VIE WPOIN TS
ASIA PACIFIC WATCH
PICKING UP THE PIECES
Recent natural disasters have spurred the development of project management
techniques specific to recovery efforts.
BY LYNDA BOURNE, DPM, PMP
Aid, relief and disaster recovery projects operate in a different environment from typical IT, engi- neering and business projects. In addition to the risk exposures and more immediate pressures,
some of the key differences are:
n Most of the people affected are unaware of project manage-
n Many are likely to be physically and/or mentally trau-
n Much of the infrastructure we take for granted is damaged
The project management community has been building
skills and capabilities specifically attuned to the needs of
recovery projects since the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsu-
nami of December 2004. The PMI Educational Foundation
developed the PMI Project Management Methodology in Post
Disaster Reconstruction, which is used worldwide, and there
has been significant additional research focused on develop-
ing effective relief project methodologies.
Following last year’s devastating Pakistan floods, which
killed almost 2,000 people and affected more than 20 million, PMI chapters in Pakistan sought assistance to help
rapidly build basic project management capabilities within
the relief efforts.
Recognizing that on-site training would be the most
effective option, Paul Steinfort, PMP, PhD, of the Royal
Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University,
Melbourne, Australia, volunteered to go to Pakistan and
recruited two others to help. The team devised a training
protocol based on Dr. Steinfort’s research and conducted several training sessions with local project managers and disaster
Upon their return, RMIT University organized a one-day symposium that brought together the lessons learned
and best practices of those with a stake in disaster program
management—government agencies, nongovernmental
organizations and experienced individuals.
There were many thought-provoking and interesting presentations, including those from Fauzia Nasreen, Pakistan’s
high commissioner to Australia, academics, researchers and
field managers involved in on-the-ground relief projects.
The presentations highlighted the importance of effectively engaging stakeholders from the very beginning of a
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Management Methodology for Post
Disaster Reconstruction at:
program, using local knowledge to resolve scope, and monitoring and evaluating the programs and projects to ensure
value. Another important outcome was the recognition of
the need to formally teach disaster project management at
the master’s degree level.
Dr. Steinfort spoke about his recent experiences in Pakistan in the context of his doctoral research, and discussed the
difficulties experienced by communities in developing countries affected by disasters. Since at least 2004, it has been recognized that sophisticated project management approaches
do not work in these communities—simpler approaches to
planning and managing are critical.
He has developed just such an approach as part of his
doctoral research. Real scope value is based on simple but
effective devices such as using color to communicate the type
of work that needs to be done. Unlike symbols, the meaning
associated with different colors transcends cultures. Building
on this work, Dr. Steinfort and his colleague Derek Walker,
PhD, cowrote a book, What Enables Project Success: Lessons
from Aid Relief Projects [PMI, to be published early 2011].
There still remains much to do. Project managers in
Pakistan and other sites of catastrophes need ongoing support and assistance. The study of relief projects as a formal
discipline must be implemented, and we need to continue
to refine and develop simple, elegant and effective solutions
to support project management in disaster areas. The good
news is, based on the experiences from Pakistan, the project
management community has significantly enhanced its ability to make a positive contribution to recovery efforts. PM
Lynda Bourne, DPM, PMP, is the managing director
of Stakeholder Management pty Ltd. and
director of training at Mosaic Project Ser-
vices pty Ltd., both in Australia. Dr. Bourne
graduated from RMIT as the first profes-
sional doctor of project management. She is
president of the PMI Melbourne Chapter.