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Project Firecracker Case Study Essay

The project failed due to three main reasons that reinforced the negative impact of one another:

Poor communication

There was a poor coordination between individuals. One example was the situation where Waldo and Wolinski took decisions individually without consulting the other members. In fact, the first informed Jeff that he was changing the design while the second one announced that sales had promised to deliver a test order that no one could even describe yet. Another example was when Jack White, the distributor salesman, replied to Bob Jones, National’s Sales Vice-president, that it was acceptable to extend the deadline one week without actually confirming this possibility with the right competent. These situations resulted in mismanagement of expectations of their client and failure to meet their commitments that could be avoided with the methodology of project management.

Non-uniform priorities

Each sub-department is currently under the effect of myopia because employees look to the objectives, targets or processes of their own functional area while neglecting the success of the project as a whole. The company lacks in terms of practices that could incentivize the alignment of priorities. “The only way that the project engineer can get these departments to make commitments is through persuasion or through the chief engineer, who could go to the Vice President of manufacturing and engineering. If the engineer is convincing the Vice President will dictate to the appropriate manager what must be done.”

No project manager

The inexistence of an individual enabled with autonomy to both plan the project and monitor its implementation through the several functional areas does not prevent the current delays in deadlines. Additionally, in this specific case, the chief engineer did not have the margin to take adjustments to improve the performance of the project because “as the company is set up, the engineering department has no authority over time study, production, product design or other areas”.

WHY PROJECT MANAGEMENT MATTERS?

Project management offers the possibility to organize projects in a more effective way. Its main characteristic is to set precise objectives to be completed between certain specifications and its main advantage is to be multifunctional. Clear Path – managing projects effectively from start to finish This methodology would allow a clear definition of the objectives, it would predict the necessary resources and it would state a budget constraint that should be fulfilled with a larger discipline. A clear path which involves a specific schedule, defined roles and responsibilities and a constant control on outcomes represents a crucial element for a successful project and this is basically what project management is about. In contrast with the traditional approach, a clear planning phase at the beginning of the project would have helped National to organize everything more effectively and to identify potential problems in advance. This would have helped to decrease the risk to run late and fail. Project Manager Role – authority and control on the project The figure of the project manager gives the possibility to have one man that heads authority from the top and holds a crucial role in coordinating and monitoring the development of a project.

At National there are different departments that are mainly independent but interactions between them reveal to be essential in working successfully. Moreover, they report directly to the vice-president but the case showed that the vice-president Wolinski stayed in the background at a certain point, as a result of complete lack of coordination, delays increased mainly because departments continued working independently. Project Management is important to fill management and functional gaps and to centralize decisions through the determination of a project manager. He knows very well where to go and which are the constraints of the project (time, money, human capital, equipment, etc) and he is the first responsible for the project’s organization and development.

Increased departments integration and effective communication Project management also matters because it could save time in negotiations and it could avoid miscommunications among members that collaborate in the same project. In fact, at National one of the main problems was represented by ineffective communications and, as a result, the considerable communication delays represented a complete waste of time.  On the contrary, increased collaboration would mean that it might be easier to coordinate a team to reach the same objective more effectively while trying to efficiently maximize scarce resources. In addition, improvement in communication would also mean a better orientation towards customers’ problems and requests.

HOW CAN JEFF CONVINCE WOLINSKI TO USE PROJECT MANAGEMENT METHODOLOGIES?

Explaining step by step how National could have avoided the failure if it had applied project management approach would really help Jeff to convince Wolinski to use it in future. The key idea, thus, is to present what could be done differently and how this could have helped them to succeed. Priorities could have been set properly. Under this project product design and sales departments were functioning independently from one another: Their actions were not coordinated at all. The existence of a project manager would have helped to align priorities of the different functional areas and the project itself because he would pass through all the stages and would simultaneously negotiate with senior management, with clients and with his collaborators. Time constraints could have been met. The absence of the project management led to bureaucracy and disastrous miscommunication among the departments. This consequently resulted in a series of decision delays which ultimately caused the project to fail. For instance, it took Jeff more than a week just to clarify the drawings submitted by the customer.

A lot of time was wasted because there was no one heading the project from the top and making all departments work under the same priority system. If nothing is done, National may become infamous among the clients for its reputation of late deliveries. National could have received the contract. Although at the end of the 6th week National’s prototype was not in specification, in terms of design it was better than those from the competitors. Therefore, if from the very outset all the processes had been more agile, National could have had all the chances to win the contract. APC chose National’s competitors not because they produce tools of higher quality, but because they are capable of doing that within the set time limit.


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