Where is my Bulldozer?!

From PMI.org: Have you seen my bulldozer? - Why integrating the execution of risk and quality processes are critical for a project! 


This case study – which is said to be true – is about a project manager, hired by a mining company to build a 3-mile road to the mining site. Upon completing the first 1.3 miles, stage 1, the company wants to celebrate and “officially” open the road but not with a scissors and ribbon, but with bulldozer and ribbon.  

The Bulldozer drives through the ribbon breaking grounds for stage 2, but to the project managers surprise, she hears her colleagues yell “The dozer is sinking?!, The dozer is sinking!” within six minutes of the dozer driving through the ribbon on to new ground, it has sunk out of sight... 

Now some questions have to be answered: 

  1. What happened to the bulldozer, and how do we retrieve it? 
  2. How did this happen?
  3. How could this have been avoided? 
  4. How can we mitigate the impact on the project? 

Now according to the case study, these questions were answered by the project manager, but a valuable exercise in risk management is reflection and creativity when it comes to both discussing previous scenarios and possible risk scenarios. Therefore, the first exercise in this case study is to discuss these 4 questions. Take note of the answers generated as they might be useful later (and might be just the same as the real case answers). 

Now for the answers to question 1 and 2. 

1) What happened to the bulldozer, and how do we retrieve it? 

It drove onto an unidentified/unmarked muskeg pocket (bog/quicksand). The crust covering the pocket cracked under the weight of the dozer, and it sank into the pocket, completely out of sight. A few different methods were attempted to retrieve the dozer, which was 50% self-insured by the company:  

  1. Sonar was attempted, but could not pinpoint the location of the dozer given all the other solid objects in the muskeg pocket. 
  2. Drag lines using a concrete pylon were attempted, but they did not locate the dozer. 
  3. The company sought permission to drain the pocket, but the environmental agency denied permission. 

2) How did this happen? The project manager knew that this was addressed in the risk management plan and that the quality plan addressed the possibility as well. After questioning the lead geological engineer, the project manager learned that soil samples had in fact been taken every 10th of a mile per the project plan, but that the lead geological engineer had not actually performed the core test on the samples, as he had completed a flyover of the landscape at the initiation of the project in the company helicopter and believed the terrain to be stable. 

Now for question 3 and 4 

3) How could this have been avoided? 4) How can we mitigate the impact on the project? 

There are no definitive answers to these questions, as they differ from company to company, and should be discussed internally before a project. Our recommendations is to have 1 person from each individual team (the teams that are vital to the project) answer/react to this case study in association with a risk manager or a facilitator who understands the risk management perspective of this case study. 

By planning correctly and doing drills (preferably RoC Drills) this scenario could have been avoided. Furthermore, mitigation i.e., planning and exercises, are much less expensive than responding to accidents and a lot of stress can be avoided. 

Rehearse before! 

About the Author

Mikkel K. Nyegaard


Aspiring risk manager studying Disaster & Risk management at University College Copenhagen. Currently at an intern position at RoC Consult ApS.

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