Hudson Yards Urban Development
Hudson Yards will be the largest mixed-use private real estate venture in US history and the largest development in New York since the Rockefeller Center. The $25 billion, 28-acre redevelopment of a section of unused land in Manhatten, New York, has the potential to revolutionize urban development globally with its "city within a city" concept. The concept takes the work-life-play concept to a new level by placing everything an individual needs in close proximity.
When completed, 125,000 people a day will work, visit, or call Hudson Yards their home. In addition, it will house 20 million square feet of commercial and residential space, a dedicated art space, 14 acres of open public space, and a 750 student public school to name but a few of its features. The project is expected to be finished by 2025.
This mega project has a project team rather than a project manager; such is the scale of the design. Several different organizations are represented on this project team, illustrating the highly sophisticated project management skills, methodologies, and processes that are essential.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault or Doomsday Vault is buried deep inside a mountain on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago, about 620 miles from the North Pole. The vault houses the seeds that are considered essential for the survival of the world.
During the design process, construction, and stocking, the project team had to overcome numerous challenges ranging from the fire risk associated with coal and hydrocarbons in the original concept resulting in the concept being redesigned from scratch to higher temperatures due to global warming disrupting the permafrost that was supposed to create a watertight seal on the entrance tunnel. Hence, the failsafe doors had to be redesigned.
The seed vault is currently home to one million different species of plant housed in three separate vaults that are about 89 feet long and accessed by a 479-foot access tunnel. There is capacity for 4.5 million different seed species in total.
Working on a project like this has far-reaching consequences that may in the future be the reason the world survives an extinction-level event. Unfortunately, there aren't too many people who can tick that box when asked what they do for a living.
First IVF Baby
Those born in the last four decades have never known a world without in vitro fertilization (IVF), and given the role IVF plays today cannot imagine what it was like for infertile couples before IVF. When Louise Brown was born in England, the way the medical world treated infertility was changed forever. The technique that sees an egg fertilized outside of the body and then implanted in a women's uterus has resulted in over 8 million births globally.
The IVF project took many years to reach the 1978 triumph. There was over a decade of failures, denunciation of the project by the religious and scientific communities, including the Vatican formally condemning it, and the refusal of the Medical Research Center in the UK to fund the research. It wasn't until 1977, when the Browns volunteered and the project secured private funding, that theory became a reality.
Project managing a job of this nature requires everything from the diplomat skills of a UN negotiator through to unyielding ethics and everything in between. This project illustrates the huge range of skills that project managers develop on the job and the wide range of projects they can apply.
Between 1900 and 1972, the number of tigers in the wild fell from over 100,000 to just 1,827. Project Tiger was the Indian government's response to what could be the extinction of the tiger in the wild. The project set up a number of protected sanctuaries aiming to increase the ever-decreasing natural habitat of the tiger. Today the project is a heralded success, with India being home to 70% of the world's wild tiger population, with nearly 3,000 calling India home.
Despite the program's apparent success, things were not always this way, with the low point being in 2014 when the project was called a failure because the number of tigers in India was only 400 despite the efforts. Questions were also raised regarding the method used for determining the tiger population and the failure of the Indian government to take a tough stance on poaching.
The response saw the project overhauled and the Indian government team with the WWF and 12 other countries establishing tiger reserves to improve the results. In addition, the technology was improved, and there is hope that the new technology can be used to fight back against poachers as well.
This long-term project illustrates that the role of a project manager isn't always short-lived. It also illustrates how adaptability and flexibility are important skills for a project manager.
World Wide Web
"Vague but Exciting" were the three words used to respond to the project management proposal of the then 33-year-old British computer scientist, Tim Berners-Lee, by his CERN boss back in 1989. The project was the foundation of what we now know as the world wide web. At the time, not even Berners -Lee would have dreamed what the future implications of his project proposal would be.
The internet already existed in an archaic form, but Berners-Lee believed there was a better way to share the information. Two years later, he launched the world's first website, virtual library of web pages, and the programming guides for HTML, HTTP, and URLs. As of January 2019, 4.4 billion people use the sharing system once described as "vague, but exciting."
One of the exciting aspects of project management is the impact a particular project can have on the world. While it is unlikely there will be another development like the world wide web in the world of information technology any time soon, there are plenty of other industries that are long due for an overhaul. Project management is sometimes about the abstract, developing a concept, and running with it. Most other professions do not allow this degree of fluidity, instead looking for more concrete constraints.
Advice From Today's Project Managers
Project management requires a range of different skills. Carmen Pop, Global Project Manager at Dropbox, has said composure and compassion are the two key skills she considers essential. She said when discussing this, "People will get upset, things will not go the way you want them to, but as the project manager, you are the glue that needs to keep everything together and moving forward. I believe I was able to achieve this in my project, and as a result, we were able to launch as a team."
The Senior Delivery Manager at Microsoft Glauco Paiva has some salient advice regarding the massive scope of the role, saying, "When you recognize your limitations as respect yourself, you can achieve and leverage the best from the others; for me, it is the nicest thing we can do. So, it is possible to work with a satisfied team and helping the business to grow."
The Complex World of Project Management
Although the project manager may not be the person who springs to mind in projects of this nature, it is the project manager who, at the end of the day, determines the success of the project. The role that they play in planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing projects is in many instances not recognized as the determinative factor in projects, but it should be.
It would be easy to read of these five projects and the contribution that they have made to world history and fail to see the relevance they have to the typical project manager and the projects that they manage, but that would be a mistake. Project management is one of the most complex jobs out there. It covers almost every industry and multiple disciplines within each industry, as the diversity of these five projects illustrates. The scope of the opportunities for project managers is seemingly limitless, representing an unprecedented opportunity for those with a sense of adventure.
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