Project Manager Defines Problem Shares Decisionmaking Responsibility With Subordinates

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The Project Your company has just won a contract for an outside customer. The con tract is for one year, broken down as follows: R&D: six months; prototype testing: one month; manufacturing: five months. In addition to the risks involved in the R&D stage, both your management and the customer have stated that there will be absolutely no trade-offs on time, cost, or performance.

When you prepared the proposal six months ago, you planned and budgeted for a full-time staff of five people, in addition to the functional support personnel. Unfortunately, due to limited resources, your staff (i.e., the project office) will be as follows:

Tom: An excellent engineer, somewhat of a prima donna, but has worked very well with you on previous projects. You specifically requested Tom and were fortunate to have him assigned, although your project is not regarded as a high priority. Tom is recognized as both a technical leader and expert, and is considered as perhaps the best engineer in the company. Tom will be full-time for the duration of the project.

Bob: Started with the company a little over a year ago, and may be a little "wet behind the ears." His line manager has great expectations for him in the future but, for the time being, wants you to give him on-the-job-training as a project office team member. Bob will be full-time on your project.

Carol: She has been with the company for twenty years and does an acceptable job. She has never worked on your projects before. She is full-time on the project.

George: He has been with the company for six years, but has never worked on any of your projects. His superior tells you that he will be only half-time on your project until he finishes a crash job on another project. He should be available for full-time work in a month or two. George is regarded as an outstanding employee.

Management informs you that there is nobody else available to fill the fifth position. You'll have to spread the increased workload over the other members. Obviously, the customer may not be too happy about this.

In each situation that follows, circle the best answer. The grading system will be provided later.

Remember: These staff individuals are "dotted" to you and "solid" to their line manager, although they are in your project office.

Situation 1: The project office team members have been told to report to you this morning. They have all received your memo concerning the time and place of the kickoff meeting. However, they have not been provided any specific details concerning the project except that the project will be at least one year in duration. For your company, this is regarded as a long-term project. A good strategy for the meeting would be:

A. The team must already be self-motivated or else they would not have been assigned. Simply welcome them and assign homework.

B. Motivate the employees by showing them how they will benefit: esteem, pride, self-actualization. Minimize discussion on specifics.

C. Explain the project and ask them for their input. Try to get them to identify alternatives and encourage group decision-making.

D. Identify the technical details of the project: the requirements, performance standards, and expectations.

Situation 2: You give the team members a copy of the winning proposal and a "confidential" memo describing the assumptions and constraints you considered in developing the proposal. You tell your team to review the material and be prepared to perform detailed planning at the meeting you have scheduled for the following Monday. During Monday's planning meeting, you find that Tom (who has worked with you before) has established a take-charge role and has done some of the planning that should have been the responsibility of other team members. You should:

A. Do nothing. This may be a beneficial situation. However, you may wish to ask if the other project office members wish to review Tom's planning.

B. Ask each team member individually how he or she feels about Tom's role. If they complain, have a talk with Tom.

C. Ask each team member to develop his or her own schedules and then compare results.

D. Talk to Tom privately about the long-term effects of his behavior.

Situation 3: Your team appears to be having trouble laying out realistic schedules that will satisfy the customer's milestones. They keep asking you pertinent questions and seem to be making the right decisions, but with difficulty.

A. Do nothing. If the team is good, they will eventually work out the problem.

B. Encourage the team to continue but give some ideas as to possible alternatives. Let them solve the problem.

C. Become actively involved and help the team solve the problem. Supervise the planning until completion.

D. Take charge yourself and solve the problem for the team. You may have to provide continuous direction.

Situation 4: Your team has taken an optimistic approach to the schedule. The functional managers have reviewed the schedules and have sent your team strong memos stating that there is no way that they can support your schedules. Your team's morale appears to be very low. Your team expected the schedules to be returned for additional iterations and trade-offs, but not with such harsh words from the line managers. You should:

A. Take no action. This is common to these types of projects and the team must learn to cope.

B. Call a special team meeting to discuss the morale problem and ask the team for recommendations. Try to work out the problem.

C. Meet with each team member individually to reinforce his or her behavior and performance. Let members know how many other times this has occurred and been resolved through trade-offs and additional iterations. State your availability to provide advice and support.

D. Take charge and look for ways to improve morale by changing the schedules.

Situation 5: The functional departments have begun working, but are still criticizing the schedules. Your team is extremely unhappy with some of the employees assigned out of one functional department. Your team feels that these employees are not qualified to perform the required work. You should:

A. Do nothing until you are absolutely sure (with evidence) that the assigned personnel cannot perform as needed.

B. Sympathize with your team and encourage them to live with this situation until an alternative is found.

C. Assess the potential risks with the team and ask for their input and suggestions. Try to develop contingency plans if the problem is as serious as the team indicates.

D. Approach the functional manager and express your concern. Ask to have different employees assigned.

Situation 6: Bob's performance as a project office team member has begun to deteriorate. You are not sure whether he simply lacks the skills, cannot endure the pressure, or cannot assume part of the additional work that resulted from the fifth position in the project being vacant. You should:

A. Do nothing. The problem may be temporary and you cannot be sure that there is a measurable impact on the project.

B. Have a personal discussion with Bob, seek out the cause, and ask him for a solution.

C. Call a team meeting and discuss how productivity and performance are decreasing. Ask the team for recommendations and hope Bob gets the message.

D. Interview the other team members and see if they can explain Bob's actions lately. Ask the other members to assist you by talking to Bob.

Situation 7: George, who is half-time on your project, has just submitted for your approval his quarterly progress report for your project. After your signature has been attained, the report is sent to senior management and the customer. The report is marginally acceptable and not at all what you would have expected from George. George apologizes to you for the report and blames it on his other project, which is in its last two weeks. You should:

A. Sympathize with George and ask him to rewrite the report.

B. Tell George that the report is totally unacceptable and will reflect on his ability as a project office team member.

C. Ask the team to assist George in redoing the report since a bad report reflects on everyone.

D. Ask one of the other team members to rewrite the report for George.

Situation 8: You have completed the R&D stage of your project and are entering phase II: prototype testing. You are entering month seven of the twelve-month project. Unfortunately, the results of phase I R&D indicate that you were too optimistic in your estimating for phase II and a schedule slippage of at least two weeks is highly probable. The customer may not be happy. You should:

A. Do nothing. These problems occur and have a way of working themselves out. The end date of the project can still be met.

B. Call a team meeting to discuss the morale problem resulting from the slippage. If morale is improved, the slippage may be overcome.

C. Call a team meeting and seek ways of improving productivity for phase II. Hopefully, the team will come up with alternatives.

D. This is a crisis and you must exert strong leadership. You should take control and assist your team in identifying alternatives.

Situation 9: Your rescheduling efforts have been successful. The functional managers have given you adequate support and you are back on schedule. You should:

A. Do nothing. Your team has matured and is doing what they are paid to do.

B. Try to provide some sort of monetary or nonmonetary reward for your team (e.g., management-granted time off or a dinner team meeting).

C. Provide positive feedback/reinforcement for the team and search for ideas for shortening phase III.

D. Obviously, your strong leadership has been effective. Continue this role for the phase III schedule.

Situation 10: You are now at the end of the seventh month and everything is proceeding as planned. Motivation appears high. You should:

A. Leave well enough alone.

B. Look for better ways to improve the functioning of the team. Talk to them and make them feel important.

C. Call a team meeting and review the remaining schedules for the project. Look for contingency plans.

D. Make sure the team is still focusing on the goals and objectives of the project.

Situation 11: The customer unofficially informs you that his company has a problem and may have to change the design specifications before production actually begins. This would be a catastrophe for your project. The customer wants a meeting at your plant within the next seven days. This will be the customer's first visit to your plant. All previous meetings were informal and at the customer's facilities, with just you and the customer. This meeting will be formal. To prepare for the meeting, you should:

A. Make sure the schedules are updated and assume a passive role since the customer has not officially informed you of his problem.

B. Ask the team to improve productivity before the customer's meeting. This should please the customer.

C. Call an immediate team meeting and ask the team to prepare an agenda and identify the items to be discussed.

D. Assign specific responsibilities to each team member for preparation of handout material for the meeting.

Situation 12: Your team is obviously not happy with the results of the customer interface meeting because the customer has asked for a change in design specifications. The manufacturing plans and manufacturing schedules must be developed anew. You should:

A. Do nothing. The team is already highly motivated and will take charge as before.

B. Reemphasize the team spirit and encourage your people to proceed. Tell them that nothing is impossible for a good team.

C. Roll up your shirt sleeves and help the team identify alternatives. Some degree of guidance is necessary.

D. Provide strong leadership and close supervision. Your team will have to rely on you for assistance.

Situation 13: You are now in the ninth month. While your replanning is going on (as a result of changes in the specifications), the customer calls and asks for an assessment of the risks in cancelling this project right away and starting another one. You should:

A. Wait for a formal request. Perhaps you can delay long enough for the project to finish.

B. Tell the team that their excellent performance may result in a follow-on contract.

C. Call a team meeting to assess the risks and look for alternatives.

D. Accept strong leadership for this and with minimum, if any, team involvement.

Situation 14: One of the functional managers has asked for your evaluation of all of his functional employees currently working on your project (excluding project office personnel). Your project office personnel appear to be working more closely with the functional employees than you are. You should:

A. Return the request to the functional manager since this is not part of your job description.

B. Talk to each team member individually, telling them how important their input is, and ask for their evaluations.

C. As a team, evaluate each of the functional team members, and try to come to some sort of agreement.

D. Do not burden your team with this request. You can do it yourself.

Situation 15: You are in the tenth month of the project. Carol informs you that she has the opportunity to be the project leader for an effort starting in two weeks. She has been with the company for twenty years and this is her first opportunity as a project leader. She wants to know if she can be released from your project. You should:

A. Let Carol go. You do not want to stand in the way of her career advancement.

B. Ask the team to meet in private and conduct a vote. Tell Carol you will abide by the team vote.

C. Discuss the problem with the team since they must assume the extra workload, if necessary. Ask for their input into meeting the constraints.

D. Counsel her and explain how important it is for her to remain. You are already short-handed.

Situation 16: Your team informs you that one of the functional manufacturing managers has built up a brick wall around his department and all information requests must flow through him. The brick wall has been in existence for two years. Your team members are having trouble with status reporting, but always get the information after catering to the functional manager. You should:

A. Do nothing. This is obviously the way the line manager wants to run his department. Your team is getting the information they need.

B. Ask the team members to use their behavioral skills in obtaining the information.

C. Call a team meeting to discuss alternative ways of obtaining the information.

D. Assume strong leadership and exert your authority by calling the line manager and asking for the information.

Situation 17: The executives have given you a new man to replace Carol for the last two months of the project. Neither you nor your team have worked with this man before. You should:

A. Do nothing. Carol obviously filled him in on what he should be doing and what is involved in the project.

B. Counsel the new man individually, bring him up to speed, and assign him Carol's work.

C. Call a meeting and ask each member to explain his or her role on the project to the new man.

D. Ask each team member to talk to this man as soon as possible and help him come on board. Request that individual conversations be used.

Situation 18: One of your team members wants to take a late-afternoon course at the local college. Unfortunately, this course may conflict with his workload. You should:

A. Postpone your decision. Ask the employee to wait until the course is offered again.

B. Review the request with the team member and discuss the impact on his performance.

C. Discuss the request with the team and ask for the team's approval. The team may have to cover for this employee's workload.

D. Discuss this individually with each team member to make sure that the task requirements will still be adhered to.

Situation 19: Your functional employees have used the wrong materials in making a production run test. The cost to your project was significant, but absorbed in a small "cushion" that you saved for emergencies such as this. Your team members tell you that the test will be rerun without any slippage of the schedule. You should:

A. Do nothing. Your team seems to have the situation well under control.

B. Interview the employees that created this problem and stress the importance of productivity and following instructions.

C. Ask your team to develop contingency plans for this situation should it happen again.

D. Assume a strong leadership role for the rerun test to let people know your concern.

Situation 20: All good projects must come to an end, usually with a final report. Your project has a requirement for a final report. This final report may very well become the basis for follow-on work. You should:

A. Do nothing. Your team has things under control and knows that a final report is needed.

B. Tell your team that they have done a wonderful job and there is only one more task to do.

C. Ask your team to meet and provide an outline for the final report.

D. You must provide some degree of leadership for the final report, at least the structure. The final report could easily reflect on your ability as a manager.

Fill in the table below. The answers appear in Appendix B.




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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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