Failure Friday: Melting Cars, Facebook Drama

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 By Jack Nevison

Skilled project managers can work wonders for a business. With the ability to think critically, listen closely and lead a team, these managers play a key role in any successful project.

Then, of course, there are the unskilled managers—and what becomes of their projects.

Projects can fail for many reasons. Sometimes, it's as simple as a lack of sufficient funds. Other times, poor plans result in equally incompetent execution. Every Friday, we will present some examples of project disasters—and what project managers need to do to make it right.

London's Burning

When you were a kid, did you ever use a magnifying glass to set a leaf on fire during the summer? Sunlight is surprisingly powerful when focused onto a specific point.

Now imagine a magnifying glass the size of a skyscraper.

That's what people are starting to think of the "Walkie Talkie" building at 20 Fenchurch in London's Financial District. According to Business Insider, the 37-story building, which is set to be finished next year, was built with a slightly curved shape that is capable of reflecting sunlight into a concentrated beam of light.

If that sounds like a problem, that's because it is. Already, the building has focused a beam of light powerful enough to melt the panels on a Jaguar XJ parked nearby.

"I'm flabbergasted," said Dr. Philip Oldfield, an expert in tall buildings at the University of Nottingham's Department of Architecture. "At street level it's unprecedented. The scary thing is that the light won't always be on that part of the street. The sun angle will change through the next weeks and months—and in the winter the localized hotspot will have moved substantially."

One hopes that pedestrians in the vicinity will remember to wear sunscreen.

Facebook's Work Environment: Worth Unfriending

We've all had jobs we hated. For many, these fell under the category of low-wage service jobs we took in high school so we wouldn't have to ask mom or dad for gas money.

On the other hand, some jobs are supposed to be a dream come true. Like working for Facebook, one of the world's most popular social networks, based in Menlo Park, California. Surely, the employees and interns there must adore their jobs.

Not according to Business Insider.

If a recent article is any guide, Facebook executives have done an excellent job of making their subordinates wish they were anywhere else.

For example, some employees spoke of being on-call for six weeks out of the year, 24/7. They mean that literally—one engineer talked about keeping a charged phone by his bedside at all hours in case a call came in the middle of the night.

Not that actually being in the office sounds much better. Other employees claim that the company has grown so fast that it has trouble assigning teams to deal with problems efficiently or with any sort of vision at all.

Though some reportedly did find themselves in the unenviable position of handling their superiors' laundry.

New Leaf is here to help. No, we can't fix the curvature of your buildings, and we probably can't make your boss a nicer person, but we can train future project managers to make better product risk assessments and more appropriate team assignments.

In addition, our QPM™ series of online games lets you hone your estimating skills while earning affordable and convenient PDUs for your PMP® recertification.

"PMI," PMP," and "PMBOK" are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.

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