Construction Industry, is it still possible to Innovate? The Case of Visual Management applied to EXPO 2015


By Ivan Calimani

Milan, Italy



Behind “innovation” lies a long list of possible meanings and shades. In this paper, we will address the innovation theme from the point of view of a new methodology used for the planning and control of projects. Based on the case of Expo 2015, we present how the introduction and application of visual tools allow managing complexity in a clear, unique and simple way. Indeed, behind the lack of the information, communication complexity and the proliferation of custom schedules, we can find most of the common issues generating delays and cost overruns.

By looking to the construction sector in its broadest sense (including civil, building, industrial and plant engineering) we realize how this is a mature industry, where the innovation capability is increasingly difficult. In particular, following the long economic crisis, corporates are looking for innovative approaches bringing great benefits in short term and with low cost of investments. It seems to be an impossible dream… or maybe not

Expo 2015 was one of the challenges met by Italy and many are still wondering how this “miracle” was possible. It must be admitted that the context was not the best:

  • Fixed deadline with no possible delay;
  • 1.5 billion spent in public works, which doubles adding the works of the 147 participating countries and private partners;
  • 1300 days available from the beginning of work (average productivity of € 2 million / day);
  • More than 500 stakeholders (countries, partners, institutions, etc ..) to be included in the activity, to be involved and kept informed on the progress;
  • Peak of 10,000 workers at the construction site and hundreds of overlapping activities;
  • A small project team respect to the size of the project

Therefore, it was important to be able to manage the whole program in a very streamlined way, without additional complexity and with communication tools easy to understand; most of our stakeholders in fact did not have a technical background behind.

Nevertheless, where to find the answer to our needs?

Certainly not in the classic scheduling tools; the Expo program contained more than 4,000 activities, difficult to read even for planners, almost impossible for a Commissioner of a participating country. So we started to think in a more visual and simplified way, by which one could “read” the progress of the project clearly and immediately while not having special knowledge of project management. It was not easy to come up with a solution, but we approached in stages according to the process described here below.


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About the Author

pmwj44-Mar2016-Calimani-PHOTOIvan Calimani   

Milan, Italy


Ivan Calimani
is a certified Project Manager with 10 years of experience that loves project management since his first encounter in London in 2007 whilst working on a complex Cultural Center project. In the last six years he worked for the successful completion of Expo Milano 2015; the largest project in Italy in the la 50 years! Within Design & Construction Division Ivan was Program Manager of over 30 projects managed by the organizer and coordinator of 80 pavilions built by National Countries and Corporates. He was also Program Manager for fulfillment of Smart City for Expo projects and Energy and Maintenance Manager during six months event.

Ivan got a master degree in Building Engineering and Architecture at Politecnico di Milano and he did a Master in Project Management at MIP Business School.  The passion for Project Management gave him also the opportunity to join the International Project Management Association where he became president of the Young Crew section. In 2014 Ivan was awarded by IPMA in the Young Project Manager of the Year Award.

Ivan Calimani can be contacted at [email protected]