Sweden and The Netherlands sharing knowledge

On February 27, the Director-General of Rijkswaterstaat, Jan Hendrik Dronkers and his Swedish counterpart of rail and road construction agency Trafikverket, Gunnar Malm signed a Letter of Intent. With this signature, they do not only endorse the intention to learn in the field of project management, the signature also underscores a promise from us. The promise to assist our Swedish colleagues in setting up an academy of project management. How did this idea come about, and what will our project managers notice?

Standing from left to right: Peter Kole (Executive King/RPA), Hans Ruijter (SAA Project Director, Advisory Board King/RPA), Patrick Buck (Director of projects ProRail, Supervisory board King/RPA)

Seated: Jan Hendrik Dronkers (Director-General Rijkswaterstaat, Supervisory board King/RPA), Gunnar Malm (director Trafikverket)

Last year, during a NETLIPSE meeting, the European equivalent of King, Hans Ruijter, Project Director Schiphol-Amsterdam-Almere and member of the Advisory Board of King/RPA, discussed the way in the Netherlands exchanging knowledge and experiences is being organized as well as the professionalization of our major publicly commissioned construction and infrastructure projects. During his conversation he also talked about RPA, the Dutch national academy of project management. A Swedish colleague of Trafikverket – The Swedish Transport Administration responsible for road and rail infrastructure – found this to be very interesting. “At NETLIPSE meetings, you notice that there are countries with whom you have more in common than others,” says Hans Ruijter. “And Sweden appears to be similar to Holland, in terms of project culture and the problems they’re experiencing in the realization of their projects. During these NETLIPSE meetings, we also noticed this mutual professional attraction. “f we see so many similarities, why don’t we cooperate more?” That was the idea that came about a year ago and is now officially confirmed.

Three topics

The signing of the Letter of Intent was the last item on the busy schedule that Rijkswaterstaat and ProRail had prepared for their Swedish colleagues. “It was a packed program,” said Jan Hendrik Dronkers just before signing. They barely had the opportunity to complete one activity before having to move on to the next. And that’s a good thing according to the Director-General, because it means that they have much to tell each other. “But,” he said, ‘let’s try to bring focus in the next step. In the multitude of topics we should work out a few topics in detail, not do everything for 50%.” ‘Procurement, performance-based contracts and making a project ‘lean’ are the three topics that will be investigated first. Dronkers is very clear: “Let’s agree that in two, maybe three weeks we email our initial ideas of how to address these three issues.”

Connecting to practice

The meeting was chaired by Patrick Buck, ProRail Director and one of the founders of King/RPA. Five years ago as Project Director of the Betuweroute project, he was one of the initiators of the National Academy for Project Management and now the Swedes are wanting to cooperate. Had he ever thought this was imaginable five years ago? “In my life I have seen some well-intentioned initiatives of this type die a silent death. But King and RPA are still alive after five years”, he says. “And we now may start something similar in cooperation with Sweden, that gives me great joy.” What advice would he like to give to the Swedes? “I think the secret of King/RPA is that the themes seamlessly connect to the daily practice. No abstract theories, but practical issues that we all have to deal with every day and therefore can immediately use in our work. I would like to give the Swedes also one extra advice: stay close to the world of project managers.

Across borders

And what about the connection to the world of project managers? Are they also going to notice something of this cooperation or will it remain a board level meeting? ‘Yes,’ says Hans Ruijter. “This is precisely the point. We want to share knowledge on project level. Specifically this means that soon a number of project managers will travel to Stockholm to learn from their Swedish counterparts.” According to him, it makes sense to do so. In our small country, he says, we cannot afford to realize our complicated projects again and again completely independently. “By now everyone is aware that they should share the experiences and knowledge gained. But in this age of globalization, it is very logical to look across the borders.” Moreover, it is also just fun, he says. “And why wouldn’t you just do something fun and educational?”

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