Together is Better, If We Mean to Succeed: Project Experience Sharing

As Heny Ford once said, 

Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress, working   together is success.

Had you not been thrilled when someone a few inches away from you sent you a message through espace (Huawei messaging platform) while it was easier to utter a word directly on to you? About three years ago, soon after I joined Huawei, I was so frustrated and I just believed that it would be hardly easy to close the cultural differences between us. Sooner than I expected, though, it started vanishing to the surprise of my own eyes.

Highlighting the challenges of project handover

At Huawei, I have been involved in many tasks but my significant contribution goes to OPGW (National Grid Infrastructure Development) project of EEPC (Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation), our customer. Thanks to the openness and wisdom of the project director, we worked as a team and I was privileged to be involved in pretty much of the project activities, supporting and managing the subcontractors, monitoring the construction progress, controlling the quality and EHS regulations, ensuring on time acceptance… I believe that was a significant contribution to the success of all involved; myself, the project team members, the subcontractors, Huawei and the end customer.

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OPGW project meant that the cable is a composite of optical fiber and ground wire, applicable to electrical transmission and communication purposes. Although OPGW cable can be strung together with construction of the power transmission lines, older ground wires in the transmission lines of EEPC must be retrofitted with the composite (OPGW) cable. Unfortunately, the grids of EEPC are not ringed yet to allow upgrading of ground wire under dead line condition. That means, the retrofitting process must be conducted under live line condition, on top of lines that carry 132/230/400 Kilo Volt current.  

The project entailed significant risk to Huawei and EEPC, not just because the old ground wires and the transmission towers were in a deteriorating condition, but also were located in a new geographic area. EEPC did not have prior experience of OPGW work under live line condition and was extremely cautious at the beginning. Huawei local office and Ethiopia Enterprise Business Department in particular were also new to this type of project. The project was a breakthrough for the local office by the time and due to the business implication and the risk it entailed, there was a tremendous pressure on the project team from Huawei management at all levels and the end customer and so was the need to work together and the hardest.

A project contractor is at a significant risk until a handover is done.  An acceptance criterion is still vague until the first handover is effective.


EEPC used to have a normative procedure for project commissioning or handover that is discovered only through experience. All the project management team members of Huawei and our subcontractors except me were expatriates who did not have prior project experience in Ethiopia and underestimated my constant feedbacks for action in the beginning. Understanding the consequences, I personally pushed for the handover of the first link/site as it was completed even if it was not a requirement in the contract and everyone involved realized what I was talking about at the earliest stage. We, then, together refined the customer’s needs that met their expectations and felt comfortable in our work ahead to the handover of the last link/site. I constantly moved back and forth between sites and office to maintain smooth relationship among the customer, customer’s consultant, Huawei and subcontractors and in the mean time helping my team address customer’s concerns and frustrations.

“Customer First” will meaningfully and contextually meet its good intentions if and only if we work as a team. Do you know how hyenas and lions fight when they scramble for territory or common pray? The latter being hypocrite with his natural power, fights alone and in many instances lose control and the former trusting in their total strength, act together and win battles fought with the mighty one. We, the OPGW Project management team, were hyenas in delivering our project to our customer to the best of their satisfaction.

Our customers were happy not just with the final deliverables but also with the whole process of how we handle project issues and our positive team spirit. In one instant, Huawei was not convinced with the safety procedure of one of the subcontractors and stopped the installation until they verified the EHS procedure sacrificing the project timeline. It sent a strong message to the customer that we were up to our words when it came to maintaining the quality of the deliverables and enforcing the environmental, health and safety procedures into action, relieving them from routine supervision. In many occasions, they openly sought our advice for the portion of the work held by our competitors signifying their level of satisfaction with our approach.

It would be naive to say we as a team were a complete success given the fact that we were just beginning our journey together with Huawei. I, however, am a live witness of the potential of team work in the run up to meeting set objectives. I myself alone traveled more than 130 thousand kilometers over the past two and half years in a car and I have never felt discouraged even in the challenging circumstances just because I don’t want us fall short of our commitments as a team.  The same was true with the other team members. 

It is managers’ responsibilities to help close the cultural gap between the staff of different origins. It is obvious and understandable that you are too focused on numbers that meet the growth targets. However, if you get lost perplexed with the numbers without thinking how and with whom you achieve your mission, it is an unfortunate waste. My supervisor used to involve me in all the circumstances that concern the project even if he knew I was not contributing. He wanted me to be informed what was going on and I did.

We as a team shared and rose up on the project challenges irrespective of the extent and complexity of issues occurred throughout the implementation period. We merited cooperation, collaboration, strong and open team work to stereotyping and creating fault lines and it worth the effort. 


    First published on  (HUAWEI PEOPLE MEGAZINE– Issue 275, 2017)   

End.  One final Thought: What ever we do to succeed,

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