1.1 Write a brief synopsis.
The case study Project Firecracker, looks at the advent of Jeff Pankoff operating as a prime Engineer for the tool department in National corporation company, which produces special machines, tools and components to automotive and aircraft industries. The company had an annual sales of $600 million with over 800 employees all over the globe. It was a successful company during those days.
Jeff was first assigned to the engineering department and then enrolled to a graduate school to know more about statistics. Later during his completion he was sent to Ireland to set up an engineering department. After his return from Ireland he was promoted as the chief engineer with over 80 engineers and technicians working under him. He then chose to peruse MBA when his project began.
Jeff met Ben Ehlke, manager of the Nationals tool plant to discuss regarding the purchase of the CNC machine. Here jeff happened to meet Tom Kelly, chief tool buyer, APC, and got to know that the Nationals sales manager, Bob Jones had refused to quote on a $40 million project. Jeff had this discussed with Tom and assured that the sales vice president would contact him. After his return Jeff met Wolinski to discuss regarding the same project which Tom had offered to Nationals. During this discussion Jeff tried to convince Wolinski that they needed project management for the successful completion of the project, as the traditional procedure they were using need approval from various other managers and it takes a lot of time to complete the project. But, Wolinski did not agree on Jeff and asked to carry the project in the same traditional way which the Nations were following since ages. In this project Jeff was responsible for determining the associated manufacturing costs and methods. After the project began Jeff faced several problems in design and development stages. Since they were following the traditional approach it took a lot of time to find a potential solution to these problems. At last when Nationals sent the 100 test samples to APC they disregarded them as it was not made up to the specification. The Nationals lacked in time to send out the corrected test samples as they wasted a lot of time in finding solutions to problems in the initial stage of the project. Hence the nationals did not get the $40 million order.
Later Wolinski realized that for the successful completion of the project, project management is required as said by Jeff. Then he called on a meeting with Jeff to discuss regarding the project management practices and policies, so that they could apply them for their further projects.
1.2 What did Jeff, the chief engineer, do wrong?
Jeff was trying to commit National in accepting the order from APC without contacting the sales, as the National’s policy was that any communication with the customer had to go through the sales department. 1.3 Did National win the $40 million order?
No, The National did not win the $40 million order as the test pieces were not as per the specification provided by the APC and had no time left to deliver the corrected test pieces.
1.4 What approach should they be using? Why?
They should be using the approach of project management, where all the decisions come from a single top authority person, project manager, who is the sole responsibility of the project.
1.5 What did Jeff’s boss want to discuss with him about doing on a trial basis?
Jeff’s Boss, Wolinski, wanted to discuss regarding the concept of project management, as he wanted to try this approach rather than the traditional approach of project assignments.
Q2. Please answer the following questions. Read “Louder than Words”, Ross Foti, PM Network, Dec 2002, pp 22-27.
2.1 Write a brief synopsis.
“Louder than words is a case study which describes the overall idea of project management and why the interaction between project managers and other associates are of prime importance by giving a real life example of United Kingdom’s west line rail road between London and Glasgow. In this example the SRA tried to reduce the construction period by two years to reduce the inconvenience experienced by the passengers. This incurred an increase in the budget from £2.1 billion to over £10 billion. Even after a huge increase in the budget the project failed due to two major reasons, one being lack of leadership and the other is that a suitable strategy was not considered and followed to carry on the project. This case study also tells us that some projects fail even though project management is followed. It is said that for the success rate of the project to increase, the executive sponsor plays a major role than the project manager. It is considered that there should exist trust, accountability, and system thinking between the project manager and the executive for proper understanding of the project. The project manager should have good communication between all the members of the project and the executives so that any solution to a potential problem can be got faster and quicker. For a project to land successful results it it the responsibility of all the members involved in the project from the highest authority to the lowest worker to have a better interaction with their subordinates and discuss the positives and negatives of the project, only then the undertaken work would become successful.
2.2 Why was the United Kingdom’s Strategic Rail Authority project derailed?
The United Kingdom’s Strategic Rail Authority project derailed because of improper strategy and improper leadership.
2.3 Who does the project manager depend on? To do what?
A good professional project manager depends on the executive for building a culture of trust, values, system thinking, accountability and measurement, according to Tim Sockert, president of INNOVA group.
2.4 What are 4 of the Do’s and Don’ts of a Project Sponsor that you value?
· Notice things in terms of potential, rather than defining them in terms of schedule or event.
· He must facilitate trust with accountability.
· Explore various methods to solve a problem and make sure that the method adopted as effective.
· Respect the decisions of the team members by listening about their views of project risks.
· The project sponsor should not neglect on things on what he has promised to do.
· Circumvent the process when it appears it will take more time.
· Communicate seemingly arbitrary and capricious goals.
· The project sponsor should not treat the project management resources as a separate group.
2.5 Any other Lessons Learned from this article?
From the article “Louder than Words” another important lesson learned is that, the success of the project depends on how the project manager heads the entire process. He should play the main role in identifying the key factors which leads to successful project completion and also have good communication among the entire team members and also the stake holders for better completion of the project.
Q3. Read “Forge Ahead”, Lynne Jackson, PM Network, Apr 2004, pp 46-52
3.1 Write a brief synopsis.
The Press Association Ltd, was one of the United Kingdom’s largest and successful news agency. Later down the line the profits of the agency started to reduce, which is when they hired Geof Leigh to find out the cause for it. After the investigation process Leigh got to know few reasons why the agency was experiencing this profit downfall. Leigh says that even though the agency had all the cooperation to share the necessary information, there was no proper organized methods or systems to help them carry out the information sharing. The company considered the profits too lightly by following old procedures. Their news had all the information from sports to politics but the methods they followed to run the business was not good enough to get those profits. All the other remote agencies they acquired operated as single units rather than running whole unit together, if this is done like the way said there would be possibly more interaction between all the agencies to discuss regarding the problems faced and come out with a potential solution. Carrying the process together with a good interaction between all agencies/departments is an expensive way says Leigh. According to him all projects must have a top-down approach rather than bottom-top. Because in the top-down approach the problems in the later stage can be estimated and solved even before the project is started, saving both time and money, and also said that to obtain incremental results the program must not be delivered as a whole single piece rather present it in an organized way which will have proof of concept. He also suggested that the news agency open a program management office so there was better communication between all the other partner agencies which could increase the profit line of the company.
3.2 What caused the United Kingdom’s largest news agency, The Press Association, Ltd, profit margins to slide down?
According to Geof Leigh, the United Kingdom’s largest news agency, The Press Association, ltd, experienced a slide down in the profit margins, because there was no proper means of sharing information within the organization, as it is a type of expensive process. This led to jeopardizing its core business with redundant operations.
3.3 What does a focused portfolio management do for them? Were their projects a part of their strategic plan?
A focused portfolio management will not let the company struggle in their good projects, which boost their bottom line.
No, their projects were not a part of strategic plan.
3.4 Should programs deliver incremental results to prove that they are on track? What about proof-of-concepts?
Yes. If a program delivers incremental results it can be considered that the program is being carried on in the right track. These incremental results also help to fuel the momentum of the project and keep employees on board.
According to Leigh, it is the worst thing to deliver a program as a single chunk with no proper proof of concept.
3.5 Is there value in a project manager networking with other project managers?
There is certainly a good value in a project manager networking with other program managers as it will help them to find solutions to a number of potential problems and also determine a very accurate budget for the project.
Q 4. Read “Viewpoints: Listen and Learn”, Alfonso Bucero, PMP, PM Network, Jul 2006, p 20,22
4.1. What is the difference between hearing and listening?
Hearing involves only receiving the information, but not processing it, whereas listening comprises of both receiving and processing the information. Hearing is just an act of subconcisousness, while listening requires full concentration so that the meaning of the information is understood by the brain.
4.2 What are the six listening behaviors and provide an example when appropriate/not appropriate to use?
· Hearing -it’s appropriate to hear rather than listen to a person who has a negative thought about an idea or a proposal.
· Information gathering – while asking for a particular address.
· Cynical listening – Not appropriate in a meeting.
· Offensive listening – Not appropriate in a classroom/lecture.
· Polite listening – Appropriate in a social gathering.
· Active listening – Appropriate in a meeting/lecture/speech.
Q.5 Read “Process Paralysis”, Neal Whitten, PM Network, Feb 2008, p 26
What are the different causes of process paralysis, and how to fix them?
· Bureaucratic and inefficient methodologies: In order to fix such a problem the project manager must take an advanced step to overlook on the immediate interests and try to eliminate this type of methodology, so that other areas of the organization are benefitted. Another way out is to make some alterations in the rules and regulations of the policy, but this should be done only when the program manager is confident of obtaining better results.
· Incomplete methodology: In such cases, first option is to interact with the person who has understood the problem and try to derive a solution, later if this is not possible the problem can be escalated to the higher levels of management. If this does not work, the project manager himself should find the best fit solution for the problem.
· New methodology: The project manager must determine exactly where to and where not to use the new methodology for the success of the project and the benefit of the organization from that project.
· Resistive team members: In such cases one must respect the decision of the team members, if their decision is right satisfy their interests, if not make negotiations where all the parties are satisfied with the decision taken. If none of the above works, the project manager takes the final call and the team members must follow his decision.
· Accountability: The core responsibility of the project manager is to ensure that right methodology is being used in place. It’s him who helps the organization become successful.