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A shift towards scientific management of projects and attention to risk management could help in saving time and money in projects related to heavy industries, according to Subrata Maitra of M.N. Dastur & Company (P) Ltd. Speaking about his experience in the sector, Mr. Maitra pointed out that swift resolution of land-related issues determines the trajectory of a project.

“In the growth of heavy industries, we have a problem with land. When we take up land issues for conceptualizing a project, the historical knowledge of acquisition and rehabilitation must be utilized. It is good to see proper implementation of projects globally and in neighboring countries that is benefiting society,” Mr. Maitra Said. He noted that in heavy metal industry, hundreds of stakeholders are involved and raw materials are fed from India and abroad. In that context, he lauded industry leaders for consulting PMI for completion of tasks just in time.

Project management instils discipline and accords a distinct structure to the project, he added. He called for highlighting the efforts that go into building heavy industries and not just focusing on the announcement of a project. “China gives importance to infrastructure and heavy industry. They highlight the efforts that go into building heavy industries. While the Western world is moving away from heavy industries, we are dependent on them,” he said.

On risk management, he cited the example of Médecins Sans Frontières, the international, independent, medical humanitarian organization that is stressing on project management to ensure its workers do not get killed while carrying out their services.

Digital transformation is not only disruptive but is also taking us into the domain of the “unknown of unknowns” said business analytics expert Prithwis Mukherjee in his keynote on “The Future Society in an Automated World.”

Mr. Mukherjee, who has a PhD in management science from the University of Texas, USA, took participants through the world of the internet of things, augmented Reality, artificial intelligence, and do-it-yourself biology. What was once envisioned in sci-fi books and films is fast becoming a reality, he noted, while delving into topics of biohackers, transcranial simulation, cyborgs, and chimera.

“New biological species are getting created, which leads to the concept of immortality. It’s not just carbon immortality but silicon immortality. So even if you are dead, your computer keeps posting updates on your behalf. That is digital immortality,” he said. Dr. Mukherjee, who has spent nearly two decades in the Indian IT, software, and

management consultancy business, believes machines will take over humans by 2045. In this context, he spoke about the pioneering work being done by South African-born engineer and inventor, and founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, Elon Musk. His companies are pushing the boundaries of automation and redefining transportation on earth and in space. He said such mammoth endeavors would increase the ambit of project management.He urged delegates to think of new possibilities in this future, automated world. He asked, “Can you upload your brain onto your computer and make it work on your behalf? As we think of building colonies on Mars or other space habitats, how do we use project management in those unknown areas?”He said project management should not be seen as a solution, but as a “conflict resolving” mechanism. The open house at the end of the session threw up several questions. To one delegate’s question on the future of humankind and whether we are losing our jobs to China, Dr. Mukherjee replied, “China is not stealing our jobs; robots are.”

Rajesh Ranjan Jha used an audiovisual presentation to shed light on the Challenges that Tata Steel’s Greenfield project at Kalinganagar in Odisha faced before its commercial operations began in 2016. Tata Steel conceived the Kalinganagar plant in 2005-2006, but work was delayed owing to land acquisition problems and antidisplacement protests. Work started only in 2010.

The company faced the anger of tribals who claimed they owned the piece of land that was handed over to the company by the state government. It was only after a generous relief and rehabilitation package that included higher compensation for the land, job guarantees, money for building houses, and a monthly maintenance allowance that the project took

off.As many as 12 people were killed in police Firing during a protest against the construction of a compound wall at the project site.

Mr. Jha recalled the ‘war room’ that was set up at the plant site as a project management device.“Project management is about monitoring as much as it is about resolving Conflicts. We had to ensure the safety of our workers. So a war room was set up where everything was monitored in real time,” Mr. Jha explained.

He spoke about the company’s development initiatives in the vicinity of the plant following its construction, emphasising on meaningful engagement of locals in the factory. He said that to ensure zero harm, a safety management system must be deployed across the value chain.

Set Up PMO for Complex Infrastructure Projects
Speaking on navigating complexity through project management, Tejas Sura stressed on land acquisition as a major reason behind time overruns in infrastructure projects.

Delay in forest clearance, supply of equipment, problems in equipment erection, shortage of labor, geological surprises, Maoist (terrorists inspired by extreme left ideologies) problems, and fund constraints are some of the other key reasons for time overruns.

Quoting figures from the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Mr. Sura said out of 1,186 infrastructure projects, 336 (28 percent) were running behind schedule.

“As many as 312 projects show time overruns of more than six months, while 215 show cost overruns of more than Rs. 100 crore. As many as 71 projects show both,” he said.To counter these situations, Mr. Sura recommended optimizing the organizational structure by setting up a three-tier project/ program management office (PMO) throughout the country to monitor infrastructure initiatives.

“Madhya Pradesh is setting up a PMO. We need similar set-ups in every state,” he said.

He called for a balanced approach in publicprivate partnership for faster implementation of projects.He also stressed on the importance of effective governance. He recommended that projects be executed by optimizing procedures through a transparent bidding criteria, adopting a unified, unambiguous and transparent transport policy for the movement of project materials especially ODCs (oversized dimensioned consignments), and designing an eeficient transport and logistics system throughout the country.

Indrajit Sanyal’s presentation on how to lead and demonstrate leadership in this world of ‘distraction economy and attention revenue’ was one of the most interactive sessions of the conference. He gave practical tips to the budding project manager on how to handle distraction.

Mr. Sanyal began by playing the Waving Flag, a highly popular song on football by Somali- Canadian rapper, K’naan. At the end of the music video, he asked participants to guess the number of goals shown in the song. Many came up with the correct answer. He said that this showed how many in the audience focused on the goals rather than enjoying the melody.

“Human attention is dwindling. How do we make sure the key message reaches the project manager? But if the information is not flowing, then the project will be doomed,” remarked Mr. Sanyal.

He brought up the issue of distraction again during the question-and-answer session, saying the overuse of digital devices is leading to an addiction.

He also debunked popular beliefs around multi-tasking. “Multi-tasking is a myth. You cannot be on a conference call and write a mail at the same time. If you have only 30 minutes, then you should complete the call and then go on to your next task,” he said.

He recommended mindfulness exercises and meditation to get around distractions.

Ashutosh Chatterji and Reid Simon presented a paper on “Lessons from the Past to Drive Innovation Today for a Sustainable Future.” Mr. Chatterji’s talk revolved around how sustainable development, which is a relatively long-term commitment, can add value to projects, which are essentially short-term endeavors.

He said that projects that are better designed, better implemented, and better coordinated improve the lives of people in need. And to execute such projects smoothly, team creativity emerges as a core topic in project management.

“Sustainable development is about team creativity, not just team productivity; about equity not just equality. It results in people doing their best,” Mr. Chatterji remarked in his keynote.

Project managers need technical skills, competencies and knowledge to successfully implement projects that have economic, social and environmental impacts for the present and future generations.

However, he cautioned project managers against sticking to their comfort zones. “Have the same environment, but push them out of their individual comfort zones,” he said.

He and his co-speaker Reid Simon reinforced the importance of building lasting value in projects. “Aspire to reach the same level of outcomes for all users. Enable users to attain outcomes — not adjust outcomes to fit users' current abilities," said Mr. Simon.

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