What is Project Management? Q1) In my opinion, Rachel has managed her time effectively. Though, I would not say that she has managed her time “very” effectively, nonetheless it is evident that she has run through her planned schedule and also coped with unplanned events and occurrences. First, to start off with the planned meetings, she managed to update her boss on the proposed schedule for the day, prepare status report updates and though her team does seem to “behind the curve” when it comes to attending team meetings, she made good use of the time left over for the meeting.
Next, in any project manager’s job, there are those “unplanned” occurrences that need to be sorted out immediately if they are urgent or what are known as “show stoppers” or at least ensure that reminders and follow up notes are setup for them. In Rachel’s case, the unexpected disclosure that Marketing had promised additional features that were not part of the original design and Victoria’s request are instances of unplanned exigencies. In both cases, she managed to contain the fallout.
In the first case, she did the right thing by going directly to John and seeking the clarification. Then, she followed it up with Mary to find the exact cause once John made his stand clear. If I were to pick the negative to the way in which she handled the day, it is her proclivity to constantly stop by people’s desks (other than her team members) to converse with them. Though there are only a couple of such occurrences, these are typically the things that can be called “time wasters”.
The flip side to such conversations is that the manager’s are updated on the latest happenings through the “grapevine” and hence get access to vital information that might only filter down later in a sanitized format. Q2) A Project Manager’s job is a “balancing act” between competing demands from different stakeholders and interest groups while maintaining bottom-line focus all the time. In Rachel’s case, she has requests from Victoria and John from the client team for personnel and additional features. At the same time, she realizes that her team may be a bit overworked.
Thus, balancing the needs of the external stakeholders (Client) and the internal stakeholders (Victoria and Mary) while ensuring that the project does not fall too much behind schedule remains the primary focus for Rachel. Project Management is the art of managing time, scope, cost (triple constraints) along with the quality and other factors. In Rachel’s case, the additional requirements would lead to increased scope and maybe reduced quality if not properly done. And there is no guarantee that the cost would be increased accordingly so that the timeline is taken care of.
Thus, this shows that a project manager has to do a “juggling act” wit the above variables at his or her disposal. A Project Manager is like the conductor in an orchestra. He or she is the one who knows the entire script and the rest are all following her cues. Thus, the bottom-line deliverables and the profit margins have to be kept in mind when making commitments. Finally, the most important and least practiced aspect is that of people management. As the case shows, her team has lot of gripes over their workload and worse, some of them are late for the team meetings as well.
Thus, the employee motivation and morale of the team members matter a lot to the eventual success of the project. This, in short, is my understanding of the job of a project manager. HOC In my view, the major problem for HOC seems to be the need to “balance” growth with sustainability. As happens with many firms that have grown exponentially over a period of time, they become victims of their own success.
Thus, without a clear strategy on how to maintain the competitive edge, they run the risk of being relegated to the second place or worse out of reckoning. The company is in danger of losing focus of its core strategy and its position as the market leader unless steps are taken to correct the situation. Some of the symptoms of the problem are the way in which younger executives are using their time to branch off into ideas of their own with little thought for the vision or the marketing strategy of the company.
If the company wants to position itself in a certain way but some of the people want to do it their own way, we have a classic conflict of interest at hand. The other symptom is of poaching of talented personnel by competitors and any CEO would not like this to happen. The major cause of the problem is that there is no consensus among the managerial team of HOC on how to go about the business of retaining their competitive edge. Till now, the success was driven by a combination of innovative products and niche segment marketing.
Now, the issue is how to ramp up to scale without major hiccups along the way. These are the causes and symptoms of the problem and in the next page; I develop an action plan to address some of these issues. The action plan to tackle the problems that HOC may face revolve around managing the company in a time of growth, sustaining the growth model, focus on innovation and amiable relations at the middle management level. First, the biggest challenge before HOC is to resolve the conflicts between competing managers for resources and budgetary allocations.
Next, the focus should be on to make the managers’ work for a “collective” cause. Thus, instead of each marching to their own beat, a concerted orchestra like movement has to be implemented. One suggestion would be to let the managers set aside some portion of their time for concentrating on projects that are close to their heart. This has been done at Google with lots of success. In the kind of industry that HOC operates in, innovation and research are crucial for success.
Thus, Peters can let the young team focus on doing something that they are interested in for say 20% of their time. Of course, it is incumbent on Peters to set the direction and vision for such a move. The other big challenge that needs to be tackled is to inculcate a sense of ownership and alignment with senior management regarding the vision and mission of the company. Often, in companies that grow very fast, people seem to be working at cross purposes as the laissez faire attitude is necessary for initial growth and take off.
However, once the company attains critical mass, the leadership has to ensure that everyone is “on the same page” as far as direction and strategy of the company are concerned. Thus, this would be my recommendation for Peters to implement at HOC.