NavaH20 Nation Audit

Clean Water for the Navajo Nation


Project Description

On our first day of class, we learned that we had eight weeks to select a team, then a charity, organize a fundraising event, obtain donations, create a social network presence, and submit a final report and presentation.  When we learned about our project assignment, we all agreed that we wanted to support a cause within the United States and a cause that would get everyone’s attention.  Our group was lucky to have an individual who had both a personal and professional relationship with water charities.  Through this connection and a CBS news story, we discovered the Navajo Nation.

Charity Description

Within the Navajo Nation, there are nearly 100,000 individuals without access to running water.  Not to mention that these individuals also have unreliable electricity and unemployment is rampant.  The CBS news story featured a woman called the “water lady” who drove miles away each day to obtain water for her fellow Navajo Nation residents. Unfortunately, so many individuals rely on her, she is only able to deliver to each family approximately once a month.  We all reflected on how this would affect our daily lives, we were shocked this was happening in the United States.  With this realization, we understood we had found our cause: it was local and it was definitely jaw dropping.

With the help of Kevin’s water connections, we formed a partnership with Water Is Life.  Water Is Life is a charitable organization that has implemented water and hygiene projects internationally, Water Is Life has been active in Haiti and many African nations; and they were looking for a way to help the Navajo Nation.  At this point, we evaluated the possible support options for the Navajo Nation.  We set a lofty goal of raising $20k in order to purchase an item called a SunSpring.  The SunSpring is a solar and wind powered water filtration system.  Our plan was to work with Water Is Life to place the SunSpring near the Animas River to provide clean water for a nearby school.  However, we knew that $20k was ambitious, so we developed less expensive alternatives, including permaculture and hygiene initiatives, which would cost approximately $5-6k.

As a group, we decided our primary means of fundraising would be by utilizing our own personal and professional networks, as well as through social media.  We reached out to our friend, families, and colleagues via email.  The email was standardized across our group, with a personal touch at the introduction.  Also, as it turns out, our team included a social network genius and our Facebook page took off, beyond our wildest hopes (see us here:   Our main fundraising took place through our MyEvent page:

As for our event, our goal was to make the most profit with as little overhead as possible.  As a result, we ruled out places such as restaurants that would offer donations such as 15% of what our event spent at their facility.  Our event went through many brainstorming phases, but we settled on a two day bake sale at the DePaul Lincoln Park Student Center.  We all contributed our own baked goods and flyers and posters were created.  During this event, we were able to not only raise funds, but also awareness.

Mgt 598 - One Pager (Illustrative Communication)

bake sale photo

Project Outcomes

Throughout this quarter, we have all become passionate about this cause and have vowed to keep our fundraising and awareness campaigns going.  We have been blown away by the support we’ve received on Facebook, as well as the interest we received from our networks and the undergraduate students at DePaul.  At this time we have raised nearly $3k on our MyEvent page and have secured the following additional donations: $2.5k match donation from a local bank, plus another $2.5k and an additional $5k match from one our team member’s employers, and another $3k donation from another one of our employers.  This adds up to an astounding $16k!!

Lessons Learned

  1. Scope creep: We believe that our team avoided scope creep successfully. We had co-project managers who did an excellent job of keeping our team focused and on schedule.  Without the guidance of these two, we could have easily ventured off our project plan.
  2. Communication: We utilized email and text message to share ideas and updates. Our project managers hosted a weekly phone call in which we reviewed our current progress and addressed the next steps.  Our calls were well organized and kept to the designated appointment times.
  3. Shared responsibility: Each team member had components of the project that they were responsible for, some of which were shared. We trusted each other to be responsible and accountable.  In the end, all team members met their objectives and communicated the progress clearly to the team.
  4. Organization: Our team, led by our project managers, was incredibly organized.  We had a set timeline and plan, which we all understood.  This shared understanding, which was rooted in our clear communication, was key to our success.


If you can, pick classmates you’re comfortable with and have compatible schedules with.  Due to the short duration of the quarter, it will be important that you are able to communicate frequently and have times that you can meet with all team members.  For our group, that meant that most of us were in the weekend program, because weekend days worked best for us.

Select a cause that everyone can support.  If you select your charity well, you will see everyone’s dedication grow throughout the quarter.  Your passion will also be conveyed during your donation request and awareness events, which makes a big difference in the support you receive.

For our team, the weekly phone calls were a great opportunity to summarize the emails and texts that had occurred, as well to finalize that week’s activities.  While it may have been challenging for everyone to make it onto every call, we all made the effort and appreciated the outcomes of the weekly meeting.  The summary emails that were sent out following the calls also played a large part in keeping everyone on task

Lastly, try to be prepared for the unexpected.  None of us would have expected that bringing clean water to the Navajo Nation would be a controversial topic, but it turned out to be (see our Facebook page).  In our case, the positive responses vastly outweighed the negative, but that may not always be the case.

myevent page

Overdue and over budget, over and over again

“Overdue and over budget, over and over again” pulled from The Economist.

Overview: This article outlines the challenges projects and project managers’ face in keeping projects within the designated time frame and within the budget.  More importantly, it states that over 180 years of project management, very little has changed.  In the past, projects were routinely over budget and took longer than anticipated.  Even today with technological advances, including the various project management software, projects continue to run over budget and require time extensions.  Within the article, current projects are highlighted, such as the oil pipeline from Azerbaijan’s Caspian wells to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, which is running several months behind schedule and is currently 5-10% over its four billion dollar budget.  As most of us would probably expect, The Economist points out that many of the current large-scale projects are IT focused.  Even with increased technology and technological support, these projects are just as likely to cost more money and require more time that planned.  This includes the process of moving patient records to electronic health record systems in the healthcare sector; which is a process many hospitals and clinics are currently undergoing.

There are astounding statistics included in the article: on average, recent large-scale IT projects took 84% more time than expected and costs tended to be 59% above the original budget.  Additionally, projects are cited as experiencing the most challenges when the initiation phase gets separated from execution, such as when project managers make unrealistically optimistic budgets.  However, the Project Management Institute has found that more companies are now employing designated project managers, which will hopefully improve project outcomes in meeting budgets and timeframes.

Personal reaction:  Overall, I was not surprised by what I read in this article.  I think it is common for projects to be proposed with budgets and timeframes that are unrealistic in an attempt to secure a contract or impress management. Unfortunately, this sets the projects up for failure and furthers the precedent that projects will not meet the initial proposal.  In my current position, we use Excel project planners to develop timeframes and monitor project progress.  I do find this helpful in keeping my peers and clients updated, but it does add another layer of work, which can be time consuming.  However, my current position involves many ongoing client projects at a time, therefore, Excel is a necessity in keeping myself organized and on top of their statuses.  When I reflect on this, I think having designated project managers could be very beneficial in large organizations where there are many projects to juggle.  In smaller organizations, such as my current employer, I do not believe it would be necessary or would result in improved project outcomes.

Peer questions: Are you surprised to hear that project management has not improved, resulting in projects that continue to come in over budget and exceed the timeframe?   Do you believe that designated project managers within corporations will change these outcomes?  For those of you that use project management software in your work environment, do you find that is helpful?  Have you had to ask a client or your manager for a project extension?  If so, how did you handle it and how did they react?  Lastly, do you have designated project managers in your organization?  If so, how do they interact with the various team members and clients?

Modern Role Models

Recently I have been reading about young women who are breaking through the glass ceiling that has been thought to have been in place in corporate culture.  In particular, I have been following the progress of a company called Theranos, founded by Elizabeth Holmes.  The formation of Theranos and its rapid success, are, in my opinion, excellent references for project management.

Theranos has been valued at $9 billion dollars, which occurred before Elizabeth Holmes turned 31.  Ms. Holmes dropped out of Stanford, while working on her undergraduate chemical engineering degree.  Since then, she has methodically developed patents in pharmacology and laboratory analysis.  Additionally, she is changing the way individuals can access their health information, which has the potential to improve preventative care.  Ms. Holmes appears to be incredibly driven and passionate about her work.  I believe being passionate about your work is a key requirement to being successful as a project manager.  Individuals who are passionate about their work are able to speak clearly and consisely about it and have a thorough understanding of the inner workings.  In this example, Ms. Holmes and her colleagues were clearly powerful advocates for Theranos, as over $400 million was successfully raised during its evolution.

Under Ms. Holmes guidance, Theranos has overcome obstacles, including FDA testing regulations and legislation changes.  Ms. Holmes has adapted to the company’s situation, while maintaining her focus on bringing Theranos to the general public.  For instance, once she’d completed her patented work on blood analyzers, she registered the Theranos lab as a testing facility for pharmaceutical companies currently in clinical trials.  Not only did this bring in revenue for Theranos, it began to build Theranos a reputation as a reputable testing facility.  Coming up with creative ways to overcome hurdles while keeping an eye on the goal can be challenged, but is a crucial aspect of a successful project manager.

Ms. Holmes is also very thorough, signing up for additional, non-required, rounds of FDA testing and approvals for the newly created analyzers.  This may have been decided following criticism from their competitors, regarding the level of secrecy maintained by Theranos.  In this regard, Ms. Holmes is not only thorough, but is also addressing a hurdle in a dignified manner.

Lastly, as the organization grew and took on additional roles, more staff were added. Theranos has been set up with a clear organizational structure.  As the daily operations expanded, Ms. Holmes made the wise decision to delegate some of her tasks, including project management.  Project managers should be able to recognize when they’ve reached their limit and ask a reliable peer for assistance.

In conclusion, there are current role models of today that demonstrate how to use project management successfully.  Additionally, the careers of these individuals can demonstrate how project management is used both during the start-up phase of an organization and as the company evolves.