Case Studies

The Reluctant Workers

Tim Aston had changed employers three months ago. His new position was project manager. At first he had stars in his eyes about becoming the best project manager that his company had ever seen. Now, he wasn't sure if project management was worth the effort. He made an appointment to see Phil Davies, director of project management.

Tim Aston: "Phil, I'm a little unhappy about the way things are going. I just can't seem to motivate my people. Every day, at 4:30 p.m., all of my people clean off their desks and go home. I've had people walk out of late afternoon team meetings because they were afraid that they'd miss their car pool. I have to schedule morning team meetings."

Phil Davies: "Look, Tim. You're going to have to realize that in a project environment, people think that they come first and that the project is second. This is a way of life in our organizational form."

Tim Aston: "I've continually asked my people to come to me if they have problems. I find that the people do not think that they need help and, therefore, do not want it. I just can't get my people to communicate more."

PhilDavies: "The average age of our employees is about forty-six. Most of our people have been here for twenty years. They're set in their ways. You're the first person that we've hired in the past three years. Some of our people may just resent seeing a thirty-year-old project manager."

Tim Aston: "I found one guy in the accounting department who has an excellent head on his shoulders. He's very interested in project management. I asked his boss if he'd release him for a position in project management, and his boss just laughed at me, saying something to the effect that as long as that guy is doing a good job for him, he'll never be released for an assignment elsewhere in the company. His boss seems more worried about his personal empire than he does in what's best for the company.

"We had a test scheduled for last week. The customer's top management was planning on flying in for firsthand observations. Two of my people said that they had programmed vacation days coming, and that they would not change, under any conditions. One guy was going fishing and the other guy was planning to spend a few days working with fatherless children in our community. Surely, these guys could change their plans for the test."

Phil Davies: "Many of our people have social responsibilities and outside interests. We encourage social responsibilities and only hope that the outside interests do not interfere with their jobs.

"There's one thing you should understand about our people. With an average age of forty-six, many of our people are at the top of their pay grades and have no place to go. They must look elsewhere for interests. These are the people you have to work with and motivate. Perhaps you should do some reading on human behavior."

Time Management for Project Managers

Effective time management is one of the most difficult chores facing even the most experienced managers. For a manager who manages well-planned repetitive tasks, effective time management can be accomplished without very much pain. But for a project manager who must plan, schedule, and control resources and activities on unique, one-of-a-kind projects or tasks, effective time management may not be possible because of the continuous stream of unexpected problems that develop.

This exercise is designed to make you aware of the difficulties of time management both in a traditional organization and in a project environment. Before begin ning the exercise, you must make the following assumptions concerning the nature of the project:

• You are the project manager on a project for an outside customer.

• The project is estimated at $3.5 million with a time span of two years.

• The two-year time span is broken down into three phases: Phase I—one year, beginning February 1; Phase II—six months; Phase III—six months. You are now at the end of Phase I. (Phases I and II overlap by approximately two weeks. You are now in the Monday of the next to the last week of Phase I.) Almost all of the work has been completed.

• Your project employs thirty-five to sixty people, depending on the phase that you are in.

• You, as the project manager, have three full-time assistant project managers that report directly to you in the project office; an assistant project manager each for engineering, cost control, and manufacturing. (Material procurement is included as part of the responsibilities of the manufacturing assistant project manager.)

• Phase I appears to be proceeding within the time, cost, and performance constraints.

• You have a scheduled team meeting for each Wednesday from 10 a.m.-12 noon. The meeting will be attended by all project office team members and the functional team members from all participating line organizations. Line managers are not team members and therefore do not show up at team meetings. It would be impossible for them to show up at the team meetings for all projects and still be able to function as a line manager. Even when requested, they may not show up at the team meeting because it is not effective time management for them to show up for a two-hour meeting simply to discuss ten minutes of business. (Disregard the possibility that a team meeting agenda could resolve this problem.)

It is now Monday morning and you are home eating breakfast, waiting for your car pool to pick you up. As soon as you enter your office, you will be informed about problems, situations, tasks, and activities that have to be investigated. Your problem will be to accomplish effective time management for this entire week based on the problems and situations that occur.

You will take each day one at a time. You will be given ten problems and/or situations that will occur for each day, and the time necessary for resolution. You must try to optimize your time for each of the next five days and get the maximum amount of productive work accomplished. Obviously, the word "productive" can take on several meanings. You must determine what is meant by productive work. For the sake of simplicity, let us assume that your energy cycle is such that you can do eight hours of productive work in an eight-hour day. You do not have to schedule idle time, except for lunch. However, you must be aware that in a project environment, the project manager occasionally becomes the catchall for all work that line managers, line personnel, and even executives do not feel like accomplishing.

Following the ten tasks for each day, you will find a worksheet that breaks down each day into half-hour blocks between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Your job will be to determine which of the tasks you wish to accomplish during each half-hour block. The following assumptions are made in scheduling work:

• Because of car pool requirements, overtime is not permitted.

• Family commitments for the next week prevent work at home. Therefore, you will not schedule any work after 5:00 p.m.

• The project manager is advised of the ten tasks as soon as he arrives at work.

The first step in the solution to the exercise is to establish the priorities for each activity based on:

• Priority A: This activity is urgent and must be completed today. (However, some A priorities can be withheld until the team meeting.)

• Priority B: This activity is important but not necessarily urgent.

• Priority C: This activity can be delayed, perhaps indefinitely.

Fill in the space after each activity as to the appropriate priority. Next, you must determine which of the activities you have time to accomplish for this day. You have either seven or seven and one-half hours to use for effective time management, depending on whether you want a half-hour or a full hour for lunch.

You have choices as to how to accomplish each of the activities. These choices are shown below:

• You can delegate the responsibility to one of your assistant project managers (Symbol = D). If you use this technique, you can delegate only one hour's worth of your work to each of your assistants without incurring a penalty. The key word here is that you are delegating your work. If the task that you wish to delegate is one that the assistant project manager would normally perform, then it does not count toward the one hour's worth of your work. This type of work is transmittal work and will be discussed below. For example, if you wish to delegate five hours of work to one of your assistant project managers and four of those hours are activities that would normally be his responsibility, then no penalty will be assessed. You are actually transmitting four hours and delegating one. You may assume that whatever work you assign to an assistant project manager will be completed on the day it is assigned, regardless of the priority.

• Many times, the project manager and his team are asked to perform work that is normally the responsibility of someone else, say, an executive or a line manager. As an example, a line employee states that he doesn't have sufficient time to write a report and he wants you to do it, since you are the project manager. These types of requests can be returned to the requestor since they normally do not fall within the project manager's responsibilities. You may, therefore, select one of the following four choices:

• You can return the activity request back to the originator, whether line manager, executive, or subordinate, since it is not your responsibility (Symbol = R). Of course, you might want to do this activity, if you have time, in order to build up good will with the requestor.

• Many times, work that should be requested of an assistant project manager is automatically sent to the project manager. In this case, the project manager will automatically transmit this work to the appropriate assistant proj -

ect manager (Symbol = T). As before, if the project manager feels that he has sufficient time available or if his assistants are burdened, he may wish to do the work himself. Work that is normally the responsibility of an assistant project manager is transmitted, not delegated. Thus the project manager can transmit four hours of work (T) and still delegate one hour of work (D) to the same assistant project manager without incurring any penalty.

• You can postpone work from one day to the next (Symbol = P). As an example, you decide that you want to accomplish a given Monday activity but do not have sufficient time. You can postpone the activity until Tuesday. If you do not have sufficient time on Tuesday, you may then decide to transmit (T) the activity to one of your assistants, delegate (D) the activity to one of your assistants, return (R) the activity to the requestor, or postpone (P) the activity another day. Postponing activities can be a trap. On Monday you decide to postpone a category B priority. On Tuesday, the activity may become a category A priority and you have no time to accomplish it. If you make a decision to postpone an activity from Monday to Tuesday and find that you have made a mistake by not performing this activity on Monday, you cannot go back in time and correct the situation.

• You can simply consider the activity as unnecessary and avoid doing it (Symbol = A).

After you have decided which activities you will perform each day, place them in the appropriate time slot based on your own energy cycle. Later we will discuss energy cycles and the order of the activities accomplished each day. You will find one worksheet for each day. The worksheets follow the ten daily situations and/or problems.

Repeat the procedure for each of the five days. Remember to keep track of the activities that are carried over from the previous days. Several of the problems can be resolved by more than one method. If you are thoroughly trapped between two or more choices on setting priorities or modes of resolution, then write a note or two to justify your answer in space beneath each activity.

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