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



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?

Imported from Detroit


In the last year Chrysler launched TV ads that featured the tagline, “Imported from Detroit.”  These ads immediately helped Chrysler’s image, as they were praised for breathing new life into the company and many people were left believing that they were actually producing cars in the US.  The ads weren’t too far off, but in fact most Chrysler’s are built just over the border in Canada, with engines coming from Mexico.  Although Chrysler may not have actually moved its manufacturing plants to the US it benefited greatly in public relations.

In the last few months we’ve also seen a “Back to U.S.” trend from technology manufacturers.  But unlike Chrysler, three technological giants have actually been slowly moving production back into the United States.  Apple, Lenovo, and Google’s Motorola have been opening brand new plants within US borders, the latest being Motorola’s brand new smartphone factory in Texas.  These decisions come after almost a decade in which the flow was almost exclusively in the other direction – with millions of jobs going to East Asian factories known for low wages and minimal labor protections.

Manufacturing has moved into a highly technical and highly automated environment.  This reduces the need for manual labor, which in turn reduces cost.  These associated costs are still cheaper in China than they are in the US, but for larger companies, like those mentioned in the technology sector, the costs to produce are far more even between countries.  And when we factor in shipping costs and timing, moving manufacturing back to the United States begins to look more appealing, and cost efficient.

But, in fact there are many cost unrelated benefits to relocating production back into the US:

  • High quality materials are more readily available
  • A highly skilled and educated workforce
  • Fast and efficient turnaround
  • Management is closer to customers, as well as factories and suppliers.
  • Quicker reaction time

Motorola Mobility was a division that was bought out by Google last year for $12.5 billion.  The new smartphone, the Moto X, will be the first designed entirely under Google ownership.  It will also be the first smartphone assembled in significant numbers in the United States since the launch of the iPhone.

However, many say that these shifts are motivated less by long-term manufacturing needs than by public-relations strategy.  Recently tech firms have been under fire from Washington, D.C. for their tax strategies, privacy policies and, in the case of Motorola parent company Google, allegations of monopolistic behavior.  But governors and members of Congress typically are avid protectors of major manufacturing employers, and even more so when they create jobs in lawmakers’ home districts.

Do you think that the recent push by technology companies to brings manufacturing jobs back into the United States for positive publicity is underhanded in its intent?

Benefits that can’t be measured in dollars are also really important when considering where to produce products.  How can companies justify higher costs to investors who might not be aware of these benefits?



A Thousand Lives: The Hidden Cost of Clothes

Three weeks ago the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,127 people. A majority of these were workers producing garments for sale in the United States and Europe. The factory manufactured apparel for brands including Benetton and Walmart among others. An investigation revealed that the building was deemed unsafe just days before the collapse, but factory supervisors ordered their employees to continue working in these hazardous conditions.

jp-bangladesh1-articleLargeThe obvious question is why a tragedy like this would occur, even after there had been a forewarning. The answer is because factories like Rana Plaza and others in Bangladesh are under immense pressure to produce a high volume of low-cost garments for their biggest buyers, Walmart, H&M, Inditex (which owns Zara), and Gap to name a few. These companies pride themselves on their ability to get apparel into stores only weeks after designing them. However, this incredible efficiency requires a tremendous amount of manual labor, and no where are labor costs cheaper than in Bangladesh. The massive global supply chains of a majority of apparel manufacturers flow through the South Asian country which trails only China in terms of garments exported. Unfortunately, most of the large Western companies are unaware of the conditions that exist in the factories where their products are being produced.

The latest tragedy has finally caught the attention of European and American companies. This past week H&M, the largest buyer of garments from Bangladeshi factories, agreed to a plan to improve fire and building safety in Bangladesh’s apparel factories. The five-year plan calls for independent safety inspections and for companies to make the findings public. Joining H&M were Inditex, the world’s biggest clothing retailer, and several other European apparel companies. However, PVH, the owner of brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, is the only American company that has signed the pact. Companies including Gap, Walmart and JC Penney have considered the plan, but have not yet signed on, mostly due to the cost and how legal issues would be resolved.

130430150217-made-in-bangladesh-620xaI believe this safety pact is a step in the right direction on the road to abolishing subpar working conditions around the world. Therefore, from a management perspective, I think that companies that are not signing the pact, like Walmart and JC Penney, are making a mistake. Not signing sends a negative message to consumers and investors, if the companies are unwilling to spend money to protect human lives customers will question the ethics of the company’s management. Ethics is an important facet of operations management. The managers at American apparel companies need to recognize these issues, like their European counterparts have, and address the dangerous working conditions that exist in their supply chain. I think in the long run the benefits of ensuring safe conditions for all in the supply chain will outweigh the cost.

What is your opinion on the decision of many American companies to not sign the safety pact?

Do you think it is the duty of American companies to ensure the safety of workers in foreign countries?



Follow LeanPath: Way to reduce food waste

Among 150 hotels, hospitals and universities, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is utilizing an innovative method to reduce food waste conjured by a company called LeanPath.

According to LeanPath, the issue of food waste is getting to be tremendously harmful for energy and water resources. Being the biggest source of waste in the United States, food waste accounts for $8 billion to $20 billion worth of waste annually. This is because about 4% to 10% of food bought is wasted rather than consumed.

What exactly is this waste? What LeanPath tracks is not exactly what we think of when we think of the term “food waste”. It is not the food our moms tell us to “finish because kids in Africa are starving”. The food waste that LeanPath targets is focused to tackle the root of the problem. It is the food that is wasted even before it reaches the plate. This can be anything from meat to vegetable trimmings. Imagine you are making mashed potatoes. How much of the potato are you really peeling? How much potato skin are you discarding? Leanpath can measure and put a dollar amount to all of these questions.

How does LeanPath help and what does it do exactly? Quite simply, LeanPath provides the means for establishments to track the food they are wasting. Employees can do this by weighing their waste on the scales provided by LeanPath.  The employees enter in the type of food, size of container, type of meal and the reason it is being discarded in to the LeanPath machines. The machine then calculates the waste into a dollar amount using their special software. All of this would cost the establishment about 5,000 dollars. Though the software doesn’t provide the employees with solutions to reduce food waste, it provides them with useful charts and graphs that help the employees make these decisions. The employees and their managers then meet up once a month and brainstorm best practices to reduce the waste they are calculating on the LeanPath scales.
How effective has this been? Specifically, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has saved $300,000 dollars after it has started using LeanPath’s methods. I think that this is a great start to saving a lot of waste in the food industry. I do think LeanPath would be more effective if they gave practical solutions to reuse food that is intended to waste rather than giving facts and charts. With LeanPath’s program now, it looks like only the institutions that are most dedicated to sustainability will benefit from LeanPath’s products. This is why more commercial institutions like restaurants and food courts are not using LeanPath. Anyone can weigh the food waste but there needs to be an active desire to come up with solutions to reduce food waste in order to make this program more effective.

Can LeanPath eventually reach more commercial industries? Do you think it needs to alter its program to do so? If so, how?


Strategic Alliances Between Video Game Developers and Media Firms

Strategic Alliances between Video Game Developers and Media Firms

By: Brett Halan

So basically the situation at hand is that media companies like Disney are starting to develop their own video games rather than export the development. The skill to develop and program games was once extremely rare and difficult to learn. Today it is being taught by more and more universities, and the skill is more widespread. Companies like Disney and PIXAR have a strategic alliance to create games like Toy Story and many others. They still do have an alliance, but Disney is experimenting by creating their own methods to creating games. Other media companies are following their lead as well.

These companies originally make a film that is later turned into a video game. Toy Story is an example of this process. The problem is that as of lately the video games that are extracted from original movies are not successful whatsoever. Disney and the others had to ask themselves why?  They concluded that the quality of the games is terrible. The video game developing companies spend much of their effort working on original pieces of work like Halo or Call of Duty that attract the largest consumer base. They spend little time on these movies turned video games because they are historically weak sellers. The quote “quality is subjective, and perception is reality” pertains directly to this situation. The only real person who can claim that one game has more quality over the other are the end consumers. The media companies and the developing firms are essentially making the same mistake over and over again, and they need to accept change.

To fix the lack of quality going into the games there are a few alternatives. The most popular is that the media firms are buying smaller video game development companies. They are expanding in a way to give them a higher amount of control over the end product. As we saw in class during the ball passing game, when you have control over the process and design the end result is improved. Another alternative could include simply end making video games based off movies.     

Overall, the consumers of the big box office movies seem to really enjoy the movies, so why are the video games not popular? Media firms blame the video game developers for not putting maximum effort into the games. There are a few questions we should consider. The first is how do the media firms go forward with improving the transcendent definition of quality of these games? The second question is how are the video game developers going to stay in business with their strategically aligned partners?

Even though the information for this post is from 2008 the information is still relevant for today. I imagine we will see less and less video games based off of movies in the meantime. Further down the road I imagine some movies will have a more advanced feature where you can control the action similar to a video game. Today they have alternative endings to movies, but I think that is just the beginning of interaction with the audience.    

Sources from:

M. Marr and N Wingfield (2008). “Big Media companies want back in the game.” The Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2008.

C. Salter (2002). “Playing to Win.” Fast Company. December. Pg. 80.

C. Edward (2008). “Morphing Video Games into Movies.” BloombergBusinessWeek. March 19, 2008.


Apple – Samsung = What Kind of Quality?

After hearing this news about a month ago, I decided to post it and get others responses to it.

It seems although they are in a bitter legal battle with each company suing each other, Apple is still doing business with the Korean company Samsung, but for how long? The relationship started because the companies that previously provided the displays for the iPads, weren’t meeting with quality standards and were dropped. These companies included LG and Sharp Inc. Now it seems that because the legal battles that are happening, Samsung will also be dropped. It seems that the new company to step in and win over Apple’s iPad Mini, is Innolux. Innolux already provides Apple with the displays for the big iPad, and iPod Touch, so the change should be easy.

For those of us who have iPhone, we all noticed how the maps changed when Apple and Google parted ways. A lot of us found out that we were driving or walking into the middle of an ocean when we would look for destinations, or the maps wouldn’t fully load correctly, of course now its fixed after a couple of updates. So will another debacle like this happen when they part ways with Samsung? As consumers, we hate it when the quality of a good product continues to decline and there are a lot of Apple consumers who are very happy with the components that Samsung provides to these devices. Not only are they providing the display panels, but they also manufacture the chips for the Apple devices.

The major question that will be looming is will the quality of Apple products start to decline? It’s been said that Apple is dropping Samsung because of the costs that are now being demanded, so will looking for lower costs, lower the quality? I find it natural that Apple would want to drop Samsung because of their legal battles. Why would they want to help and contribute to their competitors? Samsung is stepping up in the technology industry and is becoming a big competitor to Apple and it’s in their best interest to part ways before the blueprints to their best selling devices are found out.

As news of “The Next Big Thing,” the Samsung Galaxy S4 has come out, will it make a splash big enough to make some new converts? I’ve heard some of the new features on the phone and I find them a little bit weird. The biggest one is the ability to wave your hand to switch screens. Just picture yourself waving your hand at your phone and think about how you will look. I’m not knocking it all, I just find it funny. Each phone is targeting different customers, but are always pinned each other for top spot.

Let me know what you guys think about the new move and if it will or will not effect the quality of Apple products. Feel free to chime in on the new S4 as well.



Will iPhone lose its top spot?

The iPhone may have some actual competiton now. According to BusinessWeek, in the third quarter of this year, Samsung Galaxy III has outsold the iPhone by 1.8 million during this 3-month period when comparing shipment orders to sales of the iPhone. Samsung has been the only smartphone even close to competing with Apple since the iPhone’s inception. We have recently been talking about supply chain management and this could be why Samsung has such an edge up compared to other smartphone manufactures. As we learned in class, companies are not competing against each other, rather by their supply chain. Samsung is able to produce its own chip, flash memory for internal storage and Super Amoled handset displays. They are the only smartphone manufactures who do this, while Apple designs their chips and then hands it off to someone else to manufacturer them. They also outsource their production of the actual phone to factories in China. Apple’s supply chain process has been working will for them which are why they are ahead of their competition besides all of the features of the phone. Samsung is closely following Apple’s supply chain model by controlling what they can as much as possible. Samsung has also recently been sued by Apple for imitation of their phone. Do you think they will eventually be able to have a leg up on Apple do to their supply chain model? Or are they a top competitor because their phone is so closely imitated to the iPhone?






You can’t please them all…or can you?

Outsourcing is very important to the business world and helps many companies in a variety of aspects. Creating partnerships with outsourcing companies is vital for companies to survive in this day and age. It also saves a lot of money for many companies, which benefits them greatly. India’s business-process-outsourcing (BPO) companies are a $50 billion industry however has recently been experiencing problems. They have started to struggle to attract the right kind of people to work there. The image of a business-process-outsourcing used to be considered prestigious and financially beneficial, but that has changed. Now people rather work in traditional sectors. They have realized that to change people’s perception of the profession, rebranding would be needed to help with that. If BPO employees would feel loyalty toward and support their companies, it would send a good message of the industry to others. A study conducted, based on Gallup data, has shown that as long as the numbers are dropping, BPO companies will not be able to change people’s perception of them. This data shows that only 28% of employees intend to stay with their companies for the next few years and that they would promote their company to others. This low level of loyalty is why the business is experiencing so much turnover and lost productivity. Word of mouth in very important in society today, however in India it is vital for businesses to survive. Indians tend to rely on advice from other people, especially trusted people, when it comes to making big decisions. This is how the problem is arising, because people who would have normally gone into the BPO industry and being advised to pick other professions now.

The industry will not survive if business owners do not start taking care of their employees. In order for the BPO to turn around, business owners need to direct their focus on making sure that their employees are happy. If they do not succeed with this, then they will not be able to obtain new employees which is ultimately what they need. Employees need to feel important in what they do and like they are making a difference somehow. They have need to feel that they are learning and growing while at their job, because let’s face it; no one wants to stay at a dead end job where they are not actually getting anything from. Employees must feel empowered and engaged in what they do.

What do you think are other ways that the BPO can raise their workforce number? Should employers focus on their current employees in order to get new ones in the future? Or should getting new employees be their main focus instead?