Example of situation analysis

We pose a ''situation'' facing the PM as follows:

It is Wednesday afternoon and Jack, the Project Manager, receives a call from the Project Controller who claims that the latest cost report shows the project to be overspent, compared with budget, by 11%. Jack, meanwhile, had been thinking about his lead hardware and software engineers, who incessantly complain to him about each other. Jack now also begins to think about the project review session with his customer that is scheduled for 2 P.M. next Monday. What should Jack do, and in what sequence?

A response to this situation, that is, a situation analysis, follows. Step 1: This step calls for assembling the known facts, which, at this point, appear to be a. The project is 11% overspent.

b. The lead hardware and software engineers are complaining about each other.

c. There is a project review session planned with the customer in approximately five days (three working days).

Jack next picks up the phone and asks the Project Controller (PC) and Chief Systems Engineer (CSE) to come to his office immediately. The PC is asked to bring all cost and schedule data that are relevant. The project triumvirate then reviews the facts and overall situation from top to bottom. Step 2: The cost overexpenditures are identified as an evident problem. Step 3: The hardware and software engineers issue and planned meeting with the customer are placed in the ''potential or inferred'' problem category. Step 4: The project triumvirate identifies the problem priorities as

1. Cost overrun

2. Scheduled customer meeting

3. Hardware/software engineer issue

They decide that the scope of the plan for solution will not include the hardware/software engineer issue. They also analyze, to the extent that they are able to, the data they have involving:

1. The cost elements that have been overspent

2. Why these cost elements are overspent

3. Potential effects on schedule

4. Potential effects on technical performance

This activity takes most of the rest of Wednesday afternoon. The project triumvirate agrees that more data are needed. Jack calls for a project team X meeting at 8:30 the next morning (Thursday). He does not reveal the precise purpose of the meeting. Project team X is a subset of the overall project staff and is handpicked for its ability to solve a problem of this type. Jack asks that the PC and CSE think about the situation but not convey it to anyone else until the meeting the next morning. Step 5: The project team X meets on Thursday morning to discuss the two top-priority problems, in the following sequence:

1. Cost overrun

2. Meeting scheduled with the customer

Reasons for the cost condition are ascertained at this meeting. A basic plan

(Plan A) for how to fix the overrun situation is set forth. Step 6: At the same meeting, which is proceeding through the entire morning,

Plan A is reconsidered with respect to risks, benefits, and costs. Step 7: Based upon the preceding scrutiny, team X does not believe the plan is good enough. It is also 11:30 a.m. on Thursday morning. Jack asks all members of team X to reconvene at 2 p.m., coming to the table with new and hopefully better ideas. Team members are encouraged to talk to other project personnel if it is considered helpful. All project personnel are reminded that the situation is to be kept within the project staff for the time being.

Reiteration of Steps 5, 6, and 7: Team X meets at 2 p.m. and a new plan is devised that is considered satisfactory and, indeed, the best the team can formulate. This is a plan for correction of the cost overrun. Jack now focuses the team on the matter of the project review session with the customer, scheduled for next Monday. The team agrees that:

1. The customer is very likely to accept the plan.

2. There is no good reason to alert the customer to the problem before Monday.

3. They should confirm the Monday meeting with the customer,

Jack suggests to the team that now is the time to alert his supervisor as to the set of problems as well as the plan for solution. The team agrees that this is an important step prior to the implementation of the plan. Step 8: As a precursor to implementation, Jack, the PC, and the CSE meet with Jack's boss. The boss appreciates the steps taken and being kept informed. He also agrees with the plan, but insists on being present at the meeting with the customer on Monday. Jack and his boss agree on how to make the presentation to the customer, who else should attend, and what the roles of all participants should be.

This example illustrates the SA process as well as some of the vagaries of that process. The basic issue for SA is not how well one can analyze schedule charts and cost reports. The issue, rather, is how to mobilize a team effort to prioritize and find solutions to problems that invariably arise during the course of a project. The reader is invited to practice situation analysis for the situations that are included in the questions and exercises that follow.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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