This paper focuses on the differences in project management strategies that made the Channel Tunnel to be successful and the Millennium Dome project to be unsuccessful. First, it looks at the definition of “project management” and emphasizes the importance of the concept in regard to the activities that lead to the completion of a project. The paper further examines the factors that make a project successful and explains that a lack of certain factors can make a project to be unsuccessful. In this regard, the paper discusses in detail the progress of the two aforementioned projects. Within the discussion, it shall be disclosed that the Channel Tunnel project did not meet the set time limit and the total cost that was involved before completion was far beyond the planned budget, yet it was considered to be a success in the view of a project manager. This is because the project was completed as designed and it achieved its intended purpose. In addition, the paper points out that the Millennium Dome project is seemingly a great achievement since it did beat the set time limit as well as the budget limit. However, the project failed to meet its performance targets at the operations stage. Thus, under a project manager’s point of view, the project could not be considered to be successful. Finally, it shall be demonstrated that although it is important to meet the set time and budget limits for a project, these factors do not give a guarantee to the success of a project. Instead, the scope of the project which involves the expectations and the needs of the stakeholders of the project need to be managed within situations of ambiguity and uncertainty in order to be successful. In fact, as in the case of the Channel Tunnel project, it is possible for the project not to meet the first two aforementioned requirements but eventually be considered a success after completion. Lastly, this paper highlights some of the lessons learned from the two projects.
Table of contents
Project management can be defined as the application of techniques, knowledge, skills, and tools to a range of activities that constitute a project with a central aim of meeting or exceeding the expectations and requirements of the stakeholders. According to Walsh (2000, p. 135), in order to meet or exceed the requirements or expectations of stakeholders, a project manager has to keep a balance between the time, cost, quality, and scope of the project in question. In addition, it is important to take into account the competing demands among stakeholders who have different requirements and expectations. Finally, the project manager has to keep a balance between the identified stakeholders’ needs and expectations. In this sense, project management can be said to be “the process of combining systems, techniques, and people to complete a project within established goals of time, budget and quality” (Baker & Baker, as cited by Walsh, 2000, p.135).
According to Bourne (2007, p. 2), the success of a project can be classified into three categories namely management of uncertainty, delivery of value and maintenance of project relationships. Bourne refers to them as the “pillars of project success.” It is vital for individuals involved in project management to take into account the perception of the stakeholders to the value of a given project. This follows the alignment of management of the project as well as performance metrics to the perceived requirements by the stakeholders. Alternatively, this step may involve negotiations within the established relationships so as to align the perceived requirements with the feasible outcomes of the project. Bourne explains that all three elements need to be combined together for a project to attain success.
A balanced view of success; The pillars of project success
Figure 1- The three pillars of success. Source; adopted from Bourne (2007, p. 4)
Some projects fail to meet the intended result. Some die slowly while others implode or explode. According to Levy (1996, p. 96), one of the reasons that lead to failure is waning support by the executive. They may provide strong support at the beginning but cut down later. When the project fails, they point finger at the project manager. Secondly, a project may be termed as unsuccessful when it fails to deliver what the stakeholders really wanted. In such cases, the stakeholders are usually consulted at the beginning while this fades away slowly with time. In short, it is possible for a project to be on a budget, on time and deliver the expected scope but still be unsuccessful. This is well illustrated in this discussion using the Millennium Dome project in London which met the requirements of time, budget and scope but was considered a failure. On the other hand, a project can be over-timed, over-budgeted or miss the intend scope but be considered successful. The Channel Tunnel project that was created to provide a link between England and France through an underground tunnel is a good example of such a project.
In view of the above points, this paper aims at examining the meaning of project management and the impact of this concept on projects. Also, this paper points out some of the factors that lead to a successful project such as time, quality, budget and scope of a project. The paper goes a step further in pointing out that a project may meet the three named requirements but still be termed as unsuccessful as in the case of the millennium dome project. Using the Channel Tunnel as an example, this paper aims at illustrating how a project can be overtime, over-budgeted and missing in scope yet be considered to be a success. In summary, the prime objective of this paper is to examine the differences in the project management strategies that made the Channel Tunnel successful while the Millennium Dome project remained successful.
The Channel Tunnel is a rail tunnel that runs 50.5 kilometers under the sea and connects Folkestone in England with another city called Calais, located in northern France. According to Levy (1996, p. 262), though this tunnel is the second largest in the world after the Seikan Tunnel in Japan, it has the longest portion under the sea in the world at 39 kilometers. This channel is 75 meters deep at its lowest point.
Gourvish (2006, p. 2) points out that there were numerous factors that came about during the course of the Channel Tunnel project, all of which had significant adverse effects on its completion. As mentioned earlier, the Channel Tunnel project was completed, but it was overtime and over-budgeted. Anbari et al (not dated, p. 4) explains further that, limited knowledge in various project management processes and areas highly contributed to the increment in the budgeted costs as well as time scheduled for completion. The cost of completion of the project was calculated at £5 billion. During the inception of the project, failure to adequately plan resulted in a lack of a defined scope of the project, budgeting difficulties and problems with cost estimation which were experienced during the succeeding phases. Consequently, the eventual cost of the project added up to £11. In addition, the time limit that was set for the completion of the project which was initially three and a half years was not met. This project took seven years to complete. In spite of all the difficulties and challenges that were encountered during the course of the project, the channel was successfully completed in 1994. Despite not meeting the scheduled timelines, budget estimates and missing of scope, the final assessment showed that the quality of the completed project was impressive. During the implementations phase, the Channel Tunnel operated as it was designed (Anbari et al, not dated, p. 4). During the planning stage, to a total number of passengers that had been predicted was 15.9 million annually. The freight volume had been predicted at 7.2 tonnes annually. Though the first four years of operation hardly reached the target, the succeeding years since 1998 showed quite impressive performance, beyond the target, (The Channel Tunnel, 2006). The following statistics indicate the number of passengers transported and the freight volumes for each year until 2010:
|Year||Total No of passengers ( In millions)
|Freight volumes (In Tonnes)
Figure 2 – Statistics on the performance of the Channel Tunnel.
To be precise, the tunnel has performance even better than the set target. This explains why this project is regarded as a success though it did not meet the time and budget expectations.
The Millennium Dome is a building that was built in London to cerebrate the 2000 millennium. This building has the largest single roof in the world (Bourne, 2007, p. 3). It has twelve support towers, representing the twelve months of a year. It has a diameter of 365 metres which stands for the number of days in a year. This project was meant to represent a “triumph of confidence over cynicism” (Bourne, 2007, p. 3). The construction of the Dome project was considerably extended in size, funding and scope under Tony Blair’s leadership. According to Bourne (2007, p. 3), the budget that had been approved for this project was £600, which was attained. Additionally, this project was completed within the set time limit (before the first day of the year 2000). To that extent, the millennium project may be said to be a great achievement.
After the 2000 millennium celebrations and closure, it was difficult to find appropriate uses for the building. Afterwards, the building remained empty and the government’s efforts to find a purpose for the building or a buyer were futile (Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, 2005, p. 29). Thus in the view of a project manager, this project cannot be considered to be a success. Remarkably, the management failed to achieve their performance targets. The number of visitors targeted for the year 2000 was 12 million. But as Meek et al (2007, p. 246) explains, only 6.5 million people visited the Dome during that year. Although this figure hit a national record for a pay-to-visit attraction, the inability to achieve the set record of visitors resulted in reduction in sponsorship of the project from the private sector.
According to Parkes (2011, p. 23), the failure of the project can be attributed to the “perceptions of expectations not met, or promises not delivered, or the belief that the support resources (from sponsorship and lottery funding) could be applied elsewhere.” This was evident from the press remarks and the views of other stakeholders who constantly regarded the project as a “white elephant” mainly because they could not find appropriate use of the Dome. Consequently, by 1996, the private sector withdrew its support to the project citing the uncertainty involved in achieving the set objectives as per the plans. Afterwards, the project was marred with problems relating to the leadership of the project. In short, the performance targets for the Millennium Dome project were not realistic in the real sense. In addition, as the Millennium Dome Project, (2009) points out the original plan and forecasts set by the Dome project members were destabilized and eclipsed by the contingent problems and requirements of day-to-day operations.
In conclusion, project management can be seen as the application of skills, knowledge, techniques and tools to a set of activities that together lead to the success of a project. Usually, the central aim of project management is to meet or exceed the expectations and requirements of the stakeholder(s) of a particular project. But as it has been demonstrated using the Channel Tunnel project in this discussion, a project may not meet the requirements of time, and/or budget but be regarded as being a success from the point of view of a project manager.
On the other hand, the Millennium Dome project can be said to be a great achievement since it actually hit the set timeline and the cost incurred was within the set budget. However, this project failed to meet its performance targets at the operations stage. In this regard, the Millennium Project was seen as unsuccessful since 12 million visitors had been predicted but the turnout was only 6.5 million visitors. The failure in the Millennium Dome project can be seen to result from plans that were overoptimistic, signified by the need to raise funds. This over-optimism led to unrealistic expectations that eventually resulted into a lower number of visitors than expected and an adverse coverage by the press. It is also important to break such vicious cycles to avoid seeing such attractions as failure while indeed they may be successful. Therefore, successful project management can be attained after achieving a balance between the conflicting requirements in respect to cost, time and quality. As well, the scope of the project which involves the expectations and the needs of the stakeholders of a project need to be managed within situations of ambiguity and uncertainty.
Various lesions can be learnt from the above discussion. Perhaps to summarize the Channel Tunnel project, it is vital to give consideration to the thoughts of Karkland 1995 (as cited in Walesh, 2000, p. 135). He states that “We should seek to advise future generations contemplating the creation of very large infrastructural projects not to get carried away by the excitement of the design and construction process before they have clearly established the rationale, the relationships among the key players and the means by which the totality of the process is to be managed.”
Also, various lessons can be learnt from the Millennium Dome project as described by Swarbrooke (2002, p. 345). First, it is vital to recognize the power that the media has in making or breaking an attraction. The Millennium Dome received negative media coverage which certainly led to reduction of the number of people visiting the attraction. Secondly, it is important to make sure that effective marketing has taken place and impacted by raising the desires of potential visitors before the opening. Supporting such leisure projects as the Millennium Dome using funds collected from taxation may not receive much adoration from individuals as many think that such cash should be used for education, health and housing. As described in this discussion, the site of a project is crucial in creating desire for tourism among potential visitors. Generally, tourists like places which have been established long as tourist destinations as well as with a strong positive image. Lastly, the Millennium Dome project could not offer anymore entertainment after the 2000 millennium cerebrations. Usually, individuals prefer to visit attraction sites that are entertaining to those that are educative. Precisely, they opt for excitement and stimulation more than lectures.
Anbari, F. T., Giammalvo, P., Jaffe P., Letavec, C. & Merchant R, (not dated). Case studies in project management. Washington DC: George Washington University Press. Retrieved 14 July 2011, http://www.pmiteach.org/UploadedDocuments/Faculty_Resources/Chunnel_Project_FTA_Final.pdf
Bourne L. (2007). Avoiding then successful failure. Hongkong: Mosaic Project services Pty Ltd. Retrieved 14 July 2011 from http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/PDF_Papers/P046_Successful_Failure.pdf
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