Project Management Essay, Research Paper
The Reluctant Workers
This case study is based on a conversation between two people: Tim Aston, a new project manager, and Phil Davies, director of project management. Aston had just changed jobs and was very excited about his new job. He wanted to be the best manager his company ever had. But ever since he had been on the job, he was becoming more and more frustrated with the employees and their work habits. Finally he went to see Davies and discuss his problems with him.
The problems that he discussed with Davies involved mainly time management but also communication and motivation. The major problem with time management is getting people to realize that there exists a time management problem and that solutions are possible (Kerzner 327). Aston complained that he had trouble with people walking out of late afternoon team meetings because they were afraid of missing their carpool. There were also employees with scheduled vacation time during a very important time for the project and they would not switch their vacation time. This is where the people associated with this project need to realize that there are time management problems and they need to find solutions to them in order to accomplish the goals set for the project.
In the textbook, Kerzner mentions several techniques that can be used to make better use of time in the project environment: follow the schedule, decide who should attend, learn to say no, start now, do the tough part first, look ahead, send out the meeting agenda. If the schedule is followed, which assumes everyone knows the schedule and what must be done, then the project should be completed. For the schedule to be followed, everything must be planned out. The problems that Aston was having with his employees would not have occurred if the schedule was followed and everyone was aware of what times they needed to be there and on what dates. When meetings are scheduled, Aston also needed to decide who needed to attend. It may have been possible that the people who were leaving the meetings early and disrupting didn t even need to be there at that particular meeting. Learning to say no is also very important to a project manager. If he really needed those people to stay in the meetings, he could have said no to them leaving early and offered to arrange rides for them or even drive them himself. He was very excited about being a project manager, but he definitely needed to learn much more about management. Kerzner s suggestion of starting now is important because this is related to procrastination. If the project is started right away and everyone gets going on it, everything will happen faster, including everyone getting up to speed on the project. Doing the tough part first is also a good suggestion for project managers. Once that tough part is out of the way, everything else that is done seems so much easier and workers will be more motivated to finish the project. Looking ahead is one of the most important things to do in a project. If this is not done, chances are the project will be a disaster. Obviously in this case study Aston had not looked ahead at employee schedules, otherwise he would have known what times peoples carpools left and when certain employees were scheduled for vacation time. Simply looking ahead at schedules such as these and taking those into consideration when planning meetings and other project related activities would make the process go much smoother. Sending out the meeting agenda is an easy task to overlook. But if Aston had sent out meeting agendas, and his employees had reviewed them, they would have been able to see that they would have time conflicts with the agenda and the meetings could have been rescheduled. Just sending out meeting agendas could have avoided having team members leave early and costing them a useful meeting. Now instead of having a productive meeting when everyone could attend, Aston now has to plan another meeting to complete the business that wasn t taken care of before, or he has to personally take time out to update the missing team members on what they missed and get their feedback, all while he should be doing other things. Meanwhile the project is falling behind schedule.
Kerzner also specifies several things that project managers do that are caused by a loss of understanding. These things end up causing time management problems for the project. The project manager may wait for someone else to make a decision that is his own responsibility. In this case study Aston had the responsibility for the project. He was responsible for managing his team and making sure that everyone was there. Then when he failed in this task, he went to Davies for help. But it seems as if Aston had not even attempted to coordinate schedules for the project, otherwise he would have known of these conflicts in advance and would have had time to resolve the conflicts before they affected the project. Managers may also neglect to keep their door open and walk the halls to find out what is going on. If Aston was doing this, he probably would have found out that there were going to be schedule conflicts. The project manager needs to get this time with employees in addition to just seeing them during meetings. Project managers sometimes forget that their boss is there to help them. This is one point that Aston did not forget. At least he had the awareness to go to Davies and ask for help. Aston seems like a very inexperienced manager, but when that is the case, the boss can be a lifesaver. If Aston did not go to Davies for help, the project probably would have suffered greatly. Aston would resent his employees, they would fall farther and farther behind schedule, and the person that would be held responsible would have been Aston. The end result may have been project failure and Aston being fired.
Aston had to deal with many time problems with his project. There are many things, called time robbers by Kerzner, that eat up a project manager s time. Some that probably affected Aston are: incomplete work (team members leaving meetings early), a job poorly done that must be done over (having to schedule another meeting because of people leaving early), poor communications channels (he could not get his employees to ask for help), too many meetings (were all of his meetings necessary?), not enough proven managers (was Aston experienced enough to handle this?), lack of authorization to make judgment decisions (was Aston going to Davies because he didn t know if he was allowed to act on these problems?), indecision on the part of higher management (Davies seemed very noncommittal with Aston s problems), lack of adequate project management tools (Aston needed employee schedules to look at), lack of reward (many of his employees were at the top of their pay scale with nothing to influence them to work harder or stay longer), multiple time constraints, company political power struggles and empire building line managers (the other manager did not want to let his employee go even though it would help the company), and lack of employee discipline.
Aston needed something that would have shown him what his employees were doing with their time and something that would give him an overall view of their schedules. This is where Kerzner s time management forms in section 6.3 come in. The first form is the to do pad. The project manager prepares a list of things to do. He then assigns the activities to his employees. After he has assigned the activities a priority, the activities with the highest priorities are transferred to a daily activity log for the employee. With these logs, Aston would have had his employees schedules planned for them and there may not have been as many time conflicts during the project.
After reading this case study and the chapter, it is obvious that time management was critical to Aston, as it is to any project manager. But Aston was inexperienced and experienced many of the problems that are listed in the book. This case study is useful if you analyze it carefully and realize the lessons that Aston could have learned from his problems. Aston thought his main problem was reluctant workers, but I think a more appropriate title for this case study would be An Inexperienced Manager s Time Management Problems.
Project Management A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling (7th Edition), Harold Kerzner, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2001.