Project Management

The #1 rule of Project Management illustrated by the new Winnipeg Blue Bomber Stadium experience

I am a rabid football fan. Although my favourite team is the Green Bay Packers, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers follow closely behind. The new stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is one of the best things to happen to this city in a long time. If it wasn’t for the MTS Centre and the return of the Winnipeg Jets, we could easily say it is the most important event in the last 30 years for the sports community in Manitoba.

I believe that the project to build Investors Group field is a major undertaking that has many complexities that everyone outside of the project are probably not aware of. In this way it is very similar to the issues on a Software Development project which look very simple to fix from the outside. This blog contains observations of someone from the outside without the knowledge and context on the issues.

The blog post is not intended to be negative or pessimistic in regards to the building of Investors Group field, but I am struck with how certain aspects of the project to build the stadium has a direct relationship to what can happen on a Software Development project. It isn’t so much the issues and under-estimation that has caused me to see the similarities, but rather how the issues have been communicated. Every project will encounter issues, but I find the great projects excel in the communication of the issues.  

Communication

This has to be the number one rule for all the great projects I have been a part of. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news, but bad news delivered early and promptly is usually met with a short-term negative reaction followed by long-term understanding and buy-in. When the ground was broken in May 2010, but excavation was not started until September 2010 the project was already behind the schedule for what the general public thought the construction schedule was. Add to this the subsequent delays caused by other factors and the completion date is now 90 days behind schedule. Perhaps the people on the project were kept up to date on the schedule, but from the outside it appears that the communication to the real stakeholders, the public and season ticket holders, was not done until recently.

I can’t help but think that if the public was made aware of the delay early on, I believe the reaction would now be far more understanding. In this way, I think it is very similar to all stakeholders on Software Development projects. The mantra always is: “Just don’t surprise me”. Unfortunately the fans were surprised by a delay of 3 months after continued assurances the project was on track.

In discussions published about what would happen if the new stadium was not ready in time, there seemed to be an unwillingness to even consider playing games back at CanadInn Stadium. While this may have been a communication designed to keep the pressure on to meet the date, it again resulted in a lack of communication to the true stakeholders. The season tickets holders wondered why the team would not even consider playing back at the old stadium and it appeared from the outside that a contingency plan did not exist to play at the old stadium. I believe that contingency plans existed all along but the problem is that without communication, the dark side of communication appeared on the scene…. perception.

So with the lack of communication, the public made up their own reality in what they perceived could be happening…. and well you know the rest. 

Summary

I harken back to the Mike Kelly days and think of how he used the phrase “Control the message”. I think in Project Management the phrase to use is “Get ahead of people creating their own perception”.

The stadium will be awesome when it is created. I look forward to attending many games and hopefully hearing many updates over the summer months on how the project is progressing…

Now if someone can just explain why they didn’t keep Donny Oramasionwu, I’d be a happy man…

About Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

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