Chilean Mining Rescue Miracle—A Program Success

“Viva Chile!” In the Chilean Mining Rescue, we watched with awe, and huge appreciation for the rescuers when the first miners emerged from their rescue capsule. We held off posting or celebrating success until all the miners—and their rescuers—were safely above ground. Now, we’ll study the backstories about the after-effects of 69 days underground. And, we can reflect on the magnificent Project Management performances of each participant in this most-watched rescue.

Just look at the many heroes, talented team members, inspiring leaders and willing families and pride-full citizens. They were all focused on one objective: Get our miners out safely. And it appears our entire World is the stakeholder group. Reports continue to surface that this is one of the most-watched web-broadcasted events in history. This showed leaders and team members working in synch to successfully manage one of the most-important projects in recent history. Ironically, IPMA has been working to certify competent Project Managers and Senior Project Managers in Chile. Here is a great opportunity to identify Chile’s own clearly competent and performing end-to-end project managers. Most of the rescue team leaders could probably qualify for Senior Project Manager certification, demonstrating mastery in complex projects.

Was The Chilean Mining Rescue A Project?

But was this a project? Two answers: Yes, of course it was, because the team changed the path of fate, inertia, and the status quo. That feat is what the practice of competent project management brings to society. And no, not just a project, it was an entire complex program, consisting of many projects. Some of the projects were relatively simple, such as providing sufficient electrical power at this remote site. And some very complex. All the projects worked together to achieve the program goal: Get our miners out safely.

Repeatedly, the media has mentioned the flawless planning, the contingency actions, and the attention to crucial details. We have noted the exquisite performance of the plan, and the individual heroics that accentuate success. The tributes note the combination of technical aspects of project and program management with the contextual and behavioral aspects. This program of related projects will serve case studies for years after our starring miners have recovered from their ordeal. And what shall be the highlights of those case studies?

Denver Driller

The rescue effort has attracted huge attention and prayers for months now. The crescendo of interest spiked upward when Denver Driller Jeff Hart broke through with his drill into the target area of the mine. Hart points out that he was just one of the team of four Colorado drillers, including Matt Staffel, Doug Reeves and Jorge Herrera. They had been working the drill for 33 days, to set the stage for the rescue. Here we see some of the PM Performance that all organizations seek, including the “soft skills” that encourage sharing credit. This sharing of credit is something that all projects can benefit from.

Presidential Leadership

And speaking of soft skills, we see the leadership of Chile President Sebastian Pinera. He not only stood vigil during the rescues, but hugged and congratulated rescued miners. He voiced “Welcome to Life!” to the 15th miner, Victor Segvia, as he emerged from the 2000+ foot mineshaft. President Pinera offers a leadership example for Presidents of all nations, and for all top Executives of project-oriented organizations. Scanning through the Behavioral Competence (interpersonal skills) Elements of the IPMA Individual Competence Baseline, President Pinera has demonstrated them all.

Inspiring Rescuers

Getting the miners out was one thing. Going down into the mine to help those needing assistance requires a level of faith, dedication and selflessness that is rare today. Those heroes include Mining Rescue Specialist Manuel Gonzalez, Roberto Rios, 34, a diver and medic; and Patricio Roblero, 36, a diver. Others on standby to also descend, if needed, were; Pedro Riveros, 54, a firefighter, and Cristian Bugueno, 37, a Navy emergency expert. Expected service? Perhaps. Heroic? Absolutely!

Last One Home

Just as the Captain may be last to leave the ship, the shift leader who was on duty at the time of the collapse was Luis Urzua, 54. He was the last miner to ride the Phoenix rescue capsule to the surface. He has been the chief go-between, speaking for his fellow miners to the would-be rescuers above. Reports are that there were arguments within the mining team about who should be last to be rescued. After all, the risk increased with each successful recovery round-trip of the Phoenix rescue capsule.

Chilean Mining Rescue: Measuring Success

Technical measures of success used by some pm practitioners pale in comparison to the outcomes expected: Get our miners out safely. This program shows the vision, goal focus and measured outcomes expected by the miners, their families, their rescuers, their proud nation, and our World. The Chilean Mining Rescue program illustrates project and program management at its best.

Lessons Learned

The people, companies and project teams that were involved in the Chilean Mining Rescue will carefully study their Lessons Learned. Some will uncover areas where incidents can be prevented in the future. Others will identify the key actions, competences and performances of individuals that made the difference. Examples include the talents of the drill operators; the willingness of the rescue workers; the pride and faith of the families; and the leadership of President Pinera.

Was it a miracle, or just competent project and program management? It does not matter: The miners, OUR minors, have been saved, due to the competent and performing change agents of Chile, and its friends.

And here is another lesson: The World has witnessed the power of competent and performing project and program managers and their incredibly effective project teams. This is essence of the mission of IPMA, and our unique (in the USA) distinction in our pursuit of PM Performance. Some have never seen it in your organizations. Now you know it is possible. And just look at what this does for the pride of the Nation of Chile! “Viva Chile!”

Your Comments?