Blue Demons for a Cure Audit

Our team, Blue Demons for a Cure, chose to support the American Cancer Society (ACS). We organized a few micro-events, leading up to our main event, which was the 5K Making Strides Walk hosted by ACS. Our scheduled events and a brief description are below:


Pilsen Yoga Tribe: We presented our charity and main event at an established yoga community event.

Pink & Drinks: We hosted an event at a local bar where all proceeds from pink drinks (bartender specialty drink) were donated to our team and ACS.

5K Making Strides Walk: We created a team and walked 3.2 miles around the Independence Grove Lake.

Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW): 15% of all food purchases, with the voucher present, were donated to our team and ACS.

In conjunction with these events, we sold merchandise: T-shirts (shown below left) and Dry Cookie Jar Mixes (shown below right).

TshirtCookie Jar

All our efforts were for the American Cancer Society, but specifically for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This nonprofit is over 100 years old and is the largest voluntary health organization in the United States. It goes by three values which is “saving lives by staying well, getting well, and fighting back” ( They state that they have saved over 1.5 million lives in the past decade due to their relentless contributions.

During the planning phase of our project, we made predictions and established success measures. We did not achieve some of them, with some examples being as follows:

  •         5K attendance goal: 30 people (12 people attended)
  •         Total fundraising goal: $3,050 ($2,524 was raised)

Although some of our actual results fell short of our original success measures, we still consider our project as highly successful. We executed our plans effectively and we worked very well together as a team. All members participated in project coordination and event/product marketing, thus gaining valuable project management experience. Most importantly we were able to meet all of our deliverables on time. From this experience we learned a few things that will utilized in our personal and professional lives:

1)      Use the communication medium that works best for your team. A student from the previous MGT 598 class recommended we utilize Trello, as it could minimize the use of lengthy, confusing email chains. Our group did open up an account for that particular reason, but it was impractical for us to completely eliminate the use of email. It was much easier and more convenient for us to email each other via our smartphone. Trello became a calendar or deadline reminder for us.

Chicago Skyliine

2)      Be able to adapt to “mishaps” and bounce back quickly. In the beginning, we were debating between logos and team names. After the initial T-shirt order was submitted, we received feedback from DePaul’s marketing director that we could not use the logo. Our team quickly revised the logo to comply with university policies, selected the design below, and had minimal impact to project schedule:

3)      Expanding your scope is not always a negative thing, as long as you creatively fit the event into your overall goal. By our second week we had the final project plan and it did not include BWW. BWW finally responded to us and said it would donate 15% of food sales on the a specific day to the ACS. We initially scrapped this idea, however, we saw the event as low-risk and a “bonus” in revenue. We scheduled the BWW event on the same day as the 5K Walk to maximize attendance with hungry walkers.


As we reflect on the completion of our project, we have one primary recommendation for future teams: effective planning is crucial to project success. In a ten-week quarter there is surprisingly little time to execute the main event and the overall complexity of the project can be a significant hurdle. Each team member should have a clear understanding of what the team is trying to accomplish. For our team, we established a well-defined plan within the first two weeks. We were then able to prioritize activities and were able to complete some tasks in parallel. Our thorough planning allowed everything to fall into place.

Overall, it was a great learning experience and a great opportunity to work with new people. We wish you all the best of luck!

Hurricane Katrina Reveals the Structural Flaws of FEMA

I sit here searching on Google for project management (PM) articles hoping to find something that explicitly discusses key concepts in the field. After many failed search inquiries, I think to myself “There has to be an example of PM in the real world.” Bing! I immediately conjure up the biggest event that FEMA has been scrutinized for, Hurricane Katrina. I type in “FEMA” into the search box, and like it was willed to happen, I find something worth talking about.

In the article, FEMA Faces Intense Scrutiny, it addresses FEMA’s history and its most recent national disaster, Hurricane Katrina. There are a lot of criticisms about FEMA’s actions or lack thereof. If we were to examine each disaster relief as a project, we will see how its failures can be learning lessons for PM in corporations.

A few sentences from the article stuck out to me and we will go further in detail about each piece of information.

1.  “From the local level, officials complained of communication breakdowns and the lack of leadership from the federal government.”

FEMA is a governmental agency that coordinates the relief based on what the government orders it to do. However, the project manager (the government) never communicated with its reports what their task was. In fact, in the article, it stated that FEMA rejected personnel and supplied offered from other emergency forces. Those are the resources the agency actually needed. The PM should always communicate what resources are available, and he should say what is expected of the agency.

2. “We wanted helicopters, food and water. They wanted to negotiate an organizational chart.”

Two stakeholders placed two different goals. PM is a subgroup of an organization. FEMA’s goals should align with the government’s goal. It’s an issue of priority and also accomplishing the overall picture, which was quick relief to U.S. citizens. In a corporation, it’s important the subgroup’s goals align with the company’s. The subgroup will have the necessary support, such as resources and political backing, to complete the task effectively.

3. “’All hazards’ preparation focused too much on terrorism […] but not natural disasters.”

The agency was not nimble enough to deal with different types of disasters. It was adopted into the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. Since then, it trained to handle terrorist attacks. When Hurricane Katrina hit, it was unprepared for the calamity and was at disarray on execution. PM is about adaptability. In business, PM would do a risk assessment, do a worst-case scenario, and have a potential plan of action.

When it comes to managing a project with an extremely short deadline, it’s important to have the qualitative infrastructure in place. Of course, that is easier said than done. After the harsh criticism from one of the most detrimental disasters in the United State, I am sure FEMA has taken a look at its organizational structure and processes. Hopefully, it restructured itself, so it can do what it was intended.


(Photo Source: 10 Interesting Facts about Hurricane Katrina)

How to decrease chances of a project failure?

There is nothing more rewarding for a project manager than a successful completion of a project.  There are many factors that contribute to such an outcome. Successful projects need to be well planed, managed and executed and each of those phases has to be carefully prepared, implemented, and performed. If everything goes according to your plans, great… mission accomplished, but what if things turn up side down?

As a project manager you may encounter situations when some of the projects you were involved or led did not return the outcome you had expected. Sometimes, although you think that every aspect of the project has been thoroughly analyzed and prepared, the overall project outcome is a failure.  You start to think where the mistake has happened? What was missing or omitted?



One of the most common reasons for the project failure is actually inexperienced project manager(s).  In many situations, managers work under stress. Do they know how to handle it? Can they well understand and make right financial decisions? Can they run appropriate negotiations, solve unexpected issues, communicate required information to appropriate project group? Although it may sound ease, some especially young projects managers, may have problems with stress management and poorly perform under such situation. In critical moments, they may loose the objectivity and start to use false assumptions or just start to force things through.

Another common reason for a project failure may be lack of resources. To successfully complete any project the appropriate resources such as personnel, equipment, tools, etc. need to be provided.  Project resources are key to achieve the project’s goal. What is going to happen when we promise the project delivery on certain time with limited or inadequate (skillset) resources? How that goal can be achieved? Without required resources, the project delivery will be delayed, poorly completed, or completely fail. Often, to save money on the project, managers try to deliver the product on the minimum resources involved. In many occasions that saving turn out to bring more expense at the end than expected.

Poorly defined requirements are very well known reason for the project failure too. It is very important to clearly document what are customer’s expects and needs. It is crucial for any project to make sure that both sides of the contract understand the requirements. Additionally we need to make sure that those requirements are agreed to and signed off by the client before the project implementation phase. What would happen, if there were a situation in which the customer expects something different than what we believe they want?  What would happen if we started to implement the project, which was never approved and consigned by our customer?

Have you ever experienced a project failure? What was the cause of it? If not, what in your opinion are other reasons for the project failure?