Rio 2016, Success or Failure?


by Dr. Lou Vianna (Rio Resident)

Just a few days ago, a few billion people watched an amazing spectacle. The Rio 2016 Olympics opened with a simple, sophisticated, even sublime, show. “The Girl of Ipanema” was beautifully remastered and Brazilian history was remarkably told. Later, I attended fencing finals in the Olympic Park. Russia won gold and silver medals. Well … sword was always a trick weapon for us. Brazilians are good with guns! I explain: Our first medal comes from shooting. In addition, Internet tickets and apps worked very well. Transport was efficient (by our standards), no queues or delays. Food was so-so (international standards were used). Today, I took the brand-new electric Tram and wandered around Olympic Promenade, in the refurbished Rio downtown. Thousands of people did the same. Everywhere I saw people relaxed, smiling, amazed, looking for a date, or walking with kids. I could count many baby strollers. Police presence was somewhat discrete.

Strange ... During the last two years, every day on TV there were reports about complaints from International Olympic officers about the awful prospects of the Rio Olympics. "This will be the worst Olympics, ever!” they said. It is true that many deliverables were not delivered. Many premises were finished only in the week before, and in a hurry. Most likely there were cost overruns and little sleep for their project team members.

Let's be straightforward: If objectives were not met, the project was not successful, right? “Waterfallers” must inevitably agree. It is written in “the PMBOK”! Surely a better management would have spared many dollars and much pain. To support my nationals, I may say that we have used a kind of “agile” approach. All this in the middle of Brazilian turmoil: impeachment, zika, corruption, unemployment, etc. Focus turned to the most critical features that were possible to complete. By the end, everything (or so) finished well. This is not completely true, but it is a fine face-saving reply.

My point here, however, it is not to save Brazil's face. But it is to recognize—in the beginning of the Rio 2016 delivery—that added value is not just about finishing the project on budget and on time. Burning money is not defendable, but every project must at the very heart add value for its stakeholders, producing profits without jeopardizing our poor and ill-treated world. We live in a world of multiple and conflicting needs. Chaos is frequently closer than we would like. We need, notwithstanding, to learn to live with it, being happy, too. In a world where complexity is sharply growing, we need a fresh understanding of complexity and adding value in projects in order to achieve success. This applies to our lives, too.  I suggest indulging ourselves with the joy and tears of our boys and girls during Rio 2016 and get new insights about what defines project success. Rio has emerged from CHAOS to produce a very valuable event. 

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Subject Matter

Project Management Expertise

About the Author:


Lou Vianna

Dr. Lou Vianna is the South American Research Director for The Standish Group. Lou is a project management professional and educator. He has trained more than seven thousand project managers through his affiliation with Fundação Getulio Vargas and other educational outlets. His background includes work at the Naval Research Institute in Brazil and service in the Brazilian Navy. Lou received his masters in project management from George Washington University, his masters in engineering from McGill and Ph.D in complexity from Fluminense Federal University.

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