The case of Ellen Moore is very interesting and diverse, because it shows different reasons why problems can occur in a project management and teamwork and highlights how cultural differences can affect the work in a very negative way.
There are several reasons why the project has run into problems. Some of these could have been foreseen but some not. The main problem is that there were wrong decisions made when creating the team and also some risks were incorrectly assessed to be less important than they actually turned out to be. First of all in selecting project management representative Andrew Kilpatrick underestimated the cultural differences and did not listen enough to the warning from American consultants with WSI in Korea that it is impossible to send a woman to work in Korea.
I don’t think it is completely impossible for a woman to work in Korea, but Ellen should have been more prepared and more informed about the local traditions particularly about the team building and after-work dinners and how the Koreans’ respect for position and status would influence the teams’ behavior. From the case it seems like too many things came as a surprise to Ellen and it was hard to focus on the primary tasks.
Another problem was in the team composition especially in allocating roles. There were 2 project co-managers – Ellen and Jack – assigned to the team. But Jack was given an impression that he will be the sole project leader. For this reason Ellen’s addition to the team created tension between them and from the beginning and this undermined their chances to work together for the same goal. If it was decided to have 2 equal project manager positions, then their roles should have been allocated. For example each project manager would have specific areas of responsibilities and the rest of the team would be informed about these responsibilities.
Instead both project managers ended up fighting for the power instead of working towards the common goal. The development of the events in the team also suggests that it was a wrong decision to appoint 2 team managers, because it is clear that the team performed better when they were led by one team leader – when Jack was around the Korean team would follow his instructions, but when Jack was away and Ellen was the only leader the team cooperated and worked well under her supervision and coaching.
The third problem was the expertise and experience of the Korean consultants. The American part of the team was only partially informed about the teams’ qualifications. But it soon turned out that none of them had sufficient previous experience to work on this project. That the teams’ inexperience turned out to be one of the reasons the project ran into problems is partially because of Ellen’s overconfidence. When she realized what is the actual qualification and experience of the team members she thought she could work around it and train the people on the team. Instead of suggesting changes in the team she relied on her skills as a coach to improve the situation.
All these reasons are to blame that the project is in serious trouble and without clear action plan the project cannot be put back on track. One solution that could be done to get the project back on schedule is for Andrew to take on a more active role in the teams work and become the team leader in Korea and oversee both Ellen and Jack and the whole team. Since both Mr.Song and Mr.Park think that Ellen is the problem and is not effective, there is not much she can do to continue the role as the team leader because the supervisors in Korea don’t back her up. And in this situation it would be hard for her to become the team leader over Jack. If all the team members remain in their place under Andrews supervisions, roles to each member should be allocated also tem members need to be motivated to work together to achieve the goal. Rewards for cooperation and tem work could be in place here.
Another alternative could be removing Jack from the team and find a Korean consultant that has experience with SI projects. This solution would eliminate the tension in the team and also increase the professional capacity of the team. If the budget of the project allows one more possibility would be to include additional team members with more expertise to assist the team. Also changing the team members could be a solution, but there might be not enough time to completely change the team and still manage to finish the project on schedule.
Although the situation is rather complex because the team is dealing not only with professional problems but also with personnel problems and problems caused by not understanding the different culture, there are some things that Ellen could have done differently.
First of all she should have tried to draw Andrews and Mr. Park’s and Mr. Song’s attention to the fact that the team members are not qualified enough to work on this project in the early stages of the project. She should have asked to either change the weakest members of the team or have additional training for the team to raise their level of expertise.
As for cooperation with Jack I think that the fight for the power between the two of them was inevitable, but one way how to try to deal with the situation could have been Ellen’s initiative to establish some ground rules on how they interact with the team, how they divide responsibilities between them. Her background information shows that she had previous experience in leading teams so probably also knowledge in conflict resolution and motivating people. Clearly Jack needed some motivation to become a team player.
But altogether I think that most of the problems occurred because Ellen’s supervisors made wrong assessments about the project and the situation and also made some bad decisions in the beginning.
Courtney from Study Moose
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