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When the boom comes - A What-if Scenario Analysis

17 May 2019 at 08:46hrs | Views
I would like to carry out a What-if Scenario Analysis (WISA) based on the prediction of a positive change in the outcome of the Zimbabwean economic performance. In Project Management we use WISA to probe and compare various plan and schedule alternatives based on changing assumptions. Whilst a comprehensive WISA will look at various angles, mine will be biased towards the positive only as there will not be enough space for analyzing all likelihoods. WISA enables the project manager (PM) to put in place a contingent plan to exploit or moderate the probable eventualities. The WISA is based on my strong belief that as Zimbabwe approaches 40, it is on the brink of unsurpassed economic development. I would like to categorically state from the start that I am not a seer. I am just a thought leader and an untiring optimist. Currently the Zimbabwean economy is in siege-induced drawback. But when the siege is over it will trigger immense economic boom, which will be akin to a tsunami-like storm.

The siege termed economic sanctions started way back in the late 90s although officially recorded as 2001 for ZIDERA (USA's Zimbabwe Democratic and Economic Recovery Act of 2001), and the European Union sanctions in 2002. Pardon me for using the word 'tsunami' as it has negative connotations. I assure you that in this WISA I am symbolically and positively using 'tsunami' to ignite your imagination as I depict the seismic proportion and accelerated pace of the development storm I am envisaging when the Zimbabwean economy is released and catapulted from the siege. I envisage that the growth will be consistently and significantly more than the 5+% GDP growth experienced during the post independence early 80s and the 10+% during the 2009 to 2012 era. The question is what-if this positive outturn happens as I have predicted, are we geared to reign in this unprecedented growth?

Now wisdom dictates that when a tsunami is about to storm the shoreline, you are advised to be on high ground to survive. Furthermore, any structure that is not on a firm foundation will be swept away. Zimbabwean businesses need to heed the warning and be on high ground and on a firm foundation as the tsunami comes. High ground and firm foundation are explained in the following five exploits i.e., 1) moral and ethical high ground, 2) exceptional entrepreneurial acumen, 3) robust business systems, 4) organisational agility, and 5) an extensive skills bank. These five exploits will be explained later.

I repeat I am not a seer, but I see a tsunami storm coming. I will illustrate. A tsunami is a 'storm' phenomenon triggered by a seismic dislocation in the oceans. If you are standing by the ocean's shoreline when the seismic dislocation happens, the first thing you notice is that there is massive recession of the water body. This is termed a tsunami drawback as the shoreline is drawn back quite extensively. But wait for another minute or so. That water body will come back and hit the land with colossal waves causing a great storm indeed. In fact if you are wise when you see the massive drawback of water you take heed and move fast to higher and firmer ground. When the storm is over, anything on low ground that is not anchored on firm foundation is swept away. Whilst this has spiritual connotations, I will mainly apply this phenomenon in the economic arena.

The economic siege starved Zimbabwe of about USD 5 billion in infrastructure for the past 20+ years. In other words, Zimbabwe is about USD 50 to 100 billion in infrastructure deficit. This is a Rough Order of Magnitude estimate (ROM which is +/- 50%) by the way. Economic analysis is not my forte. The siege will break at some point. That will trigger a 'tsunami' of projects. The siege-induced drawback has caused a backlog in development. Add to that new demand and you have an unprecedented potential. Envisage the infrastructural mega- projects in the roads construction, massive dams construction, giga-watt power plants, massive built-environment structures, information and communication technology (ICT) related entrepreneurial, highly disruptive digital innovations, and value addition and beneficiation across the key sectors of production. Imagine the Chi-train from Harare to Chitungwiza past the 'to be extended' RGM Airport, or the super highways/bypasses built around large cities like Harare and Bulawayo to decongest the CBDs. Mark my words, the current international airport will be too small for the traffic that will be coming to Zimbabwe. So imagine that whole backlog of projects in Zimbabwe, plus the new demand, all rushing towards us. That is the 'tsunami.'

Let us go back to the 5 exploits. Exploit 1) moral and ethical high ground will be of the essence, as investors will only want to put their money in safe and steadfast hands. The number of mega-construction projects will warrant that there are high levels of governance transparency in public sector projects, from the adjudication to the execution and closure of the projects. Rent-seeking will kill the project funding as investors will be shy. Rent-seeking compromises quality and may result in developmental inertia and in some cases collapsing service infrastructure. Envisage a collapsing bridge, or shopping mall, or health service because someone accepted a bribe. Take heed. One person's, or group of persons' corrupt practices can affect the whole country if not reigned in. Kudos to the Government of Zimbabwe for overhauling the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC).

Exploits 2) entrepreneurial acumen, 3) robust business systems and 4) organizational agility are all necessary as there will be many investors seeking strong and agile local partnerships. We are in a very disruptive global environment termed VUCA (Vulnerable, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous). Archaic equipment and snail-paced bureaucratic business processes will no longer hold in this VUCA environment. For instance, manufacturing equipment and methods used by Zimbabwean firms cannot be sustained in a competitive and VUCA environment. One needs to VUKA (Ndebele for wake up) in a VUCA environment. Prolonged procurement processes will deem the product or service platform obsolete before it is even launched. Financial and IT entities lulled by the lack of economic vibrancy will have a shock when disruptive and agile movers enter the market. The ability and agility required to go to market first before competition, becomes of the essence. Permit me to me ask a few probing WISA questions. What-if the positive prediction happens, is our ICT industry ready for Internet of Things (IoT) or Internet of Everything (IoE)? Are we geared for the upsurge in bandwidth hungry services? Is our service industry implementing digital transformation strategies? Are our construction industry gurus anticipating and building the capacity to contain the explosion in built-environment and infrastructure sector demand?

Exploit 5) pertains to building an extensive skills bank through skills upgrading. Skills levels will be challenged as the professions are being transformed in a disruptive manner also. Among other areas of domain expertise required to support the rapid economic development, I believe that Project Management is a pivotal business competency. Project management will be the fulcrum required to bolster most business skills and careers. If Zimbabwe is going to transform its economy through the seismic development in all sectors then the one profession that will be in great demand will be the ability to translate organizational strategy into the desired outcomes. Project management translates strategy into plans and deliverables, such as the required products and services.

The current practice in most businesses of turning subject matter experts (SMEs) into project managers (PMs) without proper training may have sustained businesses thus far, but going forward it will be a perilous practice. I use strong words in order to drive the point home. An SME who is thrust into the role of a PM without preparatory training is termed an 'accidental' PM. The term depicts a person who is well qualified in his/her domain, for example a very competent information technology (IT) professional, who is 'accidentally' given the task of leading a project to integrate a customer facing service with the back-office service platforms and support processes. The IT professional is very much au fait with data analytics and coding, but numb and dumb on Project Management practices such as scope, schedule and cost management. Add to that the dearth of knowledge, risk management, stakeholder engagement, change management leadership, etc. The IT professional who is thrust into managing the project will focus on his/her area of expertise at the expense of the other domains. Hence the outcome is a technically sound flop of a project, an accident.

"But we have always used the SMEs successfully," you will clamour. Wrong, go back again and do an audit of the project, to ascertain whether it was done according to the project's performance measurement baseline (PMB), i.e. the scope, schedule, and cost baselines for starters. You will be confronted with scope overruns, cost overruns and schedule overruns. In Zimbabwe public and private industries, very few projects if properly audited, would be deemed to have been delivered according to original scope, schedule and budget. Furthermore most organisations rely strongly on the project management expertise of the contracted company and not their own as the client. As a result the companies have little or no governance oversight on their projects. In sectors such as the built environment and mega-infrastructure construction, there has been a false sense of 'success' when new buildings, new dams, and new roads are commissioned with a lot of pomp and ceremony. My question is, was there a project closeout exposing the variances to the PMB?

I reckon I have used a cattle prod here. That is the intention. I am advocating for the training (not firing) of the 'accidental' PMs to internationally recognized Project Management credentials. The VUCA world will demand these credentials. Financiers world-wide are insisting on releasing funds to projects with competent and globally accredited PMs. Governments in the developed and developing world are setting up Project Management Offices (PMOs) and governance structures and training their resources in order to enhance project success, reduce implementation costs, reduce time-to-market, lead change, and mitigate risks, especially those associated with rent-seeking.

As a Board member, CEO, company executive, entrepreneur, domain professional, or Public Sector servant, ask yourself these probing WISA questions, "What-if the Zimbabwean economy goes into the predicted unprecedented growth, is my organization on high ground? Are mine and my resources skills on a firm foundation? Do we employ certified PMs? Are our current projects maintained within the PMB? Do we even understand Project Management?" If the answer to any of these questions is "no" then do something about it and train. The tsunami is coming.

Engineer Tororiro Isaac Chaza is a Project Management Professional (PMPĀ®) available at tororiro.chaza@torchpmo.com .

Source - Engineer Tororiro Isaac Chaza PMP
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