About leadership and projects: from the Banhn2000 project to European Football Championships 2008

Daniel Rodellar 100x100

Author: Daniel Rodellar, PMP

At the end of August, we had a great event in Geneva with a well known Swiss top Manager: Benedikt Weibel.

He excellently described how he turned the Swiss railway (SBB-CFF-FFS) around and the lessons learnt on big projects like Rail 2000, the Euro2008 football project and the WESTBahn.

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He faced many disasters during his CEO years at the Swiss railways, including dead and injured people, large chemical incidents, and that put safety as a priority. KPI number of accidents per 100 employees dropped from 11.4 to 4.8 along his years as CEO. Do you know which day of the week are these accidents more frequent? Mondays! Attention is a key aspect to prevent accidents.

Benedikt created a Tour de Suisse to engage into a dialogue with the ten thousand employees. The result was the reduction of the power distance (the authority as CEO versus employees) and it was his way to better understand the "morale of the troops". His advice is to eliminate the filters as bad communications are always filtered by middle management.

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He talked about poor leadership (leadership by anxiety and fear, using the boss authority), also about management principles, and eleven points on lessons learnt. He illustrated all those lessons with concrete examples from the Rail 2000 flagship project (On December 12, 2004, a magic moment, a big bang with a new timetable during the first phase of Bahn2000), from Euro2008, and from WESTBahn.

We learnt how much anticipation is key, and undoubtedly it is as well valid for our own projects, for every risk they had though a mitigation. But sometimes, bad luck, the risk that materializes is not on the risk register. On June 22, 2005, a short circuit on a long-distance power transmission line in central Switzerland led to a chain reaction. The entire Swiss Federal Railways network was out of service during rush hour.

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We learnt how important is to define a last point of return, because you must be able to stop projects. And to install reserves in the business plans, that are always wrong, simply because it is about the future (that we do not know!) and there are too many parameters and complexity (sensitivities in these parameters can change the case completely).

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It was a great event, very well organized and we had the opportunity to appreciate lively thoughts during the networking session that followed.