and allowed the team to show the sponsor how much the end user would pay
for the product.
“My approach is to give the customer a clear vision of the risks and opportunities at each gate. That helps the customer understand the status of the
project,” he says. “If we had followed [a more traditional] waterfall approach, we
would have spent a lot more time and money.”
TO KILL OR NOT TO KILL
Sometimes a troubled nano-project can’t make it to the finish line, however.
When certain problems prove unfixable, at least within budget and on a workable time frame, project practitioners must make the difficult recommendation
to pull the plug.
When Mr. Hoofman was the project coordinator of a project to create a
nanotech-based biosensor that could quickly detect bacteria and pathogens
in a person’s blood, unforeseen reactions in the biosensor device caused
extensive project delays. That led him to recommend killing the project—
but the sponsor disagreed.
“He was still confident this could be a breakthrough for his company, so he
pushed it through. If it were up to me, I would have pulled the plug at that point
because we had used up so many resources,” Mr. Hoofman says.
They reached a compromise to re-scope the project. Five months of additional unsuccessful testing did persuade the sponsor to shut down the project.
“He saw all of the roadblocks that remained and decided it was time to kill
it,” says Mr. Hoofman. “I understood his initial position. You need to take more
risk for these types of projects because there’s a much higher potential reward.”
Nanotech projects can pose safety
risks to team members. Part of the
problem is that so much remains
unknown about potential health
effects. For instance, nanoparticles
remain in the air for long periods of
time and easily can be inhaled. Yet
there’s relatively little data about
the toxic threat of short- or long-term exposure—so it’s unclear
whether such exposure could be
deadly or merely a nuisance. Safety
guidelines vary by country and depend on the type of nanomaterial.
The standards needed to guide
project lab teams through the
proper handling and disposal of
nanomaterials are starting to
Gordon Armstrong, scientific
support officer for the
Materials and Surface Science Institute at the University of
Limerick in Limerick, Ireland.
“There aren’t really globally
“If the business case is
centralized safety resources for
nanomaterials,” he says. Although
in Europe, “there seems to be an
emerging consensus between
EU and national standards, and
formal guidance for best practice
in the use of nanomaterials.”
practices will help, such as limit-
robust and reasonable but
the targeted technology has
a low readiness level, I will
recommend to stakeholders
and sponsors that we change
the nature of the project.”
—José Maria Fernandes Marlet, PMP, Embraer, São Paulo, Brazil
ing exposure by wearing protective
gear and implementing appropri-
ate engineering controls (e.g.,
using a fume hood for ventilation).
But project managers also must
warn sponsors and team members
that safety risks—whether known
or unknown—are possible. Caveat