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Friday, 21 September 2012


As a backdrop to this entry, I am to give my interpretation of a piece of information as it was delivered in three different modalities.  The message and interpretations follow:

Message: Hi Mark.  I know you have been busy and possibly in that all day meeting today, but I really need an ETA on the missing report.  Because your report contains data I need to finish my report, I might miss my own deadline if I don’t get your report soon.  Please let me know when you think you can get your report sent over to me, or even if you can send the data I need in a separate email.   I really appreciate your help. Jane.

In the written format, I sensed urgency from Jane’s communication, perhaps to the point of desperation.  I also get the impression that Jane has tried several times to obtain this report from Mark.

In this format, Jane comes over as authoritative, rushed and angry.  Had I been on the receiving end of this voicemail, I would feel as if I were given an ultimatum for producing the report.  Jane in this format comes over as being Mark’s superior or one who would mete out discipline as the next step if the report is not received.

This time around, Jane has a less rushed or demanding tone.  She rather sounds a lot more pleading than in the other formats.  Body language cues are available here and they convey a more casual and friendly approach.  Jane here seems to be Mark’s equal colleague, attempting to explain how the submission of Mark’s report affects her work.

From this exercise, it is clear that each modality has its own features, advantages and disadvantages.  This connotes that each modality would also have a best fit, depending on factors such as context, desired outcome, meaning, audience, and so forth.  In my purview, apart from being the most formal mode, written communication is the most controlled and therefore should be the staple mode of communication for project teams.  Whereas tone and body language can often send wrong or ambiguous signals, written formats can be used utilized to objectively confirm and clarify meaning. Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton & Kramer (2008) advise that while “informal communications occur continuously in the normal course of business”, all communication should be confirmed in writing.  This is a practice that I myself have seen the value of, seek to apply to my work, and will encourage others to also apply.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E.
(2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”

I was once placed on an in-house document management project team at a company where I worked.  The team was mandated to come up with a document management system and process that would replace the company’s then filing and document management systems.  The team comprised persons from each department within the company; the thought being that each department needed to give input into how their documents should be handled.  A member of the administrative department led the project; the thought here being that the admin staff would have a good handle on the company’s documentation and filing processes and improvements needed, as they were the ones primarily responsible for maintaining these functions. I represented the human resources function/section on the committee.
             In terms of meeting its mandate, this project failed at so doing and was abandoned midway.  Post-mortem evaluation of the project reveals the following contributors to the failure of the venture:
1.      Lack of Definition – The project turned out to be much more complicated and involved than anyone had imagined and what needed to be done was beyond the skill set of the project team.  According to the aspects involved in defining a project, as outlined by Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton & Kramer (2008), thorough project scoping would have given light to its background, scope and strategy, thereby providing a better understanding of what exactly needed to be done and who needed to be involved;
2.      Lack of technical expertise – None of the members of the project team was trained in the business of the project.  No one therefore could really give clear direction to the venture.  The company’s eyes were opened after a trained project manager was assigned to the task and after he conducted thorough research and commissioned technical consultancy.  Then it was revealed the enormity of the project’s scope.  This however, took place two years after the initial failed project and the wastage of resources that went along with that attempt.
3.      Incorrect technology – Again, without doing the proper research, the company went ahead and purchased expensive hardware and related software for the project.  As it turned out, the software was outdated and the entire package was no longer supported by the manufacturers at the time of this project.
In hindsight, some critical steps that needed to be taken to avoid the failure that occurred include:
·         Defining project and preparing a statement of work – This would have required research and proper thought and would have produced a clearer view of what needed to be done;
·         Consult with the experts – Whether through a workshop, research or by hiring a consultant, expert direction would have revealed the depth of what needed to be done;
·         Getting the two preceding points right would have lent direction to the required and correct resources for the project.
All in all, the company learnt a big lesson from this horrible first attempt and did things much differently the second time around.  As mentioned, a trained project manager was hired, the project was carefully defined and consultation was made with a technical expert.  Although there is still residual amazement within the company now that the actual scope is realized, the project is well on its way and successfully meeting its targets thus far.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E.
(2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Project Management Intro

Hello All,
This post serves as my blog intro to my project management blogs, for this my eighth course in the IDT program at Walden University.

I really have been looking forward to this course a whole lot as I've always wanted to acquire some project management skills.  I'm also looking forward to the views and insights that my classmates will share.

Feel free to comment on my lines, offering any tidbit that should be useful to my, or the world's understanding of PM.

Divia Lewis