Hello, hola, hallo, bonjour….

We have studied many of the technical parts of a project that make it successful. Good leadership, organization, and communication skills are ideal qualities for a project manager. With the growing diversity in different countries and the coordination of projects with global members, it is important to keep in mind the cultural differences which are unique to each person. Having a good understanding of the people who make up the project can make the project run more smoothly. Tensions sometimes arise when people misinterpret body language or the way that people say things. Misinterpretation of ideas and opinions can lead to project delay and/or poor quality product delivery. According to the article, things like accent, silence, gestures, and eye contact can mean different things for people in different countries. For example, not giving eye contact can mean a sign of respect for people of certain countries whereas in others, it is disrespectful not to look at someone when they are talking.

Not only are project managers dealing with people from different countries, they are also being thrown into a workforce where there are different age groups. There are currently 4 generations in the workforce today. These include veterans, baby-boomers, Gen. Xers, and Nexters. The last two generations are more diverse and flexible because they grew up in a more diverse society.

Although it is important for project managers to have effective communication and be able to balance the differences in their groups, it is also very important for the people forming those groups to be open and flexible as well. They have to be conscious that the people in their group are different from them and that not everyone sees the world the way that they do. This is true even when people are from the same culture. A good PM will get to know every person individually in order to better understand how to effectively communicate with the entire group.



Organization Strategy and Project Selection – Trampled by the White Elephant

About one year ago I was given the opportunity to work on an inquiry that involved a technology for which I had limited exposure. As an engineer I was incredibly excited, but also fearful of what I didn’t know and the time it would take to learn it. I am one of a handful of engineers in my department and there are only two other engineers at the company familiar with the technology – one is semi-retired and the other one works in another department. The inquiry was passed along to me from two heads of engineering that were themselves mostly unfamiliar with the details of the specific technology, but consulted with the “experts” and decided that we should proceed with lab scale testing. However, we didn’t have the equipment to do the testing onsite. My first task was to specify the needed lab equipment and come up with a budget. The charge to the customer for conducting the testing was just enough to cover the cost of the equipment so it seemed like a good opportunity overall – gain hands on experience, get new equipment for the lab and potentially go on to sell commercial equipment.

Once the equipment arrived I ran a series of tests which took, in total, about six full weeks over the course of six months. The tests got progressively better as I learned from mistakes and refined the procedure. I directed questions to the “experts” as they arose, but often found that the questions I needed to ask weren’t apparent until it was too late. On top of that, the responses I received weren’t exactly “expert” level.

After the testing was complete, the customer finally sent the RFQ so that we could design and quote commercial equipment. Upon reviewing I found that request was over my head. I reviewed the RFQ with the “experts” – one said it was “mind-boggling” and outside of our expertise, the other said we would need to run even more tests before we could quote. Just last week I had to go back to the customer and let them know that we are unable to provide a quotation and don’t have enough resources to conduct additional testing.

Since we just discussed project selection in class, I thought this was a great example of how chasing the wrong projects can get you trampled by the “White Elephant”. If anyone had asked any of the following questions at any time during the project we could have prevented wasted effort and embarrassment.

  • What specific strategy does this project align with?
  • What are the project objectives?
  • Who is the project sponsor?
  • Will resources be available for this project?

While I feel like the problem originated from the head engineers/management, I know that I am not blame free. I’m curious if I had MGT 598 one year ago if I would have approached the project more wisely or if I just needed the failure to open my eyes.

I think there are many other questions we could have asked along the way to save face. Do you have any advice for me or my department?


Is Apple Heading the Right Direction?

A recent report from Kantar WorldPanel ComTech shows that the market share of iPhone has dropped in the U.S. while it has increased in almost every other countries in the world. According to the report, the market share of the iPhone has dropped 3.3% in September compared to last year in the U.S. An article from BGR which quoted the data from ComTech’s report says that Apple isn’t really concern about the market share in the U.S, or even the market share in the world. It is now focusing on providing the better product and experience to consumers.

Being the most valuable public company in the world, it is shocking for me to know that if Apple is actually not concerning its market share in the cell phone market. As a public company (or even a private company), act in share holders’ interests is arguably the priority task. It seems to me that Apple is now a little off balance in term of serving the interest of the share holders and its general customers. A article from Nikkei says that Apple is now considering to let Pegatron to join the production of iPhone 6/6Plus along with Foxconn to meet the demand around the globe.

Is Apple actually should not be concerned about the market share in the U.S. as long as the numbers in other countries look good? Should they set up another assembling line to meet the demand in other countries and provide the best product and experience to its users or should they be focusing on the U.S. more?


Nikkei – Pegatron Beefs Up For Robust iPhone 6 Demand

BGR – Apple Actually Lost Market Share in Q3 Despite iPhone 6 Launch

EBay Makes a Comeback


Today’s world is primarily driven by the internet, including e-commerce. This does not come to the surprise of EBay CEO, John Donahoe. Technology has driven scale and automation and our shopping experiences have become less dependent on human interaction and more dependent on a steady WiFi connection. Donahoe says, “these changes in the commercial landscape tend to be ‘phrased in zero-sum terms: big retailers versus the little guy. Local versus global. ‘”

While EBay is a major contributor in this landscape, its biggest competition is Amazon. Amazon is known for driving retailers out of business, especially with its most recent proposition to deliver packages with drones. One thing that stands out about Amazon is the idea of “showrooming.” Amazon’s mobile application will allow you to scan a barcode of any item in a store and it will show comparable items with competitive pricing. You can essentially buy the item in a few clicks while still in the store.

EBay is initially thought of as an auction website. However, “since Donahoe took over in 2008, he has slowly moved the company beyond auctions, developing technology partnerships with big retailers like Home Depot, Macy’s, Toys ‘‘R’’ Us and Target and expanding eBay’s online marketplace to include reliable, returnable goods at fixed prices.” This is EBay’s process strategy that will revolutionize the e-commerce world, and to Donahoe’s hope, take on Amazon.

In our Management of Operations course, we have talked about the idea of a “process strategy.” The objective is to create a process to produce products that meets customer requirements within cost and other managerial constraints. EBay is taking on a “mass customization” approach to its process strategy. It is the rapid, low-cost production of goods and service to satisfy increasingly unique customer desires. EBay is creating a “process redesign.” It is the fundamental thinking of business processes to bring about dramatic improvements in performance. We learned that changing processes like this can be difficult and expensive. EBay did not acquire all of its retailers for cheap, they had to put in an investment in order to create profitability which is what is needed in a process redesign.

EBay wants to push the concept of a “digital wallet.” While other digital payment options exist, like Google Wallet and Apple Pay, EBay wants to expand it. In 2002, EBay bought PayPal as a way to safely transfer money between people who don’t know each other. EBay has also been experimenting with a concept it calls Connected Glass, an interactive glass that may one day create a “smart” mirror in a store that can take measurements and allow you to try on outfits virtually.

While Donahoe doesn’t know exactly where all of his technological efforts will lead him and EBay, he says, ‘‘I would say everything we’re doing is just enabling the future.’’

Do you think the PayPal Digital Wallet is going to take off? Or will it be forced to the side by Apple Pay and other digital wallets?

Read the article here

How to Hire A Great Project Manager

'Among my many talents, not shown on my resume, is that I can say 'multivarient transformative interactive analytical heterogenacity in management leadership' three times fast.'


Hiring good project managers is critical to any business’ success, yet so many companies are going about hiring them in all the wrong ways. Russell Harley provides us with five simple, cost-effective ways to ensure you are hiring the right project manager for your business. Picking the right or wrong applicant for your company’s needs can make or break your company. If hirers take these five simple measures- they will be far more likely to hire a great project manager that will better the company.

Stop Using Generic Job Descriptions

It seems as though every job description/qualifications section for a project manager job application is a broad template that could be applied to just about any position or company. “Must have good communication skills,” “Be a self-starter,” and “Work well with teams” are all examples of what you will see in just about every job description for a project manager position. In order to find the right person for the position- these need to be more specific to what the company values and expects from the candidate. Such broad language will invite hoards of applications into your inbox, turning your hiring process into a “needle in a haystack” type of task. You are more likely to get responses from project managers that are a good fit for your company when you clearly specify what is expected of the person. Not only will these generic job descriptions hinder your company’s hiring process, but is also not fair for the applicant to come into a position that they are not prepared/qualified for.

Decide Exactly What You Need

Doing this is really just another way to narrow down your pool of applicants. Prepare an in-depth analysis of what aspects of your company struggles with and needs improvement. For example, if your company is struggling with the adoption of a new type of software, ask for knowledge and experience using that specific type of software. This will cut down on training time/costs and help your company operate more efficiently.

Critical Projects Need Dedicated Project Managers

With cost-cutting being a reoccurring measure taken by almost all companies- it is important to get the most bang for your buck when hiring a project manager. Sure, the overseeing and delegation aspect of project management is very important, but you also want a project manager that is willing help out with the workload. Having a project manager that is willing to get his hands dirty will earn the respect of team members and increase efficiency. Make sure to find a project manager that doesn’t want to just sit a desk all day; find one that is willing to do whatever it takes get a project done the most efficient way possible.

If You Need a Specific Methodology Used, Say So

Some project managers favor certain methods for getting a project done and not all of them will work for what you need done. Make sure you know what methods of management your employees respond best to and that the project manager you hire is familiar and experienced with those methods. Using a methodology that your employees do not respond well too can cause a project to fail quicker than almost anything.

Eliminate the Essay Questions

 It is very common for companies to ask for written responses from job candidates answering questions like “What makes you a good leader?” Nine times out of ten you are going to get a fluffed up response with little merit. Going through all of these responses can be a lengthy, time-consuming process. Look to their experience and references- that should answer just about any essay question you are thinking about putting on an application.

Do you agree/disagree with Harley’s suggested practices in the project manager hiring process?

Thanks for reading.


The ‘Walmarting’ of the Airline Industry

Norwegian Air Shuttle’s ambitious plans involve some complex logistics
Norwegian Air Shuttle’s ambitious plans involve some complex logistics

Many companies choose to employ a global strategy where different pieces of the process are completed in different regions of the world. These global processes can be accomplished in numerous combinations and it is up to the company to find the most effective one.

In this article, Norwegian Air Shuttle, an airline that specializes in low-cost flights around Europe, is bringing it business model to the United States and Asia, to the dismay of U.S. airline companies.

Their strategy is a complex one that has different cost-effective parts. Norwegian is “moving its long-haul operations from Norway to Ireland, basing some of its pilots and crew in Bangkok, hiring flight attendants in the United States, and flying the most advanced jetliner in service — the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.” Other airlines have tried but failed to do a low-fare approach on long-haul flights.

Bjorn Kjos, Norwegian’s CEO, is confident that they can offer fares that are 50 percent cheaper than the competition’s, which will ultimately drive out competition. American Labor groups, “see it as a backhanded attempt to outsource cheaper labor and undercut competition” as well as taking advantage of the open-skies agreement made with the EU (even though Norway isn’t part of the EU).

“United Airlines and American Airlines said the low-cost airline wanted to skirt labor laws by resettling its long-haul operations in Dublin, while using a Singapore-based company to hire pilots on its behalf in Thailand. The result would give it ‘a competitive advantage on trans-Atlantic routes in direct competition with U.S. carriers.’”

In class, we talked about competitive advantages in relation to globalization. According to the lecture there are many reasons to globalize:

  1. Improve the supply chain
  2. Reduce costs
  3. Improve operations
  4. Understand markets
  5. Improve products
  6. Attract and retain global talent

I think that the way that Norwegian Air Shuttle is globalizing falls in line with these points and it is effectively improving supply chain, reducing costs, and improving operations better than their American counterparts. They improve the supply chain by finding the most beneficial process to establish their airline. They lower direct and indirect costs by eliminating unnecessary expenses and finding the cheapest way to provide labor, and reducing taxes and tariffs. They also improve operations by understanding differences in how business is handled in different countries, and using it to their advantage.

There are also strategies for competitive advantage: differentiation, cost-leadership, and response. I believe that the Norwegian Air Shuttle company is competing on cost; they are they are providing the maximum value as perceived by the customer at the lowest cost and it is creating the most demand.

Do you think that the way Norwegian Air Shuttle handles their business model is considered a strategic competitive advantage or is it an unfair advantage? Why?

Source:  Long-Haul Expansion by a Norwegian Carrier Upsets U.S. Airlines

When forecasting went wrong.

In our class discussion, we talked about how businesses rely on forecasting to formulate their strategies. We all know that forecasts are not perfect, they just give us an idea what the sales might be in the future. In most cases, companies would try to take all the outside factors into accounts while forecasting; however, what happens when you totally underestimated the impact of certain events?

It’s been more than three weeks since the Umbrella Revolution started in Hong Kong. The protesters occupied the financial district and some of the main shopping area in this small city. Countless retailers and restaurants have stood up and complained that how much loss they have during the protest.

This protest started just two days before the “Golden Week”, a week long holiday for mainland China to celebrate the National Day. The time when companies stock up and getting ready for the countless mainland shoppers. For small to midsize businesses, the owners complained that they are about to go out of businesses if the protest continues. These small/midsize rely largely on mainlanders and they are holding their inventories longer than they would like and since the Golden Week is now over, they are not optimistic about the inventories will be gone anytime soon.

This movement has been planing for more than one year and everyone in Hong Kong knows exactly when it was going to start. But it turns out most businesses have underestimated the impact of it. My questions are, how should a business forecast its sales under such events? What would you do about the forecasting for NEXT year?



Hong Kong Retailers Experience Sharp Sales Declines Amid Protests

Goldman Slashes Hong Kong Growth Outlook

5 for Forecasting: How Nick Leddy Lost his Roster Spot

The Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Bulls faced very different situations this summer.

The Bulls decorated the United Center in hopes of landing free agent Carmelo Anthony
The Bulls decorated the United Center in hopes of landing free agent Carmelo Anthony

The Bulls created an elaborate presentation at the United Center as they tried to lure Carmelo Anthony away from the New York Knicks while the Chicago Blackhawks offered some of their best players to other teams. The core reason for these differences was the accuracy of salary cap forecasting within the specific leagues.

The NHL fell victim to bad forecasting in 2014. Early in the year, the commissioner predicted a $71.1 million salary cap for the upcoming season. General Managers across the league began to plan their roster moves accordingly. It wasn’t until months later, when the actual figures came in, that the league realized it had overestimated the growth of the revenues; the hard salary cap would instead only be $68 million. The $3.1 million difference didn’t affect teams that conservatively reacted to the forecast, but teams like the Blackhawks found themselves needing to eliminate nearly $3 million worth of payroll. So as the team practiced all summer, the atmosphere was not one of anticipation and excitement but rather apprehension, knowing a significant player would need to be traded.   Ultimately, Nick Leddy lost his spot on a championship team because the league falsely predicted the growth of their revenues.

Both Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy lost their roster spots on championship teams because of poor forecasting.
Both Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy lost their roster spots on championship teams because of poor forecasting.

In contrast, the NBA did not suffer from bad forecasting. They were not perfectly accurate, as is expected, but they conservatively expected a 4.5% increase. By not relaying an unrealistic expectation to the general managers, the league prevented premature dealings by teams. Plus, on three separate occasions throughout the year, the league adjusted their forecast to improve its accuracy. The eventual salary cap was a 7.7% increase from the previous year. This left the Chicago Bulls with extra, unexpected cap space to try to recruit top free agents—a much preferable problem than having to shed payroll.

General Managers have to find the balance between optimistic forecasts and reality. The NHL should’ve considered the effect of the lockout shortened season as well as the decline of the Canadian dollar when they predicted a forecast that followed the record growth trend from previous years.  The NBA did a much better job of using environmental signs such as market values of sold teams to predict their league growth.  In the years to come, I’d expect NHL managers to be more hesitant in relying on initial forecasts, and perhaps adopt NBA strategies in approaching salary cap forecasts.

CapGeek.com shows the relationship between each NHL team and the salary cap. This specific image shows how restrictive the 2014 salary cap is for certain teams.
CapGeek.com shows the relationship between each NHL team and the salary cap. This specific image shows how restrictive the 2014 salary cap is for certain teams.

The salary cap in certain leagues is an absolute maximum accompanied by severe penalties for violations. It makes it even more consequential when a forecast is overestimated. Some teams will wait until the cap is released to sign players while other teams sign players based on forecasts. It poses the question: Which is the preferred scenario? New York Jets fans are currently complaining because their team lacks talent despite having nearly $20 million in cap space to be spent while Blackhawks fans were upset with having to trade Leddy in order to be under the cap. Which scenario would you prefer your favorite team be in? Do you rely on the forecast and deal with the consequences of inaccuracy or wait until the actual cap is set to make important decisions and risk missing out on top talent?




Images: Capgeek.com




The Phantom of the Gaming World

The Phantom is credited as immensely revolutionary and one of the best gaming consoles … that was never actually released.

Phantom Gaming Console

Why was the Phantom revolutionary and considered potentially “game changing” in the gaming world?

  • The Phantom was set to have PC like performance, far more superior than any other gaming system. Why is this important? It made the potential ceiling for games in terms of speed and graphics that much higher than any other games in the market.
  • The Phantom would not offer games in physical form. Instead it would be built with an internal direct download service that would let users download games directly from an internet connection to their console (much like Playstation and Xbox now offer). Why is this feature important? Gamers no longer had to walk/drive to the store or wait for delivery of highly anticipated games.
  • The price of their games were set to be around $2.00 to $50.00, which would be in similar price range with other consoles in the market.

Why was it never released?

The company with the task of creating the system was a virtually unknown company named Infinium Labs, who was venture-capital-funded. Ultimately their costs simply ran too high when trying to make the console actually work. Infinium labs began to have problems securing funding and had to abandon operations.


What do you think was the biggest problem surrounding the release of the Phantom Gaming Console?

In terms of  cost, time, and performance, what advice would you give Infinium Labs if you were hired as a business consultant?




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” (projecttimes.com). 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” (blog.online.net).
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?” (projecttimes.com). 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?