High Performance Teams

High Performance Team

In 2000, the $500 million Fiber Optic Cable build for the San Francisco area had encountered major obstacles. The team was challenged with a massive build—a 560-mile fiber optic cable installation around the Bay area – through San Francisco, the Silicon Valley, San Jose, Oakland, Marin Country, across bridges and through sensitive environmental areas.


The project had the money, the vision and the resources, but the team needed leadership and direction.

The existing project management team was overwhelmed: The project was behind schedule; legal issues raised by counties and townships were looming; environmental concerns needed to be addressed; and the project was seriously over budget.

A new Project Director was brought in to take over and his preliminary analysis was grim: no master document listing the complete scope of the project existed; no comprehensive budget had been developed and approved; and an out-of-date project schedule lay ignored and gathering dust. The project was floundering – there was no strategic plan and the project management team was simply running from one emergency to the next.

To top it off, the team was demoralized and exhausted. The executive management and investors were all keenly interested in their flagship build in the Bay Area, and the team could do nothing but respond from one fire fight and set of criticisms to the next.


The new Director’s first step: To create a comprehensive scoping document. Where exactly was the fiber being installed? He wanted to know specific manhole numbers, locations and coordinates. Which cities or counties or environmental permits were affecting each leg of the build right across the entire 560 miles of the project? It took a month of painstaking research to pull together a scoping document that captured every relevant fact in exhaustive detail into a database. From that point on, the project started to flow smoothly.

The next step was to create a critical path schedule detailing when each leg of the build would be completed. For example, in Oakland, city regulations dictated that no construction could take place during the day – it all had to be done at night. Obviously that limitation affected how long it would take to install the cable. Another area contained a nesting site for rare birds, which meant no construction could take place during the spring nesting period. Each timing issue was documented and factored into the schedule. The result: The creation of a comprehensive, realistic critical path schedule that people could be held to.

The third critical step was the creation of a master budget. Quotes were obtained for every leg that had not yet been built. Bids were secured and contracts and schedules awarded for each part of the build. Now everyone knew exactly how much the project would cost.


Stepping in and installing order out of chaos took time. Emergencies still had to be addressed throughout the process. But at the end of six months the project was back on track and from then on progress was swift. The team was energized and excited about their project. They felt in control. The stage had been set for success.