Sunday, May 16, 2021

Lack of transparency hinders project management – Specialist

An American project management specialist has cited lack of transparency among the major constraints that impede project management in Botswana.

“You have to have an appetite for transparency,” said Mike Sicilia from Oracle Primavera at a seminar held at the Gaborone International Convention Centre on Thursday morning.

While he never gave a specific Botswana example, he nonetheless quoted one from overseas that painted a vivid picture of what happens when there is no transparency within an organisation. The example was of the construction of the Airbus 380, the world’s largest passenger airliner which was delivered late and way over-budget. Sicilia recalled a meeting with the company’s chief technical officer who wanted Oracle Primavera to conduct a performance management audit to determine why the Airbus 380 project was “so many years late and so drastically over-budget” and how it could be set back on course.

One widely-used project management technique for scheduling projects is called critical path analysis. Project management professionals use it to see which series of activities impact the overall schedule of a project. In conducting this sort of analysis, Sicilia said that they found that the problem was not related to airworthiness or safety issues but an improperly packaged overhead video system. The system was designed in France, manufactured in Germany and assembled in the United Kingdom. Diagnosing the problem required talking to all the parties involved in the production process.

Sicilia said that it turned out that working relations were not transparent enough to allow low-level employees to tell managers that there was a problem with the video system. There was a risk of the former being fired if they had delivered the bad news and so what began as a small, manageable problem snowballed into a bigger, almost unmanageable one that ended up costing the company a lot of money. The moral of the story: managers should be transparent and willing to take bad news.

“There should be transparency, openness and honesty,” Sicilia, metaphorically adding that such attributes would enable a company to recover “while the light is still ember.”

For those familiar with project management in Botswana, there would have been no need to give a local example because in as far as the problem relates to transparency, they can come up with their own. On the top of anybody’s list would be the Morupule “B” Power project which has had everybody on tenterhooks for the past four years. Officially, the project doesn’t have major problems but sources close to it (and the intermittent loadshedding) tell a different story.

The lack of transparency around the project is such that twice before, President Ian Khama (who gets his information from the Botswana Power Corporation management) has relayed false information to the public about the project. There would also be reason to suppose that information-sharing between partners in the project is not at the right level of transparency. Once before, the African Development Bank, which is one of the project financiers, has had to rely on a Sunday Standard story to compile its own report about the project.

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