Perspectives: Deadlines: Friend and foe

We’re all extremely familiar with deadlines, whether they come in the form of the final deliverable for a specific task or an important intermediate step in completing a major project. Deadlines are vital. Without them, it’s easy to push a task or piece of work off, in the process of dealing with what seem to be more pressing issues. Deadlines force us to be accountable as well, as uncomfortable as that may sometimes be.

Unfortunately, we’re also probably all familiar with the shifting timelines that sometimes occur when it comes to major work being performed at hydroelectric facilities. These timelines may shift due to unforeseen incidents that must be dealt with. Other times they may shift due to, perhaps, an over-optimistic outlook in terms of schedule for completing a project.

But there is a third scenario that may cause shifting deadlines, and it’s one the hydro industry probably doesn’t talk about nearly as openly as it deserves. And that is: errors and/or unmet expectations.

What exactly am I referring to?

The most obvious example of an error causing a change in deadline is human error. Maybe a task isn’t performed the way it needs to be, maybe the person performing the task does not fully understand the scope of the job, maybe a needed part is missing or misplaced, etc. We’re all “human,” after all.

Additionally, another “error” occurs when, for example, the hydro project owner has certain expectations regarding the performance of a piece of equipment and those expectations are not met. For example, the product delivered may be damaged or may not meet design criteria.

Regardless of deadlines, another major problem many utilities are experiencing is equipment, such as turbines and generators, that suffers significant failures that are well short of the expected design life of said piece of equipment.

In case you missed it, we published an article on this topic in the March issue of Hydro Review, authored by Steve Wright and Kirk Hudson with Chelan County Public Utility District in the U.S.

To bring this topic before the global hydroelectric industry, and to offer an opportunity for industry-wide discussions between project owners and hydroelectric industry vendors, a steering committee of hydro industry members is organizing an industry workshop on the topic. Steering committee members are: Kirk Hudson, Chelan County Public Utility District; Herbie Johnson, Southern Company; Debbie Mursch, GE Renewable Energy; Daniel Rabon, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and myself.

This workshop – called Avoiding a Crisis: Emphasizing QA/QC in Engineering, Manufacturing, Project Delivery and Contracting – will take place on Monday, June 25 in Charlotte, N.C., U.S. The ultimate goal of this workshop is to help the industry brainstorm potential solutions to improve hydropower asset life. If the above is a situation that occurs at your hydro facility, this workshop provides an ideal opportunity to gather with others in the industry to discuss this issue, as well as hear how other hydro project owners are handling it.

The agenda for this workshop is available at

And by the way, there’s one “deadline” I want to make you aware of that should be pretty easy to meet: The deadline to take advantage of the early bird registration discount for HydroVision International 2018 is May 18. You’ve still got a few more days, but don’t wait too long. Visit today to complete your registration so you don’t miss your opportunity to save some money and attend the world’s largest hydro industry event.

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