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Isambard Kingdom Brunel - How does he rate as a project manager?


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This presentation was delivered by Jim Dale of the APM Programme Management SIG in March 2013.

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Isambard Kingdom Brunel - How does he rate as a project manager?

  1. 1. Measuring Up Isambard Kingdom Brunel:A legendary & prodigious engineer but how does the great man rate as a project manager? Jim Dale, MBA, RPP, MAPM, FCIPD
  2. 2. Overview of Session• A little bit about me• An overview of Brunel’s most notable achievements• A brief overview of the RPP assessment process• Review of competences: – Leadership – Professionalism & Ethics – Business Case• Discussion / more debate
  3. 3. Why such interest …• “Brunel built modern Britain & as Britain built the rest of the world that makes him a pretty dammed great Briton in my book” Jeremy Clarkson• “History repeats itself but nobody listens” Steve Turner• “You have to understand the past in order to understand the present” Carl Sagan – Source: Think Exist
  4. 4. A little about me• Secretary of ProgM• Contract project / programme manager• Teach, mentor & assess project managers: – PQ Assessor & Facilitator – RPP Assessor• High risk gateway review team leader• Studying for a PPM related professional doctorate• Fascination with Brunel - Recently undertook a ‘study tour’ led by Robert Hulse, Curator of The Brunel Museum, London
  5. 5. Lets look at the Great Man• Son of Sir Marc Isambard & Sophia Kingdom Brunel• Born 9 April 1806• Educated in France• Studied as an apprentice clockmaker• An accomplished artist & superb draughtsman• Died aged 53 years
  6. 6. The Life of Isambard Kindom BrunelYou tube video posted by BrunelUniversity and now available
  7. 7. Key Achievement 1: Thames Tunnel
  8. 8. Key Achievement 2:Clifton Suspension Bridge
  9. 9. Key Achievement 3:Dock Improvements
  10. 10. Key Achievement 4:Great Western Railway
  11. 11. Key Achievement 5: The Great Ships SS Great BritainSS Great Western SS Great Eastern
  12. 12. I.K.B: Two lesser known projects• The Atmospheric • The first flat pack Railway hospital. Constructed in wood and shipped and assembled in the Crimea.
  13. 13. What is commonly known about I.K.B.• A brilliant engineer• Great visionary: – The GWR was the first leg of a trip to North America• Workaholic: – Spent all day on site and all evening writing & planning. Frequently worked 20hr shifts• Perfectionist – The GWR was referred to as Brunel’s Billiard Table• A Showman: – The Tunnel Banquet
  14. 14. IKB: Lesser know facts• The Little Man in the Tall Hat - just over 5’ tall: Diminutive and self conscious• Experienced many set-backs as well as successes: – Work was suspended for several years on the Thames Tunnel which was ‘bricked up’ – His atmospheric railway was not progressed beyond branch line status – His designs for the Clifton Suspension Bridge were originally dismissed as unachievable – His vision for a national broad gauge railway was never realised – The maiden voyage of the Great Eastern in 1859 was a disaster; cut short by a significant boiler explosion which killed 6 members of the crew
  15. 15. IKB: Lesser known facts 2• An artist as well as a superb draughtsman: Produced meticulous sketches and drawings• Subscribed to the doctrine that ‘an ounce of practice trumps a ton of theory’
  16. 16. The RPP standard• The APM’s ‘gold standard’• Recognition by PM professionals of a fellow PM professional• ‘The standard for extraordinary PM professionals’Selection:• Submission of a portfolio of evidence• Evidence of managing a complex project• Satisfaction of 29 competences from the APM’s Competence Framework• Mandatory competences – BC03 Leadership – BC09 Professionalism & Ethics
  17. 17. Lets examine the evidence…..
  18. 18. BC03 Key Leadership Indicators:1. Promotes / upholds a vision2. Adapts leadership style appropriately3. Creates a team environment, encouraging members to reach their potential4. Builds & maintains trust within the team5. Motivates6. Identifies / addresses developmental needs of team & self
  19. 19. Leadership: Leaving a trail that otherswant to follow
  20. 20. Promotes & upholds a vision 1 ...• Great Western Railway: broad gauge, high speed, minimal gradients. The first leg of a transatlantic trip.• But did he have a blind spot, aggravated by arrogance and dogma?
  21. 21. Promotes & upholds the Vision 2: SS Great Eastern“I have an ideato build a shipthat cancircumnavigatethe world andcarry enoughcoal for theentire journey”
  22. 22. I.K.B. Leadership Traits continued. Led by example. Do as I do not as I say Led from the front: Always the first Considered his staff. During the Thames Banquet a meal in a different part of the tunnel was served for sixty of his workers Praised exceptional work. When the two bores of Box Tunnel were joined he gave the foreman his ring
  23. 23. I.K.B. Leadership Traitscontinued• Intolerant of poor workmanship and prepared to say so!“Plain, gentlemanly language hasno effect on you. I must try strongerlanguage and stronger measures.You are acursed, lazy, inattentive, apatheticvagabond, and if you continue toneglect my instructions, and showsuch infernal laziness, Ishall send you about your business”.
  24. 24. Conflict within the Team:Building the SS Great Eastern
  25. 25. I.K.B & self improvement• A reflective learner. Maintained a detailed journal. An excellent early example of Rolph’s model of reflective learning  What  So What  What next……
  26. 26. BC03 Key Leadership Indicators:1. Promotes / upholds a vision2. Adapts leadership style appropriately3. Creates a team environment, encouraging members to reach their potential4. Builds & maintains trust within the team5. Motivates6. Identifies / addresses developmental needs of team & self
  27. 27. BC09 Professionalism & Ethics1. Commitment to continuing professional development2 – 4. Integrity - adopts amorally, legally and socially appropriatemanner of behaviour when workingwith the project team and otherstakeholders5. Encourages a culture ofopenness
  28. 28. ProfessionalismBrunel was vehementlyopposed to pieceworkduring the construction ofthe Thames Tunnel as thiscould compromise quality.He resisted attempts by theDirectors to impose thissystem of payment
  29. 29. Motivated by the greater good• Declined a knighthood after designing a prefabricated hospital for use during the Crimean War “Service to my country is just reward”• Not motivated by money - Brunel’s secret diaries show that he was not a wealthy man• Accepted responsibility for failed Atmospheric Railway venture - refused to accept any fee.
  30. 30. I.K.B. as an Engineer• Attended school in France so that he could experience the best education an aspiring engineer could receive• Served an apprenticeship• Worked with his father - a brilliant engineer• Admitted to The Royal Society• Maintained a detailed journal - a platform for self improvement
  31. 31. I.K.B. & a body of knowledgeAPM BoK Version 6, 2.2 Professionalism:A profession creates & owns a distinctive,relevant body of knowledge.Brunel said:“I am opposed to laying down rulesor conditions to be observed lest theprogress of improvement tomorrowmight be embarrassed or shackled byrecording or registering as law theprejudices or errors of today”
  32. 32. But was I.K.B. driven to deliver regardlessof consequence?Was his attitude to the high numbers ofcasualties too cavalier?• 100 men died and a further 136 were seriously injured excavating Box Tunnel• When questioned by the Board of Directors Brunel said:“I do not consider the figures to beexcessive given the dangers ofusing gunpowder in confinedspaces ...”
  33. 33. I.K.B & dealing with stakeholders appropriately (Indicator 3)Stakeholders are individuals or groups with aninterest in the project• Brunel was charismatic, charming and persuasive• During the construction of the GWR Brunel faced concerted opposition from angry / disgruntled stakeholders• Brunel spent 11 days giving evidence to the Parliamentary Committee set up to determine whether work should proceed• He demonstrated remarkable patience, fortitude and determination
  34. 34. A sample of some of the opposition• The Duke of Wellington: “It will encourage the working class to move about”• The Head Master of Eaton College objected on the grounds that his pupils would be tempted to visit the brothels of London• Dr Dionysuis Lardner: publically opposed Box Tunnel, which was involves a 1:100 gradient arguing that trains could reach such a speed that air would be sucked out of the passengers’ lungs and they would all die.
  35. 35. BC09 Professionalism & Ethics1. Commitment to continuing professional development2 – 4. Integrity - adopts a morally, legally and sociallyappropriate manner of behaviour when working withthe project team and other stakeholders5. Encourages a culture of openness
  36. 36. Finally:A quick look at TC07 Business CaseProvides thejustification forundertaking theproject. Evaluatesbenefit, cost and riskand provides arationale for thepreferred solution
  37. 37. Business Case Viability• Many of Brunel’s projects took much longer than originally planned and ran into severe financial difficulties; e.g. Thames Tunnel, SS Great Eastern, Atmospheric Railway. Given the engineering and technical complexities this is understandable.• Brunel prided himself on building ‘the best’, not the cheapest and as a consequence many projects incurred considerably higher costs. The original budget for the GWR was £2m but the eventual costs were £6m• While we can marvel at the engineering feats achieved, projects such as the Thames Tunnel & Great Eastern did not possess a viable business case and could never have provided a viable return for the investors.
  38. 38. To conclude:“The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”“You cant leave a footprint that lasts if youre always walking on tiptoe.”
  39. 39. That’s all