Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Looking through my window


It helps at times to look out of the window without trying to focus on any particular object but stare at a distance. It clears my thought process and opens up the mind to the world of imagination and ideas. One particular morning with a freshly prepared coffee in my mug, I walked up and stood in front of the window. It was in the 10th floor in one of the mid-rise buildings of downtown Dubai. We had a wonderful view of the creek, golf club and the city skyline with intermittent take off and landing of aeroplanes from this office. That morning it was a building construction site across the street that caught my attention. It was buzzing with activities. At this point one would be tempted to wonder what is new in this, probably 80 out of 100 windows in Dubai has got a similar view, a construction site with whole lot of activities. After all this is a city which has employed almost 60% of worlds total number of tower cranes. It has built in ten years what took better part of a millennium for other big cities to achieve. Usually I look at this construction site all the time but this morning it was different. As I was sipping through my morning coffee I was observing how people are working to get this tower up. From the 10th floor where I was standing it was not possible to make out any of the faces but I could see their hats; most of them were yellow with some blue and a few red and white ones. As I was watching them the scene in front of me started to get transformed to a colony of ants busy pushing stuff around in an anthill. All members of this community seemed to me are color coded and each color of hat belong to a sub group performing under the supervision of his team leader. Everything goes on with precision and everyone doing exactly what they are supposed to do. The tower crane loads and unloads materials as required and the movement of the 3 tower cranes at work are so well synchronized that it reminds you of the movement of the 3 arms of the watch.
It is important to realize that all this does not happen by chance but it is the culmination of intensive and meticulous planning. It is a plan which is alive and changing till the completion of the project. Being in the profession that I am, these activities are part of the daily drill and usually I am one of the many down there dancing and running around. But it is not the same as to have a view from the top. The realization started to grow in me the power of organization and the importance of a system and order.This is the skill of management to ensure that all the components fall perfectly in the right places in right order to put together this jigsaw puzzle. When something does not go the desired way then one have a backup plan to get them back on track. A good manager is someone who is able to have this view from the top well in advance, much before the start of any activity at the construction site.
Sometimes it is difficult to understand the necessity of being managed by an efficient manager and it is his skills and experience that makes or breaks a project. We all tend to think that we can manage it ourselves and we can do it better so why do we need a professional project manager. Yes, you may be right in assuming that everyone can perform this particular task but the question one need to answer is that will any one be able to do this as efficiently within the same budget and same time and still produce the same standards and quality.

Managing the workforce at the construction site is another mammoth task by it self. A small mistake could cost very dearly and that is why all major check points are identified well in advance. At those check points multiple level of checks are conducted to ensure that noting escapes as an oversight. To identify those points and to get all responsible to perform this procedure amidst the deadlines and time crunch is a true test of his managerial skills. When it comes to executing a milestone task its like 1000 dancers performing in a particular rhythm. They work as a team, a single entity and one cannot differentiate one individual from another but you do not notice an individual when he goes off beat. The idea is not to remove a out of beat dancer. The manager relocates him to the position where he fits and that is how he manages his resources. The similarity could have been very easily drawn with that of marching column of soldiers but this is architecture and as we say architecture is frozen music.
Since that morning lot of water has crossed through the Dubai Creek and economic downturn that started in a foreign land thousands of miles always has reached the shores in UAE. Our project team have moved to Ajman, closer to the project site. We do not get the opportunity to view from that window now. A few weeks back I had the chance to pass by and was very happy to see that the building is still on course and is standing tall; smiling and ridiculing all the antagonists of Dubai .... :)

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