Svobodny, located in the Far East of Siberia in the region of Amur Oblast on the border of China, is where one of the largest natural gas treatment projects in the world is being developed and implemented. A wild region where the average tem- perature in a twelve month period is -1.1 degrees celcius. In July, the hottest month of the year, the temperature can rise above 30 degrees on certain days, while in January it can drop to 50 below zero during the long Siberian nights. Temperature changes that affect activities, relationships and mood, because operating in such a place is not easy. Thirteen kilometers north of Svobodny is Amursky, where the Amur Gas Processing Plant will be built with an estimated output of 42 billion cubic meters of natural gas/year that will be fed into the Power of Siberia pipeline that will supply gas to China. The contract is the largest ever awarded to the Maire Tecnimont Group, and will consolidate its historic presence in Russia.
The place we find ourselves in is a city within the city. More than 900 specialists from different disciplines are participating in the project, working in 4 major operational centers spread over 8 time zones, from Milan to Mumbai, from Moscow to Ningbo, in China as well as in 12 Russian design institutes. These are the numbers that highlight the level of challenge faced by the management of Maire Tecnimont, committed to keeping a construction site that measures 870 hectares going. To build the plant, a population of about eighteen thousand people is housed in the field, the size of a mini city, with extreme problems in terms of logistics, supply and comfort. The area is sur- rounded by the Siberian tundra for thousands of kilometers, Moscow being eight hours by plane and six time zones away.
The challenge in the challenge is to make the right decisions, whi- le keeping the size and complexity of the project in consideration. And above all, the type of end customer Gazprom Pererabotka Blagoveshchensk and JSC NIPIgaspererabotka as general contractor for the development of the whole project. In cases like this, it is essential to have a thorough knowledge of the culture, the habits and the mentality of our partners, because only by under- standing our differences and reciprocal codes of con- duct we can establish solid relationships that are open to dialogue.
Our Russian partners are very attentive to procedure: they are used to operating in a linear way with precise rules to be respected. Precisely for this reason, our preparation - as Maire Tecnimont employees and sub- contractors - must be equally rigorous. Technical and certified skills must be combined with soft skills, all necessary to effectively adapt to sudden change and proactively seek new solutions. All the pieces of such a complex and varied team - which includes Russians, Turkmens, Uzbeks, Azerbaijanis, Chinese, Croats, Ser- bs, and Turks - must work together with the coordi- nation and precision of an atomic clock, without ever underestimating the smallest detail or deviation to the plan. Arriving at the final goal is important, but so is the “how” you get there and “when”.
Another keyword is “vision”, which does not just mean “conveying the future goal to your team”. In these contexts, decisions must be taken with the attitude of a chess player, who anticipates the next moves and traces them backwards. With the people of the team, I often speak about vision beyond the curvature of the earth, the careful forecasting of events based on wisdom and experience, intuition and risk management skills. The context and the partners - in the contractual phase and during the project - must be respected with their diversity taken into consideration: a flexible approach that dissolves mistrust and focuses on the solution, not the problem. This is a method we also adopt internally: it is useless and unproductive to shift the responsibility of critical events onto others. Let us rather ask ourselves what would be the best way to prevent this from happening again. How can I help my colleagues, bosses, collaborators and stakeholders, all those in my general sphere of influence, to make the process more fluid? How can we quickly adapt to the new situation without remaining passive? Communication and relationship skills, in this regard, make all the difference.
The project needs people who are able to control its various phases and work as intermediaries between the different positions and cultures, making the process constructive and adaptable: they are those who oil the gears with their structured competence and a wise use of emotional intelligence. The Amursky project team is composed of people able to
put their accountability and sense of responsibility to use in the organizational process. When the mo- del evolves using horizontal logic void of impulsive choices and moves according to the ultimate plan, every decision favors the functioning of the system and the process flows smoothly. On a construction site of 18,000 people, the results are visible when we managers can encourage each individual collaborator, allowing him to demonstrate his professional skill and talent. The procedures help us find our focus, and then each of us must move dynamically and proacti- vely with a 360-degree view.
A final note to show the importance of keeping the team spirit alive and amalgamating the different ethnic groups in a very complex intercultural scenario. We have introduced the role of cultural and social media- tor, a local with ethnocultural experience and studies. The mediator has the task of fostering awareness and motivation in the entire population of project workers, communicating the progress of the construction (with photo and video reports made from drones, organizing social and cultural activities, music and ethnic cuisine festivals, concerts, language courses held by workers themselves, sports activities and competitions, mana- ging the interactions with local communities). These are all examples of the project’s added value.
Patience, listening, punctuality, respect, clarity of objectives and timeliness are all skills that an Adaptive Manager should have. If he lacks them, stop him and help him acquire them first, before he joins the project. It will be a benefit for him and for the entire company.
Tecnimont Integrated Projects Vice President
The vision of a startup
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