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An example of qualitative management in fiber optic deployment projects in Germany


An example of qualitative management in fiber optic deployment projects in Germany

May 22, 2023


I have recently interviewed a project manager with is currently deploying fiber optic networks in Germany. For confidentiality reasons I am going to call him Hans (he has agreed to publish this article but he has asked me not to reveal neither his name nor the company’s); I will only say that he works in a engineering and construction multinational organization.


The first thing that comes to mind when learning about his vision and his experience in this sector is that this text could well begin in the purest style of the fabulous Asterix comic books (the title could be, for example, Hans in Germania):

The year is 2023. Germany is “invaded” by teams in a rush turning the streets and the tranquility of many cities and villages upside down in order to deploy fiber optic networks as quickly as possible... All? No! A project manager tries to remain “isolated” from the noise generated by the Gigabit strategy and the SDGs Agenda with the intention that the development of the network (at least that of his projects) is efficient…

His integrating approach and decision criteria show a simple example of qualitative management in the day-to-day execution of this type of projects that can be extrapolated and applied to any other activity and industry.



GERMANY, AT THE SPEED OF OPTICAL FIBER


Hans tells me that since the second world war Germany has had (with certain issues) a general policy of exhausting the lifecycle of their infrastructures. However regarding the telecommunication network it has recently made a hard turn because it seems that, "compared" with other countries, it has become obsolete.


FTTH/B coverage rate in Europe. Fiber optic deplotyment

In order to accelerate its digitalization and the modernization of the network, the German government approved in July 2022 the Gigabit Strategy 2030. A plan for which it has turn on the faucet of resources (50.000.000.000 euros, simplification of procedures, regulations, deadlines and licenses…) to “guarantee” widespread coverage of fiber-optic networks (FTTH/B) (what in logistics is called the last mile) and the latest mobile communications standard in urban and rural areas by 2030.


In this context several consolidated companies, investment funds and new business born with the announcement of such a macro goal are racing to get a piece of this cake and for that reason, in Han’s opinion, speed and cost are the main criteria to “win” these projects.


Hurry, therefore, seems to be the main pillar of this “giga” strategy and for that reason, Hans mentions, the teams sometimes arrive like bulls in a china shop to the working areas and break into the daily lives not only of the neighbors but also of the City halls who might not even be ready to assume the deployment project and integrate it into their own community policies.



HANS AND THE ROOTS OF QUALITATIVE MANAGEMENT


And there, somewhere in Germany, in the middle of this haste to connect (technologically speaking) every person living there from now to 2030, Hans opens his way to a qualitative management of these projects. —It’s not always easy —he says, — there are resistances and pressures—. But as far as possible he prefers to generate a spiral of positive energy and to promote a «family» like attitude in every area where the work takes place.


When he speaks about a project it seems as if he were dancing with it. You can tell he present. He moves forward one step at a time. He listens and observes the movement of all the people who, directly or indirectly, are involved and assesses how every decision and each action might be impacting the area.


Precisely in a sector like this (engineering and infrastructures) that has traditionally been “masculine” I would say that Hans moves away from a purely “masculine” type of management and takes a step back from the «linearity» of the project (to mainly focus on the “plan”: deadlines, budget, quantifiable goals, etc…) and embraces and integrates his feminine energy (he shows empathy, builds healthy relationships, feels the emotions that emerge throughout the project, leaves room for his intuition…).


He has left behind the "old" way of managing from the office, where, according to his experience, it seemed they spent most of the time writing mails to so many recipients (as if they needed to be "protecting" themselves from something) and that in fact it kept him away from the "reality" of the works. From his point of view, working well and having everything properly registered is not incompatible with being present. That is why he listens to everyone (neighbors, local government technicians, environment experts, the different teams involved, etc.) and that is how he receives what he calls the "invisible help" that is not "foreseen" in any written project and that "magically" appears when they need it.

Qualitative management  - fibre deployment , infrastructure, projects

He explains, for example, how in a project in a small town it was difficult for them to find a warehouse to store the materials. It was the neighbors who helped them find it and when they were about to sign the lease agreement (they had already given their word and negotiated all the terms) his intuition “told him” that something was wrong. He went for a walk around the area with part of the team and they realized how close it was to the main school of the town. He thought that the hustle and bustle of the works (trucks loading and unloading, work teams, the schedules, etc…) was not the most appropriate thing neither for the children and their parents nor for them. So even though there was apparently a rush to begin the deployment he chose not to sign the lease and WAIT (a cursed word in such a “busy” world…). Even the people who found the warehouse had not taken this into consideration so not only did they thank them but found a better option very quickly.


With this work atmosphere he builds TRUST and CONFIDENCE so people can approach and talk not only to him but to any member of the team. One day, he tells me, Mrs. Zimmermann (a neighbor of a street they were literally “dismantling”) went to talk to him. She was upset because according to her someone from the team had ruined part of her garden’s hedge. He spent several days talking to her, understanding what had happened so they could find a solution… Most of the times (Hans says), it is not so much the “external” damage (although it is sometimes inevitable and they do their best to repair or compensate for it) but the fact that the neighbors know they are being heard and that they are also part of the project.


Uniting the MASCULINE and FEMININE qualities, Hans starts finding HARMONY in his management style (and inside his heart). He balances the energy of haste and accelerated action with a present calmness. He arrives on time, without having to run. He doesn’t do it because of any company strategy (on the contrary, he says that it is in his own company where he usually finds the hardest resistances to this management approach). It is the way he understand life and the projects. This is how he feels FREE and FLEXIBLE to move and to decide, and what allows him to ADAPT to the unfoldment of a type of projects where there are always many kind of unforeseen events like changes of deadlines, delays in material deliveries, permits, etc… Paradoxically by detaching himself from the planned "goals" he achieves better results.


Not only that, he knows that by building these type of relationships he opens the way to the telecom operators, because they will be their future clients. So even though it is not "valued"or acknowledged, he (regardless of what they will do afterwards) includes them in his gaze (and in his decision criteria) because he sees himself as an important link of a much bigger chain.


That is how Hans puts peaceful and inclusive energy into practice. He knows that if he allows himself to be “infected” by the rush then everything and everyone becomes tense. He has already experienced in the past that when actions are born out of fear (of not finishing on time, of not having more projects afterwards, of not answering quickly to emails…) or of ambition (to win more projects than others, to become the leader in the market, to be the fastest…) many more mistakes are made and the cost (not only financially) is much higher than what was expected in the initial “plan” and therefore it ends up being completely inefficient.


Sometimes he even recommends (without fear) calling off an ongoing project if he feels there is some part of the project is not well rooted and so he prefers to stop or to spend more time rethinking it.


THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF THE 2030 AGENDA


This conversation has made me feel that the "hurry" Hans talks about is the same that emanates from the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. With its eyes "fixed" in the year 2030 (as if this were the year zero of the "new" world) the UN keeps in fact a good part of the world outside the present and in the rush to begin (or to end) every issue by that moment.


From my point of view, the content that shapes the SDGs is like a vast forest that reveals itself wide and abundant when you reach the top of a mountain. Viewed from the distance and from the height (that is at the title level) it is attractive. But as you descend and you penetrate deep into its words, the journey becomes complicated; like Indiana Jones, it is necessary to understand darkness and the dangers of the jungle in order to open clear routes.

An example of qualitative management in fiber optic deployment projects in Germany. The infrastructure of the 2030 agenda

Let's take for example Goal number 9 (the one that has most likely inspired the development of the Gigabit Strategy we were talking about before):


Industries, Innovation and Infrastructure. The goal is to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. …/… In the face of a rapidly changing global economic landscape and increasing inequalities... …./… The price of inaction is steep. Ending poverty would be more difficult, given the industry's role as a core driver of the global development agenda to eradicate poverty and advance sustainable development.../...

We could dedicate several hours to free the message behind all the words and expressions that could enlighten our path as humanity. But regarding this reflection I focus on the sentence – the price of inaction is steep–. Learning from Hans experience (and also from past crisis in different countries about infrastructure investments...) we can also ask ourselves: What is the price of rushing into action with undue haste? What is the price of an action rooted in comparing yourself with others? What is the price of an action born out of the fear of "being left behind" or of the desire to move up in a ranking...?


The word INFRASTRUCTURE talks about the structure, the basis that hold (sustain) another... the master lines that allow the proper functioning of a city, a company, a project...any living organism. In this case what is the infrastructure that holds the UN 2030 Agenda, and therefore, what are the roots, the pillars of the projects, plans and actions that are born our of it?


Deep down inside the 2030 Agenda undoubtedly points towards equality, brotherhood, generosity... its most buried seed wants to guide our way to give birth to unity consciousness and to reach the "natural" state of being (abundance, unconditional love, harmony, higher creativity, wisdom...) but its words still vibrate in separation, lack, emergency...


Hurry leads to excessive action, which is not only as useless as inaction (block the movement of energy is as bad as using it without mesure...) but it is also exhausting. Not all countries need the same and not all people need the same either. We each have our own rhythms, learning experiences and needs; what we usually lack is SELF ASSURANCE and CONFIDENCE to follow your own path without having to run, compare or compete with anyone.


There is much written (and spoken) wisdom about hurry. But if Hans management style teaches me something is that technology or infrastructures are not per se the «saviors» of the world. The world does not change one specific year (or because of the infrastructure we build outside), it changes day by day as we, individually and collectively, change our internal "infrastructures" , the roots of our daily thoughts and actions.


Sustainable development manifests itself at the rate at which we open our hearts and align our actions with the energy of love. It is in the NOW (being present) where resilience is developed, the ability to dance with life and to learn to see with clarity the right action at every moment; and where one chooses to listen (or not) to honestly and without hurry listen to Mrs. Zimmermann instead of thinking only about one self and your own personal (or company) project.


Recommended reading: Poem ENJOY THE DANCE (only in English). Go to POEMS.


Note: cover photo has been chosen to illustrate this article. Any similarity with the real Mrs. Zimmermann is purely coincidental. Photo source: Canva.


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