Project Management in Extreme Situations : Lessons from Polar Expeditions, Military and Rescue Operations, and Wilderness Exploration book cover
1st Edition

Project Management in Extreme Situations
Lessons from Polar Expeditions, Military and Rescue Operations, and Wilderness Exploration

ISBN 9781482208825
Published December 6, 2016 by Auerbach Publications
316 Pages

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Book Description

The growing complexity of projects today, as well as the uncertainty inherent in innovative projects, is making obsolete traditional project management practices and procedures, which are based on the notion that much about a project is known at its start. The current high level of change and complexity confronting organizational leaders and managers requires a new approach to projects so they can be managed flexibly to embrace and exploit change. What once used to be considered extreme uncertainty is now the norm, and managing planned projects is being replaced by managing projects as they evolve.

Successfully managing projects in extreme situations, such as polar and military expeditions, shows how to manage successfully projects in today’s turbulent environment. Executed under the harshest and most unpredictable conditions, these projects are great sources for learning about how to manage unexpected and unforeseen situations as they occur. This book presents multiple case studies of managing extreme events as they happened during polar, mountain climbing, military, and rescue expeditions.

A boat accident in the Artic is a lesson on how an effective project manager must be ambidextrous: on one hand able to follow plans and on the other hand able to abandon those plans when disaster strikes and improvise new ones in response. Polar expeditions also illustrate how a team can use "weak links" to go beyond its usual information network to acquire strategic information. Fire and rescues operations illustrate how one team member’s knowledge can be transferred to the entire team. Military operations provide case material on how teams coordinate and make use of both individual and collective competencies.

This groundbreaking work pushes the definitions of a project and project management to reveal new insight that benefits researchers, academics, and the practitioners managing projects in today’s challenging and uncertain times.

Table of Contents

Ann Langley

Introduction: Blowing Hot and Cold on Project Management
Christophe N. Bredillet

A Polar Expedition Project and Project Management
Gilles Garel and Pascal Lièvre

Ambidexterity as a Project Leader Competency: A Comparative Case Study of Two Polar Expeditions
Monique Aubry and Pascal Lièvre

Mobilization and Sensibility on Polar Expeditions: More than Mere Motivation
Michel Récopé, Pascal Lièvre, and Géraldine Rix-Lièvre

Mobilizing Social Networks beyond Project Team Boundaries: The Case of Polar Expeditions
Marc Lecoutre and Pascal Lièvre

A Methodology for Investigating the "Actual" Course of a Project: The Case of a Polar Expedition
Géraldine Rix-Lièvre and Pascal Lièvre

A Traditional Cree Expedition on the Ancestral Lands of the Neeposh Family of Northern Québec
Nathalie Guérard and Anne-Marie Cabana

Borrowing Concepts from Expedition Travel to Stimulate Alternative Tourism
Alain A. Grenier

The Project Front End: Financial Guidance Based on Risk
Frédéric Gautier

Lessons Learned from Sports Climbing: Some Disrespectful Discourse on Project Planning
Valérie Lehmann

Managing Extreme Situations in Fire and Rescue Organizations: The Complexity in Implementing Feedback
Anaïs Gautier

Coordination Practices in Extreme Situations: Lessons from the Military
Cécile Godé

Developing Collective Competence in Extreme Project Teams: The French Special Forces Case
Tessa Melkonian and Thierry Picq

Situated Teams: Dropping Tools on Mount Everest
Markus Hällgren

Planning Risk and Cool Heads: Survival Conditions Required for Managing Projects
Jean Martel

Flexibility and Rigidity in Planning a Program: The Case of the Montreal Metro Renovation Project
David Brazeau

Project Manager: Specialist or Generalist?
Benoit Lalonde and Maude Brunet

Project Management and the Unknown
Jean-Pierre Polonovski

Control and Flexibility: Which Balance Do We Mean?
Danielle Desbiens

Gilles Garel

Pascal Lièvre

Afterword: Looking for the Ordinary in the Extraordinary!
Linda Rouleau


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Monique Aubry, Ph.D., is a professor at the School of Business and Management, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). She teaches in executive MBA and graduate project management programs. Her research interests focus on the planning process in extreme situations and on the organizing of projects and organizational design, more specifically on Project Management Offices (PMO). The results of her work have been published in major academic journals in project management and have been presented at several research and professional conferences. She is a member of the Project Management Research Chair ( and the UQAM’s Health and Society Institute. She is a senior editor for the Project Management Journal. She is involved in the local project management community that oversees practices regarding organizational project management, where she promotes engaged scholarship and dialogue between professionals and researchers.

Pascal Lièvre is a full professor in management science at Clermont Auvergne University, EA 3849 CRCGM. He received a Ph.D. in Production Economics from the University of Lyon-II. Since 2000, he has been in charge of a research program on the management of extreme situations at the Centre de recherche clermontois en gestion et management (CRCGM). He has published seven books and 40 academic articles on this topic.