Project management: F1

I don´t know if you have noticed how the details affect the outcome of an action. Despite the steps we take to be successful are apparently equal, the result is not always what we desire. This is what I will try to explain using the example of something that draws my attention a lot and much more if you are fans of F1.

For those who don´t know, I introduce you  Hermann Tilke, we can say without doubt that he is the “father” of F1 because is the creator of 23 circuits. About most of those who appear on the calendar come from his pen, we’re talking about tracks such as Circuit de Catalunya, Istanbul Park, A1 Ring, Nurburgring, etc.. .
We could say that the pattern in regards to business is always the same. A group of investors, hired Tilke and his team for the design and construction of a new circuit so that later become part of the show in F1.

These projects have always the same elements, a design (of which Tilke has thousands, easy), location (usually in the middle of nowhere) and the performance. This last part is always executed in the same way. Tilke’s team oversees all implementation and his trustful team build the track and tarmac. The rest of the infrastructure are made by local workers, supervised by engineers´ Tilke. If we consider the standardization and Tilke´s experience for over 16 years, it makes sense to think that all projects will be perfect. As the images are worth a thousand words, judge for yourself.







I think the pictures speak for themselves, but anyway I’ll summarize. Do you guys see logical that the day before the race circuit has that aspect? That is worse if we consider these projects are millionaires.

Mud instead of grass, without security measures, tarmac in poor conditions, poor access, seats/terraces, incomplete buildings and infrastructure, electricity and plumbing supply problems.

For instance, one circuit such as Yeongam circuit (South Korea), which should pass in part by a city, a city that still does not exist today.
On the other hand, we have Yas Marina circuit (Abu Dhabu), where reality is fully consistent with what was planned. This is the new fever, every year opens a new circuit, but the results are quite different. Only, this trend is worsening.

At this point, I would like to get back into the details and give you my opinion because every time the results are worse and in my view, unacceptable. Do not forget that the management and development of the project are carried out by an expert in circuits, so that errors will turn into failure.

-Previously, projects used to have a reasonable time for its development and execution about every 4 or 5 years. Currently, each year a new circuit appears on the calendar. Is a year enough for a project of $300 millions? At least two years would be a logical time for a project of this nature. More if you try to build several ones at the same time, years 2008  or 2010 (5 projects).

-Along with runtime, we can´t forget the unforeseen, which always exist. A very graphic data are the initial $243 millions in Buddh Internationa circuit (India) and its final cost, $450 million. Although it sounds ridiculous next to the $1.2 billion Yas Marina circuit. Any correction in a project involves money, but if we are also pressed for time, any solution is going to be a major outlay.

-If we continue looking at the economic factor, we note that “express and fashion” circuits started in Malaysia and Middle Eastern countries like U.A.E. or Bahrain and due to the whim of their sheikhs. These new investors are economically more solvent than their collegues in less wealthy countries such as India or South Korea. Despite the technical complexity of the Arab circuits is higher, they fulfilled with the deadline. It is difficult to think as a country like Greece is planning to build a $150 million circuit and the government would pay 30% of the investment. It sounds like a joke with their current situation.

-Another thing that seems not to be had in account is the fact that in each country workforces is different, with their cost, their qualifications, their culture, their organization and their way of working. Even the number of workers can be key. Yas Marina circuit involved 14,000 workers for 35 million hours. Honestly, I don´t think that in all countries is possible to employ so many workers (talking about money). This was one reason why despite being one of the most technically complex projects, met the required deadline.

-Finally, the level of technical requeriments is very high and in every country there are not the same facilities. Most circuits are in the middle of nowhere and access to machinery and materials to these sites is not easy. If management is not good, can be an ordeal to get to these places to create something from nothing.

The circuit construction is a monopoly of Mr. Tilke, but he can´t allow a poor management or economic pressures tarnish his career. At some point, he should make it clear to investors that in a year can not make miracles and should say NO to them.The first conclusion, money is stronger common sense and logic.

The objective may be the same, build a circuit and its facilities.They are also equal, the breakdown of activities (PBS) and work (WBS): access, track, tarmac, buildings, utilities,etc…That are associated with a task of requirements, design, construction, testing, etc…The people responsible for the project actors are also the same (OBS). However, the result is not always the same.
In this particular case and in my opinion, we need to consider two aspects. The first is that the management of a project must be flexible (not standard) and adjusted to circumstances. And finally, a project management should be based on resources that are available with all its peculiarities, the environment where we are. This means all the players fit, the customer is important, but without forgetting that our main resource is people.

Indeed, in 2012 the circuit will open in Austin Texas (also Tilke). What will happen?

Jonathan Cabrero Sánchez.


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