The Two Boss Problem

On May 15, 1991, Brian Richards was assigned full-time to Project Turnbolt by Fred Taylor, manager of the thermodynamics department. All work went smoothly for four and one-half of the five months necessary to complete this effort. During this period of successful performance Brian Richards had good working relations with Edward Compton (the Turnbolt Project Engineer) and Fred Taylor.

Fred treated Brian as a Theory Y employee. Once a week Fred and Brian would chat about the status of Brian's work. Fred would always conclude their brief meeting with, "You're doing a fine job, Brian. Keep it up. Do anything you have to do to finish the project."

During the last month of the project Brian began receiving conflicting requests from the project office and the department manager as to the preparation of the final report. Compton told Brian Richards that the final report was to be assembled in viewgraph format (i.e., "bullet" charts) for presentation to the customer at the next technical interchange meeting. The project did not have the funding necessary for a comprehensive engineering report.

The thermodynamics department, on the other hand, had a policy that all engineering work done on new projects would be documented in a full and comprehensive report. This new policy had been implemented about one year ago when Fred Taylor became department manager. Rumor had it that Fred wanted formal reports so that he could put his name on them and either publish or present them at technical meetings. All work performed in the thermodynamics department required Taylor's signature before it could be released to the project office as an official company position. Upper-level management did not want its people to publish and therefore did not maintain a large editorial or graphic arts department. Personnel desiring to publish had to get the department manager's approval and, on approval, had to prepare the entire report themselves, without any "overhead" help. Since Taylor had taken over the reins as department head, he had presented three papers at technical meetings.

A meeting was held between Brian Richards, Fred Taylor, and Edward Compton.

Edward: "I don't understand why we have a problem. All the project office wants is a simple summary of the results. Why should we have to pay for a report that we don't want or need?"

Fred: "We have professional standards in this department. All work that goes out must be fully documented for future use. I purposely require that my signature be attached to all communications leaving this department. This way we obtain uniformity and standarization. You project people must understand that, although you can institute or own project policies and procedures (within the constraints and limitations of company policies and procedures), we department personnel also have standards. Your work must be prepared within our standards and specifications."

Edward: "The project office controls the purse strings. We (the project office) specified that only a survey report was necessary. Furthermore, if you want a more comprehensive report, then you had best do it on your own overhead account. The project office isn't going to foot the bill for your publications."

Fred: "The customary procedure is to specify in the program plan the type of report requested from the departments. Inasmuch as your program plan does not specify this, I used my own discretion as to what I thought you meant."

Edward: "But I told Brian Richards what type of report I wanted. Didn't he tell you?"

Fred: "I guess I interpreted the request a little differently from what you had intended. Perhaps we should establish a new policy that all program plans must specify reporting requirements. This would alleviate some of the misunderstandings, especially since my department has several projects going on at one time. In addition, I am going to establish a policy for my department that all requests for interim, status, or final reports be given to me directly. I'll take personal charge of all reports."

Edward: "That's fine with me! And for your first request I'm giving you an order that I want a survey report, not a detailed effort."

Brian: "Well, since the meeting is over, I guess I'll return to my office (and begin updating my résumé just in case)."

Project Overrun

The Green Company production project was completed three months behind schedule and at a cost overrun of approximately 60 percent. Following submittal of the final report, Phil Graham, the director of project management, called a meeting to discuss the problems encountered on the Green Project.

Phil Graham: "We're not here to point the finger at anyone. We're here to analyze what went wrong and to see if we can develop any policies and/or procedures that will prevent this from happening in the future. What went wrong?"

Project Manager: "When we accepted the contract, Green did not have a fixed delivery schedule for us to go by because they weren't sure when their new production plant would be ready to begin production activities. So, we estimated 3,000 units per month for months five through twelve of the project. When they found that the production plant would be available two months ahead of schedule, they asked us to accelerate our production activities. So, we put all of our production people on overtime in order to satisfy their schedule. This was our mistake, because we accepted a fixed delivery date and budget before we understood everything."

Functional Manager: "Our problem was that the customer could not provide us with a fixed set of specifications, because the final set of specifications depended on OSHA and EPA requirements, which could not be confirmed until initial testing of the new plant. Our people, therefore, were asked to commit to man-hours before specifications could be reviewed.

"Six months after project go-ahead, Green Company issued the final specifications. We had to remake 6,000 production units because they did not live up to the new specifications."

Project Manager: "The customer was willing to pay for the remake units. This was established in the contract. Unfortunately, our contract people didn't tell me that we were still liable for the penalty payments if we didn't adhere to the original schedule."

Phil Graham: "Don't you feel that misinterpretation of the terms and conditions is your responsibility?"

Project Manager: "I guess I'll have to take some of the blame."

Functional Manager: "We need specific documentation on what to do in case of specification changes. I don't think that our people realize that user approval of specification is not a contract agreed to in blood. Specifications can change, even in the middle of a project. Our people must understand that, as well as the necessary procedures for implementing change."

Phil Graham: "I've heard that the functional employees on the assembly line are grumbling about the Green Project. What's their gripe?"

Functional Manager: "We were directed to cut out all overtime on all projects. But when the Green Project got into trouble, overtime became a way of life. For nine months, the functional employees on the Green Project had as much overtime as they wanted. This made the functional employees on other projects very unhappy.

"To make matters worse, the functional employees got used to a big take-home paycheck and started living beyond their means. When the project ended, so did their overtime. Now, they claim that we should give them the opportunity for more overtime. Everybody hates us."

Phil Graham: "Well, now we know the causes of the problem. Any recommendations for cures and future prevention activities?"

Margo Company

"I've called this meeting, gentlemen, because that paper factory we call a computer organization is driving up our overhead rates," snorted Richard Margo, president, as he looked around the table at the vice presidents of project management, engineering, manufacturing, marketing, administration, and information systems. "We seem to be developing reports faster than we can update our computer facility. Just one year ago, we updated our computer and now we're operating three shifts a day, seven days a week. Where do we go from here?"

V.P. Information: "As you all know, Richard asked me, about two months ago, to investigate this gigantic increase in the flow of paperwork. There's no question that we're getting too many reports. The question is, are we paying too much money for the information that we get? I've surveyed all of our departments and their key personnel. Most of the survey questionnaires indicate that we're getting too much information. Only a small percentage of each report appears to be necessary. In addition, many of the reports arrive too late. I'm talking about scheduled reports, not planning, demand, or exception reports."

V.P. Project Management: "Every report may people receive is necessary for us to make decisions effectively with regard to planning, organizing, and controlling each project. My people are the biggest users and we can't live with fewer reports."

V.P. Information: "Can your people live with less information in each report? Can some of the reports be received less frequently?"

V.P. Project Management: "Some of our reports have too much information in them. But we need them at the frequency we have now."

V.P. Engineering: "My people utilize about 20 percent of the information in most of our reports. Once our people find the information they want, the report is discarded. That's because we know that each project manager will retain a copy. Also, only the department managers and section supervisors read the reports."

V.P. Information: "Can engineering and manufacturing get the information they need from other sources, such as the project office?"

V.P. Project Management: "Wait a minute! My people don't have time to act as paper pushers for each department manager. We all know that the departments can't function without these reports. Why should we assume the burden?"

V.P. Information: "All I'm trying to say is that many of our reports can be combined into smaller ones and possibly made more concise. Most of our reports are flexible enough to meet changes in our operating business. We have two sets of reports: one for the customer and one for us. If the customer wants the report in a specific fashion, he pays for it. Why can't we act as our own customer and try to make a reporting system that we can all use?"

V.P. Engineering: "Many of the reports obviously don't justify the cost. Can we generate the minimum number of reports and pass it on to someone higher or lower in the organization?"

V.P. Project Management: "We need weekly reports, and we need them on Monday mornings. I know our computer people don't like to work on Sunday evenings, but we have no choice. If we don't have those reports on Monday mornings, we can't control time, cost, and performance."

V.P. Information: "There are no reports generated from the pertinent data in our original computer runs. This looks to me like every report is a one-shot deal. There has to be room for improvement.

"I have prepared a checklist for each of you with four major questions. Do you want summary or detailed information? How do you want the output to look? How many copies do you need? How often do you need these reports?"

RichardMargo: "In project organizational forms, the project exists as a separate entity except for administrative purposes. These reports are part of that administrative purpose. Combining this with the high cost of administration in our project structure, we'll never remain competitive unless we lower our overhead. I'm going to leave it up to you guys. Try to reduce the number of reports, but don't sacrifice the necessary information you need to control the projects and your resources.''

Denver International Airport (DIA)

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.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment