Planning and design phase
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CHOICE OF PROJECT MANAGER AND TEAM MEMBERS
The initial phase of the Sodor project involved the formation of the project team and the nomination of the project manager. Group 12 is made up of 4 Nigerians and 1 Vietnamese which reflects a multicultural team with each nationality possessing peculiar personality traits. The objective of the first meeting was to nominate a Project Manager and to define and agree on ground rules for project team meetings. To ensure equal participation of all team members, it was agreed that the rotational project manager system will be adopted whereby each individual in the group would serve as the project manager for 1 week each throughout the 5 week duration of the Sodor project. It was agreed that meetings will be scheduled 3 times a week by the project manager lasting no more than 2 hours each. At each meeting, specific tasks is assigned to each team member to be submitted at the next meeting day.
CONTRACTOR SELECTION CRITERIA
The contractor selection criteria adopted by the team is the Trade-off technique. This technique uses a scoring system to quantify specific attributes of the various contractors and provides a numerical output, the highest of which represents the best contractor choice. The use of this technique provided the best possible contractors to manage the various stages of this project.
Some of the conflicts experienced by the Group 12 team in the management of the Sodor oil terminal include:
- Team members attitudes: Some of the team members lack motivation and commitment to participate in the project team. This is manifested as absences from team meetings, late comings to team meetings, and lack of verbal contribution to team discussions. This issue was addressed by the project manager in charge who spoke with the team members concerned.
- Choice of Contractors: The proposal to use Trade-Off for contractor selection was initially resisted by some team members who where in favour of using a more subjective technique. It was finally accepted after an appraisal of the objectiveness of Trade-off was done by the proponent.
All changes which include Contractor changes, Scope, Cost, and schedule changes proposed by the project sponsor passed through a Change management process which begins with a brainstorming session by the project team on the costs and benefits of adopting the change. The changes agreed on by the project team is then reflected on the Gantt chart. Due to the choice of contractor selection technique, the changes proposed by the project sponsor during the project lifecycle had a minimal impact on the actual cost and schedule.
The close out process involved a review of the final Sodor terminal project plan to confirm scope, cost and schedule deadlines have been met. The lesson learned document was then prepared which showed the various conflicts that occurred throughout the project and how they where managed by the team in order to provide lessons for the future. The final project plan was then presented to the project sponsor and the Group 12 team was deformed by the project manager.
Teamwork has been found to be an essential ingredient responsible for the success or failure of projects. The effective use and management of teams for projects has been noted to be a key determinant for how successful a project will be; however, the effectiveness of a team depends on the ability of the team members to interact appropriately with one another to produce a common output.
Hoegl(2004) defined teams as a social interaction between two or more people within an organization who share a common task. Teams have also been described as a group of people who hold themselves mutually accountable to each other and who work together to achieve a common purpose(Scholtes et al,2003). The above definitions take into account the fact that for a team to exist, certain basic ingredients need to be in place which include; mutual accountability, constancy of purpose, and a shared responsibility for success or failure. The benefits of teamwork in project management cannot be overemphasized. Teams help in the mobilization of diverse resources to a project as compared to that achieved by a single individual. Church(1998) also noted that teams provide the flexibility to use the mobilized resources thus helping to continue with the project in the event of a particular individual being indisposed. Perhaps the greatest value of teams in managing projects rests with the ability of teams to provide a synergy of the efforts of the individual team members whereby the results achieved is greater than the arithmetic sum of the contributions of the individual members to the team.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT TEAM EFFECTIVENESS
- Team size and choice of members: Hackman(1987) suggested that there is no ideal team size for a project. Furthermore, the team size chosen is dependent on the scope of the project. In contrast, Hoegl(2003) proposed that ideally a project should be reduced to a level where the work package can be managed by a team of between 3-6 people. This helps to avoid the confusion that may arise from "Too many Cooks spoiling the broth". The choice of team members also plays a role in determining team success. Trent(2003) proposed that the membership of a project team should be made up of people with the right skills and competencies to tackle the particular task at hand. A set of objective criteria should be used in choosing the members of a project team.
- Team leadership: Trent(1996) suggested a direct relationship between leadership effectiveness and team effectiveness. The results that a team produces depends largely on the calibre of the leadership. Teams that lack a strong and effective leadership are more likely to fail(Zenger et al,1994). The effectiveness of a leader depends on the possession of skills, experience, and the will to assume responsibility for the team performance.
- Resource availability: The availability of resources plays a major role in the ability of a team to produce results. Peters and O'Connors(1980) postulated that the availability of specific resources can either promote or interfere with a team effectiveness. The resources needed by a team to be effective varies depending on the project scope. It may include financial, Human, and Environmental resources.
- Establishment of clear goals: Zander(1980) postulated that teams with clear and measurable goals perform better than teams with fuzzy goals. This is as a result of the use of clear goals by teams as a baseline through which team results can be measured. Furthermore, the use of clear and concise goals also helps the team in planning for what they can achieve within a particular timeframe.
- Reward and Recognition: The relationship between appropriate reward structures and team effectiveness cannot be overemphasized(Bullock and Lawler,1984). Developing a reward system that focuses on the entire team rather than individuals help in improving team motivation and hence its effectiveness. It is a fact that people are motivated to achieve results if they feel that the results provide value to the organization and this value is acknowledged by the organization.
SODOR OIL TERMINAL
PLANNING AND DESIGN
The need to have a plan for the management of the Sodor oil terminal cannot be overemphasized. Grachev et al(2006) using 3M corporation as a case study proposed that a key benefit of planning upfront for a project is the creation of well defined project goals. The goals help to give direction to a teams project. Other benefits of planning include; it helps the team members in the coordination of individual tasks by providing clearly stated assignments. Furthermore, the project plan also enables the team to have an overview of the project schedule, costs and constraints which the team can then use as a baseline to measure actual project progress.
The planning and design of the Sodor oil terminal started with the identification of the Cost, Schedule and Scope goals from the data derived from the Project Sponsor. These goals where then integrated into a sequential structure by the use of the MS Project® to produce the Sodor oil terminal preliminary Gantt chart. Multiple adjustments to scope, cost, and schedule data was proposed by the project sponsor which resulted in iterative changes to the project plan leading to changes in the project cost and time of completion. The final Sodor oil terminal plan is a comprehensive document showing the actual budget, time of completion, scope of the project, and the approved contractors selected for the project. Christina(2009) proposed that key factors that affect team success at the planning and design phase include;
- Well-Defined Goals: The definition of clear project deliverables has been shown to improve the success rate of project teams. Pinto and Slevin(1988) proposed that clearly defined and structured goals is a significant factor that determines the effectiveness of teams and hence the success rate of projects. The goals of the Group 12 team where clearly stated and well defined at the onset of the project which was to deliver a project plan within 98 weeks at no more than the stated project budget provided by the project sponsor.
- Management Support: Pinto and Slevin(1988) suggested that the support upper management gives a team helps in facilitating team success. This occurs by facilitating the release of resources to the project team hence ensuring their efficiency and helping to remove administrative bottle necks. Group 12 received the support of the project sponsor in the designing of the sodor plan especially with respect to weekly review meetings to assess the current status of the project plan and proffer ways to bring the plan back on track.
- Cross-Cultural teams: The importance of having multiple individuals from different cultures in a team has been proposed to impact positively on team results(Earley and Mosakowski,2000). Ochieng and Price(2009) also suggested that the effective use of proper communication techniques to handle cultural differences in a team helps in promoting project success. Multiple cultures in a team brings together people with different skills, competencies, and personal attributes dedicated to a common purpose. The multicultural environment of Group 12 provided a pool of diverse ideas derived via brainstorming from which the best possible solution was agreed on and translated into the Sodor project plan.
- Team experience and continuity: Pinto and Slevin(1988) suggested that the inclusion of individuals with specific project experience into a team helps in promoting its success. This is because this individuals already have a knowledge of the critical factors needed to ensure the success of the particular project from the lessons learned from past projects managed by them. Scott-Young(2009) suggested that the stability of a team throughout the project lifecycle helps in ensuring team success. Stable teams have been shown to maintain the consistency of ideas generation and are not susceptible to the distraction that tends to occur from a team member joining or leaving the team(Akgun and Lynn,2000). The use of team members with a wide range of experience managing projects like healthcare, education, and engineering played a key role in the results of Group 12. This is due to the diverse nature of the knowledge pool available for planning the project. The stability of the Group 12 team throughout the project lifecycle also played a key role in the design of the sodor project plan.
CONSTRUCTION AND CLOSEOUT
- Handling Conflicts: The absence of conflicts in a team has been proposed to be a pointer to the failure of the team(Saj-Nicole and Damon). The presence of conflicts and how the conflicts are managed indicates how successful the project team will be. The nature of the conflicts i.e. conflicts relevant to the project scope, serves to provoke a generation of ideas from the project team on the best way to manage the crises. Several conflicts arose during the management of Group 12; an example will be the, Who to choose as the project manager? The way it was managed was to have a face to face meeting with the project team, everybody laying their individual ideas on the table, then arriving at a decision mutually beneficial to everyone which is to have a rotational project manager system with each member of the project team ‘having a taste of the pie' of being the project manager for 1 week each. This solution helped during the construction phase of the plan because all the team members felt a sense of belonging and making a positive contribution to the team.
- Leadership: The proposal by Akgun and Lynn(2000) on the positive benefits of leadership continuity to the project team success is largely not applicable to the Group 12 project team. This is because the use of a single leader throughout the project lifecycle will have led to the presence of domineering tendencies being shown by the individual chosen which may affect certain decisions made during the formulation of the construction plan. It will also have led to project team members being made to feel they are not a part of the team. Hence in a bid to avoid this scenario, the rotational project manager system was proposed and adopted.
- Lessons-learned documentation: The preparation of the lessons learned document is an essential part of the project team closure phase(PMI,2008). The lessons learned document captures the lessons learned at various milestones in the planning of the project. The final meeting of the Group 12 team was a brainstorming session to identify various challenges we had during the creation of the Sodor project plan and how the challenges where managed.
This paper details how the Group 12 team managed the Sodor project from design to the closeout phase. It explains in detail the various factors responsible for the success of the team in arriving at the final project plan; and also the various challenges Group 12 team had and how those challenges where managed to produce positive results. The paper sheds light on the key factors that affect various stages of the project and how they where harnessed and utilized positively by the Group 12 team.
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