PM film review: Locke

Locke is a film starring Tom Hardy which focusses on a constructexperiencing a personal crisis at a critical moment in a high rise building project.

The day before the concrete foundations are poured is a critical point where a site manager needs to manage all kinds of risks. This involves performing last minute checks and taking remedial action if needed. Delays are extremely costly and in Locke’s project, the total cost of delays on the day of the concrete pour is in the region of 100 million dollars if all of the risks materialise. Understandably, there is a lot of scrutiny from the project sponsor. In the film, the sponsoring organisation is remote (Chicago) from the project itself (Birmingham). There is a huge reliance on the experience of the site manager, Ivan Locke, who has worked for the organisation for fifteen years and is regarded as a ‘safe pair of hands’.

The film features, the night before the major concrete pour, when Locke, facing a personal crisis, decides to drive to London rather than perform all the last minute site checks. It is clear that one of the largest risks to the project is the availability of the site manager himself and this has been overlooked by the contractor.

The film takes place entirely in Locke’s car on his epic drive where he attempts to deal with his personal crisis as well as handing over the project to his next in command and dealing with his irate employer. We see the need for the site manager to remain calm and deal with many different stakeholders, most of them extremely emotional. He also needs to instill confidence in his colleague who is taking over the project at the last minute and help him to manage the risks which have materialised.

The film raises questions about the pressure and responsibility associated with project management of large projects. If this becomes focussed on a single individual, the project is vulnerable if this individual is suddenly unavailable. How can organisations ensure that the project knowledge is distributed and accessible so the responsibility can be shared and understood by others? Effective knowledge management is part of risk management.

It also raises questions about how the pressure associated with project management can affect the lives of individuals. Locke is portrayed as a professional project manager, solid and reliable until the point at which his neglected personal issues threaten to overwhelm him. Although managing project risks, he has allowed his personal issues to escalate to the point of crisis. Relationships with co-workers and family members are strained to breaking point as Locke tries to fix everything himself, seeking help only at the last minute.

There are many issues to reflect on in the film such as the boundary between personal and professional world, the meaning of personal integrity and the limits of professional responsibility. Highly recommended viewing for professional project managers and their employers.

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Abe Vincent Award Winner


Sarah Award Photo
Sarah Tyson accepting the Abe Vincent award from Therese Lawlor-Wright.

On graduation day, we had the pleasure of awarding the ‘Abe Vincent award for Project Leadership and Community Engagement’ to Sarah Tyson. Sarah has  graduated with an Fd Sc in Project Management from the University of Cumbria.

The award celebrates the contribution that project management skills make in the community and is sponsored by the friends and family of Abe Vincent. Abe was a young man who died from bone cancer at the age of 21. Abe did not study project management but he demonstrated many project management skills and used these to make a difference in the community. This included fundraising for charity and supporting and encouraging other people.

The award was open to students enrolled on one of the Project Management courses at the University of Cumbria. Applicants had to prepare a written description of the their work in leading a community based project and this was assessed by a panel of judges. The prize is a voucher with a value of £200. We chose a voucher saying ‘Above and Beyond’ for the award. This recognises someone who has gone above and beyond in using their project management skills for the benefit of others.

Sarah Tyson’s application described her use of Project Management skills in organising a field day event for the Young Farmers in West Cumbria. She chaired a group of 15 representatives of young farmer clubs to run a field day with 63 events. In the months of organising behind the scenes, she engaged stakeholders, responded to queries, co-ordinated the efforts of others, supported the group and held it together. On the day itself, she was the ‘go to’ person for any unforeseen events and also responsible after the event for handing over to the next committee. The field day resulted in  financial benefits in the funds raised and also many benefits in terms of bringing the community together.

With this award, we recognise and appreciate Sarah Tyson’s work in going ‘above and beyond’ studying project management in using her project management knowledge and skills for the benefit of the community.




Looking back, looking forward


Graduation Day marks the end of the academic year and is always a time to reflect, this year more than ever! 18th July 2017 marked the first graduation from the Project Management courses at University of Cumbria. We had 12 graduates from our Foundation degree in Project Management and eleven graduates from the University Certificate in Project Controls course. It is always a proud moment for staff to see our students graduate and also very pleasing to meet their friends and families at the ceremony. Graduation was in the historic setting of Carlisle Cathedral, definitely a place to appreciate and celebrate a historic moment with our new graduates!

After the graduation ceremony, there was a reception organised by the Project Academy. This was to celebrate the achievements of the students sponsored by Sellafield and also to recognise the success of the Project Academy in making project management education and training available across Cumbria. The achievements of the Project Academy are remarkable in drawing together providers of education and training to improve the skills base in the region.

There were many proud moments at the award ceremony, including the establishment of the Ian Marr prize recognising the Project Management Apprentice of the Year.  Sellafield has been at the forefront in promoting apprenticeships throughout its workforce across technical professions. In recent years, Sellafield led the employer groups who have established the standard for associate project manager apprenticeship. This is already making a huge difference with next year hundreds of apprentices expected to be enrolled across the country in public and private sector organisations. The employer group is now submitting the standard for the degree apprenticeship in project management and we look forward to providing this at the University of Cumbria in the future.

So, looking back, we recognise what we have achieved at the University in establishing the project management courses and the Project Academy for Sellafield. We recognise and celebrate and the efforts and achievement of the graduates in getting to this point with the support of sponsors, family and friends. We look forward to working together in the future to provide more opportunities and support for the project management profession.