Aviation, Barcelona, Catalonia, MBA, Personal, Projects, Thoughts

Opening day (the commissioning of Barcelona’s Airport Terminal 1)

Unbelievable we’re already here. After six years of dedicating an important part of my professional life to Barcelona’s Airport, today Terminal 1 is officially born. We’ll listen to the politicians’ speeches on how they made this possible. Maybe they did, but we worked all the way through. And this feeling, this pride, this sense of belonging will carry on with us the rest of our (professional) lives.

A huge, unique project can only be done with the commitment of a group of people. A group of people ready to withstand many pressures and surmount uncountable odds. Very diverse people, some very qualified, some able to star and shine without that qualification.

There are some pass-byers as well. The latter will be all in the official celebration today, even publicly displaying their self-attributed mothering. Isn’t it sad that people that have not appeared in the life of the project, and could have done things to support it, they come now for the medal?

We’ve learnt many things here. We’ve lived through many successes, and mistakes too. Fortunately! You can’t learn if you always do everything well. It would give you a false sense of security that would undermine your judgement.

But even if you make mistakes, you can’t learn unless you can reflect on past experiences. Unless you can evolve. That’s our duty today as nucleus of the project that has created the biggest Spanish airport terminal of all times, the biggest infrastructure that has been built in Barcelona for the last decades. We must make this exercise and learn.

Nothing of this would have been possible without the engineers. People think of architects, but they only make a small part of the project: they don’t make things work. Specially star architects that have seldom appeared during the project and have been more of a nuisance than anything. Till now this was the realm of the engineers. It was our time. Not any longer. Now it’s turn for the airlines and for the people that maintain the airport to work. It’s time for the passengers, for Catalans, to make this terminal their own. This terminal will be the first, and last, thing that visitors to Barcelona, and Catalonia, will see. It’s for all of us.

h515_inauguracio_t1_caldere

Yes, that was yesterday. And I was there. And from the experience I can tell you that I felt that my commitment for this project for so many years had been worth it. I feel as I have participated in something big, something important for my country. And this, in itself, is a reward as well for me.

Standard
b-school, Barcelona, Blogging, Management, MBA, Personal, Project Management, Projects, Thoughts

Blogging from the Opera (blogging with Figaro)

Less than two weeks into an important milestone for the airport’s operational readiness and less than three weeks from my marketing and business environment exam, I find myself blogging from el Liceu, Barcelona’s opera house. Amidst this quagmire that my daily job has been turning into, I still could scape to enjoy Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. It really sounds strange in English instead of Italian’s: Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata.

nozze_di_figaro_scene_19th_century

Yes, the second name for the opera is “the day of madness”. That’s how I live my days at work now. Trying to cope with unmatching requirements, trying to sync reality with political requirements. But, as I like to say, reality is too stubborn for that. And we always end up crashing with a concrete wall which we could have avoided. But that’s second nature to us, humans. Why is it that reality ends up resembling just another opera buffa?

Yet here I am. Everyone needs a place to hide. And that’s mine today. I even could open my computer in the bar in the basement, use my HSDPA connection and write this lines while sipping a coffee. Watch the old ladies ingest huge quantities of sugar and chocolate in different shapes and colours. Isn’t life nice after all?

The thing is that when I began the MBA I promised to reflect. And these latter days have been so amazing. So many different things happening from a global perspective, at work and even a personal perspective. And I don’t want to feel that the many things that flow around me just do that: flow. I need to capture some of them. I need to retain, absorb, think, grow.

They say that experience is everything, that you actually learn by doing. And that is a blatant lie. Well, you learn, true, but only in a mechanical way. As Figaro doesn’t actually learn about Almaviva until he actually sees him fishing in his waters, or Almaviva doesn’t learn about behaving until his infidelity is publicly exposed. The aristocracy depicted, ridiculised here didn’t learn on time to change. Until it was too late. Pierre Beaumarchais saw his play censored in France, only to be played in 1778, with the French Revolution almost at the doors…

You learn when you think about what you live. When you think of improving what you’ve already learnt to do mechanically. When you make it grow inside of you. When you go one step further to accepting what is already established, what is already known. When you apply something more than common sense. When you’re not scared of rethinking something that is already working (apparently).

When I give project management classes, I always stress how important is the “post-mortem” analysis at the end of the project to clarify not only what we have done well but also what we could have done better and what we have learnt from the experience. Now I feel that the end is too far, too late. It must be done now and again, in a continuous process of taking a step back, getting perspective, digesting, and then going in again with regained strengths that will not hold us back from stepping out of the comfort zone. Every manager should take some time to learn now and then.

And now, let’s enjoy this opera 🙂

Standard
Aviation, b-school, Barcelona, Henley, MBA, Personal, Thoughts

The holidays are over (still here after a busy summer)

Another year is over, and I’m left cold sober. That’s how a song from Queen begins. In my case it has been an interesting but feverish year. I’ve done so many things that I can’t recall them all.

My first year in the Henley MBA is over. I have passed all three exams and I feel relieved, I had my doubts that I’d pass them all. Henley Management College has just become Henley Business School in the University of Reading. That means a lot for the future prospects of the school as it will make new additional resources available to reach new heights. It’s good news.

We had a workshop about global business environment and strategic marketing. I especially liked the first part, reflecting about the global economy and how the different economic areas in the world compare, and the current macroeconomic trends.

Later, reflecting about it, I envisioned myself as an agent of globalisation. After all I had been a few days earlier seeking business in Delhi. I can’t write much about it but Spanish companies do need to go out and compete, and who is going to do that if it is not ourselves?

Yes, that’s the Taj Mahal as captured by my mobile phone. That was one outstanding moment of the summer. I will never forget this image.

In the meantime things are on track for Barcelona’s new terminal. The building is almost complete and we are testing the first systems. The last sneak peek is from one of the busiest commercial areas. A few systems are already installed and the first system trials will begin in one month. Below is an image of the first screen ever working there, still on the floor although the support structures are already installed.

The bottom line: I’m still here. I’ll keep you appraised 🙂

Standard
Aviation, b-school, Barcelona, Business, Economics, MBA, Microeconomy, Spain

Reflections from a high-speed train (inbetween Madrid and Barcelona)

I often travel the route Barcelona Madrid (and backwards) for the day. By plane it’s rather tiresome and expensive: with an open fare you end up paying around 400€ for a 630 km flight (+ 630 km back).

Barcelona – Madrid is the world’s busiest route with 971 operations per week. The second one is Sao Paulo – Rio (894 per week) then Jeju/Seoul Gimpo (858 per week) and fourth is Melbourne/Sydney (851 per week).

In fact you have to go very low in the ranking to find another crowded European route. That would be Rome – Milan with less than 600 operations per week, which, by the way, is more than the most crowded North American continental route: Las Vegas – Los Angeles (553 per week)

graph8.jpg
Source: www.oag.com, data from September 2007

But things change. And this milk cow for the airlines faces its first serious menace ever: the high speed Spanish train service, also called AVE.

ave_in.jpg

These brand new trains travel the distance of 630km (410 miles) in two hours and 35 minutes. Not too bad when it’s compared with the plane that takes roughly two and a half hours (not just flying but also spent in the check in and departure processes), and possibly more.

But, from an economic point of view, there are many hidden costs that must be taken into account. After all, what is it that you do in a plane? Well, you sit in a narrow seat, trying not to disjoint your legs, and pray that the person that will be sitting beside you is not extra overweight. In the train you have plenty of space. Being uncomfortable has a cost.

How much? Well, it depends on what you’re willing to pay to be more comfortable, of course, and how much your time costs.

How much are you willing to pay for that extra nap? Well, in a 45-minute-long flight, you’re going to have maximum thirty minutes of uninterrupted sleep. You won’t be able to sleep while you queue, while you’re being inspected at the burdensome security checks, while you wait your turn. But on a continuous 2 hours 35 minutes journey you’ll be able to.

As for opportunity costs, you won’t be able to do anything in the plane, apart from opening your laptop for half an hour. It’s completely wasted time. In the train you can use your computer as much as you want, use your phone, combine them and access the internet. Work, eat, talk, whatever you wish.

But externalities must also be taken into account. Environmental footprints can be four times higher for planes than for trains. That means that the train will always be more sustainable and, if we ever are to reflect the true external costs, energy efficiency will give the train an important lead over the plane.

Add those costs up: discomfort costs, opportunity costs, externalities and you will have a very competitive mean of transport. Which only means that competition has been increased, with a comparable service at a better price. In the end, consumers will be benefited from the additional choices, lower prices and the increased service levels that competition will bring.

That was what I was thinking when I decided to open the textbook I was carrying with me. The Managing Financial Resources module awaited me. Fortunately it was half way to Barcelona, 300 km per hour (186.41 mph), still an hour to go.

Standard
b-school, Barcelona, Blogging, Henley, HRM, MBA, Personal, Thoughts

Mental ramblings at the end of Summer

There’s one date that I always long to: the end of summer. Leaving behind that excessive warmth and and welcoming a cooler weather. The beach is empty again, no more noisy crowds. Yet it’s still warm enough to sit between the trees and wander around so many thoughts that I’ve been gathering lately. Quiet enough to think, to reflect, to digest, or to simply relax, procrastinate or do nothing.


Barcelona’s beach in Autumn

This time it was a three-day weekend, long enough to escape from the big city to what once was a small village before the arrival of hordes of tourists. Around this time of the year, the fishermen used to await the “bootcleaner”, a big storm that signalled the end of the warmest days. Autumn was finally coming. They laid their nets and boats close to the beach so they would be rained clean. Then they inspected everything, made due reparations and got everything ready for the forthcoming year.

This year there has been more than one storm, but the weather is still fairly good. A nice September. Actually, the perfect moment to have a bath in the sea, is when you least expect it. After a cloudy day, then the sun suddenly shines, the air is perfectly clean and the waters are crystal clear again, a bit cooler I might say. And it’s all for you, your family, your friends.

With the distance that a fresh bath can provide, but still being in your MBA mind frame, you can see and feel how we have diverted from the way that people should be treated, respected or enabled. Close to nature and far from stress, it’s easy to envision the good nature in people, McGregor’s Theory Y that Rousseau would surely have endorsed, the Harvard approach to HRM, and forget for a while Hobbes view, name it Theory X, Taylorism or the Michigan approach to HR.

If we don’t believe in the inherently good human nature, how are we going to trust anyone? and then, who are we going to rely on? Will we have to do everything ourselves? how it will be possible to delegate? to enable? to empower? We won’t be able to grow.

If we believe that all humans just seek the greater economic gain, shouldn’t we stop using the collaborative words and concepts? We’d have to keep our information private and secret, stop writing learning journals or blogs, stop thinking aloud… always scared to become or be seen like sheep, we’d end up being wolves.

The end of summer is a good moment to reflect, to start anew, to free yourself from long held assumptions and misconceptions. To believe. For sometimes it’s necessary to forget in order to be able to learn.

Standard
Barcelona, Economics, Music, Thoughts

Alan Jay Lerner and the scarcity of democracy and freedom

Yesterday I went to listen to Brent Barrett singing the music of Leonard Bernstein. Brent Barrett is one of the greatests tenors from Broadway.

He was performing at Barcelona’s opera house, also known as the “Liceu“. It was an impressive performance. This artist knows how to sing, how to express and how win the audience.

But, let’s go to the point. I already knew that Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was Jewish, from a liberal family in Massachusetts and a strong defendant of human rights. I was surprised to know, tho, that Alan Jay Learner and Leonard Bernstein had written a musical in 1976 in the context of the Watergate scandal, disenchanted by politicians and especially of Richard Nixon. The musical was about the story of the White House and called 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (that’s the White House address).


Leonard Bernstein with sister Shirley in the Green Room at Carnegie Hall after a performance with the Israel Philarmonic, March 1951

The show was a flop and lasted only for seven days. But it contained more than one century of American History, from George Washington to Roosevelt. How the country had strived for freedom and the struggle for black freedom. It’s a story about the difficulties of maintaining a democratic society.

This work has been largely overlooked and unappreciated. It wasn’t recorded until 1997. But there’s a song that Brett sang yesterday that inspired me a lot. It’s called “Take care of this house”.

Take care of this house
keep it from harm
if bandits break in
sound the alarm.

Care for this house,
shine it by hand
keep it agleam
so it can be seen
all over the land

Be careful at night
check all the doors
if someone makes a break in
the dream will be lost

Take care of this house
be always on call
for this house
is the home of us all

It is sung by the First Lady to Lud, a young black boy that is a slave to the White House. He is the future. She is presenting him with the challenge to attempt a democratic society that will be able to overcome social injustice. The house represents the whole nation and the whole of the democratic world; it’s the hope for us all.

As I usually, capitalism has won, but don’t take democracy for granted.

Standard
b-school, Barcelona, Blogging, MBA, Music, Personal, Thoughts

(The need to) Move on

Sometimes it’s hard to move on.

There’s a psychological trait that makes us cling to our investments. Even the clever investor can hold on to an equity that is going down further than expected and loose a lot of money. Bu, when you’re inside, when you don’t have perspective, It’s hard to know when to quit.

But then there are stop-losses, and dynamic stop-losses, that will let you make that decision ex-ante. (Ex-post is even easier).

The same happens with project management. There are certain moments where the project is not feasible anymore. And the best option is to just close it. But it’s not easy. And sometimes, inability to recognise a failure can lead to heavier losses.

There are two forces that you need to master:

  • The need to adapt. You need to be able to adapt to a new project, a new investment, a new job. The more, the better. To be able to enthusiastically think as a member of a project.
  • The need to change. You need to be able to quit, to introduce change in an organisation you’re already in, to know when to drop a solution, to see when a project has failed.

But both collide in a certain point. And that can drive you insane.

  • Excessive identification can lead to Stockholm syndrome: the hijacked that ends up caring about her hijackers, and that keeps her away from reality, and from much needed chances for change.
  • There’s a need to forget sometimes, but there’s also the need to remember what we have learned.
  • And excessive change can lead to disaffection, to being a mercenary, to not caring what you really do, to your work having no meaning for you.

As always is a matter of balance, but don’t forget the need to move on. That’s the hardest part: knowing when, or how, even why.

Why did I come up with this? Well, yesterday I went to hear british actress Maria Friedman singing Stephen Sondheim, Palau de la Música an incredible modernist theatre in Barcelona built by Lluís Domènech i Montaner in 1908, proclaimed heritage of humanity by UNESCO. It was so great. The public was so enthusiast that didn’t want to let her go. She even had to do repeats.

Stephen Sondheim makes you think with his lyrics. Let me share some with you. This song is about a brave young lady that is going nowhere and decides to leave everything, her country, France, the man she loves, the painter Seurat (she is pregnant with his baby), to start a new life in America.

“Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George by Stephen Sondheim

Stop worrying where you’re going, move on
If you can know where you’re going, you’ve gone
Just keep moving on.

I chose, and my world was shaken–so what?
The choice may have been mistaken
but choosing was not.
You have to move on.

Look at what you want,
Not at where you are,
Not at what you’ll be.
Look at all the things you’ve done for me:
Opened up my eyes
Taught me how to see
Notice every tree!
Understand the light!
Concentrate on now!
I want to move on . . .
I want to explore the light.
I want to know how to get through
through to something new–
Something of my own!

Move on!
Move on!

Stop worrying if your vision is new.
Let others make that decision . . .
they usually do!
You keep moving on.
Look at what you want,
Not at what you are
Not at what you’ll be
Look at all the things you gave to me.

See what’s in my eyes, And the color of my hair,
and the way it catches light.
And the care, and the feeling
And the light, moving on!

We’ve always belonged together.
We will always belong together!
Just keep moving on.

Anything you do, let it come from you–
then it will be new.
Give us more to see.

Standard