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VIGNETTE 8The Early Bird Gets the Worm

By Barbara Bryant,2014-05-19 09:39
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The project manager was well liked and respected by. both senior management and the staff. A slowdown of project. starts in this particular division of the

Painless Project Management McGhee and McAliney

VIGNETTE 8The Early Bird Gets the Worm

A billion-dollar project to design and build a Saudi Arabian

    defense system had been canceled due to poor project management

    and delivery. The next contendera contractor would need to convince the overseeing body, the U.S. Air

    Force, that they could deliver the project under an accelerated

    schedule. To sweeten the deal, the Air Force and the

    Saudi government threw in a $50 million bonus for delivering

    the project ahead of schedule. On the downside, delivering

    the project late could result in liquidated damages for as

    much as $50 million. The Saudi project became the most important

    project in the corporation.

The project manager was well liked and respected by

    both senior management and the staff. A slowdown of project

    starts in this particular division of the corporation enabled

    him to handpick talented staff for the project.

Unfortunately, the team had a problem similar to that of the

    U.S. Olympic Basketball Teammany stars but not quite a

    team. In an early staff meeting, one of the engineers on the

    project complained, “these projects would be easy to manage if we could just eliminate the people.” The project manager had his work cut out for him.

With over 500 people working on the project, there was a

    constant stream of people issues to deal with including getting

    “big” personalities to work together, replacing or backing up individuals who had personal problems, key players

    being removed from the project at critical times to support

    other projects, and dealing with infighting among staff

    members. Clearly the project manager could not deal with

    all of the people issues on a personal basis, but he wanted to

    ensure that people issues were dealt with well and that he

    would be accessible to support all areas of the program to

    deal with both technical and organizational issues. The project

    manager instituted a meeting process that fit the bill, the

    daily “Early Bird” meeting.

    Every morning at 7:30 A.M. all of the project manager ’s direct reports and staff attended a 30-minute meeting called

    the “Early Bird.” At this meeting, all of the key issues and actions

? Copyright 2007 Pamela McGhee and Peter McAliney. To customize this document,

    download it to your hard drive from www.painlessprojectmanagement.info. The document can

    then be opened, edited, and printed using Microsoft Word.

Painless Project Management McGhee and McAliney

were discussed in a staccato style. The meeting was attended

    by a little more than a dozen people. It ended

    promptly at 8:00 A.M. A critical point of the meeting was near

    the end when the project manager would ask every individual one at a timewhether he or she had any issue that

    needed to be discussed or brought to the project manager ’s attention. “No surprises” was the hallmark of the project manager’s management style and the project. The entire

    management team quickly came to realize that this was the

    meeting that created the cohesion across the project. People

    issues were dealt with head-on in these meetings. A tribute to

    the project manager, the all-star team jelled quickly and followed

    the project manager ’s keen leadership.

    In retrospect, the “Early Bird” meeting seems so simple a solution to getting a team on track for people issues. In setting

    a tone and energy level every morning while enabling an

    open communication at the beginning of each day across all

    functions, the project team went on to deliver what the Air

    Force deemed “the most successful program in Air Force history.” With demonstrated leadership and people skills, the

    project manager went on to become the CEO. The “Early Bird” was adopted as a standard meeting for all projects.

BRIAN HAGEN

    Strategic Capabilities, Inc.

? Copyright 2007 Pamela McGhee and Peter McAliney. To customize this document,

    download it to your hard drive from www.painlessprojectmanagement.info. The document can

    then be opened, edited, and printed using Microsoft Word.

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