Project management, between reality and practice; and which comes first


Would you prefer to gain knowledge before practicing or practice before gaining knowledge? What if you don’t have the choice?

Nowadays, many managers in different work environments appear to find themselves responsible for increasing number of tasks and before they realize, their initial job description often appears to be no longer valid and very far from the reality!

From personal experience, I consider project management as one of the most interesting elements that happen to creep into the job description of many managers and leaders in different organizations, where sometimes, it eventually shapes a big part of their roles. It is fascinating to see many managers excelling in project management in their organizations and successfully manage various projects delivering superb results, whilst they have received minimal structured project management training or education, if any!

In the dynamic business environment of today, project management is one of the key qualities that organizations look for when recruiting for managerial positions. Recruiters will normally also look for potential to build such capabilities as many managers develop the same by practicing and ultimately become responsible for managing various project. Has the bar been raised by the workforce or is project management becoming a ‘must have’ for managers?

It appears that project management has now become an integral part of managerial roles, however, it is indeed interesting to see how knowledge and theories related to this science are placed compared to application in real life – based on which comes first and the degree of overlap between the two elements. When managers find themselves practicing project management roles by virtue of their job, they utilize the tools of the trades at work without structured studying / training pertaining to the same. Therefore, it is very likely for them to take particular interest in the concepts when they are formally introduced as practical experience will come to aid when taking closer look and probably better place them in terms of picking the most useful tools to put in practice.

Knowledge is important and having access to the various tools of project management is crucial for successful project management, nevertheless, learning by practicing is unmatchable! Having to face the reality and learning from peers and superiors at work help managers to develop project management skills in very exciting way. Such managers are also likely to better appreciate the concepts and tools when they learn more about them as they have seen them in practice and more knowledge will better equip them to further cultivate their careers and deliver better results.

Learning before practicing sounds more academic than practical, and the way I see it, unless knowledge of project management is coupled with concurrent practical application, only modest results can be reaped. Don’t you agree?

From Grass to Ice: STX is Here to Stay


Matt Moulson, STX Athlete

The world of sports has seen many brands come and go. Nike, Adidas, and Reebok are all names I am sure you all have heard of. Some other extremely popular brands that you may not of heard of are Sherwood, CCM, and Warrior. The reason you may of not heard of these is because they are big brands for sports that are not as popular in the the U.S.  The brands that were mentioned above make gear for hockey and lacrosse, both of which are not as popular than sports like football, basketball, or baseball. Making a name for yourself in such competitive markets like these is not easy. One up and coming brand, STX, is trying to do just that.

STX is a company that makes everything Lacrosse. From protective gear, to high end lacrosse sticks, to apparel, STX makes it all. They are one of the leaders in this industry and recently have started to expand their brand into other sports such as hockey. Hockey and lacrosse have their obvious differences such as hockey is played on ice with a puck, and lacrosse is played on  field with a ball. Looking past that, the sports are fairly similar in regards to gameplay and players’ gear. Even though the similarities are prevalent, not many brands exist that carry both lacrosse and hockey gear. STX might be the next big name in hockey.

STX is not the first brand to make this transition. Warrior is one of the leaders in hockey protective gear and actually got their start in lacrosse before transferring over. Warrior is still at the top of both branches and STX wants to do the same. STX has just released their first set of player sticks and gloves for hockey this past month. This small introduction into the hockey world could be the start of something big. The sticks and gloves are already being sold in hockey stores across the country and they have even picked up some NHL players to showcase their gear on the professional level. Another way how the brand is attempting to make a quick entry into the market is through discounted team sales. As part of the club hockey team at DePaul, I have seen this first hand. An STX representative came out to a team practice and let the entire team demo their new line of sticks. After practice we were given the option to buy one or more sticks at an extremely discounted price. These sticks are pro quality and are comparable to many of the sticks on the racks today. This marketing ploy is one way that STX is going to grow as a hockey brand. The best way to get noticed is by getting exposure. STX has made a strong entry and I am excited to see what they roll out next.

My question for you is what do you think the next decision for STX should be to compete with other hockey brands.

Also, what are other brands that have expanded into different sport and how/why were they successful.



Managers: You are the Weakest Link, Goodbye

A common issue in organizations is corporate politics where promotions occur not because of merit but due to connections. In other words, many times it is not how hard you work but who you know that determines advancement. However, there is an entirely different issue at hand.

People who excel at their job; thus, in their company’s view, earned the right to be promoted often do not know how to lead. Therefore, many managers do not contribute to the success or growth of their team.

It is rare, particularly in smaller companies, for managers to receive formal training in the art of leading a team, forecasting, and/or quality management. According to the article, without this knowledge managers tend to either overcompensate to prove their worth or over-delegate tasks. When managers overcompensate poor decisions are made as they tend to not take into account the thoughts of their team. Over-delegating of tasks leads to an enormous amount of pressure on the other team members while the manager is neither taking responsibility nor adding any value to the project.

Once a manager is in a position of power it can get inside their head, and they start to believe they deserve more power. It becomes less about how well they preform their job and more about their title. This attitude affects the whole organization and leads to resentment of the management team.

A couple of the biggest keys to success for an operations manager is to be a better decision maker than their subordinates and have the ability to entrust vital knowledge to other team members. Managers are valuable if they can preform the two keys above. However, in many organizations there are managers at all levels that cannot do either well.

Is it possible to spread all of a managers duties, responsibilities and knowledge across a whole team and still successfully complete projects? Without a “ring leader” communication determines success or failure. Some companies such as, Valve Software,, and Zappos have adopted a manager-less system that promotes creativity, unity, and flexibility. Benefits do exist, but the success rate of projects becomes less predictable.

Yet, in reality, managers are needed in many situations; it is difficult to argue with that. However, companies need the right people with the right attitude to fill those spots. It has to go beyond an individual being good at their job. Companies need to focus on a potential manager’s past experience and leadership skills in addition to providing them the tools to succeed. Alternatively, corporations may want to consider cutting some middle men to improve efficiency and rid the themselves of weak links.

NFL Playbook to Corporate Culture

Pete CarrollAlthough there are variables to every industry and organization, employee engagement is largely contributed to social connections created throughout the workplace, which is an enormous driver to productivity. Healthy company culture creates higher employee retention, motivation, and commitment to the overall organization and its future.

Last year’s Superbowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks, were by no means an overnight success. Head coach, Pete Carroll’s list of accomplishments come with controversy; however, it’s hard to not to take note especially since he’s won championships on both an NFL and NCAA level. Love him or hate him, his cutthroat management style can give us all a brief lesson on successful employee management and the importance of corporate culture.

Within Coach Carroll’s first year, he completely reorganized the Seahawks with 502 transactions. In a business perspective, these transactions take the form of layoffs, terminations and new hires. He was able to recognize that not only did poor performers need to be removed, but those who allowed an environment of poor performance needed to go as well. Reports have shown that poor performers have detrimental affects on productivity, because not only are they not upholding company standards, but they also influence coworkers with their bad habits. It’s difficult to implement massive organizational shakeups but, simply recognizing when cuts need to be implemented can be the determinant between creating a winning or losing team.

Unsurprisingly, decisions such as these are often difficult and unpopular. Last month, Percy Harvin, who contributed to the 2014 Superbowl win with an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, was traded to the Jets. Although Harvin has had a lackluster performance this season, this mid-season trade still took many by surprise. It was later revealed the main objective behind the trade was due to Harvin’s anger management issues, which caused physical altercations with teammates and prevented him from fully fitting in with the team. Despite his contributions, the organization knew it was best to part ways.


Just as important as letting go weak links or those who are not a culture fit, retaining talent is also a vital contribution to an organization’s success. There’s no question that this is the reason why the highest salaries in the NFL are granted to quarterbacks who not only throw the most touchdowns, but also limit turnovers. Translating back to the business world, this shows that organizations must be able to recognize management achievement by rewarding and compensating accordingly. When managers are able to create a framework that creates great corporate culture, it not only creates durability for long-term success, but it opens the doors for new organizational opportunities.

How important do you think corporate culture is within the workplace?

Do you think strategies such as Coach Carroll’s are too drastic to apply to an organization whether big or small?

Do you see any other strategies organizations can borrow from the NFL?





New Managers, Common Mistakes

This article goes over a study done by Linda Hill, a Harvard Business School Professor. This study is about those who become managers for the first time, and Linda writes about the 5 common myths and misperceptions that lead to mistakes in their early days. Some of the mistakes that she observed are as follows:

Myth 1: Managers wield significant authority

Linda discovered that many new managers reported that they were shocked by how constrained they feel. New managers have to deal with a web of relationships, with their bosses, subordinates, peers, people inside and outside of the organization. All of whom who have relentless and conflicting demands given to them. Linda suggests that until new managers give up the myth that they have such authority and need to realize that they need to negotiate their way through these people and their demands, they will end up frustrated and facing failure.

Myth 2: Authority flows from the managers position

Linda writes that many managers believe that whatever authority they posses comes from their title. Good managers learn over time that they must earn that title of authority from their subordinates through respect and trust. They must show their character, that they are capable of getting things done, and that they are competent if they want their subordinates to follow their lead.

Myth 3: Managers must control their direct reports

New managers often look for compliance to orders from their subordinates, they must keep in mind that compliance is not the same as commitment. Linda points out that if subordinates do not have commitment, they will not show initiative. And if subordinates do not show initiative, it will be difficult for managers to delegate effectively. Linda suggest that managers nurture a strong commitment to shared goals, rather than following whatever the manager says.

Myth 4: Managers must focus on forgoing good individual relationships

Linda says that managers must focus on on building a team, not on friendships. When managers focus on individual relationships, they lose the fundamental aspect of effective leadership. By shaping the team’s culture of norms and values, managers can unlock the diverse talents that make up the team.

Myth 5: The manager’s job is to ensure things run smoothly

Linda writes that if a manager is only trying to make sure that the operations run smoothly then they are making a big mistake. New managers also need to understand that they are responsible for making changes that will enhance their group’s performance. Many new managers find it challenging because they find themselves having to challenge organizational processes or structures that exist above and beyond their area of formal authority. Linda writes, ‘only when they understand this part of the job will they begin to address seriously their leadership responsibilities.’


I personally found this article helpful in understanding my new manager and I do intend on bringing these points to our next managers meeting to help improve the store’s operations and the effectiveness and commitment of our staff.

Now my question here is, have you ever experienced a manager with that conducted business with these myths? How was that experience? Did you find yourself questioning their ability as an effective manager or did you think their style of management produced positive outcomes for your organization?

How Chipotle Rolled to Success

Obama-Chipotle-MemeStep into Chipotle during lunch or dinner hours (or after class), and you can almost guarantee a line that stretches far past their service counter. With articles such as one from Business Insider teaching consumers how to get more food for the same price and the story of President Obama committing the ultimate faux pas while ordering his burrito bowl, it’s safe to say Chipotle has become a cultural phenomenon.

Chipotle can contribute their success and expansion to several factors such as a clear brand message that commits to serving fresh, healthy and natural food at affordable prices; however, depending on external funds by franchising their restaurants isn’t one of them.

Several of the most successful restaurant chains can credit franchising to their rapid growth including Subway, McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, KFC, Dairy Queen and Buffalo Wild Wings.

With just around 1,600 locations, which pale in comparison to many popular franchises (Subway has 43,000 locations), why hasn’t Chipotle considered franchising?

The answer is simple. They don’t need nor do they want to. So how have they managed to succeed among the sea of franchises?

One of Chipotle’s greatest contributing factors lie within their management approach called the restaurateur program.

Starting in 2005, shortly before their divesture from the McDonald’s Corporation, the company implemented a system that heavily relies on internal promotion to motivate their employees and provide opportunity for career growth beyond most fast food corporations. The same year the restaurateur program was initiated, it was quoted that 20% of managers gained their position through the program. As of 2013, 86% of salaried managers and 96% of hourly managers were internally promoted.


A general manager can only rise to the rank of being a restaurateur based on their performance of how well they manage their restaurant and staff. After being selected, restaurateurs make well over $100,000 and are given a $10,000 one-time bonus, stock options, a company car and an additional $10,000 for each of their crew members that are promoted to general manager.

I think employee motivation is a crucial factor that’s often overlooked to successful operations management and have found it refreshing to learn that a company I frequent so often offers great employee incentives and benefits. In addition, not conforming to industry norms by trusting the skills of their employees to adjust recipes such as if a crate of jalapeños is hotter than usual, in my opinion, creates a superior product, service and experience. Do you think Chipotle chose the right track by not franchising their restaurants?

On the other hand, it takes more than a management handbook to keep a system running smoothly. Recently, a Chipotle near Penn State University experienced almost their entire management and crew resign citing near sweat-shop working conditions due to understaffing. This forced operations to shut down. Do you think this was an isolated incident by poor management at this particular location or are there bigger problems within the Chipotle Corporation?

Overall, what do you think of Chipotle’s restaurateur program?


Turn Right to Save Money!!



Improving the efficiencies within a corporation are usually the biggest tasks for upper management to tackle, and especially for a global company like UPS (with operations in over 220 countries and over 395,000 employees (UPS)): How do they stay efficient and be competitive? and Where should they put their focus?

Over the past few years UPS has been testing and implementing a new system to save time, money, and gas consumption within their operations. How did UPS, one of the largest shipment and logistics companies in the world, come up with one of the easiest solutions to being more efficient in these areas? Well they did it by just turning right!! When I first read about this, I really didn’t believe it and was in wonderment – is it really this easy? UPS did numerous studies on the effects of left turns and the data showed lost time at backed up left turn lanes, a waste of gas, and a disproportionate number of accidents. (Priceonomics)

When I did some research and looked at the numbers that UPS came up with, I was really blown away. According to Bloomberg during their testing phase during 2010 – 2012 UPS saved, “more than 1.5 million gallons of fuel and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 14,000 metric tons, eliminated 206 million minutes of idling time and saved more than 1.5 million gallons of fuel.” This simple idea didn’t come about over night though. It took UPS almost a decade to design and implement an onboard program – Orion, On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation, that will utilize incoming pickups and reroute trucks to be the most efficient. This was first introduced in 2012 to about a quarter of their fleet and will eventually be on all their trucks by 2017.  According to UPS, the reduction of 1 mile per day for every driver will save the company as much as $50 million a year in fuel, vehicle maintenance and time. (Forbes)

With social responsibility being a prevalent topic in society and used in marketing and PR, UPS has found a way to use this to their benefit in more than one way.  The benefits are clear-cut: not only does this benefit the company’s bottom line but also benefits social causes that are aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and car emissions.

What other ways do you see this benefiting society?

Olive Garden: Success or Failure?

The restaurant industry has been struggling over the last couple of years and Olive Garden is no exception. Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden, has been accused of bad management and distasteful food (Smith). In chapter one, we have learned in class about ten strategic decisions of operations management. Olive Garden has neglected most of these strategies.

The strategic decisions are as follows:

  •   Design of goods and services
  •  Managing quality
  •   Process and capacity design
  •  Location strategy
  •  Layout strategy
  •  Human resources and job design
  •   Supply-chain management
  •   Inventory management
  •   Scheduling
  •  Maintenance

One article that I read on, proves that Olive Garden has neglected the first two strategic decisions by not defining the requirements of operations and neglecting customer’s expectations. Olive Garden’s food has been deteriorating in quality and critics say that “there are too many preservatives and artificial ingredients”. Olive Garden failed to provide higher quality to customers, hence why the company’s stock decreased by five percent this year.

Furthermore, Olive Garden lacked in its Location Strategy as well. Due to its low sales, Red Lobster was replacing Olive Garden, making the restaurant chain far from its customers. Not to mention that Olive Garden continued to raise its prices. It is evident that Olive Garden has not considered costs and other logistics.

Although I have never worked at Olive Garden, my sister has said that within the last year, the environment, food and service has changed tremendously. When my sister was first hired, they looked for employees that were motivated and had previous customer service experience. Now, many employees have quit because the company was unable to integrate each employees schedule with the demand that was needed on a specific day.  For example, on Saturdays they would be shorthanded, while on a weekday, there would be too many waiters working and shift was not evenly disbursed. This shows that Olive Garden’s Layout and Human Resource and Job Design Strategy was inconsistent because the company was not able to keep their qualified employees nor keep the “flow of personnel and information” steady. Furthermore, as the year continued, their inventory management was organized. My sister told me that there would be a surplus amount of breadsticks available for consumers, but when it came to certain entrees or desserts, the restaurant would be out of that particular product for weeks at a time.

Olive Garden is an example of another company that was successful a few years ago, but by not following the ten strategic decisions, the company’s consumer base, food quality and service decreased. Now, knowing some of the personal experience of working at the restaurant and what critics have written about Olive Garden, do you think that its operations is running smoothly? If so, why? In addition, if not, how do you think the restaurant can improve?



Retail Job Management Issues

For about a year and a half, during the end of high school and the beginning of college, I worked at GameStop. During that time I had three different managers and many different assistant managers. After learning more about operations management, I can reflect on what my managers did well and did poorly. Some of the things that were managed poorly explain why I did not enjoy working there a lot of the time.

One of the main issues at GameStop was what tasks were seen as higher importance than others. As an associate, my job was to work the register and to organize and put away games on the shelves. I found that the other associates would waste their time chatting while I was always sure to work on organizing games when I was not at the register. Whenever I would work, the store started off as a mess and I would get it organized while I was there. The problem here was that no one was being told that they should stop standing around and actually put games away. My managers would always complain to me that the other employees would not organize well, but did nothing about it.

Although I was always on task, I ended up being told that I was not doing well because my sales numbers were not high enough. Some days I would get great numbers, but other days I would not, which showed that what customers buy is not completely dependent on me and how I sell the game, but much more the customers decision. I do understand that selling the games and memberships is of high importance, but I think my managers could have focused on more than just numbers when it comes to employee reviews.

These complaints bugged me and gave me less motivation to work hard, but what I really thought was a poor decision was how my manager decided to schedule me and the other employees at my level. It was clear that I was better at organizing the store and that the other associates were better at selling. Since my numbers were not great, my manager decided to put me on the schedule for busy nights so I could get better at selling, thus pushing the other employees to less busy days. While it is good to learn and get better at what we are not good at, I think it would have made much more sense to put me on the less busy nights so I could focus on getting the store organized and fixing and cleaning up what other employees had organized poorly. The result of the new schedule was that the store was a mess because I had no time to clean it and we did not get great numbers because I was not skilled at that.

Do you think it is more important to have employees improve on what they are not good at or is it better to delegate tasks according to skill level, in order to have higher productivity levels?

Lego-lution: The Early 2000s were a Disaster and Now

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