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Project Manager : April May 2011
21 www.aipm.com.au Project Manager you’Re ACtively iNvolved oN A dAily bASiS, but you theN hAve to SteP bACk ANd AlSo hAve thAt StRAteGiC viewPoiNt my caReeR path education I did a surveying degree at Queensland University of technology (QUt), then later did my MbA majoring in project management at QUt as well as the Institute of Company Directors course. Getting my break I was a Captain in the Army Reserve and Aide de Camp to the Governor of Queensland, which put me in contact with government for the first time. From there, I ’ve mainly had roles working around infrastructure issues associated with government and economic development. how my career developed My career evolved by focusing on major infrastructure projects as a mechanism for promoting economic development. the role of Coordinator General was one to be cherished. I saw it as an important role for the state. My mentors I’ve had some very confident chairmen who have been very good at coaching me as a young aspiring CEo coming through the ranks. Also, members of senior government give you an insight – not necessarily directly, but by observing how they operate – into how the community thinks and operates. but I’m certainly no politician! best advice i’ve received When confronted with a situation that seemed like the most significant thing that had happened to me, I had a particularly wise soul say to me: ‘how you behave now will determine how you will be treated in the future.’ t he underlying message there being: pull your socks up, stiff upper lip, and don’t let the events of today ruin your future. Change control As if the devastation caused by December’s floods wasn’t enough, the Reconstruction Authority’s task increased in the early hours of 3 February when Cyclone Yasi’s winds of over 200 kilometres per hour hit the coast between Innisfail and Cardwell in Northern Queensland. Newton modified the team, establishing a regional office in Innisfail, manned by the seconded Chief Superintendent Mike Keating. “But the core elements of the organisation remain largely the same because the task of analysing what needs to be done, receiving submissions, processing those, getting the funding out to the councils, remains the same,” Newton said. Of course, Queensland is no stranger to natural disasters, but the relevant learnings from 1996’s Cyclone Larry is limited given the scale and sequence of these recent events. “Every event is different from the last, and this one here – depending on how you count it – is a series of four or even five events that have happened one after the other, whereas Cyclone Larry was a one- off,” Newton cautioned. Managerial approach Fortunately, it’s Newton’s project management skills rather than meteorological expertise that has him steering the recovery. As Chief Executive of Queensland Water Infrastructure, he oversaw the Paradise Dam and the Wyaralong Dam projects. More recently he was Queensland’s Coordinator-General with the task of promoting economic and social development through the coordination and implementation of large-scale projects and developments. “It’s not about having that specific technical expertise in a particular field, be it the planning, or engineering side, or the weather or hydrology,” he said. “It’s about being able to bring resources to bear and maximise the output we can achieve as a collective. That’s what project management is all about.” In this new role though, Newton has been challenged by the scope of the task. “This is unprecedented. I’ll be standing in someone’s front yard up at Tully Heads talking with them about the impact of the storm surge on their house one day, and then sitting around the table with the Prime Minister the next. “Your sleeves are rolled up and you’re actively involved on a daily basis, but you then have to step back and also have that strategic viewpoint. It’s being able to focus in and focus out really quickly.” Newton is certain this two-year reconstruction project will have its ups and downs. “Issues will emerge and we won’t satisfy everybody. Some people would have us solve all the challenges that they’ve confronted over the past 20-plus years and we can’t possibly do that. But a message I’ve been getting to the team is they are working on something that will be part of Queensland’s future and history.” cover story •
June July 2011