The 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics Highlight the Need for Project Turnaround Considerations – Part 2

As discussed in Part 1 of this series, numerous hurdles must be overcome in order to label the 2014 World Cup (and 2016 Olympics) in Brazil a success. Three final factors need to be considered in order to ensure a successful outcome: cost, resources and communication. All three become paramount as both events loom ever closer, increasing the pressure to deliver on the world stage.

  • Cost – The 2016 Rio games are costing a fortune. On a typical corporate project, actual costs that are +25% of the planned budget are cause for major concern. In 2008, the original estimates for the total cost of the Rio Olympic Games were around $11.9 billion. Today, projections show that the sporting event could easily run 50% over budget – or more. The last 17 summer and winter games exceeded original cost estimates by an average of 179%, according to a study by the Said Business School in Oxford, England. So, costs for the Olympic games in Brazil will almost certainly rise higher in the coming months. The Olympic costs are in addition to the $11.5 billion already spent on the World Cup, which includes spending on unnecessary expenses like a 39,000 seat stadium in Manaus (even though well-attended games in the city are lucky to attract 1,500 fans). Measured by cost alone, both events can be considered a failed project by any normal project management standard, regardless of the symbolism and success of the final occasions.
  • Resources/Relationships – When key resources leave a project and remaining team members are not working together productively, little work gets done and the risk of project failure is high. The Brazilian government and taxpayers are fronting much of the bill for the World Cup and Olympics, and project resources need to be effectively managed. However, the Brazil World Cup is on track to be the most expensive ever held, and it could be argued that project tasks have not been completed as efficiently as possible and have often occurred at the cost of other important stakeholders – such as Brazil’s poor. When thousands of resources need to be coordinated, the possibility always exists for costly government bureaucracy, misallocated funds, and short-sighted policy making – resulting in ineffective resource management. Full transparency in resource management is a must to help Brazil recover from issues related to the World Cup to ensure successful Olympic games.
  • Communication – The impact and perception of a project can be strongly influenced by communications regarding its status and likelihood for ultimate success. The current press on Brazil’s readiness, and the authorities’ concerns regarding construction completion and safety conditions, leave those expected to participate in the events with fair trepidation. Brazil will need to combat these in accelerated measure with examples of improved conditions and perhaps even an independent review citing sound infrastructure. When project status is unknown and critical work items cannot be completed due to lack of formal communication, high risk exists. A lack of communication in preparation for the Cup and the Olympics has been an issue in the past for Brazil, evidenced by mass demonstrations to protest the large amounts of money being spent on both events. Organizers should pay additional attention to overall project and public communication to ensure overall success.

Depending on one’s definition of success, the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics have the potential to be considered either a massive accomplishment or an undisputed failure once they take place. Being able to host a large event on a global scale with minimal operational hitches takes proper project governance, clearly defined scope, attention to cost and resource needs, and clear communication. It could be argued that a lack of attention to even one of these areas can put a major sporting event at increased risk of failure, and as the documented issues pile up, Brazil’s various authorities tasked with either event need to actively mitigate the risk of failure.

It is clear that a number of factors need to be considered on any project in order to prevent the need for a turnaround. However, if Brazil initiates the proper turnaround steps at this critical juncture, the likelihood of either the World Cup or the Olympics persisting in a permanent state of imminent project failure can still be greatly reduced, setting the stage for Brazil’s triumphant celebrations on the world stage in a few short days.

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