Case Study – The Blue Spider Project 1. Discuss the project management organization on the project. Strengths? Weaknessess? Recommendations. Parks Corporation used a matrix project management organization on the Blue Spider Project. It was a multi-disciplinary team where the members came from different functional units such as Research and Development, Engineering, Manufacturing, Quality Control, Purchasing, and Finance. Gary Anderson, the Project Manager, was responsible for the project but his responsibility for performance of the individual phases of the work to be accomplished on the project remained with the functional managers.
Anderson assigned, monitored, and coordinated work among the project team. But, the functional managers had the last say on would be involved in deciding who would work on the project team and remained responsible for long-term administrative issues. All the people working on the Blue Spider Project had two bosses and if they were working on more than one project they could have had even more. If all the key players involved with the Blue Spider Project had understood the distinction between what and how, the conflicts between Anderson and the functional managers would have been greatly reduced.
Success of the Blue Spider Project depended on the ability of Anderson and the willingness of the functional managers to cooperate. But this did not occur very often if at all. Personnel working on the project reported to their functional managers who had objectives that sometimes did not coincide with Anderson’s objectives on the Blue Spider Project. There was also little or no understanding of the relationships between the different functional organizations and this created communication problems between Anderson and the other team members, as well as the other functional managers.
The team’s ability to react quickly was hampered by the poor communication and a lack of priority control over facilities and other projects that were being worked. Cost control on the project may have been better due to the flexibility of man-loading personnel but it was less effective because of the lack of direct control Anderson had over the performance of personnel involved in the project. There were also times when Anderson failed to realize the many and varied demands that were placed on the functional managers and they found themselves in a position where the demand for their resources could not be adequately met.
The functional managers had limited resources at their disposal and they had to juggle these resources in order to satisfy most of the demands for most of the time. They often had deadlines, relating to both departmental work in progress as well as to each project that they were supplying resources to. The Blue Spider Project had changes that affected the agreement and commitment of the required functional resources and these had important implications for the functional managers.
It was human nature for Anderson’s requests to be over prioritized because he was trying to ensure that he got the best resources available. Strengths of Parks Corporation’s matrix project management organization: A flexible reservoir of technical specialists was retained Technical and managerial integration One focal point in project management. Unfortunately the management was weak. Consistent management approach to the project. Unfortunately the approach was reactive and not proactive. People were reassigned to the project without changing the organization
Weaknesses of Parks Corporation’s matrix project management organization: The project manager had no line authority over the functional organizations Planning and control systems were required, but not used A large number of task and organizational interfaces were created and these were not communicated There was a delicate balance of power between project and functional organizations, and it seemed like the functional organizations had the power most of the time There was a conflict of loyalty between the functional managers and project manager over the allocation of resources The projects was difficult to monitor because the teams seemed to have a lot of independence Costs increased because the budget was not managed effectively Recommendations 1.
Parks Corporation should have appointed an experienced project manager to run the Blue Spider project and Gary Anderson, who was an experienced engineer, should have been made the assistant project manager with the responsibility of managing the project’s R&D activities. Anderson was too inexperienced as a project manager and really had no clue what the true responsibilities were for managing a project except what he might have learned in his MBA program. 2. Project requirements needed to be clear and specific. In order to achieve successful project management and implementation, Anderson needed to ensure the requirements for the Blue Spider Project were clearly stated and written down in detail, so everyone involved in the project clearly understood the requirements.
And, everyone needed to know what was not included in the Blue Spider Project. 3. Regular and effective communication was needed. If effective communication channels were established that let team members share their knowledge and skills Anderson could have delivered the right understanding of the project requirements to all the team members involved. All types of communication helps build a bridge between team members and stakeholders who have the responsibility to detect potential problems, clarify details, and maintain trust. 4. There was a need for making project assignments clear and allocating work effectively and efficiently to the team.
Project assignments should have been made to the appropriate person or group. Making the right assignments should have involved the personnel with the required skills and knowledge in collaboration and implementation. Multitasking and overload should have been avoided and every assignment should have been made in strict accordance with the competencies of the team members. Anderson should have been ready to delegate tasks and make reassignments if necessary. 5. The Blue Spider Team needed to know specifically how one task relied on another task. This is important because the team members would understand when and how the completion of one task impacts the starting date of a dependent task.
If the project manager is successful at defining these specific dependent tasks, then the team will be successful at doing the tasks in the right sequence and the project will stay on schedule and be successful. 6. The Blue Spider team needed to be committed to the project. The right assignments would have achieved commitment and if the team agreed on the work, understood the requirements; were ready to share their skills; and work in a collaborative environment then they would have established a strong commitment to the project. 7. Any potential risks should have been identified in advance. This avoids missteps and reduces the probability of project failure.
A contingency plan should have been developed to determine the actions to take in the case of an emergency such as the project is out of scope, there are no funds available, or critical changes in the customer’s expectations. The project manager needs to be ready to identify, discuss, and evaluate all possible risks before the project starts. 2. Discuss the main personalities on the project. Gary Anderson – Project Manager Gary Anderson was a fine, experienced engineer and he was eager to take on the responsibilities of Project Manager for the Blue Spider Project. He had sufficient technical engineering skills, but he didn’t have a sufficiently broad ability and background to be adequately conversant with all of the disciplines involved in the project. Anderson had sufficient drive and aggressiveness.
However, he didn’t have the sufficient skills in business development and his skills in planning, work definition, scheduling, estimating and budgeting, and project control systems was also lacking. Initially, Anderson was able to establish a team effort with his abilities to work with people and establish enthusiasm and an esprit de corps. However, this started to erode toward the end. He was not good at communicating ideas in a timely manner and he was even worse at delegating responsibility. Anderson also lacked the skills to properly plan work for him and others. Anderson could not properly assess and coordinate various requirements of broad areas of activity and make timely decisions and establish a balance between thoughts and action.
Henry Gable – Director of Engineering Henry Gable knew the ins and outs of project management because of his experience. He knew that successful program managers had to be able to communicate, had to know how to motivate people, and that they are totally committed and dedicated to the project. He was also somewhat helpful to Gary Anderson in putting together the Blue Spider Project team. However, it did include one of his yes men Paul Evans a project engineer. He was also honest in telling Gary Anderson that if he failed as the Blue Spider project manager, Anderson would not get his senior engineering job back. The biggest thing that was fairly obvious to me was that Henry Gable lacked integrity and was unethical.
He hired Anderson because he thought Anderson would be a yes man and go along with everything Gable wanted. Gable wanted Anderson to falsify the actual test matrix specifications in the RFP. Once the project started Gable had private meetings with one his yes men, Paul Evans, to privately discuss the previous day’s raw materials test data. Gable also spent Lord Industries money on testing the new JXB-3 material and didn’t inform Anderson what he was doing. And, when Anderson found out, Gable told Anderson to tell Lord Industries that Parks Corporation money was used and they would be happy because Parks Corporation was spending their own money on the Blue Spider Project.
Gable is a real piece of work in my mind. He sets Gary Anderson up for failure because he is inexperienced as a project manager, then he goes behind Anderson’s back to test some new material, and then he gets a substantial bonus from corporate headquarters for his work on the Blue Spider Project and Anderson only gets a letter of congratulations. And, to keep Anderson quiet about his underhandedness, Gable gave Anderson his engineering job back. I just can’t believe he made it all the way up the Parks’ corporate ladder to Director of Engineering. Paul Evans – Chief Project Engineer Paul Evans was an experienced engineer who, for the most part, was an honest and upfront person.
He told Anderson that he had doubts about the validity of the test matrix and that if it proved to be a failure the scope of effort would have to be changed and there would be a cost overrun if trade-offs were not made to see what could be deleted downstream. He also told Anderson about the secret meetings he was having with Gable and that Gable would try to manipulate them. But, he didn’t tell Anderson that he was working with Gable on the side to test the new JXB-3 material. Evans told Anderson they needed to inform Parks’ upper management when the results of the accelerated aging tests indicated that the new materials would meet specifications, but the age life would be less than five years.
However, when Anderson refused to tell upper management and told Evans that he would handle the issue, Evans agreed to go along with Anderson’s decision and suffer the consequences later. 3. What tools of project management were used or ill-used? Project Management Tools Used Master Program Plan – Based on statements in the case study I believe Parks Corporation had a master program plan in place that considered the entire project from initiation by the customer, through the proposal stage, through the negotiation, award, and performance. It is just hard to tell if the plan was incremental in nature and if it started with a broad top level logic diagram. I believe it was implemented in detail as the Blue Spider project moved through the various phases.
Financial Plan – There were several references in the case study on finances, so I believe there was a financial plan in place that allocated resources for the Blue Spider Program and included the financial management processes needed for achieving both contract cost goals and company financial objectives. I am sure the plan included cost expenditure plans, man loading plans, and contingency alternate plans. Technical Performance Plan – There were also several references to technical performance and specifications so I am certain there was a technical performance plan in place that provided the basis for predicting total system technical performance based on system element data that included; (1) technical performance parameters; (2) goals and target parameter values; (3) milestones for planned parameter profiles.
Project Management Tools Ill-Used Project Charter – A formal document that provides authority to a project manager to conduct a project within scope, quality, time and cost and resource constraints as laid down in the document. A charter usually includes a mission statement, including background, purpose, and benefits, a goal, objectives, scope, assumptions and constraints. There was no reference to a Project Charter in the case study. But, if a charter existed, Anderson would have been a lot more successful putting together a team than one that was just adequate. He would have also avoided the slow-down in decision-making and difficulty in motivating his team members. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) – This document is vital to any project because it clarifies and provides key details for a number of project management activities.
The WBS provides a detailed illustration of project scope; monitors progress of the project; creates accurate cost and schedule estimates; and provides every team member with clear work assignments and a sense of how their work fits into the overall effort. Anderson would have benefitted tremendously if a WBS had been created and project management activities had been included in the WBS because he could have been a lot more proactive in managing the project and not reactive. The majority of the tasks should have been everyday work, such as communication and problem resolution. These types of tasks would have helped Anderson with his lack of communication with his customer, functional managers, and team members. It would have also kept Henry Gable from secretly developing the JXB-3 material and spending Blue Spider Project money to do it.
The WBS would have also been a great tool for Anderson to delegate work; avoid “doing everything himself”; stay on top of the project’s cost and performance; ease the burden of the “bureaucratic red tape of project management. Earned Value Management System – This is an integrative approach which brings cost, schedule, and technical planning and control all together to give the project manager an effective system for managing the project. The secret to making an earned value management system work is the work breakdown structure. This system would have provided the data and information for Anderson to know if the Blue Spider project was: (1) Ahead of schedule and under budget; (2) Ahead of schedule and over budget; (3) Behind schedule and under budget; or (4) Behind schedule and over budget.
Risk Management Plan – All projects involve some degree of risk, so a project risk plan is needed to define and document those procedures that will be used to manage risk throughout the life of the project. Risk is any factor that may potentially interfere with successful completion of the project. Therefore, it follows that by recognizing potential problems the project manager and core team members can avoid most, if not all, of these problems through proper actions. A risk management plan should also specify who is responsible for managing the different areas of risk, how risks will be tracked through the project life cycle, how contingency plans will be implemented, and how project reserves will be allocated in order to handle risks.
If the Blue Spider Project had a risk management plan the temperature range issue could have been dealt with more effectively and efficiently. Communication Management Plan – Having a communication plan in place is an essential component for good project management. This document ensures that all stakeholders are equally informed of how, when, and why communication will happen. Communication is often a very effective way to solve problems, deal with risks, and ensure that tasks are completed on time. Successful communication plans identify stakeholders, the information to be communicated, and how this information will be communicated and they leave nothing to chance.
The plan is designed to provide everyone involved in a project a general framework on the development of a more strategic approach to: Ensure timely and appropriate generation, collection, distribution, storage, retrieval, and ultimate disposition of project information Provide the critical links among people and information that are necessary for successful communications Guide the project manager, the project team, stakeholders, customer, sponsor, and everyone involved in the project understand how communications affect the project as a whole This was one of Anderson’s biggest problems. He just did not communicate effectively with all the external and internal stakeholders involved with the Blue Spider project. If he did life would have been much better for him. Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) – This document describes the participation by various roles in completing tasks or deliverables for a project. It is especially useful in clarifying roles and responsibilities in cross-functional/departmental projects and processes.
The document lays out who are responsible for doing the work to achieve the task; who is ultimately accountable for the correct and thorough completion of the deliverable or task, and the one to whom the responsible individual is accountable; those individuals whose opinions are sought; and with whom there is two-way communication; and those individuals who are kept up-to-date on progress, often only on completion of the task or deliverable; and with whom there is just one-way communication. 4. What went right or wrong on the project? List the reasons. What should have been done? The only thing that went right on the Blue Spider project is that Parks Corporation was awarded a sole-source contract for qualification and production of Spartan Missile components using the new longer-life raw materials.
The reason this happened is that in spite of the fact the project was behind schedule, over budget and out of scope, and there was poor project management, definition, planning, and control was the fact that all the folks involved rolled up their sleeves and overcame all these obstacles to win the follow-on contract. All of these folks were experienced in their jobs and they all knew how important the success of the Blue Spider project was to the Parks Corporation. Based on the information in the case study, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The project did not meet cost, schedule, quality goals, and there was a breakdown in communication on several occasions. I believe there were three reasons for all these problems. First, there was no project definition that laid out a firm foundation for the project.
As the project manager, Gary Anderson, needed to determine the purpose, goals, and constraints of the project and then make these known to all the stakeholders. These become the foundation for making all project decisions because they describe the cost-schedule-quality relationship and connect the project to the mission of the Parks Corporation. Gary Anderson should have established basic project management controls. He also should have gotten an agreement on which people and functions were to be involved in the project and what their roles would be. Anderson also needed to clarify the chain of command, communication strategy, and change control process.
When these decisions and strategies are documented and accepted they communicate to all the stakeholders the expectations about the way the project will be managed. It would also be an agreement that Anderson could have referred to keep everyone accountable for their responsibilities in the project. In other words, they are the rules of engagement that outline how to play the project “game” and what it takes to win. Second, project planning was not complete by any means as I have already discussed in the answer to question #3 above. Thorough project planning puts together the details of how the project goals will be met based on the given constraints.
Estimating and scheduling techniques lay out how much work the project will entail, who will do the work, when the work will be accomplished, and how much it will cost to do the work. In addition, risk management will identify those areas with the greatest uncertainty and develop strategies to mitigate the risk. A detailed project plan includes: (1) Work schedules and deadlines; (2) Budgets, cost accounts, and a cost control system; (3) Detailed Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and work packages; (4) Areas of hrisk and uncertainty and contingency plans; (5) Personnel plan and utilization plans; (6) Plans for testing; (7) A documentation plan; (8) A change control and work review plan; and (9) Initial implementation plans.
Third, project control that includes all the activities to keep the project on track was not evident in the case study. These activities include: Progress Measurement – This activity identifies problems early, so they are easier to solve. This activity also provides feedback that validates the estimates in the plan and the cost-schedulequality relationship. Communication – Obviously communication is vital in controlling a project because it keeps everyone coordinated, aware of any changes, and updated on the progress of the project. Corrective action – This is the day-to-day responses to all the problems and obstacles that are encountered on a project. Any project must begin with definition, then move to planning, and finally move to control.
These steps can be repeated many times because planning could lead to modifications in the project definition, and controlling actions could require a change to the plan, and maybe even to the project definition. So, it’s possible a project manger could spend time every day defining, planning, and controlling. Some more thoughts on what should have been. There needed to be agreement among the Blue Spider Project team, Parks Corporation management, and the team from Lord Industries on the goals of the project at the very beginning. A plan that shows an overall path and clear responsibilities and that can be used to measure progress during the project was needed.
Constant and effective communication among everyone involved in the project was also a must. Much more effort needed to be put into managing stakeholder expectations. This is an important, ongoing task that should have been accomplished throughout the project, especially when the changes to the JXB-3B material were made. Finally, it would have been more beneficial to all parties concerned if Anderson was able to work more productively with the functional managers because the project would have been a lot more successful and Anderson job would have been a lot easier and a lot less stressful. Anderson would have also gotten the right people at the right time and timely decisions based on the facts presented by the project team.