Management to Facilitate Compliance with Global Conventions During Hazardous and Toxic Waste Cleanup Projects in Asia
The management of hazardous and toxic waste projects in Asia (especially that related to intractable chemicals) has had a less than acceptable performance profile during the last 20 years. There have been numerous documented cases of management and systems failures in intractable chemical recovery projects, despite the establishment of global conventions designed to avoid such problems.
A research programme was undertaken with the aim of producing a management model for companies to help prevent such failures in the future. The research began in the field with an exploration of management culture and its impact on project management. This involved multiple visits to five Asian countries and interviewing people involved in intractable waste management at both strategic and operational levels and reviewing project records. Personnel in government departments, particularly the “competent authority”, were interviewed to gain insights into the applied management culture within the five countries studied.
The various international conventions or regulations regarding hazardous waste and its management, were researched for their interdependence and effectiveness. The research concentrated on the “Management Plans” or “Environmental Management Systems” that reside within these conventions in order to establish a benchmark of expectation concerning standards of management and organisation that would be required of a member state to discharge its obligations under the conventions. This work involved the author attending several meetings and conferences of the parties to the UNEP Basel Convention, as well as attendance at many Technical Working Groups over several years.
Complexity theory and uncertainty theory, along with emergent theory and innovation adoption theory were researched. The outcome of this research clearly suggested that a multidimensional matrix-based approach could be successful in providing companies with a strategic management model that, if applied, could enable them to manage large scale intractable projects effectively in compliance with the conventions. The hypothesis of this work is that Duncan’s matrix model can be reverse applied to the external environmental elements and components, combined with the mutual adaptation model (i.e.: technology/organisational mutual adaptation), therefore establishing an integrated multidimensional model of adaptation.
The mutual adaptation approach was subsequently used to frame a series of questions that formed the basis of four field surveys. These surveys were applied at different times over a five year period, covering ten projects in China and Taiwan, and involving interviews with a total of 100 executives, who were asked a total of 96 questions across the four surveys, resulting in 9600 responses. The first two surveys were conducted close together in time with the third and fourth later in the process and thus could be considered retrospective. The respondents included project managers, engineers, technicians, company accountants, marketing managers and site leaders.
The data collected validated the hypothesis and established that complexity management was an element of those companies that successfully adopted external technology and systems and in fact were also engaged in reversing the technology back to the originators. The data also indicated that those companies not engaging in complexity management were not reversing technology adoption. An integrated mutual adaptation model was developed from the characterisation matrices and consequently a two-dimensional model of singularity. The final singularity model can be applied at an organisation’s strategic level, so as to provide an organisational capacity for compliance with environmentally sound management practices as demanded by the international hazardous waste conventions.