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Project Management Assignment Question 1

Negotiation in Action—The Quad Sensor Project

Dave Dogers, an experienced PM, was assigned the project of designing and setting up a production system for an industrial instrument. The instrument would undoubtedly be quite delicate, so the design and fabrication methods for the shipping container were included in the project. Production of containers capable of meeting the specifications in this case were outside the experience of the firm, but one engineer in the container group had worked with this type of package in a previous job. This engineer, Jeff Gamm, was widely recognized as the top design engineer in the container group.

During the initial meetings on the project, which was organized as a weak matrix, Dogers asked Tab Baturi, manager of the Container Group, to assign Gamm to the project because of his unique background. Baturi said he thought they could work it out and estimated that the design, fabrication of prototypes, and testing would require about 4 weeks. The package design could not start until several shape parameters of the instrument had been set and allowable shock loadings for the internal mechanisms had been determined. The R&D group responsible for instrument design thought it would require about 9 months of work before they could complete specifications for the container. In addition to the actual design, construction, and test work, Gamm would have to meet periodically with the instrument design team to keep track of the project and to consult on design options from the container viewpoint. It was estimated that the entire project would require about 18 months.

Seven months into the project, at a meeting with Dave Dogers, the senior instrument design engineer, Richard Money, casually remarked: “Say, Dave, I thought Jeff Gamm was going to do the package for the Quad Sensor.”

“He is, why?” Dogers replied.

“Well,” said the engineer, “Gamm hasn’t been coming to the design team meetings. He did come a couple of times at the start of the project, but then young McCutcheon showed up saying that he would substitute for Gamm and would keep him informed. I don’t know if that will work. That package is going to be pretty tricky to make.”

Dogers was somewhat worried by the news the engineer had given him. He went to Gamm’s office, as if by chance, and asked, “How are things coming along?”

“I’m up to my neck, Dave,” Gamm responded. “We’ve had half a dozen major changes ordered from Baker’s office (V.P. Marketing) and Tab has given me the three toughest ones. I’m behind, getting behinder, and Baker is yelling for the new container designs. I can’t possibly do the Quad Sensor package unless I get some help—quick. It’s an interesting problem and I’d like to tackle it, but I just can’t. I asked Tab to put McCutcheon on it. He hasn’t much experience, but he seems bright.”

“I see,” said Dogers. “Well, the Quad Sensor package may be a bit much for a new man. Do you mind if I talk to Tab? Maybe I can get you out from under some of the pressure.”

“Be my guest!” said Gamm.

The next day Dogers met with Tab Baturi to discuss the problem. Baturi seemed depressed. “I don’t know what we’re supposed to do. No sooner do I get a package design set and tested than I get a call changing things. On the Evans order, we even had production schedules set, had ordered the material, and had all the setups figured out. I’m amazed they didn’t wait till we had completed the run to tell us to change everything.”

Baturi continued with several more examples of changed priorities and assignments. He complained that he had lost two designers and was falling further and further behind. He concluded: “Dave, I know I said you could use Gamm for the Quad Sensor job, but I simply can’t cut him loose. He’s my most productive person, and if anyone can get us out from under this mess, he can. I know McCutcheon is just out of school, but he’s bright. He’s the only person I can spare, and I can only spare him because I haven’t got the time to train him on how we operate around here—if you can call this ‘operating.’”

The two men talked briefly about the poor communications and the inability of senior management to make up its collective mind. Then Dogers suggested, “Look, Tab, Quad Sensor is no more screwed up than usual for this stage of the project. How about this? I can let you borrow Charlotte Setter for 3–4 weeks. She’s an excellent designer and she’s working on a low-priority job that’s not critical at the moment. Say, I’ll bet I can talk Anderson into letting you borrow Levy, too, maybe half time for a month. Anderson owes me a favor.”

“Great, Dave, that will help a lot, and I appreciate the aid. I know you understand my problem and you know that I understand yours.” Baturi paused and then added, “You realize that this won’t take much pressure off Jeff Gamm. If you can get him the designing help he needs he can get more done, but I can’t release him for the amount of time you’ve got allocated for the Quad Sensor.”

They sat quietly for a while, then Dogers said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Container design is the hard problem. The production setup and test design isn’t all that tough. Let me have Gamm for the container design. I’ll use McCutcheon for the rest of the project and get him trained for you. I can get Carol Mattson to show him how to set up the shock tests and he can get the word on the production setup from my senior engineer, Dick Money.

Baturi thought a moment. “Yeah, that ought to work,” he said. “But Gamm will have to meet with your people to get back up to speed on the project. I think he will clean up Baker’s biggest job by Wednesday. Could he meet with your people on Thursday?”

“Sure, I can arrange that,” Dogers said.

Baturi continued. “This will mean putting two people on the package design. McCutcheon will have to work with Gamm if he is to learn anything. Can your budget stand it?”

“I’m not sure,” Dogers said, “I don’t really have any slack in that account, but . . .”

“Never mind,” interrupted Baturi, “I can bury the added charge somewhere. I think I’ll add it to Baker’s charges. He deserves it. After all, he caused our problem.”

Answers to case questions: provide separate answers for each question in the case, supported by strong arguments and relevant theories

Questions

  1. What categories of conflict occurred in this project?
  2. At what stage was the project?
  3. Conclusions, with lessons learned and recommendations (implications) for project management?
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