The Work Begins

Gary accepted the new challenge. His first major hurdle occurred in staffing the project. The top priority given to him to bid the program did not follow through for staffing. The survival of Parks Corporation depended on the profits received from the production programs. In keeping with this philosophy Gary found that engineering managers (even his former boss) were reluctant to give up their key people to the Blue Spider Program. However, with a little support from Henry Gable, Gary formed an adequate staff for the program.

Right from the start Gary was worried that the test matrix called out in the technical volume of the proposal would not produce results that could satisfy specifications. Gary had 90 days after go-ahead during which to identify the raw materials that could satisfy specification requirements. Gary and Paul Evans held a meeting to map out their strategy for the first few months.

Anderson: Well, Paul, we're starting out with our backs against the wall on this one. Any recommendations?

Paul Evans: I also have my doubts about the validity of this test matrix. Fortunately, I've been through this before. Gable thinks this is his project and he'll sure as hell try to manipulate us. I have to report to him every morning at 7:30 a.m. with the raw data results of the previous day's testing. He wants to see it before you do. He also stated that he wants to meet with me alone.

Lord will be the big problem. If the test matrix proves to be a failure, we're going to have to change the scope of effort. Remember, this is an FFP contract. If we change the scope of work and do additional work in the earlier phases of the program, then we should prepare a trade-off analysis to see what we can delete downstream so as to not overrun the budget.

Anderson: I'm going to let the other project office personnel handle the administrating work. You and I are going to live in the research labs until we get some results. We'll let the other project office personnel run the weekly team meetings.

For the next three weeks Gary and Paul spent virtually 12 hours per day, 7 days a week, in the research and development lab. None of the results showed any promise. Gary kept trying to set up a meeting with Henry Gable but always found him unavailable.

During the fourth week, Gary, Paul, and the key functional department managers met to develop an alternate test matrix. The new test matrix looked good. Gary and his team worked frantically to develop a new workable schedule that would not have impact on the second milestone, which was to occur at the end of 180 days. The second milestone was the final acceptance of the raw materials and preparation of production runs of the raw materials to verify that there would be no scale-up differences between lab development and full-scale production.

Gary personally prepared all of the technical handouts for the interchange meeting. After all, he would be the one presenting all of the data. The technical interchange meeting was scheduled for two days. On the first day, Gary presented all of the data, including test results, and the new test matrix. The customer appeared displeased with the progress to date and decided to have its own in-house caucus that evening to go over the material that was presented.

The following morning the customer stated its position: "First of all, Gary, we're quite pleased to have a project manager who has such a command of technology. That's good. But every time we've tried to contact you last month, you were unavailable or had to be paged in the research laboratories. You did an acceptable job presenting the technical data, but the administrative data was presented by your project office personnel. We, at Lord, do not think that you're maintaining the proper balance between your technical and administrative responsibilities. We prefer that you personally give the administrative data and your chief project engineer present the technical data.

"We did not receive any agenda. Our people like to know what will be discussed, and when. We also want a copy of all handouts to be presented at least three days in advance. We need time to scrutinize the data. You can't expect us to walk in here blind and make decisions after seeing the data for ten minutes.

"To be frank, we feel that the data to date is totally unacceptable. If the data does not improve, we will have no choice but to issue a work stoppage order and look for a new contractor. The new test matrix looks good, especially since this is a firm-fixed-price contract. Your company will bear the burden of all costs for the additional work. A trade-off with later work may be possible, but this will depend on the results presented at the second design review meeting, 90 days from now.

"We have decided to establish a customer office at Parks to follow your work more closely. Our people feel that monthly meetings are insufficient during R&D activities. We would like our customer representative to have daily verbal meetings with you or your staff. He will then keep us posted. Obviously, we had expected to review much more experimental data than you have given us.

"Many of our top-quality engineers would like to talk directly to your engineering community, without having to continually waste time by having to go through the project office. We must insist on this last point. Remember, your effort may be only $2.2 million, but our total package is $100 million. We have a lot more at stake than you people do. Our engineers do not like to get information that has been filtered by the project office. They want to help you.

"And last, don't forget that you people have a contractual requirement to prepare complete minutes for all interchange meetings. Send us the original for signature before going to publication."

Although Gary was unhappy with the first team meeting, especially with the requests made by Lord Industries, he felt that they had sufficient justification for their comments. Following the team meeting, Gary personally prepared the complete minutes. "This is absurd," thought Gary. "I've wasted almost one entire week doing nothing more than administrative paperwork. Why do we need such detailed minutes? Can't a rough summary suffice? Why is it that customers want everything documented? That's like an indication of fear. We've been completely cooperative with them. There has been no hostility between us. If we've gotten this much paperwork to do now, I hate to imagine what it will be like if we get into trouble."

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