A federal organization saw its
project portfolio budget increase tenfold
practically overnight—and had to
reassess its project management process.
EWABLE ENERGY, WASHINGTON, D.C., USA
Not every black swan is a catastrophe. Some of these unexpected game-changing events repre- sent decidedly auspicious opportunities. From the viral success of a toy to the surprise discov- ery of an oil field, unexpected windfalls can have
enormous positive impact on an organization.
However, handling them requires just as
much flexibility, leadership and project management skills as disastrous black swans. Otherwise, what could be a great opportunity can turn
into a major debacle.
Just look at the American Red Cross. After
the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, the
humanitarian aid organization was faulted for
diverting the majority of donations not to victims’
families but to other Red Cross programs.
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), which falls under the
umbrella of the U.S. Department of Energy
(DOE), faced this type of risk when it received
an additional US$16.8 billion in funding for
projects under the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act of 2009. The agency, which
typically manages US$2 billion in projects
annually, didn’t anticipate a sudden influx of
funding that ballooned its budget almost tenfold
in a matter of days.
“There’s no such thing as having too much
money, but this added a lot of complications
and complexities to our office,” says Scott E.
Hine, PMP, acting deputy assistant secretary for
business administration and director of EERE.
He’s responsible for the execution and oversight
of the Recovery Act portfolio, which includes
approximately 3,000 projects. “We had to be
extremely nimble to be able to manage such a
visible and high-volume portfolio of projects.”