Team War Dogs Making It Home


Our team’s overall project was to raise awareness and funds for a charity called “War Dogs Making It Home”. Our overall strategy was primarily focused on using an online campaign for the project where we would setup our own funding site which could be utilized for tracking of donations. Once we established our website using GOFUNDME, we began to develop multiple strategies to drive traffic to the site. Our first traffic channel was focused around social and professional networks. Our team members planned to utilize Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, our professional employer’s distributions, and other methods of social distribution. Secondly, our team planned on developing pop up micro events where we would find locations to help develop public awareness such as pet stores and vet offices. Finally, one potential strategy was to attempt to capitalize on the parade and festival activity around the 4th of July.


Examining the successes of our various strategies to drive traffic to the fundraising website can be quite complex due to a potential mix of donors. Clear failures can be quickly identified due to complete exclusion of results through failures in execution. Some of the complete failures which were experienced revolve around employer involvement, pet suppliers, and activity around public 4th of July events. In regards to workplace involvement, there were a few barriers to success. Many employers have a non-solicitation policy which excludes individuals from any such activity on company property. Another factor is employee resistance. One of our team members contacts resource councils which would have perfectly been in alignment with the goals of the charity but experienced absolutely no returned communication from the groups contacted.

In regards to public events, our team discovered that many governmental bodies have extensive requirements to obtain a solicitation permit and thus provided barriers beyond the practical to overcome. This completely eliminated such activity from our awareness channel. Finally, some of our team members discovered that certain types of firms would be against helping in our effort if such activities conflicted with their own interests. An example of this would be pet supply stores unwilling to agree to allow us to create a pop up awareness campaign when the distribution of free Frisbees would cut into the store’s own sales of said item.

When evaluating the strategies which were successful, we were able to directly relate donors to the method of contact. An example of this would be attributing a donor to a specific social network such as Facebook. Our group kept an ongoing list of all virtual donors and was able to attribute most of them to a specific network and individual. Physical pop up events were clearly identifiable due to the physical collection of funds. In the end of the project, we found that the majority of our donations were generated through social networking with a significantly smaller portion being attributed to pop up events. More specifically, nonprofessional social networking was the primary driver of our success. A secondary success factor for our pop up fund raising efforts as well as the utilization of personal social networks was the garner of media attention from two TV stations which together reached hundreds of thousands of individuals.


Probably one of the most important pieces of advice that our group can provide is to start your planning the very second your group is developed. Many efforts take significantly longer than you can initially imagine, such as the application for solicitors permits. The added time buffer that you provide yourself will either allow for the ability to compensate for future challenges or to allow for a slower overall pace of the project once major milestones are completed. Additionally, depending upon the compensation of your team members, you may discover that some individuals travel frequently and require the extra buffer to complete their assigned tasks.

The second piece of advice is to try and develop a project and charity around events which are relatable to the population at large and somehow are able to utilize events such as a holiday to capitalize on emotional connections. Our charity dealt with animals and veterans around a national holiday. This was a perfect fit and we discovered that the closer we started our efforts to the holiday, the higher donation activity would be.

Finally, keep some sort of status update email going among the group. This will both foster accountability within the team as well as allowing the team to redevelop strategies as challenges are faced. Within our team, our employer strategy completely failed but through early recognition of this weakness, we adapted to another path.


1)      Clear lines of communication and accountability are required to keep the project on track.

2)      Clear identification of responsibilities is needed. Do not only initially plan for the first steps but plan out the whole project’s responsibilities and change as needed.

3)      Take into account resource availability. Example: do not assign an individual that travels to a task which requires in person contact. Have a comprehensive and honest discussion of each team member’s availability.



Flying High with Project Management

As my closest friends know, I am a huge airplane buff. I love aviation and really love to follow the large aircraft  manufactures as they develop the next generation of planes to transport millions of people a day. Recently on the Financial Times of London, there was a great article talking about the ongoing war between Boeing and Airbus to gain control of the wide body aircraft market. For those of you that do not know, a wide body aircraft is for the most part one that has more than one aisle running the length of the aircraft. Currently, examples of this type of plane would be the 787, 777, 747, A380, etc. They are needless to say very large aircraft and occupy large air routes.

Long-haul contender: the twin-engine Airbus A350 is rolled out of the factory in Toulouse. The manufacturer is hoping to stage a fly-past at the Paris air show

Many individuals that pay attention to the news will hear stories about endless delays for these manufactures in their development of new aircraft due to any number of reasons. Something that occurred to me is that while many of these delays can take headlines, they are really a larger product of poor project management practice. It is absolutely true that aircraft have a very very long lifespan within the marketplace and traditionally, a new product is on the market for 20 or 30 years at a time. This timeframe supports the extensive time and costs that are required to bring a new product to market that truly revolutionizes the marketplace and well as providing a product that provides business justification to airlines to purchase these new fleets. While these timeframes are very long, the recent trend has been to experience extreme delays in these developments and more importantly, in customer delivery. I have started to ask myself if these firms are starting to reach an unrealistic view of the requirements in the developments of these next gen products.

787 wide body interior
787 wide body interior

Bringing two perfect examples into context, both Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 are two of the most recent entrants into the marketplace and both are constructed of something called carbon fiber. This technique allows for extreme strength of the airframe while significantly dropping the weight on the aircraft. Additionally, both of these aircraft are being constructed using a significantly diverse supply chain as opposed to more traditionally held models supported by the manufactures themselves. The project timeframes were simply unrealistically constructed and did not take into account the possibility of things going wrong all over the place. This delayed both aircraft by literally years as problems had to be worked out in both design and the supply chain. This is becoming a chronic trend for these firms and quite frankly in my opinion, these issues are ripping down their reputations.

The question to all of us project manager students is simple. When we are working on our own development schedules, how do we intend to build in time for the foreseen and unforeseen issues that can occur and what do we do when we are faced with such troubles both from a management and reputation standpoint?


Big guns blaze in wide-body war

To Invest or Not to Invest – That is the question

I was checking out the Financial Times of London today and found an interesting story about resurgence in the American steel industry due to the development of shale natural gas and oil supplies. Basically as you may or not know, there is a large energy revolution within the US in the form of capturing natural gas and oil supplies through a process called fracking. As part of this process, there is a significant need for steel tubes to act as a casing for the shafts into the ground a well as for the drilling machinery.  While this reinvestment in the US steel industry is being fueled by demand from the energy boom as well as the fuel itself being captured from this book, I think the real story is the potentially poor planning that is being brought to light by the story.

Steel Tube Production

One of the major examples of poor planning by American steel firms that lead to their downfall was the fact that they did not plan for the future of the industry or evolve processes as required to ensure their survival. From reading the article, it seems that this same chain of errors is taking place once again within the steel industry. While it is true that there is a renewed demand for steel due to this boom, the boom is quite limited and the number of players within the expansion along with the sheer volume itself will provide a significant challenge.  For example, the article quotes both the fact that expansion will increase the US’s steel tube production by 60 percent while it also remarks the fact that there will be a lot of shifting to producers at lower causing a cannibalization of the industry.

Upon reflection of this story, I think that there is almost an emotional high that is taking the place of logical analysis of the market place. Why is this so important for us to recognize in our studies of project management? As we have learned in class from our participation in the ever-changing project resource allocation exercise, the reality on the ground is ever changing. I think firms that are currently expanding within the US Steel industry are not considering the overall impact of such expansions into a market place ripe for adoption by domestic producers which are already in a position to lock out competitors through locking up demand fueled by cheaper fuel sources.

The second emotional link that can be observed in my opinion is the fact that many of these firms are all expanding and entering the market at the same time without a thought as to the long term demands. This also relates to our studies of needing to be fluid with how we handle projects. A relatable example would be how we react if our charitable projects were to derail? Would we stay the course or attempt to reignite our efforts through a totally new strategy?  What if a project at work implodes? Would you be able to make the necessary divestments to bring about a successful completion or perhaps a total scrapping of the effort?

Steelmakers reap benefits from US shale gas revolution

The Science of Relationships in Business

I was going through my normal browsing routine of the Financial Times today and found an interesting article in the management section entitled “The psychiatrist of finance” which was a small story on a man named Peter Solomon. The piece talked about how Mr. Solomon’s career evolved during his career and how he has preferred a way of doing business that involves close relationships and empathy with potential and current customers. I actually felt that the piece was extremely good for any MBA student to read because it reminds us that even in today’s environment of ever more automated relationships that a human connection can be the difference between success and failure as well as necessary to ensure a long relationship with clients.

Balance: a career in banking has enabled Peter J. Solomon to pursue his interest in art


As I sat here pondering the deeper meaning of the moral of this story, I realized that the subject of the article has a point that should be heard. In fact, it can even be seen as a strong strategy that provides a competitive edge. More and more services such as investment banking are becoming a commodity. This causes firms to essentially race each other to the bottom of the profitability ladder. Firms continue to find ways to cut expenses which usually means cutting out the human factor in exchange for higher levels of automation. But the question to ask is, why? Why do firms automatically start assuming that these short term moves will help in the long term? As a product becomes a commodity, it no longer brings about a sense of product loyalty to it. A perfect example of this is how investment banking is becoming cheaper and cheaper for firms and no longer draws the same loyalty that it once did. The relationships that Mr. Solomon has built over the ages are essentially what cause consumers to stay with a company in the long term. Just look at how when a financial advisor moves to another firm, many of this clients will go with him or her.

In the article, Peter Solomon recalls an incident when one of the employees of his firm was so involved on her smartphone that she walked directly between the President and Chairman of her firm without even realizing it. After getting her attention, he says to her “You just walked between the chairman and the president of your company. Are you going to observe the world around you, or ignore it?” This small story really gets to the heart of a disease of mass automation within the entire business community. Firms are so involved in automating out the human capital that they are losing their edge in being able to find hidden gems of opportunity that a computer cannot discover. This really goes beyond the usage of customer loyalty programs that attempt to entice consumers with financial rewards, this goes to the heart of the interaction between two people, regardless of their social positions or status. While CRM systems can only attempt to use algorithms to attempt to discover patterns leading towards better sales and client management, the ultimate tool to that better relationship is the salesperson or service rep themselves and their ability to empathize with clients and their concerns.

Just looking in my industry, I can easily pick out a perfect example of this. If say an asset manager is offering service to their client but they simply are offering a commodity, they may continue to retain that line of business but no growth will be established. If that same asset manager ensured they kept a working relationship with that same firm, they might find other opportunities such as asset based lending, underwriting, etc. All of these further deepen the client’s loyalty to the firm and almost build a feeling of guilt to go elsewhere. Going even closer to home, I easily recall how my Father will go to the same mechanic faithfully for years and years because of the relationship that was established of trust. Loyalty like that is simply unquantifiable to any firm and can be the savior in the worst economic times.

What do you think? Can you name a few examples in your own industries of how such loyalty and relationship building are either being forgotten or used to build stronger ties to the client?




Financial Times: The psychiatrist of finance by David Gelles 5 Ways to Take Customer Loyalty to the Next Level by Jonanna Lord


CAPSIM and Chinese Government Infrastructure Spending?

While it might seem that a business simulation website and government infrastructure spending in China might be worlds apart, the underlying strategy theories and challenges between the two are very much the same.  Capsim is a web learning application that challenges users to attempt to duke it out with other real teams and computer opponents.  The essential challenge that is presented is to attempt to out maneuver your opponents in an effort to gain additional market share and subsequent profits. The Chinese government’s efforts to invest in infrastructure to stay ahead of the curve of its growing middle class needs present the same problems my team faces but with significantly greater consequences. One need not look farther than Detroit or Las Vegas to see what happens when exuberance and poor forecasting meeting economic decision making.

What is the common challenge between these two situations? Well, in a word, uncertainty. Uncertainty is the lack of true knowledge of the future environment as well as the actions of other players in the global or virtual world. While in both situations, one could attempt to forecast probabilities of what would be required to support future business ventures or population transitions or growth, no one can know for sure.  This uncertainty can doom a seemingly smart and well planned out investment today to become a nightmare tomorrow.  The Chinese policy of building 20 cities a year for the next 20 years is a perfect example of poor planning to models that don’t properly predict changes in an economy. The absolute waste of resources that that is going into these ghost cities within China reminds me of the comparison between the cost of bombs and schools made by Eisenhower at the end of this term.

I was reading a Financial Times article today about perceived overinvestment by the Chinese government  that really got me thinking about the strategy to be played in our virtual competition being fought on the web.  While moves that my team makes are truly inconsequential to my existence, investments and the forecasts that fuel them are being made in one of the largest emerging economies in the world and they may be proving to be the wrong decisions. While there are opinions and models that show both sides of the argument, the fact remains that models can be wrong.  To this end, the study mentioned in the article notes an effect of this investment on 4 percent of potential GDP as well as 10 percent of actual GDP. Considering the complete poverty that is experienced within many areas of Chinese society, one is forced to consider how this value can be better directed to ventures that would help those individuals improve their economic situations.  Added on top of this, no one can completely account for the human cost of misallocated resources. Just imagine if Albert Einstein was not given the opportunity to receive any education in his lifetime…

While this may prove out to be utter hogwash criticism of long term planning and development by Beijing, one has to recognize the reality that all of these decisions and really all of life’s decisions in general, are based on uncertainty and essentially game theory. After reading this article, I sat back and thought of other examples of terrible investments made in ventures that at the time seemed to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Of course, each decision varies significantly in financial value; the point that really can be driven home is the absolute uncertainty of operating in a dynamic world.

What sorts of decisions have you seen or made in your personal or work life that proved to be terrible even though everything pointed to a great outcome at the time you made the decision?


China’s over-investment problem