AUTHORS: SRUJIT BIRADAWADA, SUSHRUTHA GUJJULA, SUSHMITHA NAGARIKANTI, SIDDARTHA BANDIKALLU
In order to professionally manage a project, a disciplined approach is key. The key phases include defining the problem or project, planning, strategizing between potential solutions, communicating and controlling to achieve the desired result. The topic of interest we would like to pursue is that of employee demotivation in specific scenarios as will be explored in the current report. As a part of proposing a problem and steps taken to achieve the desired result, in the current report, we clearly define the specific problem. Then, provide evidence and symptoms in an organizational setting. Discuss why the problem exists in the first place and the urgency to address it. Also, describe the magnitude of the problem and the approaches to address it. Finally, how the corporate strategy map would be impacted, and the value add to the business itself due to the potential approaches.
We would like to address the issue of demotivation for employees in the following two scenarios:
- A new technical challenge or project is proposed and a proof of concept is requested of the employees from different technical aspects including thermal, mechanical, electrical, power delivery, etc. The time frame for completing the project is very aggressive, but the time for the proof of concept to be utilized in a product if successfully completed takes a much longer time. How does the management make sure that employees stay motivated through the end of project and after?
- A dedicated team is working on a project for a prolonged period of time. Suddenly the senior management abandons the project and future developments on the project are not transparent to the employees. How does the senior management then ensure the team working on the project is not demotivated?
Criteria of selection
The alternatives available to solve the issues stated in the problem statement section include:
- Senior management pushing schedules so they bridge the gap between proof of concept to project stage
- Maintaining transparency – top-down
- Devising an effective feedback system
Typical decision-making criteria in an organization include:
- Evaluating ease of implementation
- Costs & savings
- Evaluate ease of modification or flexibility
- Account for employee morale
- ROI & increased customer satisfaction
Since the current problem statements are regarding employee demotivation, it makes more sense to choose employee morale as the criteria for selection and also make sure there is room for flexibility and leads to easy implementation.
Although the alternatives mentioned are not mutually exclusive, we decided to concentrate on devising an effective feedback system since it improves employee morale, when their opinions are taken into consideration and acted upon.
Initial work schedule
Feedback system Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring, Summary which include:
- Identify key areas for feedback
- Establish support from other teams if needed & from management
- Establish clear communication paths
- Identify the delivery plan for feedback
- Develop a pilot process to check the system
Work breakdown structure (WBS)
Work Breakdown Structure is an important step in project scope management. It deals with division of work and assigning people/ teams to work on it thus providing high visibility, number of hours spent on the task, deadlines, ballpark figures on budget and so on and so forth. Out of all the approaches of breaking down the work, the top-bottom approach is the one we strongly recommend as it deals with breaking down the project into smaller tasks like a tree diagram and ending with the lowest lever “work package”. Gantt Chart definitely helps out along with tools/ applications to create charts or plan and then use a work allocation tool like Jira/ Planner/ Rally and so on. Defining the requirements, breaking them down into smaller chunks helps to foresee the blockers ahead and try to solve them while working on other tasks that are independent (Working in Agile). The team will be responsible for the assigned tasks and updating their time sheets on the applications/tools like Jira.
The Work Breakdown Structure for Feedback system would be:
- Feedback about team and people
- About work allocation to resources based on skills
- On work handling process
- By Individuals
- How individuals perform in groups/ teams
- Feedback about tools/ technologies
- On existing tools
- Individuals’ knowledge about tools
- How the tools are being handled
- On New tools
- Individuals’ progress over learning new tools
- Team learning capabilities over learning new tools and sharing knowledge among them
- On existing tools
- Feedback about Process
- Feedback about time allocation
- Based on individuals’ availability
- Based on task priority
- Feedback about Management Process of work handling and task allocations
- Feedback about time allocation
Purpose of the communication schedule is to have a better and clear understanding of goals between management and teams working together. A lot of information can be exchanged between teams in the form of reports. Clear communication schedule keeps everyone in the loop. Any project requires a good communication among team members to complete it successfully. It gives the opportunity for the team members to input for new ideas and suggestions for a better work environment. Any project requires a sound communication plan but not every project can have the same communication schedule. Communicating can be different forms such as writing emails, reports, meetings, and websites. A clear communication schedules should be maintained throughout the life cycle of the project.
Table to be populated as part of next steps:
In 1957, DuPont Corporation developed Critical Path Method. CPM is the shortest time that a project takes to complete. CPM in project management is also defined as sequence of activities that requires least amount of time with minimum amount of float. Critical Activities or Critical tasks are tasks on the Critical Path.
It is important to understand the nature of CPM tasks that includes four important parameters.
- Early Start (ES): A point which a task can start at its earliest time
- Early Finish (EF): A point at which a task can finish at its earliest time
- Late Start (LS): A point at which a task can start at it its latest possible time
- Late Finish (LF): A point at which a task can finish at its latest possible time
Free Float: It is the amount of time delayed by a single task followed by no delay in the Early start of successor task.
Total Float: It is the amount of time delayed by a single task without delaying the project completion.
A project can have multiple critical paths.
One of the most common causes for a delay in project is when the suppliers and sub-vendors don’t deliver the required commodity on time. This might be due to various reasons, the one which is relevant to our project is, a change in technology and underlying design requires specific skillset and following the technical specifications to produce the required commodity which the supplier might not be skilled at resulting in a product not adhering to the specifications or delay in producing the required product.
If a project is delayed by the supplier/ vendor, then the 1st thing to be done is access the impact of the delay on the overall project cost, schedule etc. We should then update the project plan and communicate it to our stakeholders. The last step is to check the contract with the supplier to see if a penalty can be levied for the delay caused.
Appropriate way to communicate with stakeholder
Creating some sort of communications management plan and reviewing it with project stakeholders early in a project helps prevent or reduce later communication problems.
Providing a status report explaining the impact of the delay on overall project delivery and the steps taken to minimize the impact via a presentation involving key people involved in the project delivery is the way we would like to communicate with the stakeholders.
Employee turnover is a major issue with any company. It is a challenge for leaders and their teams to retain good employees. Project delays often occur when employees leave in the middle of the project. Employees leaving the project may have different reasons. One of the common reasons is when management don’t meet their requirements. This results in employee dissatisfaction finally resulting in leaving the company. This causes not only delay in the project but also takes a hit in the finances. It is important for the management to listen to the issues that employees face during the life cycle of the project. Issues pile up overtime. One of the hardest things that manager faces is fixing these issues.
It takes time for a new employee to start in the middle of a project, understand and work along with the project. This issue often causes delay in the execution of the project.
Here we would like to propose that it is helpful for the management to take effective feedback at different stages of the project.
Ways to communicate with Employees
Status reports at different stages of the project, receiving feedback from the employees will help in resolving issues at different stages rather than piling up the issues and dealing with all together. Effective communication with employees, one-on-one meetings will help management to better improve the workplace providing employees to stay with the company for longer period.
“Risk is an uncertain event, which has a positive or negative impact on the project outcome”. Risks are inevitable and are identified at various levels of the project in different forms. Even though some of the risks are identified, there will be unknown risks at later stages of the known risk mitigation process. Risks are classified as Known and Unknown Risks. While the Known risks should be dealt as a part of planning, the Unknown Risks are uninvited guests and should be dealt with experience and care. Risk Management is a key management practice in any project.
The key elements in Risk Management include:
- Identify the risk
- Evaluate the impact of the risk
- Handle the risk and
- Control the output
It is important to identify uncertainties in the project and reduce the impact of these events at the early stages. The chances of any project to be more successful depends on identifying the risks at various stages and mitigating them as early as possible applying the best solution from various possible/available solutions. This process of identifying and controlling the risks is a continuous process. It is also important to maintain a risk register to keep a track of the risk identification, handling, controlling and mitigation. With this it is easier to identify similar risks and mitigate at early stages of the risk identification.
Risk management not only helps in mitigating uncertainties in the project, but also helps in keeping a track of past issues and their solutions. The chances of a project to be more successful, meet the right schedule highly depends on identifying the risks at every stage and mitigating them. Risk can either be a “Positive” or a “Negative”. Risk that helps out the project in a beneficial way is categorized as Positive Risk and the risks that doesn’t help out the project in a beneficial way is Negative Risk. Few other Common Risks are Cost risk, Schedule risk, Performance risk, Governance risk, Strategic risks, Operational risk, Market risks, Legal risks. Risks associated with external hazards, include storms, floods, and earthquakes; vandalism, sabotage, and terrorism; labor strikes; and civil unrest.
Some of the risks identified in our project include the following:
- Delays from Subcontractors
- Assembly process inconsistency
- Employee turnover
As mentioned in the earlier section, risk analysis deals with identifying risks along with the probability of their occurrence, and also evaluating the consequences in case of occurrence. But just understanding the risks is not sufficient in project management, contingency planning is also important. This section talks about mitigating risks and especially the ones stated in the risks section of the current project/s.
It is important to develop a risk mitigation strategy which caters to the organization and the way it functions.
There are four different ways to mitigate risks
- Risk Acceptance – When evaluating what it takes to avoid or mitigate risk, if these mechanisms turn out to be more expensive than taking the risk itself, it is wise to accept the risk and leave it.
- Risk Avoidance – As is evident, it talks about eliminating hazards before they occur. Surely this is a more expensive strategy, but critical areas like safety of employees, it is evitable.
- Risk limitation – This can be thought of as an average between the previous two strategies. It will not completely eliminate the impact of taking the risk but reduces it to an acceptable limit.
- Risk Transference – This is where a third party comes in handy. They will be willing to take to solving the risk and hence be paid. This way the teams or organizations can benefit from risk mitigation.
Risk mitigation – Delays from subcontractors/suppliers:
Firstly, while contacting the suppliers itself, it is important to set down the expectations on the need date of the product. Secondly, it is helpful to ask the supplier for the best and the worst-case delivery date of the product. This way, it would put on us on the supplier to deliver products on time if they were to retain business. Also, it helps to have a backup plan to employ something that has been done in the past and can be representative of the current work expected of the supplier. This can be qualified as a medium risk based on the frequency of occurrence.
Risk mitigation – Assembly process inconsistency:
Assembly is most critical of all the technical aspects, since it is to deal with the compatibility of the various elements of the product. Although individual components by themselves may be functioning to the spec, it is not always guaranteed that the assembly works too. In this case, it is important to place sensors to evaluate the technical aspects so that the problem if and when it arises can be tracked down. This risk qualifies as high, and based on previous mitigation strategies, risk avoidance should be employed.
Risk mitigation – Employee turnover:
This is a low risk and usually contingency plans can be in place, unless the employee is working on the project just by themselves and neither the management nor peers have any idea. In case, an employee, decides to leave, they need to give a prior notice and hence make transition easier for the team. And since the requirements of the project are clear to the senior management, they can employ another head to take over at a slightly later time frame.
In order to do the project a successful one, the project manager should have a high level of understanding towards the organizational goals, the process, tools, employee capabilities budget planning, resource planning, risk planning and so on. Success depends on various known and unknown factors and the ability to tackle the unknown situations smoothly and efficiently. In order to handle the Risk Management in an effective way, the project manager should have proper project planning, a well-defined/documented process of implementation approach of the project and a well-designed framework of Risk Management Process. During this process one can estimate the potential risks (Known Risks) while trying to expect the outcome of the project. The Unknown Risks are handled through years of experience and effective ways of communicating it to stakeholders. Surely Communication also plays a vital role in dealing with different scenarios with various stakeholders involved.
The Risk Management Framework for a success criterion would be
- Identify the Risk
- Analyze the Risk
- Prioritize the Risk
- Take Ownership of the Risk – This would be the person who is dealing the Risk, but not the person who is responsible for it. Mistakes do happen, so we can only think of how to mitigate it next time based on the experience.
- Respond to the Risk
- Monitor and
- Document the success or failure story
Information Technology Project Management, 8th Edition