To achieve that crucial action and progress in project
environments, discussions need to happen.
What’s one skill
every project manager
Integration. You need
to be able to make
work together, instead
of trying to change
What’s the best
you ever received?
If the student hasn’t
learned, the teacher
hasn’t taught. If your
contractor, partner or
deliver, you could
something that you as a
project manager didn’t
do or should’ve done
What do you
most enjoy in your
I can do it with my
two boys, who are 4
and 6 years old. We’ve
recently snorkeled in
Egypt, Spain and the
Caribbean, and it’s
never the same.
emphasize much more proactive engagement
through hands-on workshops. We make sure the
right stakeholders get involved and we all understand what we’re doing as a collective unit.
Also, when we secure a major port development
project, instead of setting out a lot of requirements
around what the local team needs to do, we send a
team member from the PMO in The Hague to set
up a long-term plan and project strategy with them.
Why do you focus on project strategy?
Our projects are in extremely different environments,
and they have extremely different commercial conditions. So we focus on putting in place a local team
with a strong project management infrastructure so
that, as it grows from 20 team members in the early
days to a few hundred when it’s fully ramped up, the
team can manage its own environment.
It’s really not possible to manage a project
in Costa Rica from a head office in the Netherlands. It doesn’t work, stakeholder-wise or
How do you leverage project managers’
expertise across borders?
Every six months, we have reviews. We bring project managers from across the globe to visit a specific project to get an outside perspective and have
cross-project learning. We pick areas that may
need to be improved, like procurement, permits,
organization, etc. Then the outside experts conduct
deep dives into the project and make action plans.
This helps us improve the project management
locally, while creating a project management community across the organization.
What challenges do your project teams
In these kinds of projects, so many different ele-
Why did APM Terminals change the
ments need to work together. Integrating the
overall aim of the project in an emerging market
environment is extremely difficult over time. With
a completely new container terminal, we first have
to build the asset. Then, we have to build the entire
business around it, including the customers and
the cargo owners. Plus, in some emerging markets,
there isn’t an available workforce, so we also have
to build and train them.
Our office offers a methodology for project
teams to manage that integration and alignment.
We make sure we have a strong team on the
ground that can respond to specific challenges and
maintain a long-term view of all of them.
way it managed the development of
We wanted a more holistic view of the projects to
create a better balance between the asset part of
the port and the business need for it.
We need to adjust to market and business needs
while we competently manage the port construction. So it’s very important that we make these
opposites coexist: Construction-wise, we want to
lock down our options and create certainty, while
commercially, we want to keep options open.
That’s why we focus on getting the team to react
and adjust optimally.
At the end of the day, the business need is the
most important thing. It doesn’t matter if a project is early and under budget if the organization
doesn’t need it anymore.
How do you know that the PMO’s changes
have been successful?
From the project directors in the field to the
executives in The Hague, there’s a more engaged
project management approach. That enables decision makers to make better decisions.
In the past, decision makers had a lot of discussions where they were trying to find the facts. Now
the discussions are more future-oriented, so that
we start to look at value creation: Can we do this
better? How do we attack this future challenge?
Because we’re not in a reactive fact-finding mode,
we have more opportunity to create value. PM