The Okeechobee SFWMD Command & Control Center project was a $6 million project that had to be run like six $1 million projects, according to project superintendent Don Barnes. The project involved automating a string of massive pump stations along the north rim of Lake Okeechobee, and the distance between pump stations is the source of the multiple projects analogy.
“Some days,” says Don, “I’d be on my way from one pump station to another when I’d get a call that contractors on site at a station back the other direction had something that needed my immediate attention. So I’d have to turn around and drive 40 minutes back the other way.”
So how does one take on such a challenge and handle it successfully? The Okeechobee project was performed safely, on time, on budget, and with a happy client as the result. Don describes his philosophy in a short video interview excerpt, the essence of which is described below.
Three Keys to Success
Don believes one of the keys to a successful project is developing relationships with the client. He likens a large project such as this one to being in battle, with the owner and other stakeholders being comrades in arms to help win the fight. “In battle,” he says, “people who are fighting together are close.” His goal is to help the owner fight, and win, this battle.
He describes the schedule as very simple. “You know what has to be done, you just make a list and start pounding away at it.” He continues, “It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle, you get the easy pieces first, and everything else starts falling into place. When I run a project, I get the knowns done first, and the hard stuff becomes easy.”
Don also believes in being committed to the project. For the Okeechobee project, Don rented a house and stayed locally for the duration. This allowed him to be on the sites daily and to respond quickly to any questions that arose or decisions that needed to be made.