Managing projects Essay

Question 1: Based on a review of the literature, write a report not more than 2500 words analysing the problems faced by the LAS.

According to Kerzner (1998) “A project is series of activities and task with specific objectives to be completed within certain specification. It has defined start and end dates.  If applicable, it has funding limits. It consumes human and non human resources. It can be multifunctional i.e. cut across several functional lines.” Project management is one of the most important areas of management. Any organization functions in an environment that is always changing. The changes in the environment influence the internal environments of the organizations. Volatile external and internal environment demands for implementing changes as and when changes are required. The changes are sometimes due to competition, political or legal environment, funds available, change in technology or need to increase productivity. The funds and resources available with the organization will also vary with time and situation. The most important factor of any project are cost involve, realistic time to achieve the objectives and scope of the project. Project management is management and organization of organization resources. The resources like money, human resource, infrastructure, provisions, materials, energy and others. Projects have pre-defined and clear objectives. These are the list of main things or activities for the people involved in a project. The number of objectives varies with the project types and size. It is always recommended that the objectives should be clear and less in numbers.

The aim of LAS was to create a fully automate system for the ambulance control, integrating all the major tasks of receiving calls to sending vehicles to the desired destinations. This would have automated the Central Ambulance Control. Call taker in this Central Ambulance Control handled call and dispatched the most suitable ambulance resource to desired destination. In the case of complex cases, call taker was required to identify and send the most appropriate or best vehicle resource. The planning was to replace this system to an automated system that can take call, verify incidence details, verify location of the incident, identify the resources and mobilise the same. This also required sending incident details to the ambulance resource directed to the incident location. Minimisation of response time and assisting vehicles by providing location map were some of the other objectives of this project.

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In the case of LAS, the problem as identified later was not related to system. It was poor implementation strategies that led to situations prone to human error. Back up plans were not implemented. Problems faced by the LAS can be categorized in the following ways:

·         Problems at planning stage

At this stage, the first problem was related to management. As mentioned in the case this was a business re-engineering process not merely an IT project. The entire process of working was changing. It was resulting in a situation where neither employees nor other users were familiar with. Due importance were not given to the strategic issues like having a project manager or change agent to facilitate the change in the process. Important aspects like back up planning, risk analysis and management plan, human resource training and development for the new work environment, assessment of the information technology systems were not given due importance. Project managers are important for every stage of the project management process. Project managers set deliverables for various objectives. These are the things, which any project will produce. Developing a MIS system that could access performance and resource management and planning in medium and long term. The goals for operational working environment were dramatic. It requires replacement of all the paper system with computerised system. The time allocated for this goal was unrealistic. There was less emphasis given to the training and skill development programs for the people working with this system. It aimed at replacing human judgement with the computer logic. Reduction of staff was another aim pf the project. The project required technical expertise. The LAS was short of technical expertise at this level. As provided in the case the milestones given for the project are as follows:

Table 3 Milestone competition dates

Milestone
Date
Completion of system requirement specification
February 1991
Completion of system design specification
July 1991
System implementation
8 January 1992
There was a team set up for the system requirements specification. This team lacked in the project management expertise. This resulted in certain deficiency which added to the failure of the project later. These were:

1.      Lack of appropriate IT contractor to manage the implementation program

2.      Lack of division of responsibility and accountability for the contractor

3.      Lack of expertise to evaluate cost and value of quotations from different contractors

In the entire process there was lack of representation from ambulance drivers. They were important for the entire project as they had to use this automated system and work in its direction. Technical department lacked the required skills and expertise. Certain issues were ignored which had drastic results later. One of such issues was quality and reliability of the technical communication of voice and data. There were lack of interest for understanding the potential risks related to transmission problems and alternatives for the same. There were no contingency plans. At initial stage itself, some communication problems were faced.

·         Problems at implementation stage

There had been various issues during the implementation stage of the project. This project had very ambitious goals for overhauling entire functioning of the LAS in an unrealistic time goal. Apart from it, there had been changes in the core project team itself, during the implementation process.

The major problem of this project on 8 January 1992 was that none of its component whether hardware, software or human were ready for working and the date was changed to 26 October 1992. Even though the system faced problems when implemented on the revised date, it kept on running on the semi manual way. The system was not tested on a comprehensive or conclusive manner.

·         Problem at working stage

The lack of technical expertise and appropriate contractors resulted in development of a system that was unable o catch all the data and inability was high for the radio system. The lack of involvement from the ambulance crew and lack of training to them resulted in a situation where wrong buttons were pressed. This resulted in failure of communication. This project lacked in human related aspects. People were sent to work without providing proper training and ensuring that they were prepared for the new system. The level of stress faced by individual working on ambulance vehicles was not considered. The result was lack of involvement and frustration. People working without training got frustrate with the transmission and communication related problems. Radio communication was not properly synchronised this resulted in problems like bottlenecks during busy period or to log on during change of shifts of crew or change of vehicle after allocation by the system. Poor interface between operator and system and between various systems resulted in failure of the operations.

Project would have been successful if the change was implemented properly. There are two approaches for the project management. First is Concurrent Engineering where all the activities like marketing, R&D, engineering and production are involved in early phases and till the final product. It is highly risky approach with greater chances of accelerated product development. The second approach is Total Quality Management. It is viewed as a continuous improvement program with focus on achieving quality in total.

There was lack of decision making abilities at various stages of project. Decision-making process starts with identifying various choices by gathering, assessment and analysis of various outcomes and taking appropriate decisions. This resulted in having wrong contractors who did not have proper experience of similar projects. Changes in organisation culture after the project, was highly ignored. People working in organisation or living in different societies have difference in their way of working, their interests and objectives. It is whether organization or society the resources are limited and need to be managed. Each individual differ from the other in his/her attitude, perception and other things. These lead to difference in interests of various individuals and groups. In such condition, it becomes very challenging for the leader to remove all the differences and bring people together towards the common goals. It is challenging to build commitment to change. Project manager achieves this through proper communication and credibility. Involving employees in various decisions making processes and considering their views also helps in dealing with resistance to change at initial stage itself. People when involve in the decision making process consider it as their responsibility to achieve success. This results in commitment of employees for the success of change objectives (Hirchhom 2000, Johnson, Gerry and Scholes 2002, Tidd, Bessant and Pavitt 2001). Mentoring is a process to influence people and show them a way. It provides a direction and help to solve various issues.  Mentoring is being trusted by people, actively supporting and guiding people to achieve personal and professional goals. The mentor relationship can be formal or informal. It involves mutual respect and commitment towards each other in a mentor and particular individual s/he is supporting (Johnson, Gerry and Scholes 2002).  Project managers can negotiate with the employees and can offer the best solutions to their doubts and problems. The negotiation can be based on monetary and non monetary benefits. They can have an agreement on the kind of changes to be incorporated and on different relevant issues. Management can also have agreements with employees in order to maintain their trust and encourage them for the adopting changes in the project process. The agreement will help dealing with “fear of unknown” among the employees.

Question 2: Provide a Lesson Learnt identifying possible solutions to the problem faced by LAS. This should be a concise document of no more than 1000.

In any project for its successful implementations requires support from management, proper time, budget and dedication of all the concerned departments and employees. Numbers of reason for the failure of the projects are cited in the case. The lessons learned in the case are as follows:

1. Management Support is essential for the success of any project.

This was a business re-engineering project. This required changes at all the levels of the organisation. However, the management considered it merely system relate, purchase, installations and changes. Management had given least attention to the human resource aspects of the project. Management also were more focused on implementing the project on the deadline rather than the successful development and implementation of the project. This objective has overshadowed all the other aims and objectives of the project.

2. External Factors should not be the deciding factors for any project. Project aims, objectives, scope, time and cost should be decided on the basis of needs and requirements.

Management was dedicated for the results in limited time due to external pressures. It was a complex project which needed time, involvement and resources. It was given it was given less time for each stages of project.

3. Lack of discipline and organisation in the Project can result in complete failure of technical project.

As cited in the case, there was a lack of disciplined technical approach. The project was a complex technical project. Even small events can lead to disasters for any technical project as it happened in this case. Small faulty program resulted in consuming all the space of data server and resulted in system crash. The overall result was failure of communication and transmission.

4. Human resource management is an essential part of any project, no matter it is technical or non technical.

Organisation Culture and issues related to the same were ignored in this case. The training needs, skill development needs, user and system interface and other related issues were ignored. The system was developed properly but users were not developed in their skills. This resulted in a situation where people could not cope up with changes of work environment and systems. The unfamiliarity to the new system resulted in resilience among users, causing failure of project.

5. Project management requires lack of expertise and an eye for details.

There were no contingency and backup plans. The server for back up was not installed due to lack of time and ignoring the importance of the same. Organisation was unable to manage such complex technical project and was unable to acquire proper resources to ensure the success of the project.

6. Project goals should be realistic.

This case is an excellent example of unrealistic goals. The time goal for the project was unrealistic. This resulted in pressurising the respective project team. This directed their efforts to achieving time goals and ignoring the scope and cost goals.

7. Technical projects will be successful only if the related departments and people are involved. It is a process of change, hence should have proper change management strategy in place.

According to Roberts (2007) “Change is a multifaceted phenomenon, yet regardless of the paradigm adopted, there is agreement among all writers about change: it is hard, and generally more complex than anyone first anticipates.”

The change management process starts with need of change. It usually comes from the top level of the organizations based on the external and internal factors that indicates the requirement of change. Every time for new projects or innovative ideas the teams are, build up and this is done based on the feasibility of the project. Project management is one of the most efficient ways to introduce change within any organization. Once the deliverables and objectives are defined and time, cost and other resources are allocated, managers prepare a consolidated plan to achieve these objectives. People are assigned responsibilities and are made accountable for the same.

Project Manager or Change Agent:

A project manager or change agent is required for such projects. Project manager can handle all the related tasks and people together in order to bring the change successfully in the organisation. People working in different projects or work areas might be comfortable with their own work and will not appreciate change. However, the organisation needs to be innovative and creative. It should promote a change culture. This is one of the responsibilities of the leader to make people follow. This means dealing with people’s resistance to change is the responsibility of the project leaders within the organization. (Cummings 2005, Hirschhom 2000, Roberts 2007) The ambulance staffs are required to go through a proper training session in order to work with the new system. The training system should not be limited to the usability of the system. It should be designed in such a way that it enables the users to handle or utilise appropriate channel for troubleshooting in the case of any technical problem. User involvements and inputs at the project development stage will enable them to associate with the project and increase the level of acceptability of the project. They can be delegated for their responsibility during the project development and management phase.

Delegation is an important decision taken by corporate leaders. This is a way to distribute responsibility and authority in a group according to workload, total responsibilities and individual’s ability (Hirchhom 2000, Johnson, Gerry and Scholes 2002, Tidd, Bessant and Pavitt 2001).

Involvement of management:

Management can facilitate the project implementation process by allocating proper resources, providing proper directions and supporting employees in different levels of decision making process by informing and communicating effectively. Changing formal structure helps to break the line of authority and create a new one. The informal structure of the organization cannot be ignored. In many of the cases of failure of projects, execution was ignorance of informal structure. If management is able to create and communicate significant benefits to the organization and employees it will add on the successful implementation of change (Hirchhom 2000).

Question 3: Provide a risk analysis for the LAS CAD project detailing all the major risks, probability, impact, responsibility as well as responses.

Risk is an uncertain situation. Fear of unknown is the most common threat of people experiencing any kind of risk. Risk can be of two forms i.e. inner risk of an individual like low self esteem, low level of confidence, language difficulty or lack of ability while outer risk can be risk of not getting proper education, recognition, risk from cultural and community life, risk from society and many others. People react to their adverse situations differently. Some people lose their ability to work or perform under stress or high risk situations. This influences their decision-making abilities and positive development. At the same time, some individuals react differently to stressful and risky situations. In any kind of crisis or risk situation, individuals’ respond differently. The difference in the individual personality, upbringing and social structure is largely responsible for the same.

Risks:

High Risk

·         Failure of computer system

·         Data Server crash

·         Failure of integration of various interfaces and systems

·         Risk of failure of acceptance of the project

Medium Risk

·         Quality and reliability of system

·         Risk of inconsistency and communication failures

·         Risk of faulty equipment, transmission black spots and software errors

Low Risk

·         Over manning

·         Increase in operational cost

Probability of the high risk factors are always low for any proper project management plan as the project manger and team will give due importance to the same. But in the case these incidences take place that will lead to the failure of project. The medium risk projects will have impact on the performance of the project but can be managed and controlled if happen. These risks are listed and identified during implementation and testing phase. Improvement in the projects goes on to deal with these risks. The low risk factors can have high probability to happen. There can be more than required workforce and operational costs may increase if not controlled properly.

Question 4: Produce an MS Project 2002 Gantt chart for the project, should the project be restarted. Enough detail needs to be included in the Gantt chart to enable the project to be adequately understood. The Gantt chart should show common start and finish milestones and logical links between the tasks.

The main tasks for the project are listed as follows:

1.      Prepare a project management team

2.      Assign a project manager

3.      Defining aims and objectives of project

4.      System requirement Specifications for non technical issues

5.      System requirement Specifications for technical issues

6.      System Design Specification

7.      Development of MIS system

8.      System Implementation

9.      System Trial

10.  Trial for the Backup plan

11.  System Control

12.  System Launch

Time is allotted to each of the task. Some of the tasks like system specifications for technical and non technical aspects go along with each other because of their relatedness. Each of the tasks has specific start and finish date. Each has specified duration. New system can be launched only if all the other tasks are completed. This is to ensure its success.

Reference:

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Ahuja, G. (2000), “The Duality of Collaboration : Inducements and Opportunities in the Formation of Interfirm Linkages”, Strategic Management Journal, pp. 317-344.

Avolio, B.J., & Yammarino, F.J. (2002). Tranformational and charismatic leadership: The road ahead. New York: Elsevier.

Bessant, 2003 High Involvement innovation, Wiley

Cummings, Thomas G. Organisation development and change Thomas G. Cummings, Christopher G. Wor – 8th ed. – 2-Mason, O.H.: South-Western, 2005.

Clawson, J. G. (2006). Level three leadership: Getting below the surface ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.

Hirschhorn L, Campaigning for Change, Harvard Business Review “Change Without Pain”by Eric Abrahamson (Harvard Business Review, July–August 2000, Product no. 6498)

Johnson, Gerry and Kevan Scholes (2002), Exploring Corporate Strategy: Text and Cases, 6th Ed., Financial Times-Prentice Hall.

J. Tidd, J. Bessant and K. Pavitt, 2001, Managing Innovation, 2nd edition, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Chichester

Robbins, S P(1996) Organisation Behaviour, 7 edition, Prentice Hall International, Inc

Robbins, S. and Hunsaker, P. (1996) Training in interpersonal skills: tips for managing people at work (2nd edn), New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Roberts, A, Benrimoj, SI (Charlie),Chen T,Williams K and  Aslani, P (2003) An Investigation into Business and Professional Facilitators for Change for the Pharmacy Profession in Light of the Third Guild/Government Agreement, Pharmacy Practice Research, Faculty of Pharmacy retrieved on 15 April 2008 from http://www.guild.org.au/uploadedfiles/Research_and_Development_Grants_Program/Projects/2001-070_es.pdf

Roberts A (2007) The constant crossroads – change management in community pharmacy, Pharmacist, Vol 26 (3) 200-260 retrieved on 15 April 2008 from http://www.psa.org.au/site.php?id=1622

Kerzner (1998) retrieved on 6 May 2008 from http://www-i3.informatik.rwth-aachen.de/teaching/04/st/ProjectManagement.pdf

 

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