Project Management in the Ring of Fire!


Force Majeure Revisited – Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters are neither Acts of God nor Black Swans!

By David L. Pells

Managing Editor, PMWJ

Texas, USA

(Originally published as an editorial in PM World Today, April 2011)


Once again, we are overtaken by events.  On 22 February 2011, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck near Christchurch, New Zealand, devastating the city and causing massive destruction, dozens killed and injured, and thousands of lives disrupted in the region.  The world watched as historic landmarks were toppled, offices and homes destroyed and rescue teams rushed to save lives.  We were in touch with friends and colleagues in New Zealand and received a wrenching report from Sean Whitaker, the president of the PMI New Zealand chapter who lives in Christchurch. [1]

Then on Friday, 11 March, a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck near the city of Sendai in northwest Japan, followed by a 40 foot tsunami that leveled cities, towns, farmlands, factories and the countryside for five miles inland from the shoreline.  While the earthquake shook the country, with buildings swaying in Tokyo some 200 miles away, the tsunami resulted in nearly 30,000 killed and missing.  To further compound the disaster, several reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant lost power and emergency cooling, resulting in partial meltdown in at least two reactors.  The world again watched the national disasters in Japan unfold.

In Japan, all life and work in northwestern Japan stopped; communication, power and transportation systems in the region (including Tokyo) were disrupted;  supply chains in many key industries including automobiles, electronics and semiconductors were affected, resulting in plant stop-works and parts shortages worldwide; and the Japanese government established national emergency rescue and recovery programs.  It is now clear that most life and business in Japan, one of the world’s largest and most important economies, were seriously disrupted, with the long term impact on the country’s economy and industries yet to be determined.  (the nuclear disaster seems to be widening, with high levels of radioactivity detected both farther from the plant and in ocean water.)


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About the Author

flag-usadavid-pellsDAVID PELLS 

Managing Editor, PMWJ

David L. Pells is Managing Editor of the PM World Journal, a global eJournal for program and project management, and Executive Director of the PM World Library. David is an internationally recognized leader in the field of professional project management with more than 35 years of experience on a variety of programs and projects, including energy, engineering, construction, defense, transit, high technology and nuclear security, and project sizes ranging from several thousand to ten billion dollars. He has been an active professional leader in the United States since the 1980s, serving on the board of directors of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) twice.  He was founder and chair of the Global Project Management Forum (1995-2000), an annual meeting of leaders of PM associations from around the world. David was awarded PMI’s Person of the Year award in 1998 and Fellow Award, PMI’s highest honor, in 1999. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Project Management (APM) in the UK; Project Management Associates (PMA – India); and Russian Project Management Association SOVNET.  From June 2006 until March 2012, he was the managing editor of the globally acclaimed PM World Today eJournal.  He occasionally provides high level advisory support for major programs and global organizations.  David has published widely, spoken at conferences and events worldwide, and can be contacted at [email protected].

To see other works by David Pells, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/david-l-pells/. 

For more, visit www.pmworldjournal.net and www.pmworldlibrary.net.