Can You Keep Up?

When faced with a project there are many ways to get it done. Here we have two types of strategies to approaching projects: agile and waterfall. Agile is quick paced and is likely to have more short-term goals that “keeps the teams at a constant high pace and productivity” ( Agile projects are not necessarily all short term but the iterations within the project are completed in short periods of time.
The article goes on to explain one of the principles of agile project management, which is time boxing. It “establishes cadence and, after two or three iterations, the team learns how much output they can produce.” Time boxing is not as flexible as other project management techniques. There is a set time frame for each aspect of the project and “it doesn’t matter if you can’t do them to perfection. Completing the task is the goal” (
We can also use cadence in waterfall projects as well. Waterfall is a more traditional approach. Some may say that it’s not as effective as other approaches or to avoid this technique, and others find it is efficient. It follows a stricter schedule, and includes very important details; even the smallest detail is an important one.
Using cadence for waterfall projects can help move the team to being as high energy as the teams in the agile projects. The first point of cadence is keeping a weekly schedule with milestones being completed. The first week should be the week that everyone gathers his or her information. When they meet again at the end of the week the project manager adjusts the schedule to fit the conditions of the information. Which brings us to the second point of cadence: “is the next milestone still on track?” ( The PM adjusts the schedule at the meeting and they settle the next steps there so that the team knows what is happening. To me this seems kind of similar to crashing. The team and project manager adjust the schedule if need be on a weekly basis whereas crashing would most often occur as one point and would adjust each critical path to crash it down to the desired time frame.
The author of the article also provides some suggests as to planning milestones. One of which was timing between milestones should not be too far apart not too close together. I feel that with everything we learned in class, timing is the most flexible yet most critical part of managing the project. You can crash a project down from 14 weeks down to 10 weeks and if you don’t do it right you may be incurring more cost than you should be. If something doesn’t go as planned then you need to be sure you allowed yourself that extra time to adjust anything you need.

So now I turn it over to you:

How do you like to approach projects?
Do you have another strategy to approaching projects?

Who should lead my project?

The company I work for has been going through a new ERP implementation for the last several months.  In the past, for new ERP implementations or for upgrades of existing ERP systems, we have typically cascaded implementations at our regional facilities, beginning with the regional facility with the most demand.  By doing this, we were able to focus our resources in one area and ensure the system functioned properly, including all reports, prior to rolling it out to others.  For this implementation, we elected to go with a “Big Bang” approach, upgrading all facilities simultaneously.  We initially identified several advantages to taking this approach, many of which never came to fruition for various reasons.

Now that we are 6 months into our implementation, it is evident that the “Big Bang” approach was not the appropriate method to take.  For the first 3 months of the implementation, we had IS and IT resources travelling the world to support our various locations to ensure the systems were functioning, not necessarily functioning properly, but just getting basic transactions through. This period of travelling and troubleshooting exhausted our IS and IT resources.  Still, after 6 months, only about 95% of the transactions are flowing correctly and we seem to run into show-stoppers at least once per month.  After that initial 3 month period, when things had settled down on the transactional side, we began the arduous process of getting basic reports to function.  These include financial reporting, financial analysis, production analysis, order management, purchasing, and human resources reports.  These have seemingly been stalled since the implementation began and there is little confidence of it being completed anytime soon.

So, the question becomes: when is the right time to redefine the project manager?  It seems through each phase of the implementation, the project manager has shifted.  It has gone from CIO to Network Director to Systems Director to Applications Director.  This is not to say that each of these individuals isn’t doing everything in their power to ensure these issues get addressed, but there is no consistent list of issues or person to direct concerns to.  There is no project manager interacting with each function defining priorities.  We’re really seeking one point of contact to interact with one single point of contact within each of our functions to take control.  However, there could be political implications to even suggesting a change of project manager.  And, frankly, there may not be anybody willing to take that position as it could have implications on their career going forward.

For this particular project, we defaulted to a project manager in the IS and IT group, but perhaps, we should have considered a more skilled project manager outside of that group that could developed a more reliable risk management plan and mitigated some of those risks prior to the implementation.  The users would have likely been more satisfied with a project manager that is responsive and organized, rather than a project manager that has the technical knowledge of the implementation without the project management skillset. Can functional leaders be expected to efficiently manage projects within their organizations if they span across several functions?

Delegation, is it an Art or a Science?

More than often project managers are swamped with too much work and still refuse or procrastinate in delegating some of the work to one or more of the team members in the project team. This is not specific to project management and fear of delegation is known to be present in all sectors, professions and all positions within corporations and firms. Here below it is listed the most common reasons why project managers do not delegate, properly, timely or not at all and when they do, how should they go about it:

Barriers from the project manager

–        Not enough time to properly explain the work to be performed and how

–        Fear of losing control of the task delegated and that the result will be disastrous

–        Fear of not getting credit for the quality and success of the delegated task

–        Fear of losing tasks that are enjoyed and getting stuck with the unwanted tasks

–        Fell that he/she can do it better and that the result will not be as perfect as it could

–        Fear of delegating-self out of a job as the senior management sees others with competence

–        Lack of confidence in team members with the fear that they will completely fail

Barriers from the team members

–        Not enough time to understand and assimilate the task to be performed

–        Not enough experience to execute such a task without asking too much and looking incompetent

–        Fear of failure and that such a failure can have serious consequences

–        Not their responsibility since tasks were not theirs in the first place

–        Fear of being a scapegoat and that the PM is just setting one up for failure

–        Reactions from other team members who may think you have some type of preference from the PM

Barriers from the situation

–        Constrained resources, when money is the biggest concern in the organization and failure is not an option whatsoever

–        Unclear hierarchy, when it is difficult to understand the lines of authority in the firm or corporation

Reasons not to delegate

–        When there’s lack of clarity, if you cannot understand it yourself do not expect others to understand it either

–        When you need the learning, so the delegation will prevent you from learning some core competence intrinsic to the task to be done

–        When the project is too high stakes and it is best that you get it done yourself and are in control all the time

To whom should the PM delegate

–        The experience, knowledge and skills of the individual

–        The individual’s preferred work style

–        The current workload of this person

How should the PM delegate

–        Clearly articulate the desired outcome

–        Clearly identify constraints and boundaries

–        Where possible, include people in the delegation process

–        Match the amount of responsibility with the amount of authority

–        Delegate to the lowest possible organizational level

–        Provide adequate support, and be available to answer questions

–        Focus on results

–        Avoid upward delegation

–        Build motivation and commitment

–        Establish and maintain control


Reference and sources:

Communication Barriers in the Client’s Workplace and Possible Solutions

Nowadays, as seen in many industries, outsourcing has become well-accepted in the project management area. Reasons for outsourcing can vary from industry to industry. In project management, outsourcing is primarily due to the lower budget that many projects have. Nonetheless, the key area to focus on is the “communication barriers that exist when a project manager works at the client’s location and manages an off-shore team by obtaining the client’s scope.”  From this aspect, the article, “Communication Barriers in the Client’s Workplace and Possible Solutions,” highlights several communication problems along with possible solutions.

Below you will see a highlight of these problems categorized under four (4) processes along with possible solutions. These problems are also defined in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) – Fourth Edition (PMI, 2008).

  1. Identify Stakeholders
  2. Plan Communications
  3. Distribute Information
  4. Manage Stakeholder Expectations


Identify Stakeholders and Plan Communications

–          Stakeholder register

  • In the article, the author suggests to have a stakeholder register for every project. The stakeholder register should include the name of the stakeholder, the roles and responsibilities of the stakeholder in the project, the stakeholder’s expectations of the project, and cases in which the stakeholder needs to be contacted and how.

–          Arrange weekly meetings highlighting the exact agenda

  • The project manager needs to determine frequency of the meetings and media, i.e. face-to-face meetings, conference calls, etc.

Distribute Information

–          Plan and execute the right mode of communication

  • The author suggests to use email communication for complex scenarios, and to use face-to-face communication for quick and immediate responses. As for face-to-face communications, the project manager should also send a “re-cap” email of discussions, tasks, decisions, etc. as a best practice.

–          Access to required information, i.e. client’s network, shared folder, etc.

Manage Stakeholder Expectations

–          Negotiate and influence the stakeholder so that certain critical project meetings can still be conducted in the absence of the key stakeholders

–          Accept the fact of how the client works and try to adapt to such working cultures

(Ramaniah, 2012)

The possible solutions seen above can easily be applied to any project in any industry.  This list can be endless since there are several issues and risks in any given project. Therefore, as a project manager, one should consider all four processes. At the end of the day, as the author stated, “It is the project manager’s responsibility to run the show successfully by proactively anticipating such issues and planning how to tackle them.”

In particular, the biggest challenge for me in the project communications management area has been identifying stakeholders in my projects. This has been a challenge since I was new to the company, and initially needed a lot of support and guidance from my manager.

Overall, what are the current challenges that you are now experiencing in the project communications management area? Have you experienced any communication barriers listed under the four different processes?  Have you applied any one of the solutions?


Communication Barriers in the Client’s Workplace and Possible Solutions



Supply Chain Expatriates, Risk or Opportunity?

In last decade, the economic boom in China and its future dominance in key industrial sectors has been a tireless news event and is still an exciting hot business topic. With the rapid business expansion in China, multinational logistics companies are desperately in need of local management personnel to staff new offices and routes.  However, multinational logistic enterprises are experiencing hard times to find qualified candidates recruit them and retain them in China.

The biggest reason that I choose Operations Management (supply Chain Management) as my concentration is that I perceive this as an exciting opportunity to work oversea as an expatriate in China.  I want to develop a broad base of business skills, knowledge of Supply Chain Processes through my MBA courses.  China is evolving and changing everyday; it’s great to be a part of that and witness the improvements that benefit the average Chinese person. I hope that in some way to contribute to the process.

According to the Journal of Logistic Management, the role of the expatriate has never been more important and challenging. The article states supply chain and logistics manager have interviewed Chinese based western expatriates and local professionals on many assignments spanning appointments in operations across the supply chain.  The interviews show that expatriates will be a willing and eager segment within the work force; Chinese people want to learn from best global practices, different management styles and achieve objectives. While expatriates looking for a new challenge will find lots of new learning opportunities and also have the opportunity to shape the future of a business potentially far in excess of their home country business.

Interestingly, expatriates who have completed the foreign assignment successfully are more likely to get promotion when they return.  If this is a win-win situation for both sides, why are more than 30% of expatriates failing to complete their assignment?  What are the major challenges as expatriates in China?

Based on a set of interviews with executives in global logistics companies, it suggests expatriates end their foreign assignments earlier because of the following reasons: cultural difference and languages barrier. These reasons have great impact on expatriates’ performances, motivations and satisfaction.  Most Western business expatriates in China work in unfamiliar surroundings, as they typically do not understand much of the language and the culture. More importantly, these expatriates lack cross-cultural training before they depart to China.

In term of cultural differences, Chinese emphasizes persistence, relationships ordered by status, personal adaptability, leisure time is not emphasized, frugality, and good or evil depends on circumstances.  While Americans emphasizes quick result, status not critical in a relationship, the importance of leisure time, spending, and belief in absolutes about good and evil.

Acknowledging these factors of Supply Chain Expatriates in China it is clear that they face both risk and opportunity prompting companies and individuals to prepare as best they can to improve the success rate of foreign assignments. What are your thoughts?




Shi, Yanhong and Robert B. HandField, Talent management issues for multinational logistics companies in China: observations from the field.International Journal of Logistics: Research & Applications; Jun2012, Vol. 15 Issue 3, p163-179, 17p

Goffnett, Sean P.; Cook, Robert L.; Williams, Zachary; Gibson, Brian J. Understanding satisfaction with supply chain management careers: an exploratory study. International Journal of Logistics Management. 2012, Vol. 23 Issue 1, p135-158. 24p. DOI: 10.1108/09574091211226966.

Portioil Staudach & Alberto Tantardini (2012), International Journal of Production Research; Jun2012, Vol. 50 Issue 12, p3257-3273, 17p, 2 Diagrams, 5 Charts, 5 Graphs


Technology in the Workforce and the Rise of the Nontraditional Work Environment

Technology is changing the way people do business. With applications that create faster overall processes and improved communication, the key to success is often accomplished through the use of the right technology. Managers must be aware of what these changes are and how technology is facilitating them. There are a number of growing trends that demonstrate how the workforce is shifting towards nontraditional work environments and which technologies are being used to support these environments. Remote employees working in virtual work environments are becoming more commonplace in today’s workforce, whether it is through outsourcing work to other countries or US employees based in different geographic locations than their teams/managers. No matter which type of nontraditional work environment, it is clear that technology is a crucial key to success.

There are a number of different tools that a remote or virtual employee can use. Working in teams with people located in different geographic locations requires extra attention on communication. Managers must make sure that remote employees feel included and equal to their non-remote peers. In order to do so, there are a number of technologies that help bridge the geographic gap. Video conferencing allows individuals who are in different physical locations to interact as if they were all in the same place. Having a round-table meeting over video conference allows individuals to express themselves through gestures and expressions. It also creates a sense of familiarity amongst employees since it is a social environment. Another tool is web conferencing, which allows people on different computers to simultaneously view one person’s screen. This allows individuals to host a meeting where they can present to a large group and not have to send out loose documents. Another online tool that allows people in different locations to communicate is Instant Messenger. AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), Gchat (Google Chat) and Facebook Chat all allow you to communicate in real time via text with many other individuals simultaneously.

While these technologies have many benefits, a word to the wise is to be aware of everything that comes along with the use of technology in the workforce. On the positive side, technologies like video conferencing and web conferencing allow many different people to get together in one virtual location. Being able to type at the rate of a normal conversation (through an instant messenger program like AIM) also allows people from far distances to communicate. However, both of these positive benefits have the potential to be negative as well. Video and web conferencing can sometimes be difficult to set up and if the Internet is down you often lose access to many of those tools. Typing a conversation can also lead to things taken out of context because you lose tone and expression. Overall, technology can be used successfully as long as individuals are mindful of the potential roadblocks.

Have you seen nontraditional roles emerging in your work environment? What technologies does your company use (or have you personally used) to help you stay connected to your peers?

Supply Chain Management degrees a hot commodity

Colleges and Universities throughout the country are scrambling to put together programs that center around Supply Chain Management. The field is growing with the increase in globalization and firms looking to expand beyond their domestic borders. These degrees command large salaries due to the specialization of those that possess the degrees.

As technology continues to make warehousing, manufacturing, and transportation quicker, these degrees will continue to expand in importance. The article below references that firms all around the world are hiring for this type of degree. This centers around industries from the food industry, to the software industry, to retailers like Forever 21.

Popularity is not the only reason for the increase in this specialization, but the complexity of the industry is changing as well. Many firms now outsource many responsibilities of their supply chain, such as the logistics, tracking, etc. because their in-house staff is not qualified to handle the responsibility. The training and resources required to increase a firm’s capability can cost more than outsourcing some of these services. As a result, firms like Chicago’s own Coyote Logistics and Total Quality Logistics have expanded exponentially over their decade of existence, primarily due to the Third Party Logistics (3PL) industry’s growth and their ability to compile resources to help handle freight of companies throughout the world.

I personally have been pursuing a Supply Chain Management MBA for the past three years from the University of Akron, and am closing out my degree by taking my final two classes at DePaul University. Speaking from personal experience, I feel that the pursuit of my degree in this area has opened doors that otherwise would not have been opened just due to the specialization of the degree. On February 4, I started my first day at Nestle in suburban Chicago, and I feel that the Supply Chain specialization has helped me embrace the continuing excellence and Six Sigma culture much faster than some of my colleagues that started around the same time as me.

I feel for the first time in my life that the possibilities of where I can go next professionally are endless. There are many opportunities in Nestle alone that have made the degree worthwhile for me, and should you have interest in helping a firm continue to improve, I would recommend it to you as well if you are considering furthering your education.

Tesla: Creating a revolution in the luxury car industry

If you are somewhat familiar even a little bit about stocks and have an interest in investing, you probably have heard about the recent boom of Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) stock. Recently, the stock went as high as $110 a share; this was a 103% increase over a one month period and a 247% increase over a 3 month period.Source: AutoBlog

So you may be thinking, what caused this sudden increase and growth? Tesla stock first jumped 31% on May 8th when it announced its First Quarter sales to be $562 Million and recorded  first quarterly profit in its 10-year history of $15 million.  In a letter to shareholders, CEO Elon Musk mentioned that Tesla delivered 4,900 electric vehicles as well as other important figures. One of them being that their gross margin doubled from 2012 to 17 percent. This was made possible due to better use of raw materials, smarter inventory management, and a reduction in the hours required to build each car by 40 percent over the quarter.

In the first quarter of the year, Tesla delivered more than 4,750 Model S vehicles in the US which when compared to the more traditional luxury car brands such as BMW 7-series and Mercedes S Class, is much higher. BMW sold 2,338 7-Series models in the first quarter while Mercedes sold 3,077 S-Class models. The demand for their most popular model, Model S, is projected to be around 20,000 units per year in North America and in Europe, the current order rate is 200 per week. In order to meet these demands, they have added some changes to their manufacturing process which should drive margins higher.

Some of these changes include:

(1) a reduction in temp workers since the beginning of the      year

(2) increased efficiencies and reduced scrappage both at supplier and in-house production sites

(3) a streamlining of operations leading to a further reduction in full time employee man-hours from 60-70hrs/week previously to 40-50 hrs/week currently

(4) a significant improvement in logistics costs.


Currently their body assembly and finished assembly are still running on a 2 shift basis so the main goal of the production team right now is to get production levels of 20,000 on a single shift across most processes.

With the Tesla Model S being a luxury car and priced at $62,400, I feel that its affordable and much better then other cars. Do you see Tesla continuing to be as successful as they are now and do you think their stock price will continue to go up as it is now? As I mentioned earlier, they out sold Mercedes and BMW luxury models, do you think that will continue to happen in the future as well? What would you rather have, Tesla or other traditional luxury car models?

My Zynga! How does one fall so fast?

Words With Friends. FarmVille. Scramble With Friends. We’ve all heard or played these games, or we have watched our friends on Facebook or Twitter interact with these games. These games are created by Zynga, a company that is nearly six years old based in San Francisco, California. This past week Zynga’s CEO Mark Pincus announced an 18% job cut for employees throughout the gaming company.

Who or what could possibly be the cause of such an 18% job cut? Pincus, in his blog announcement, acknowledged the fact that Zynga has struggled with adapting and entering the mobile space like many other companies. Larger companies, such as Facebook, have also admittedly publicly to have struggled to get a firm grasp on the market that caters to smaller devices that have smaller screens where users expect a fast, seamless and intuitive experience – with less ads. Is this lack of leadership on Pincus’? Or could it be Zynga’s lack of innovation?

This move to lean the company is certainly one thing – focusing on the future. By decreasing the size of the company today, Zynga was able to fairly compensate the newly departed associates. By making this move now, Pincus believes that Zynga is saving money in the long run. He believes making the deep cuts now will allow Zynga to take the risks it was once able to take before it expanded.

There are many similarities in this recent move by Zynga, and the the past few recent years of Chicago based, Groupon. These small start-up online companies expand exponentially all too quickly which brings up the questions, is it lack of leadership? One difference between Zynga and Groupon is that Pincus acknowledging the issues, and addressing them head on from the get go where as it can be argued that Groupon’s first CEO (yet to be replaced), Andrew Mason, failed to take the initiative to help his company early on. Mason, after months of criticism, left by similar fashion – a blog letter written to employees riddled with his off-based humor.

Companies that scale too quickly can easily lose their focus and their identity. Pincus is taking a risk to help his company in the long run. It is a difficult decision to make, but could potentially be the right one to correct Zynga’s projection path. Do think Pincus is making the right move?

What’s leadership management?

When it comes to management strategies, we are firm on our beliefs and behavior towards the approach we take in managing a staff. We attend classes and read books on the appropriate methods of managing a team, but what if I told you that everything you know about management leadership has been wrong all along.

When you attend a leadership class, you discuss the tools and techniques you can use to alleviate the situations, but the real issue is never address. The major issue is people. When entering the work environment you are forced to work with many different personalities. With all the different personalities, you are bound to clash with someone. In perfect world, we would all agree and get along but unfortunately, this is not the case.  If the issues you have with people are never address, conflicts arise and create big problems. When attending leadership training this issue is often over looked by trainers.


In leadership classes, it is clearly defined that leaders have a fundamentally different task from the people they are overseeing. With the title of a leader, you are given an extra power that is linked directly back to fear from your staff.  This is the issue in leadership and corporate leadership.  If fear can be removed from the equation, staff will be more willing to communicate issues and ideas they have. Instead of looking at someone as a threat, you can be viewed as someone that was placed in the position you are in because you have put your time into the company and you are very knowledgeable. What if this was the message that employees received instead of the thought that the person who hired you has absolute power over you. It is no secret that real leaders use influence rather than the use of power to achieve goals, yet corporate America continues to run organizations as if this is unheard of. We have all these large corporate leaders attend these leadership training courses but the common worker is never invited. Why is that? Is it that magical secretes are exchanged and only the elite can understand them?

This style of management is not the way to go. We live in a world now that is so diverse that we can benefit from the exposure of different people, cultures, and ideas. Technology and global markets have given us the window of opportunity to take advantage of this and learn from each other. It is clear that the best people will not follow this style of management, they will not submit to the fear of the manager.  We need to start listening to all the issues and address them from the bottom and go from there. We need to consider everyone and see each other as equals and work together as a team with a common goal. We need to eliminate fear.