Out-there lessons for project managers from NASA
Let’s start with an all-time classic. Jerry Madden retired from NASA in 1995 as associate director of flight projects at Goddard Space Flight Center. We stumbled on his ‘100 Lessons Learned for Project Managers’ when we were reviewing Hidden Figures, the excellent film about lesser-known contributors to NASA’s early projects for the next edition of Project journal.
Our favourite? ‘87. Bastards, gentlemen, and ladies can be project managers. Lost souls, procrastinators, and wishy-washers cannot.’
There’s also a 2001 Q&A with Madden that offers some great inspiration for younger PMs.
How Japanese project managers shot at an asteroid
Our favourite recent project moment must be the mission to asteroid Ryugu. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) sent a probe to shoot – yes, literally fire a bullet at – the asteroid and collect debris for analysis back on Earth. “Mankind’s hand has reached a new star today,” Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa 2’s project manager, told reporters.
But the project goes beyond just bullets. At the time of writing, Tsuda and his project team are preparing to fire an entire copper plate into the asteroid to expose deeper matter ahead of two further touchdowns before return to Earth. “At the present point in time, we cannot formulate a schedule,” Tsuda said – but adding in true diligent PM style: “We don’t want to remain idle for a month. That is not our plan.”
The project manager who loved the high life. Too much
Sometimes project managers make it into the news for the wrong reasons – as was the case with Paul Galbraith, who was recently found guilty of fraud. The Scottish project manager had submitted £513,000 of fictitious invoices on a business development in West Lothian, siphoning the money into a building society account in his mother’s name. Galbraith claimed the money was a secret bonus scheme arranged by his employer.
The lessons? Always conduct proper due diligence on project suppliers. Make it clear your organisation never pays ‘off the books’ bonuses. And watch for unusual behaviour among PMs.
Our top quote from the trial comes from Galbraith’s mother who told police that her son had always enjoyed the high life. “It always had to be the best of gear,” she said. “With my other son, you could go to Primark and buy him a shirt and he’d be over the moon. With Paul, you’d have to go to Topman.”
Remote working is good for you. And bad.
A survey ahead of March’s PM Summit reveals that 19 per cent of project management professionals believe that remote working reduces project success rates – while 52 per cent think is actually increases them.
For many senior PMs, the big issue is about control. “While team members find remote working to be a positive experience, more senior managers report challenges around managing teams and projects,” Raymond Poole, CEO of PM Summit, told Engineers Journal.
An utterly unique heritage project
Finally, a stunning example of how project managers are preserving the UK’s industrial heritage. Network Rail is running its Great North Rail Project through to 2022, incorporating a range of route extensions, line upgrades and renewal projects. And last year it completed the restoration of the Gisburn tunnel in Ribble Valley. This unique Victorian Grade II listed structure comes complete with the original turrets. It was weaknesses in one of those structure that originally prompted the project.
Jack Ryder, who switched career from law to civil engineering in 2016, was the scheme project manager for Network Rail and is currently working towards chartership with APM. Bravo team!