The recent lake breach in Bangalore was very unfortunate and has some important lessons for project managers like us. More than 800 families were impacted when the embankment that was damaged allegedly by some earth moving activity that is reported to have been done without the necessary permissions. The intent was to let out some water that was stagnating and emanating a bad odor. Though such takes are supposed to be carried out only in the presence of hydro-geological and hydro-spatial engineers, no such procedure was followed. And as a result, several houses and cars were washed away. The breach was so serious that it took 300 truckloads of mud to stop the outflow! The cause of this incident could have been anything. There were a couple of earlier lake breaches that were attributed to excessive rain as well. So it doesn’t make sense to beat a dead horse.
However, as a project manager, what is your response to sudden events that potentially derail your project? It’s impossible to predict things like this. Could it have been classified as a known unknown when it comes to risk management? How many risks do we not anticipate when planning for a project? Do we do risk planning in all earnestness or do we do it to check off an activity box.
Which brings us to the next step. How do you do damage control? Many project managers instead of solving the issue at hand try to pin blame on someone. That’s not what the first response should be. The first response is to quickly fix the issue so that lives are saved and any further damage can be prevented. Is that your course of action?
Once the impact of such an event is fixed, what’s the next step you would take? Look at similar incidents that could happen. In this case, look at the other lakes in the city. What would happen if a breach happens to any one of them? Imagine the worst case scenario and look at ways to mitigate the risk before such an incident can happen.
Always keep a look out for warning signs. Establish standards. It is said that none of our big lakes have clearly identified Full Tank Level heights established. The storm water network remains to dump sewage water along with rain water causing poor water management as well. Ensuring that you are following guidelines and standards at all times can minimize such surprises. At the same time, keep an eye open for areas that do not have such a standard. And establish those standards.
Thanks and Best Wishes
Tanish Mathur, PMP, PMI-ACP
Editorial Content Credit : Nibu Thomas, PMP