Case 5: Projects in an Uproar

The Story

Larry James is the Director of Engineering for Hobson Metallurgical Incorporated, a large multi-national mining concern. He is complaining to his spouse that he is burned out. As a matter of fact, he has worked late hours for at least the last six months on a variety of issues relating to projects at Hobson.

The difficulty seems to be that the Company is doing so well. With consistent profits in the metals market and a high demand for its technical expertise, Hobson is so much in the black that a large number of development projects have been initiated, both from Senior Management as well as from line foundries and processing units. The result is that the limited number of engineers is stretched very thin, there is virtually no cost control, some projects overlap others, and people working on projects have no idea what priority their projects have in the organization.

So Larry is under pressure. As he describes it, “It’s like juggling six balls in the air at the same time, except that they aren’t balls: they’re more like knives.”

Larry would like to bring the management of projects at Hobson under control; he feels that he can’t, since he doesn’t even have time to help his project managers and leaders with basic engineering advice as it is.

The Intervention

Larry has an opportunity to align Hobson’s projects with the organization’s business, or strategic and operational plan. He needs to:

  • Use the plan as the basis by which to establish a set of criteria by which to assess the relative worth of projects;
  • Establish a prioritized list of projects ranging from those in the money to those who are in waiting, communicate this list and re-allocate resources accordingly;
  • Establish a common approach to managing projects by identifying what Hobson would like to keep by way of processes, establishing what improvements are needed, and developing a Hobson-based way of handling projects from initiation through to evaluation;
  • Ensure that all stakeholders in project work are trained in the common approach and carefully monitor implementation.
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