salesforce is familiar with the business climate in Washington. Moving forward this acquisition is not an outlier and additional companies in the cloud computing space will look to expand their operations and establish additional offices beyond their initial headquarters.

This trend poses the opportunity for companies to benefit from the strengths of different metropolitan areas while also increasing the expectations the residents of these cities have of these companies to become stewards of the community and provide jobs to locals. This deal will change the entire landscape and power dynamics in the CRM and Business Intelligence world. This deal seems to represent a move by Salesforce to invest in research and development through the purchase of Tableau which may signal slowing internal innovation (Moorehead, Forbes). This deal comes after Salesforce paid $300 million to integrate the companies non-profit arm, Salesforce.org, into the companies for-profit side (Salesforce Press Release). This deal will have a substantial impact to the overall company and could create anywhere from $150 to $200 million this Fiscal Year depending on when the deal closes. These strategic changes show how Salesforce is moving beyond CRM and taking the potentially risky decision of incorporating its non-profit wing into its for-profit business. Although Salesforce has been on the leading edge of philanthropic causes with rising housing prices and inequality in the San Francisco Bay area and Seattle areas Salesforce will be held accountable and pushed to create more equitable growth as their operations expand.

Seattle is a city that has long struggled with homelessness and affordable housing. While the city is the thirteenth largest city it has the third largest homeless population. Driving through Seattle and talking with locals on my recent trip to the city I heard and saw homeless camps and the stories of how homelessness and affordability is an issue impacting suburbs across the Seattle area with camps in view of I-5.

While Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has led his company to be a leader of philanthropic efforts and combating homelessness, he is entering a new arena in Seattle (Romano, Seattle Times). Long a leader in giving back Salesforce pledges 1% of profits, products, and employee time to philanthropic efforts. Marc and Lynne Benioff have signed the Giving Pledge and are leading advocates in the San Francisco area working to combat homelessness. Lynne Benioff cofounded a program in 2011 to provide shelters for families around San Francisco. Tableau also has taken on a philanthropic approach as well and pledged $100 million in grants and technology to global health and equality organizations (Romano, Seattle Times).

This merger has just occurred, but challenges persist moving forward. Benioff says that Tableau will operate independent of Salesforce and affirmed that this is a merger of two equals. This is rarely the case in mergers as power dynamics and even the slightest of differences can cause division between leaders in the merged companies. Time will tell how this deal will be remembered but one thing is certain which is that this will not be the last big software deal of the year.

 

Links

Image from: Romano, Benjamin. “Why Salesforce is shelling out $15.7 billion in stock for Seattle’s Tableau, in one of the NW’s largest acquisitions?” Seattle Times. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/technology/salesforce-buying-seattle-based-tableau-for-15-7-billion-in-stock-one-of-the-northwests-largest-acquisitions/.

 

Moorehead, Patrick. “Salesforce.com’s Tableau Acquisition: Admitting Organic Innovation Failure?” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickmoorhead/2019/06/18/salesforces-tableau-acquisition-admitting-organic-innovation-failure/.

 

Salesforce Press Releases. “Salesforce and Salesforce.org Combine to Drive Greater Philanthropic Impact and Success for Social Good Organizations.” https://investor.salesforce.com/press-releases/press-release-details/2019/Salesforce-and-Salesforceorg-Combine-to-Drive-Greater-Philanthropic-Impact-and-Success-for-Social-Good-Organizations/default.aspx.

Summer Reset

Where has the year gone!!!??? Is this a thought that is going through your mind too? The calendar has turned to June and the temperature has increased. The summer travel season kicked off Memorial Day and will last through Labor Day with millions of Americans taking trips from National Parks to beaches. In addition to the much-needed break and the refresher a summer vacation offers the opportunity to revisit goals from earlier in the year, make new goals, and improve the world around you.

 

The best way to hold yourself accountable to goals is to set ones that push you towards success while having realistic time frames. Instead of making a series of goals in January for the entire year plan out different times in the year for goal setting and make more realistic goals. Break down goals by season and plan goals for the winter, spring, summer, and fall. Now that the summer is here take some time to take steps back and revisit what priorities you have. During this season of travel and relaxation goals and improved decision-making go hand in hand.

 

Everyone has different ways of formulating goals and inevitably you are the best person at determining if you can reach your goals. By understanding how some of your past goals have gone future goal making may be easier to make. I know that for me I need to be in the right mindset to begin making goals and often set time aside to clean and organize things to push myself into setting and achieving my goals. The beautiful thing about people is that everyone is different, and no two people will take the same path and establish the same series of goals. Instead of following the conventional New Years Resolution, find a system that works for you to create goals so that you are working with a strong framework to ensure that the path you set out on is built with a good foundation.

 

As the warm months of June, July, and August take hold I will offer a few suggestions on how you can get into a mindset to help yourself make the most effective goals on both the personal and professional level. Take time to unplug and walk away from technology to revisit where you stand in your life and what changes need to be done. The noise of the internet, particularly social media, can drive decisions to be based on short term outcomes and not with a focus on long-term sustainability. Take a weekend or a week to go and experience the world outside of the internet sphere and use this experience to think about and prioritize what is important in your own life.

 

Whatever goals you set aside take the time to identify someone who can help you along the process. I am a strong believer in collaboration and the power it can add. Seeking assistance when needed shows the ability to take a step in the right direction while working through processes with someone else and gain their opinion. Listening to others is important and can be difficult, more so for some people.  Listening to others and taking the time to gather information and talk things out with others before making critical decisions can be crucial. Being in the right mindset and talking with others can spur new ideas and open new perspectives.

 

Summer serves as an opportunity to visit new places, grilling with friends, and taking family vacations which provide lifelong memories but also can cause stress levels to increase through planning and coordinating group activities. These projects and endeavors should be undertaken in a meaningful manner where they serve the goal of making everyone’s experience more enjoyable. Take the time to make reflections on what occurred and use these experiences to strengthen your goal making process.

 

The summer is not a break but should serve as a reset period. Our world is constantly going at full pace yet many of the most important things that will happen in our lives are the simple things that we might miss if we do not take the time to enjoy them. Take the time moving forward to thank those around you in service industry positions, write meaningful handwritten letters to loved ones, and partake in community events to improve the place where you live. These rewarding tasks will reap many rewards and can improve your outlook on life and push you to make better decision while also becoming more present in your life. We only get one life to live so let’s take steps to make it the best life we can for ourselves and those around us. Start with the simple things making an effort to improve your life and in the process making the world around all of us a better and more civil place because it is needed more than ever in our current time.

2019 World Cup

2019 FIFA World Cup

From June 7th through July 7th the FIFA Women’s World Cup will be held across nine French cities to be crowned as the best team in the world. This serves as one of the major sporting events of the year and will draw major media attention from around the world. The start of the World Cup is less than two weeks away and the events of the games will be the culmination of years of hard work and dedication by players, coaches, and event organizers.

Major sporting events like this serve as an insight into the complexities of organizing major events on the world stage with world class athletes and major global media attention. Project management from coaching and players making complex decisions in the middle of a game to the years of planning from local and national politicians, business owners, and stadium operators. From the soccer pitch to the logistics and planning all aspects of the Word Cup must be planned out using project management frameworks from executing to reflecting on how plays and designs play out.

 

The Game

The course of a sporting event provides many opportunities to take on leadership roles under pressure and uncertainty. This includes the opportunity for players who have smaller roles to make major plays to shape the outcome of the game. A good team member will understand that their individual decisions to the collective decisions made by the team will position itself in a better overall position even if certain players must limit their role on the team to improve the cohesiveness of the team.

The glory of scoring the winning goal can only occur behind the decisions made by players on the field under the instruction of coaches, dietitians, and a complex training regimen. The ability to get a team into championship shape occurs over years and is not an overnight process. This is a lesson which everyone can learn when working on projects. To succeed putting in the time is necessary. Every team needs a strong support system who can provide tips and help along the process from inception to completion. The stars of the American soccer team have been training and finalizing their preparations for the World Cup, in a similar way to how officials from FIFA and across France are in the final stages of preparing venues for the World Cup.

 

Setting the Stage

The players, media, coaches, and fans who will be descending on France will be staying at accommodations and attending games across the country in stadiums from Paris to Nice. The work that goes into preparing for a World Cup goes far beyond the soccer field and includes upgrades to stadiums and constructing new amenities for those visiting France. When the World Cup commences remember it is a marvel in project management from the perspective of the players, the decisions they have made leading up to and during the games, along with the organizers of the event, the decisions they have made in the past and the decisions they make through the Word Cup.

2019 Small Business Week

 

 

This week, May 5th to May 11th, 2019, is National Small Business Week, which is a great time to think about the importance of small businesses in our economy. In addition to this piece I would also direct you to my colleague Michael Simmons piece on 2019 Small Business Week which is filled with valuable Small Business Resources. In this post I will be looking into the data behind small businesses in America and tackle some of the FAQ’s about small businesses. During this week small business owners and their employees are celebrated for their contributions to the economy, society, and their local community. The value of these companies goes well beyond the economic impact they provide as they contribute to the culture and identity of local communities.

 

Small Business Data

 

Small businesses across America serve as the engine steering economic growth of the economy in general. The Small Business Association’s Office of Advocacy has complied data and answers to common asked questions about small businesses. There are over 29.6 million small businesses in America and these organizations create many jobs in all corners of the nation. The impact of these small businesses account for 63% of net new private-sector jobs created and in total account for 59 million jobs which is almost half of all jobs across the nation (47.5%). These figures are impressive and show the scope and volume of economic activity provided by small businesses.

 

Small Business FAQs

 

What is the composition of small businesses in the US?

The role of small businesses is felt across the US economy and contributes to the economy in different ways. Most of the small businesses are nonemployer firms, in total these firms account for 80% of small business and number around 24.3 million of the 30.2 million businesses while the other 20% of small businesses, around 5.9 million total businesses have paid employees.

 

How do these small businesses fit into the wider economy?

Some of the stats regarding the importance of small businesses to the greater economy are very impressive and show how the greater economy would greatly suffer. This includes the 40.8% of all private-sector payrolls paid by small business and 32.9% of known export value amounting to $440 billion of the total $1.3 trillion in export value. These figures show the value that small businesses create and highlight how the resilient business leaders across America and beyond generate economic growth through the power of exports.

 

What is the survival rate of small businesses?

The one-year survival rate of businesses started in 2016 was 79.8%, the most recent data available meaning that almost 4 in 5 businesses survive their first year. The five-year survival rate has differed over the past decade with firms started in 2006 and weathering through the great recession have a 45.4% rate of still being in operation after five years. Companies established in 2011 as the economic recovery was into effect had a five-year survival rate of 51% showing how external macroeconomic factors also have an impact on the survival rate of a small business.

 

Small Business Week Actions

 

Everyone can take some small steps to support small businesses both this week and throughout the year. Buying from small businesses when possible is one way to support them and offers the opportunity to learn about the business owner and their employees. From here a connect and relationship can be formed with the business and then the business can become a part of your routine. In addition to becoming a customer of different small businesses people can lobby local and national politicians to support legislation that is favorable for small business growth. One of the simplest ways to help small business owners is to thank them for what they are doing and provide validation that they are making a meaningful impact on the community.

 

Sources

 

National Small Business Week. SBA. U.S. Small Business Administration. https://www.sba.gov/national-small-business-week.

SBA Office of Advocacy. Frequently Asked Questions, August 2018. https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/Frequently-Asked-Questions-Small-Business-2018.pdf.

Simmons, Michael. “WIMS Celebrates National Small Business Week 2019!” WIMS Guide. https://www.wimsguide.com/tag/small-business-week/.

 

Project Management

 

The business world is shaped by the ability of organizations to effectively manage and execute projects in a team environment. Projects stand at the center of any idea and serve as the means of turning ideas into meaningful action. From the planning through executing and reflection on the project constant communication and decision making is needed to direct the project in the best direction. The ability to have leaders in an organization who can direct resources and personnel during uncertain times will reap many benefits for the entire organizations ability to provide the best quality solutions.

 

The value of project management stands out in the business world as a core competency which focuses heavily on operating the project. This includes reinforcing leadership decisions, maintaining project goals, and ensuring open communication occurs between stakeholders. Project leaders provide efficiently run projects developing a unique project management strategy which fits the specific needs of your organization. To improve your own project management skills, an in-depth view of the definition of a project from the Project Management Institute (PMI) will be examined. Some of the different project management frameworks will also be examined along with the dynamics of teams including the Five Stages of Group Development. Understanding the differences in project management frameworks as well as what constitutes a project and the ability to help develop and lead teams will become more ingrained into the core of your organization. The ability to understand how to construct your time and resources on projects will reap rewards and allow for more goals to be on time and under budget.

 

Project management is a skill set which does not fit into the boxes of specific industries or mindsets but encompasses the changes and complexities of a project over the course of its lifespan. Every project that is implemented changes and faces unique challenges and uncertainties yet the most telling sign of the success of the project is how the team reacts to changes and uncertainty. Effective project management will not solve all the uncertainties of projects yet that is not the purpose of project management and effective leadership. Project management serves as a framework to keep the project on course and ensure that the team can stay on track during good times and the more difficult times. Instead of being an exact science project management combines specific industry knowledge, emotional intelligence, and team building to create the most innovative solutions for teams and allowing teams to perform at their highest level.

 

Project Management

Introducing the WIMS Consulting Project Management Service Line

The WIMS Consulting project management service line was born out of our own need to allocate the time and resources to make sure and improve this area of our business. A core business tenant is that the best business models solve real problems that you can relate to and those that make a significant impact on your life. Getting the project management process built and implemented is working wonders for our business, and we realized it would likely do the same for yours.

Agile, Scrum, Kanban, Gantt. Excel, Google Sheets, Trello, Jira, Smart Sheets, Asana, SharePoint, Bitrix, BaseCamp, Zoho Project Management. We scoured the web, read countless white papers, articles, watched webinars and seminars, and researched the heck out of this problem until we found the best approach that works. We didn’t just look for the best methodology, but also the best software stack too. Because just like CRM programs (which we intertwine this with in our case) you can have the best understanding of the principles and software in the world, but if you don’t actually use and implement the program correctly it will still fail.

Many people conduct project management intuitively, or by using a combination of Outlook, post-it notes, and to-do lists. Others at least have upgraded to a Trello board or Smart Sheet subscription. It’s time to level up and incorporate a robust project management strategy as a core part of your company’s operations.

While we primarily built this for us, we quickly realized how replicable it is for our clients too. The value it brings to your overall business is profound. It helps improve communication, holds everyone accountable, ensures you’re focused and prioritizing the right things. All of which are crucial as you work to grow and scale. We spend a lot of time helping our clients get more business and increase revenue, now we’re also focusing on helping them to keep that business in a long-term and sustainable way. We’d love the opportunity to assist your company with making it happen. Reach out when you’re ready!

Project Management Offering

WIMS Consulting can act as your long-term outsourced project manager, or on an ad-hoc project basis as they arise. Our solutions are customized and flexible based on the client’s specific needs. Whether you have a system in place that needs some minor tweaks, or if you want to start over from scratch we can help. If you want to migrate to a new software platform, we got you covered.

Our primary objective is assisting you with improving your critical decision-making processes, streamlining your operations by enhancing efficiency, improving accountability, encouraging clear communication, and ultimately increasing your ROI.

Our Process

The WIMS project management service line is centered around the mission and goals of the client. To begin, we conduct an informational interview, or discovery call, where we take a deep dive into the organization’s operations to get a better understanding of the existing project management systems and policies in place (if there are any). During this due diligence phase, we learn what the client thinks is working, what isn’t, identify bottlenecks, and learn as much as we can.

This initial conversation will help frame the service and solutions proposed through having a candid conversation to understand where the organization is at and where it desires to go. When this method was undertaken internally, we included some of the questions included below.

Project Management Audit

We provide an audit of your organization’s existing internal processes. After this due diligence phase, we then take the time to thoroughly review and assess. Once this is complete, we come back to you with recommendations and next steps that we believe would lead to the most appropriate project management system for your organization. Before implementation however we will review it together to make a cohesive decision that includes the buy-in and commitment from both of our organizations.

Sample Questions:
1.    Describe your current project management/day-to-day operations process. What are three main points that stand out?
2.    Who is involved in the project planning process? Include all key stakeholders/administrators/decision makers, etc.
3.    What software (if any) are you using?
4.    What type of budget and resources do you have to solve this problem?
5.    Have you ever lost a project or not bid on one because of your current internal project management process? Have any other negative experiences occurred because of it?

Of course this is just a high level overview of what is ultimately a complex process. We’d love the opportunity to connect with you and your organization to learn more about your specific project management/operational needs and how we can assist.

 

Project Management in Perspective: The Panama Canal

 

Project Management in Action

 

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of volunteering at a meaningful event held by PMI (Project Management Institute) Metrolina Chapter for members of the military who are about to transition into civilian life. The 3rd Annual Veterans Transition & Skillfest Event serves as outreach to military personnel from the Fayetteville area interested in learning about career paths and certifications in project management.

 

This is a great event which provides networking and education to military members who are about to transition into civilian life. This event also centered on some of the connections between the military and project management including a look at some of the historic additions made to the project management world by the military. One of the most significant lasting contributions from the military world on project management was the construction of the Panama Canal, which was a decades long project that including death, corruption, innovation, uncertainty, and finally triumph.

 

 

Historical Foundation of Project Management

 

The discussion of the Panama Canal project and other important historical projects including the D-Day Invasion was a central theme of the keynote speech given by Jay Hicks. Hicks is a Florida based author of a series of books on military transition including The Transitioning Military Project Manager. The aspect of his presentation which I found most meaningful was centered on the historic relationship between planning effective projects and the military.

I believe looking to the past is a good way in understanding the underlying values of a topic. This is true in project management which is used across industries and has a foundation in the US Military. To understand the value that project management can add to an organization understanding from past projects and noting lessons learned from these past projects is one of the best ways to enhance project management terms.

 

This can be used by those looking to get started in the project management field, amateur historians interested in learning more about history, and those interested in gaining a better understanding about geopolitics. I am interested in all of the above areas so the chance to write and share some of this history is something I find to be intellectually delightful. So, let’s venture to the Isthmus of Panama and see how the improbable connection of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean forever changed the world.

 

 

A Complex Project

 

The military undertook some of the most complex projects of the 20th century under the leadership of effective project planning and effective execution. Of all these projects the Panama Canal project which was completed under the direction of the Army Corp of Engineers stands as one of the most important.

 

 

The Panama Canal and Project Management

 

The most significant contribution to the world of project management from the Panama Canal project was the construction of the first work breakdown structure (WBS). This is a concept that is central to the core of operating and maintaining projects under budgetary and time constraints.  In the century since this project, practitioners around the world have implemented WBS into projects across the world to deconstruct the cost and schedule of a project into manageable pieces to best accomplish the project. By reframing the project into many pieces which need to be accomplished to reach the final goal the schedule of the project can better be handled, and the cost structure become more manageable. Over a century after the project began the WBS is still a major tenant of project management across industries showing the value that this adds to constructing and operating efficient projects.

 

 

The French Experiment

 

The French undertook the first attempt at constructing a canal across the Isthmus in the 1880s and was highlighted by corruption and ineffective project execution. The rampant spread of illness was a main factor behind the reason that the project was forced to be abandoned. In addition to this corruption, poor execution led to the halting of construction in 1889. The human cost of this ineffectiveness was massive with over 20,000 deaths. While the main factor behind the failed project was illness it was exacerbated by poor management. Although few projects will fail this spectacularly the understanding that projects often fail because of a range of factors which are made worse by ineffective leadership. The takeaway from this is that understanding that poor leadership is never the singular cause of a failure but can make shortcoming become more extreme and can lead to setting up a project for failure from the beginning.

 

 

The American Experiment

 

The history of this project tells a compelling story about a project on a massive scale which provided many technological innovations and helped propel the US onto a platform as a world leader during the 20th century. It is hard to believe but through the early 20th century the US was still seen as a minor player on the global stage with a few colonial holdings. By constructing the canal, the US was able to stand out as the undoubted leader of the western hemisphere and allow the US to shape the politics and international relations of a complex century.

 

By the time of the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt the ideas of constructing some type of canal across Central America dated back hundreds of years. The initial thoughts of construction on a canal began during the Colonial period of the 1600s and marked one of the first global projects undertaken by the US. This period was historically important as the US expanded onto the global stage during this era and the construction of the Panama Canal proved the leadership and effectiveness of American execptionalism. The success of the project centered on the ability to shift and build off the failures of the French project.

 

The first year of construction by the Americans appeared like the French project with high turnover rates and major financial losses. Eventually, the arrival of a new chief engineer, John Stevens led to a unique approach to the construction by not building but by building up the surrounding infrastructure of the construction zone beginning with eradicating the diseases which were so rampant. This major undertaking occurred by bringing in Dr. William Gargas who had previously worked to eradicate yellow fever in Cuba.

 

 

Creating Infrastructure

 

By spraying chemicals in the Panamanian jungle, the threat of diseases from mosquitoes was mitigated allowing for the work to begin on the supplemental infrastructure needed to complete the construction of the canal. Towns grew from the jungle as swamps were drained and critical infrastructure was completed. By breaking the project into manageable steps, the scope of the project grew from merely building a canal to limiting the factors which caused illness and creating the infrastructure needed for success. By repositioning what work was necessary to be undertaken the Panama Canal was able to be completed. This success shows the importance of planning for the intermediate steps and understanding that changes in the project will strengthen end results and overall efficiency of the project.

 

To understand the impressive feat the Americans accomplished by finishing this project it is important to examine the long and complex history surrounding the construction of a canal. A good place to take a further look is the attempt by the French to construct a canal decades before the Americans undertook a similar plan. This endeavor provides an example of the complexities of building a canal and some common themes that stand in the way of effectively executing a project to completion including rampant corruption.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

With such a strong history the military and project management have gone hand in hand for generations. Long before the corporate world adopted project management the military was utilizing complex projects under quasi project management offices from the Army Corp of Engineers as they constructed the Panama Canal during the early 20th century. The addition of the work breakdown structure (WBS) allowed this complex construction project to be deconstructed into a series of manageable tasks along the course of the project.

 

The completion of the Panama Canal stands as one of the greatest engineering accomplishments of all times. Combine this with the timing of the completion of the project as the US ascent on the international stage highlights the value that effective project management had in this historic event.  The opening of the canal was overshadowed by World War I and the spread of conflict in Europe. The completion of the Panama Canal meant that the Americans had made the steps to enter the top of the world stage influencing geopolitics and forever altering Central America.

Strengthening Project Management

 

In the current business world competition and adding value to your current operation is becoming increasingly important. Every organization needs to address and strategize how to attract and sustain top talent. The specifics differ from company to company and often depend on location and the necessary skill set to accomplish a specific task. Some challenges stand in the way of companies as they attempt to grow their company with a talented and engaged workforce. Staffing and operating strong project portfolios go hand in hand and should be thought of as ways to improve the efficiency of both specific projects and the entire organization.

 

Good organizations understand that to stand out resources and focus should be placed on finding people to fit roles. Looking outside your organization as well as within can assist in understanding and using human resources and project management to establish a company culture. Getting the right personnel can help improve solutions and reduce friction among current team members. Collaboration should be viewed from the perspective of bringing in new team members.

 

To grow, companies need to address how to maintain a competitive edge in their industry while growing internally. Some hurdles stand in the way of growing and sustaining a workforce which can handle projects and helps your organization grow.

 

The focus is placed on creating effective and simple project proposals for existing external projects while building up internal systems. Quickly it becomes evident that this would be a valuable investment which would provide an additional service line. Many organizations are in the same spot as WIMS in need of investing internally to increase the effectiveness of existing operations while making plans to expand into new business opportunities. This can be difficult, and close to impossible, without a developed internal project system which allows for maximizing the value of your team while fulfilling growth and expansion into new projects.

 

The project manager must document the steps across the project lifecycle and create an environment where every team member actively documents work and changes to the project. There should be a standard procedure for documenting the project which should be communicated up front and allow for input from workers. The project manager needs to ensure that accurate progress is being communicated. Communication is critical across the entire team and when the chain of communication is well constructed with multiple ways to raise questions and provide insights the entire team can focus on issues that need the most attention. Communication can help build trust across the entire team and allow for the specific focus areas of the team to be given more attention and be build up for sustained success.

 

The time to invest in project management solutions is now. If your organization already has a project management system in place the system should constantly be evaluated and additional improvements should be made when necessary. Planning to improve project planning poses the opportunity to create a project itself which can be used as a learning experience to incorporate new ideas. Every additional opportunity to expand projects provides the chance for members of the entire team to gain meaningful hands on practice across the development of projects.

 

Creating the final projects and tasks around all of us are truly unique with many complex aspects. A project involves many internal and external stakeholders who must be in constant communication. With many complex parts and changes the need to have a robust team which can deal with the changes that arise across the project is necessary. Taking the time to invest heavily in project planning will allow for the best-case scenario for reacting to unexpected changes. By having a developed and strategic project management system in place, organizations can better handle existing projects while also bringing in new work and expanding the project portfolio.