The Orion Shield scenario presented a novice project manager’s actions, inactions and subsequent results during a project to produce materials for an orbiter’s launch booster rocket. While the contracted company eventually succeeded in producing a product, the project was plagued with numerous challenges that could have resulted in failure and did indeed result in the demotion of the project manager. There were business strategy, structural, contractual, ethical, and communication issues that impacted the successful completion of the project, causing cost overruns, strained internal relationships and customer distrust and dissatisfaction. Various solutions are recommended to decrease the incidence of issues in the future. These solutions include the proper use of strategic and business planning, pre-initiation and kick-off activities, and coordination tools, such as dashboards and project management software. Finally, the overall performance of the project manager is assessed and suggestions made for his improvement.
The Orion Shield scenario presented a novice project manager’s actions, inactions and subsequent results during a project to produce materials for an orbiter’s launch booster rocket. While the contracted company eventually succeeded in producing a product that met most requirements, the project was plagued with numerous challenges that could have resulted in failure and did indeed result in the demotion of the project manager. This paper will attempt to identify and examine those challenging issues, discussing their origins and impacts. In addition, solutions will be proposed for several selected issues. Finally, a brief discussion of the project manager’s overall performance will be presented. Issue Discussion
The fictional subcontractor recently changed its business objective, moving from concentrating on low cost production to participating in research and development and qualification projects as a way to prime more lucrative production contracts in the future. This change required increasing engineering capacity and expertise; no other changes were described in the presentation. However, with the change in business objective, specifically from low cost to profitable but creative technical excellence, there are different strategies that must be employed, and, perhaps, different capacities that must be in place. Schwalbe describes project selection as an important part of project, program and portfolio management and one process utilized to accomplish selection is matching organizational needs and competitive strategy to proposals (2010, p. 44). While the new strategy jibed with the Orion Shield proposal, the organization may not have had the internal capacity---administrative or functional--- to accomplish the proposal’s objectives at the present time. For example, the subcontractor utilized a matrix management structure, which provides horizontal linkage so that the technical managers and the functional managers had equal authority, supporting product innovation and technical expertise with appropriate resourcing and advisory expertise (Daft, 2007, p. 110). The project officer is to report to the director of project management, with an assistant manager that reported directly to the manager and indirectly to the director of engineering; this would allow for the administrative functions to be addresses by the manager, while the assistant dealt with the technical aspects of a project. However, the sponsor of the project was the director of engineering and he alone selected the project manager. The lack of input of the director of project management led to the choice of an inexperienced project manager more dependent on the sponsor, with less subsequent balance in the manager’s approach in conducting the project. It is hard to tease out whether this was a character issue on the part of the director or a more systemic organizational...