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Carpe Factum Gone Bad

Bigdig3_tunnel_1One person dead.  Another injured.  And the state's biggest project - the engineering feat that had them all cheering - is now the center of political black eyes and serious accusations.

Massachusett's Governor Mitt Romney has a problem.  He's the top dog in the state, and his big project - The Big Dig - has just had a very visible failure.  And now he wants Turnpike Authority Matt Amorello's resignation.  And he wants an indepth investigation.

For those not familiar with the Big Dig project, it really is a marvel.  Miles of highway and interstate now buried deep beneath the ground (and beneath the harbor) instead of uglying up the Boston skyline.  We were in Boston last summer and it was an impressive drive from the airport to downtown, and it was refreshing to see parks springing up where elevated highways once stood.  But questions of quality persisted throughout the project.  And now, part of the the tunnel has collapsed, killing one motorist and injuring her husband.

OK, so now what?  Governor Romney wants heads to roll.  And he wants investigations underway.  And he wants answers.  Why don't we hop in our time machine and jump back a few years?  It  doesn't take a lot of effort to find stories of the governor's office pressuring the project to move faster.  There was political capital on the line.  So... the project moved faster.  Quality shortcuts were inevitably taken.  And now Mitt Romney wants to know where the blame lies.  Am I missing something on the cause-and-effect graph?

Hmmmm... haven't seen that one take place in any of our companies, have we?  Sometimes, executive stakeholders can be a project's biggest risk.  In their pressure to carpe factum, to seize the accomplishment, they forget that each accomplishment comes at a cost... a cost of time, of quality, of money, of energy, and of effort.  Knowing what to trade off and when is the core of solid project management.  And being able to "politely push back" when overzealous executives get too pushy is what keeps projects out of trouble... after implementation.

At least in most of my projects, people don't lose lives.  If there's a failure, someone may wait an extra 15 minutes in a call center queue, or a programmer may spent a few late night hours fixing some code.  That doesn't mean I work any less to ensure that those things don't occur.  So, what is the cost of your Carpe Factum?  And what are you doing to impact those trade-off decisions?

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Comments

Call Cruncher

Great article. I am new to your blog and so far I like what I see. I look forward to your future work.

Timothy Johnson

Thanks for dropping in, Call Cruncher. Always delighted to attract new readers... especially those who will add comments.

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