The Retuen of the Ice Age

Operations management is one of the three most important things to understand when learning the functions of an organization. Learning more about operations management helps us learn more about understand how organizations work and how people organize themselves. I honestly do think that being able to understand and organize are very important skills to know when managing anything. Operations management is also a very costly part of the organization.

The past few weeks have being interesting. The only job that I had I recently had, but I also recently quit. I was working at Chipotle Mexican Grill during the summer. I only worked there for a month, but a month was good enough for me to learn more about the company, how the managers work, and I learned more about myself and how I work. It was interesting to see that there are different types of managers. I had a total of three mangers. They didn’t all have the same responsibilities but they had similar responsibilities as in telling employees what they had to do. I noticed that I would only like to do my job that I was supposed to do if a certain manager told me to do. I believe that I would do that because I sometimes wouldn’t like how the manager would talk to me when he would tell me what I had to do. So like I learned in class, some of the basic functions that operation managers do consist of planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and controlling.  I definitely saw these function being applied with the employees. The manger had to plan around with the employees and being able to schedule them and they tried their best to work around with the employee’s schedules. The also had to make sure that everything was running smoothly that the throughput was good and that they had all the supplies that the needed to make sure that everything was prepared and ready to go.

I haven’t had a job for longer than a month put I have noticed that some of the skills that I have learned in the class can also apply to any organization. There are many skills that you can learn through participating in organizations at school that you can later apply to your job. These five functions, planning, organizing staffing, leading, and controlling can apply to a job or like previously mention it can also be applied to extracurricular activities. For example, I been involved in organization at DePaul such as DePaul Alliance for Latino Empowerment (DALE) as well as MEChA. I’m also part of a fraternity. In the three organizations that I have been involved with, I know that I have applied these skills.  For example, we have to e able to work with other people that are in the same group to have events, we have to stay organized and make sure that everyone is participating one way or another. In addition we have to make sure that we are staying within our budget. I have definitely improved my skills by being involved with different organizations on campus as well as working at Chipotle.

In what ways have you applied the basic operations in your life? Do you think that they have improved over time? What are your experiences with the basic functions?

Who should lead my project?

The company I work for has been going through a new ERP implementation for the last several months.  In the past, for new ERP implementations or for upgrades of existing ERP systems, we have typically cascaded implementations at our regional facilities, beginning with the regional facility with the most demand.  By doing this, we were able to focus our resources in one area and ensure the system functioned properly, including all reports, prior to rolling it out to others.  For this implementation, we elected to go with a “Big Bang” approach, upgrading all facilities simultaneously.  We initially identified several advantages to taking this approach, many of which never came to fruition for various reasons.

Now that we are 6 months into our implementation, it is evident that the “Big Bang” approach was not the appropriate method to take.  For the first 3 months of the implementation, we had IS and IT resources travelling the world to support our various locations to ensure the systems were functioning, not necessarily functioning properly, but just getting basic transactions through. This period of travelling and troubleshooting exhausted our IS and IT resources.  Still, after 6 months, only about 95% of the transactions are flowing correctly and we seem to run into show-stoppers at least once per month.  After that initial 3 month period, when things had settled down on the transactional side, we began the arduous process of getting basic reports to function.  These include financial reporting, financial analysis, production analysis, order management, purchasing, and human resources reports.  These have seemingly been stalled since the implementation began and there is little confidence of it being completed anytime soon.

So, the question becomes: when is the right time to redefine the project manager?  It seems through each phase of the implementation, the project manager has shifted.  It has gone from CIO to Network Director to Systems Director to Applications Director.  This is not to say that each of these individuals isn’t doing everything in their power to ensure these issues get addressed, but there is no consistent list of issues or person to direct concerns to.  There is no project manager interacting with each function defining priorities.  We’re really seeking one point of contact to interact with one single point of contact within each of our functions to take control.  However, there could be political implications to even suggesting a change of project manager.  And, frankly, there may not be anybody willing to take that position as it could have implications on their career going forward.

For this particular project, we defaulted to a project manager in the IS and IT group, but perhaps, we should have considered a more skilled project manager outside of that group that could developed a more reliable risk management plan and mitigated some of those risks prior to the implementation.  The users would have likely been more satisfied with a project manager that is responsive and organized, rather than a project manager that has the technical knowledge of the implementation without the project management skillset. Can functional leaders be expected to efficiently manage projects within their organizations if they span across several functions?

Project Risk Management in Health Care

In health care, risk management programs are often used to reduce the risk of medical errors and other organizational loss in operations.  Risk management activities can be classified as proactive (before an occurrence) or reactive (after an occurrence).  According to Sharon Hall, Vice President of Parker, Smith & Feek, “Proactive risk management may avoid some losses and expenses that could otherwise impact your bottom line.”  On the other hand, an overcautious approach may result in the loss of potential business benefits. (Sheppy, Zuliani and McIntosh, 2012)


Although risk management is commonly used to mitigate, avoid or transfer risks in health care operations, it is not commonly used in project management efforts within health care organizations.  Health care project managers continue to struggle with demonstrating the value of proactive risk management in project work. (Hall, 2014)


In traditional project management methodology, the project environment within which risk is taken is considered (Barkley and Saylor, 2001).  It is important to distinguish between the inherent risks in the project itself and the risks associated with the project management process.  Health care project managers now face ‘complex environmental conditions’ that increase risks. (Sheppy, Zuliani and McIntosh, 2012).


According to the British Journal of Healthcare Management article, “there needs to be a greater emphasis on placing risk relative to both operational and cultural factors.”  Health care project managers must possess both hard and soft skills in order to perceive the ‘synergistic risk impacts that arise’. (Sheppy, Zuliani and McIntosh, 2012).


In our MGT 598 Project Management class, we learned how to put together a risk management plan.  Step one is to identify and assess all potential risks.  (Sheppy, Zuliani and McIntosh, 2012).  Step two is to assess risk.  Risk factors can be assessed based on the severity of impact, likelihood of occurring and controllability. (Larson and Gray, 2014).  Step three is to develop a strategy to reduce possible damage and contingency plans. (Larson and Gray, 2014).   Step four is to implement risk strategy, monitor and adjust the plan for new risks and change management. (Larson and Gray, 2014).  According to Sheppy, Zuliani and McIntosh, “risk management should be a continuous, iterative process that requires revisiting assessed risks” (2012).


Discussion Questions:

  • Does your company use risk management to mitigate, avoid or transfer risk in project management?
  • Is risk management proactive or reactive in your firm?
  • Does your organization see the value in proactive risk management?





Erik W. Larson & Clifford F. Gray, Project Management: The Managerial Process, 6th Edition, McGraw-Hill Irwin, New York, 2014.

Handling risk like a startup: Lean project management

We examined risks very closely in our last class and I can’t think of a better example of risk in project management than those experienced at a startup. As an entrepreneur venturing out on your own, or with a small group, building up a business is a process of trial and error. You can become really passionate about an initial idea but once you’re out in the field talking to customers it may become obvious that the idea doesn’t solve their problem. Then it’s back to the drawing board!

Hopefully this realization occurs before you’ve arranged the people and resources needed for the business. Otherwise all the investments you’ve made can become a sunk cost. Many startups today follow a lean model where failure is incorporated into the project. Instead of starting full production on a product, prototypes (or a minimum viable product) are used to get feedback on the product’s functionality. A few, hundreds, or thousands of prototypes may be scrapped in the process. Dyson’s vacuum technology took 5,127 prototypes to get right (Dyson, 2011). Therefore, by testing and retesting ideas before fully going to market, entrepreneurs can mitigate the amount of risk they take on and get to know their customers better.

How can we apply the startup approach to project management?

Some projects, especially event-based, don’t allow for testing or mock runs. It would be extremely costly to simulate a concert in a particular location along with all the vendors that are scheduled to participate. Yet there are a few key elements from startups that can be applied to project management settings.

  • Address risk early and often
  • Monitoring relevant metrics
  • Continual learning and acceptance of failure

First, consider addressing risks early on. Even if this can’t be in the form of a prototype the project should be exposed to risks and tested. For example, does the project have enough designers to complete a new mobile app? Estimates may not be enough in this case. Instead the project manager could have the designers solve a small task (subset of the problem or project) together within a limited timeframe to test their capabilities as a team. Additional risks may crop up as a result of their collaboration together.

Next, identify metrics that relate to risk. Stakeholders are often focused on budget and deadlines but there are other ways to measure a project. Why not tie metrics into risks that were identified at the outset of a project? In class we discussed the case of Futuronics which carried a greater amount of risk due to their industry and future-oriented products. If the company was able to quantify risks, they could better report on them and gain stakeholder and sponsor attention (Feldman, 2012). For Futuronics, metrics could include number of competitors looking to enter the industry, amount of patents into similar technologies, or number of qualified engineers throughout the country.

Lastly a project’s risks should be considered in terms of the overall team and organization culture. If learning and failure are not embraced then it can be harder to have conversations about risk. When the message from the top-down is “We’ve been doing this for years and it’s the right way!” there are natural blockades to identifying and handling risks in projects. Furthermore failure can lead to insights in a project that were not initially considered.

Questions to Consider:

  • What is the most challenging risk you’ve faced in a project? Did you have a contingency plan?
  • Would you be able to put the three elements, mentioned above, to action on projects in your company?



Dyson, J. (2011). James Dyson: In praise of failure. Retrieved from

Feldman, J. (2012). Project Management Gets Lean. Retrieved from

Winning in Project Management

In my course and readings about successful project managers I have found that successful projects and project managers share some commonalities that lead to their accomplishments.

First of all, I would like to start about what leaders in project management thought defined project management, I will start with a very influential project management school of thinking “IBM”.  IBM defines project management as managing the interrelationship between 3 vital factors in each project and the importance to achieve the ideal balance between all 3 critical factors which are Project Scope, Budget and Time which is commonly referred to by project management professionals PMP’s as the project triangle.


 Now, considering the above factors it’s not easy to be able to manage those 3 angels in projects hence, they involve numerous subdivisions to keep track. I will mention those below with the top points that I found best project managers stress on:

  • Planning: common mistakes that caused a lot of projects to fail is that they rushed to start working on the project and went to fast through the planning process. Always give planning the bigger chunk of your time.
  • Time estimation: most valuable take home lesson for me from this project management course and readings about the subject is that time is unforgiving. You can go overboard with the cost and still have a project but when the deadline is due and you have no complete project the cost overboard will be a breeze compare to not having delivered a project at all.
  • Communication: a very vital skill to have as project managers hence, ideas and dreams “final project” in your mind are defiantly not similar across your team members. Try to be very clear!
  • Coordination:  define requirements to each individual and be very clear on delegating responsibilities. Successful project managers have an eye for identifying talents and skills in their team members
  • Tracking: this point I found that there was a lot of stress on by my studies in class and readings. The importance to keep check points alongside the project “success points” is crucial for success of the project!! Assessing each stage and the timeline within a project is one of the most important duties of the project manager.
  • Risk assessment & mitigations: even with the an excellent plan things can go wrong, predicting problems and obstacles is indispensable skill for PM’s while identifying risks is on one side, on the other side providing solutions to those problems forecasted is of the same weight of importance. An important lesson here is to assign a devil’s advocate in your team J
  • Reporting:  understand who your customer is! All projects have an owner or a requester, as a project manager you will have to establish a reporting line between the project developments and your customer. An important lesson here is to establish a good relationship with your customer, after all they are the ones paying your bills 😉

Questions that inspire the thought:

  • Is there an optimal mix in the project triangle? How could we measure it?
  • Which is most important from the three project angles?

References and sources:

What can you do with $40 Billion dollars? Don’t ask Uncle Sam

In a June 12, 2013 article, I read from the Project Management Institute (PMI), it says that in a recent study the government risks $148 million for every $1 billion dollars spent.  This is $13 million more than the private sector.  Mark Langley, PMI President and CEO says there are findings where the government is doing very positive things, but he also goes on saying that just 46% of government organizations understand the value of program management.  He also says that program success rates are declining with just under two-thirds of programs meeting their original goals or intent.

He talks about how both the government and the private sector have work to do in effectively aligning program management with organizational strategy and mission.  He says that more than half of the government respondents acknowledged that they frequently focus on specific departmental objects as opposed to the strategic goals of the organization.  Only 11% of the government organizations have a senior-level program management related role, compared to 22% in the global average.  Only 37% of respondents reported there is a formal process for developing program management competency and only 25% reported having a defined career path for those engaged in program management.  This is 17% lower than the global average.

These are staggering numbers when I read them.  I decided to see what this meant to the taxpayer.  I went to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis to plot what the government has spent over the last few years.


With the exception of the last 2 years, the government has averaged a 7% increase in spending year over year since 2000 and we spent $3.7 trillion in 2012.  If we just looked at the $13 million more in risk that the government takes over the private sector it adds up to almost $50 billion per year as you can see on the chart below.

pic 3

With all the focus on project management and business efficiency, I’m frustrated that the US can’t move forward with this and pave the way for a better run Government.  As the PMI published chart shows below, there are great rewards for a mature project management organization.


Two things stood out to me in this article.  First, I find it extremely disappointing that project / program management doesn’t align with the overall strategy and that departments are working in silos.  I know this isn’t unique to Government.  Unfortunately, I’ve also experienced this at a few different places and struggle with it today.  Secondly, I don’t know how the government does their budget, but we consider risk when putting our budget together based upon probability and impact.  This means there is less money to use for other projects and programs people want.  I struggle with this topic because we want to ensure we capture all risks of a project, however, it ties up a lot of money from being put into other uses.

How have you or your organization ensured that the projects/programs align with the corporation’s overall strategy?  How have you been able to keep everyone working toward the common goal and not focus on his or her own segment?

How do you plan your budget?  Do you consider risk?  How do you balance appropriate risk with risks that tie up your funds for other projects?


Cubs Threaten Move from Wrigley

As part of yet another drama-filled speech by Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, in a plea to the city of Chicago to build a 6,000 square foot video board on the left field wall, Ricketts proclaimed that the team would leave the location where the Cubs have been for the last 99 years.  While the threat seems real, the viability of the Cubs continuing to sell out while being in last or second to last in a potential future suburban location is slim to none.  The logistics behind the change in the target market are simply too critical to be ignored.  As a previous season ticket holder, I spent many of games with a fear of falling concrete or washing my hands in ice cold water on a just above freezing day in April and the appeal of a new stadium with glamorous amenities (as well as necessities like warm water and restocked toilet paper) would be a dream come true… but not in the suburbs. Having been to a Dodgers game recently in Los Angeles, after completion of the game, people simply returned to their cars and headed home. When I asked a fellow patron on where the nearest bar was located, they smiled and responded with “About 15 miles up the road.” However, being around Wrigley Field at the completion of a Cubs game (or sometimes before depending on the score) has a certain magic to it that cannot be replicated anywhere else. While Ricketts may appear to be negotiating at high stakes, the reality is that the Cubs would wither away without Wrigley but Wrigleyville would continue to thrive based on its shear appeal of location within the boundaries of the city and the proximity to other prestigious neighborhoods. In comparison, the move to the suburbs would cause the permanent fan base to drop immediately and the new fan base obtained would wear off after a few losing seasons. Having personally moved to the suburbs twelve years ago, there are friends that were next door neighbors that I have not seen since due to the inconvenience of traveling either to or from the city. But offer tickets to a Cubs game, and I’m on the blue line before you can tell me who the opponent is.

Besides the change in market demographics, the Cubs would need to work with local transportation as well as highway patrol to assure proper flow of traffic which again differs from the knowledge of traveling in the city. If the Kennedy is backed up, most people familiar with the area would be able to navigate through side streets even without GPS assistance but block an exit on the Elgin-O’Hare and you might as well shut down the entire highway.

So what are your thoughts on a potential Cubs move? Do you think Ricketts has thought out all of the risks associated with the move?

Risk Management: Risk vs. Uncertainty In a Project

An important part of the project management process is to also manage any risks associated with that particular project.  In doing so, the project has a much better chance to be successful if anything does happen.  The four main steps in risk management are:

1. Risk Identification

2. Risk Assessment

3. Risk Response Development

4. Risk Response Control

 In following these steps carefully, it allows any project manager or team to identify all potential risks, how they might affect the project, and then how to respond to them and to maintain this response level throughout the project.  Recently there was an article published in Forbes about risk management as it pertains to financial risk which explained the difference between mitigating risk and having complete uncertainty about an event.  Although the article is focused on financial situations, it seems it could potentially apply to project management as well.

The article goes on to say that there is a difference between risk and uncertainty.  Risk is used to define cases of known probability.  For example, McDonald’s most likely understands the probability a person will slip and fall in one of their locations for every million visits to a store.  This would be risk; a known probability which is something they can mitigate.  Uncertainty on the other hand is when the probability of an event is not known at all.  In some cases, companies will treat uncertainty by saying there is an X% chance of an event happening, essentially guessing about the level of that chance.  Complete uncertainty however is when “you don’t know what you don’t know.”  It’s the situation when a company hasn’t even thought of an event in the first place, and so cannot manage it in any way.  These uncertainties are called Black Swans.  The article concludes by explaining that companies ought to have contingency plans that will help to offset any Black Swans.  Again, they are not predictable, but can be minimized by generally planning to have “a Plan B” for this type of situation.

Even though the article’s ideas are all based on economics and finance in the business world, is does seem possible that the same approach can (and maybe should be) used for project management as well.  Matrices are typically created for a project to manage risk, measure how much of an effect those risks will have, and how to deploy a contingency if they happen.  In using the theory explained in the article, these matrices are really only taking into considering the known probabilities of those events happening.  It doesn’t account for the potential of Black Swans, which could wreak more havoc on a project if they occur.

Do you think there should be contingency plans built into projects for the unknown?  Is there a way to include some general safeguards outside of a FMEA plan to really minimize risk AND uncertainy?



Forbes: Uncertainty and Risk Management: What to Do About Black Swans?


Phishing for Sardines

Recent trends indicate that cyberattackers are increasingly targeting small, startup businesses as larger companies have ramped up IT defenses in recent years. According to a report by cybersecurity firm, Symantec, “cyberattacks on small businesses with fewer than 250 employees represented 31% of all attacks in 2012, up from 18% in the prior year” (Link 1). As soon as a business sets up its website and email domain, cyberattacks are triggered almost immediately. In fact, by the time a business is five months old, it has already been targeted by hundreds of spam phishing messages and Malware attacks and, within ten months, most companies will have been infected with Malware. (Link 2). Hackers will also use attacks known as Ransomware, where an attackers locks up company computers and networks demanding a ransom to stop the attacks. Computers are not the only targets of these attacks, however. With the proliferation of smart phones and mobile devices in the business world, many attackers are now using malicious software to infiltrate these mobile devices in order to steal valuable information. Verizon’s RISK team has indicated that this trend of increasing attacks on small startup companies has been relatively consistent over the past six years (Link 1).

Larger corporations have the time and resources to devote to IT security that small businesses and startups just don’t have. Startup businesses in particular have enough concerns related to gaining market share and generally keeping their doors open and generally can’t devote enough resources to IT security. Further, despite the statistics, many small business owners falsely believe they are boring targets for cyberattackers due to their size. However, small businesses can be extremely lucrative and easy targets for these types of attacks. Most often, cyberattackers are after customer credit card numbers, contact information, intellectual property, or money from company bank accounts that are specific to the individual target company (Link 2). However, many hackers target small firms with a much bigger prize in mind. Increasingly frustrated with the beefed up security at larger firms, cyberattackers are using smaller firms as an entry point as they are often customers or suppliers of larger firms. Once a smaller firm is infected, it can spread viruses and other malicious software to a larger firm by way of emails and other exchanges throughout the course of normal business operations. Another way attackers are attempting to use smaller companies as bait is through the strategy of infecting startup companies in growth industries like tech and healthcare. The attackers then lie and wait hoping these infected companies will be gobbled up through mergers and acquisitions, which have been increasing as of late with the improving economy and availability of cheap debt. The attackers are essentially using the acquired company as a sort of trojan horse strategy to then infect the acquiring company and steal its valuable information.

Whatever specific tactic is used, startup companies have been increasingly targeted by cyberattacks as of late. In terms of time and resources, these new companies are stretched thin enough as it is. In-house IT departments are very expensive as is externally sourced internet security software sufficient enough to fortify these companies against sophisticated attacks. In light of this, what is a small business owner to do? Can they take steps to not be infected without professional help? Or is IT security spending now just an operational cost of doing business that can’t be avoided?

Link 1:

Link 2:

It’s Not Easy Growing Green

They call it weed because it can grow anywhere but it requires rigorous effort.


Making a legitimate business out of marijuana requires high labor costs and extreme costly maintenance. Hundreds of Medicinal Marijuana Entrepreneurs have gone under because of competition or cost. The CEO of Pink House Blooms, Elliot Klug (pictured above) explains, “In order to survive in any business, you’ve got to be cost effective, so that was one of our drivers.”

Pink house and other commercial growers are required to document the life of each plant from the time it’s a cutting to the time its flowers are sold and the state of Colorado requires cameras in every room that has plants to prevent marijuana from entering the black market. These extra requirement are not comparable to any other industry or cheap either.

The Marijuana flower is trimmed by hand because the machine would damage their Trichomes, the part of the plant that is rich in the high-inducing THC. This results in high labor costs.  Payroll can make up more than a third of production costs. Retaining employees who learned their trade by growing clandestinely, is also a challenge because “they aren’t used to being part of a regular society”, says Jason Katz, chief operating officer of Local Product of Colorado.

Growing space can cost $100 or more per square foot and Pink House Blooms has a 6000 square foot warehouse. To have operation costs as inexpensive as possible they use every inch of their warehouse. To save on air conditioning costs, Pink house developed a system that uses water to cool the powerful lights that make marijuana grow.  Those lights, causing a $14,000-a-month electric bill, are on 24/7 making their electricity bill a huge portion of their expenses and preventing the company from paying back the borrowed money.

The employees may have gauges and there are Pink Floyd posters covering the walls but it is not as mellow as one would think, It is a tough business. They have supplier issues because many companies do not want to be associated with a pot-growing business.

Is this still a touchy subject or is there something  operations managers do to convince suppliers to work with them?

Operations Management for this industry is not typical at all. They have to create new equipment specialized for their product because it cannot be found on the shelf. This business could have high costs because it is relatively new.

Is it possible that over time, operation managers will find better ways to lower their costs? Any specific ideas?

Colorado and Washington has approved the use of Marijuana for Medicinal use and recreational use effect by next year. Will a higher demand leading to higher profits  make it possible for these companies to increase production efficiency?

What methods might this industry use to forecast. Why might the naive approach lead to too much forecasting error?