Excellence in Project Management

Excellence in Project Management

Macon was a fifty-year-old company in the business of developing test equipment

for the tire industry. The company had a history of segregated departments with

very focused functional line managers. The company had two major technical departments:

mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. Both departments

reported to a vice president for engineering, whose background was always mechanical

engineering. For this reason, the company focused all projects from a mechanical

engineering perspective. The significance of the test equipment’s electrical

control system was often minimized when, in reality, the electrical control

systems were what made Macon’s equipment outperform that of the competition.

Because of the strong autonomy of the departments, internal competition existed.

Line managers were frequently competing with one another rather than focusing

on the best interest of Macon. Each would hope the other would be the

cause for project delays instead of working together to avoid project delays altogether.

Once dates slipped, fingers were pointed and the problem would worsen

over time.

One of Macon’s customers had a service department that always blamed engineering

for all of their problems. If the machine was not assembled correctly, it

was engineering’s fault for not documenting it clearly enough. If a component

failed, it was engineering’s fault for not designing it correctly. No matter what

problem occurred in the field, customer service would always put the blame on


As might be expected, engineering would blame most problems on production

claiming that production did not assemble the equipment correctly and did

not maintain the proper level of quality. Engineering would design a product and

then throw it over the fence to production without ever going down to the manufacturing

floor to help with its assembly. Errors or suggestions reported from production

to engineering were being ignored. Engineers often perceived the assemblers

as incapable of improving the design.

Production ultimately assembled the product and shipped it out to the customer.

Oftentimes during assembly the production people would change the design

as they saw fit without involving engineering. This would cause severe problems

with documentation. Customer service would later inform engineering that the documentation

was incorrect, once again causing conflict among all departments.

The president of Macon was a strong believer in project management.

Unfortunately, his preaching fell upon deaf ears. The culture was just too strong.

Projects were failing miserably. Some failures were attributed to the lack of sponsorship

or commitment from line managers. One project failed as the result of a

project leader who failed to control scope. Each day the project would fall further

behind because work was being added with very little regard for the project’s completion

date. Project estimates were based upon a “gut feel” rather than upon sound

quantitative data.

The delay in shipping dates was creating more and more frustration for the

customers. The customers began assigning their own project managers as “watchdogs”

to look out for their companies’ best interests. The primary function of

these “watchdog” project managers was to ensure that the equipment purchased

would be delivered on time and complete. This involvement by the customers was

becoming more prominent than ever before.

The president decided that action was needed to achieve some degree of excellence

in project management. The question was what action to take, and when.


1. Where will the greatest resistance for excellence in project management come


2. What plan should be developed for achieving excellence in project management?

3. How long will it take to achieve some degree of excellence?

4. Explain the potential risks to Macon if the customer’s experience with project

management increases while Macon’s knowledge remains stagnant.

Complete Answer:

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