In the movie 2012, intense solar storms force mankind to abandon Earth. Project management certainly played a key role in building the arks needed to evacuate mankind. Here in the real world, we actually do face a serious threat from solar storms, and project management is our best bet to overcome the devastating effects of the next big storm.
A very active region on the sun, AR2192, is currently Earth facing and throwing off x-class solar flares. So far, none of these have produced a coronal mass ejection (CME). Maybe tomorrow, but certainly someday, the Solar Influences Data Analysis Center (SIDC) at the Royal Observatory of Belgium will issue an alert that will call on us to be project management optimum.
Forty-two hours after the alert, the time it would take for the charged particles to reach Earth, our technological society will regress to 1859, the last time an event of this magnitude transpired. In 1859, a series of CME’s known as the Carrington Event fried the fledgling telegraph system. The 1859 Internet. Auroras were seen as far south as Cuba!
Forty-two hours after the SIDC alert, we will find out how good we are at project management. We will find that, at best, way over half of everything we do will either fail completely, take much longer than we anticipated, or cost more, taking away resources from other critical priorities. Based on forensics of past CME’s and the rate of CME’s observed by satellites for the last 30 years, a Carrington-level event has a 12% likelihood of occurring in any ten year period. With those odds, a Carrington-level event is 30% likely before the end of this century, and virtually assured by 2200.
I’m not crying wolf, we just missed a Carrington-level event by one week on July 23rd, 2012.
Forty-two hours notice. With all of the wonderful opportunities we as a species have in front of us, along with the great challenges that we face, project management is becoming the common enabler. Of any one thing that mankind can do to decrease the greatest amount of risk is to make projects predictable. I call it project management optimum. While we will be devastated by a Carrington-level CME event, we can recover faster, saving countless lives, if we are project management optimum. The only way for SpaceX to get to Mars, within any reasonable expectation of funding, is to be project management optimum. Of note, a CME direct hit is just the most clear and present danger. I would think that any engaged person could come up with several grave dangers and wondrous opportunities that project management optimum could address.
We will have seen our demise coming for forty-two long hours. The US General Services Agency (GSA) recently conducted a challenge for describing what project management would look like in 2039. What is needed is a bigger challenge, an actionable challenge. What is needed is an x-Prize like completion to consistently forecast cost, schedule, and risk; the pillars of project management, at the 95th percentile of accuracy or above. We have the data to do this today, we just do not have the algorithms. The research is out there, just not system engineered into a solution set. Google “$100 million investment,” and you will see nations, states and even cities and companies investing funds of this size. For that amount, GSA could set up the investments and prizes to get us to the 95th percentile.
A 30% chance in the next 86 years and only 42 hours’ notice. It’s time to make project management optimum a national priority.