Concrete Masonry Corporation’s Project Processes

Introduction

The project to move some of Concrete Masonry Corporation’s production capabilities into Eastern Europe is currently in the early planning stage. As such, the detailed plan has not emerged yet, and the manager, Kevin Lewis, does not know which specific activities he will have to carry out to complete it. This report will use the concept of the four stages of the project life cycle to suggest the actions that he will have to undertake. More specifically, it will present the concerns that emerge at each step of development as well as the specific responsibilities of the project. The paper will incorporate various analysis methods and use them to illustrate the recommendations made.

The Four Stages of a Project’s Life Cycle

First, it is crucial to understand the definition of the traditional project life cycle and its four critical stages. According to Basu and Wright (2017), they are the initiation, design, execution and closure. In the first step, the team conducts a preliminary analysis, understanding the goals and constraints of the project. In the second stage, it creates a detailed plan based on a timeline and prepares to execute it. In the third, the team carries out the tasks it has set out while monitoring its processes to avoid or correct any errors. In the closure stage, evaluation of the outcome takes place, and the team concludes its learning and plans further actions.

The Initiation Stage

In the initiation stage, the team has to create an initial outline for the project that it will then use to formulate more specific plans. Pica (2016) lists tasks such as a justification analysis, deliverable identification, decision-making process identification, quality management procedure clarification, risk management and performance control procedure definition and information and communication management practice creation. Some of these tasks, such as the first one, cannot be carried out within the case study’s framework due to a lack of relevant information. However, there are still several important activities in this stage that will be described below. The deliverable identification will be the first one, analysed using a work breakdown structure.

As can be seen in Appendix A, there are three primary sub-tasks in the project: the evaluation of the site, the transfer of the equipment and its installation at the new site. The first task will involve the team travelling to the location and researching the various conditions that it will have to consider during transport and installation. It will then return and begin moving the devices from their old site to the new one. To do so, it will have to deconstruct the equipment, deliver it to the location where it will be transferred to a ship and oversee the naval transport. Then the team will move it to trucks at the destination port and ensure that it arrives at the location safely. Finally, it will oversee the installation and test the machines to make sure that they operate without issues.

The decision-making process, the quality management procedure and communication management practices will not be particularly complicated because of the team’s small size. The case study mentions that Mr Lewis was concerned over the subordination of the workers assigned to help him. They report to other managers and work on the project on a part-time basis, but they would like to see it succeed. As such, the manager can communicate with the team directly and give them tasks to perform. He will also conduct quality inspections personally, as his qualifications enable him to oversee the transfer process in its entirety. There is no need to involve external consultants, particularly due to the small size of the project.

Performance management is critical to the success of any project, and it is essential to establish a framework before planning begins. According to Mills (2017), it is a forward-looking approach that focuses on individuals and links them with several KPIs and targets. As such, it will be necessary to ensure that Mr Lewis’s subordinates are sufficiently motivated to fulfil the goals set before them. As the case study notes, they are already interested in distinguishing themselves based on the project’s results. As such, the manager should assess their capabilities, divide goals among the team based on each member’s competencies and set specific targets to meet or exceed.

Lastly, it is necessary to establish a risk management framework and incorporate it into the planning and execution stages. Herrmann (2015) provides a cyclic framework where one frames risks, identifies them, analyses them, evaluates them, treats them and conducts a review. It is not possible to predict and address all potential issues during the initiation and planning stages, and so, the team should be flexible and prepared to address any concerns as soon as they arise. To do so, it will be beneficial to assess possible issues and responses that will be best to respond to them. Moreover, the team should learn from experience after addressing every problem and consider improvement methods.

The Planning Stage

With the overall deliverables, time frame and cost established, Mr Lewis can proceed to develop a more formal framework. He should begin consulting the project’s stakeholders, as they are likely to introduce additional demands and constraints (Carstens, Richardson and Smith 2016). In this case, the principal stakeholders will be the Concrete Masonry Corporation, particularly the departments where Mr Lewis’s subordinates work, the Eastern Europe installation and the transportation companies involved. The former is likely to ask Mr Lewis to complete the project faster while the others are likely to introduce delays. It is vital to understand what trade-offs can be presented to accommodate these changes.

The company wants to establish operations in Europe as soon as possible, and thus, time is of the highest importance. The equipment that is being transported is expensive and cannot be allowed to be damaged, and so, quality is also a strong concern that does not allow reductions. On the other hand, the project’s risk is not high because of its nature. Only the uninstallation, loading, unloading and installation of the equipment having the potential for preventable issues. Therefore, as long as the team takes proper care during these steps, it may be acceptable to increase risks somewhat. Lastly, the cost presents the most prominent trade-off aspect, as many stages of the process can be sped up with a larger team and additional finances if necessary.

After discussions with stakeholders, Mr Lewis will be able to draft a timetable for the project. An example version is presented in Appendix B in the form of a Gantt chart. As can be seen, there are few opportunities to do multiple things in advance, both due to the small team size and due to the need to move objects. As such, the critical path is determined by the need to travel to the destination and install the equipment there. With a larger team, it may be possible to send more than one person to Eastern Europe in advance to survey the location and speed up that aspect. However, it is already concurrent with the rest of the project and does not influence the general path.

Most of the time will be taken up by the transit deliverable, with no resource-efficient way of speeding up transit between different staging points. Parts of the process can only be sped up through the use of a larger team for loading and unloading, which would incur a higher cost. However, most of the time, savings will have to come from the final deliverable, installation. Hiring additional specialists to install and test the machinery will be expensive, but they can shorten the time significantly by setting up and testing several machines at once. The manager will have to consider the project’s budget before making the final decision.

Overall, in addition to making the general plan, Mr Lewis should ensure that the team addresses as many potential concerns as possible. This process involves contacting stakeholders, identifying potential dangers and adjusting the schedule to account for the required changes. The project manager should not dismiss stakeholder requests or demands immediately, introducing trade-offs for them to satisfy to achieve their goals. In this case, he can improve the quality or reduce the time required by increasing the resource allocation or allowing a higher risk to occur. However, the latter method is associated with increased danger and should only be employed if no alternatives are available.

The Execution Stage

Once the project’s implementation starts, the burden on the manager and the team will increase substantially. Mr Lewis will have to oversee the process in all of its aspects with the help of the rest of the team and work to address any concerns. However, risk management is not the only activity related to controlling the process. Kassel (2016) highlights aspects such as progress measurement, cost control and keeping the stakeholders informed. All of these tasks are the responsibility of the manager, as they require an overarching perspective of the project. As such, Mr Lewis must know that these goals have to be fulfilled and how to address them.

Progress measurement will be mostly uncomplicated in this project because of its general simplicity and straightforwardness. Loading and transport progress can be measured by what portion of the equipment is ready for the next stage and by how far the vehicles have progressed. These activities constitute the majority of the project and follow each other linearly. There are no complicated dependencies, and the project’s overall progress can be simplified to the completion degree of its critical path. However, it should be noted that other projects may have significantly more complicated structures, and project managers should be prepared to address such situations, as well.

With regards to risk management, Mr Lewis may need to address significant issues if any incidents occur on route. The location analysis can find some items that will complicate installation or travel in the destination country. Then, some site reconstruction or a different path will be required for the project to proceed. Moreover, if the transport companies have to delay their arrival due to vehicle breakdowns or poor weather or road condition, the equipment may be late for its next transfer. This possibility is particularly problematic for the naval shipment because the machines will likely travel via a large cargo freight provider that will not wait for it.

To minimise these issues, the project manager must maintain a mutually beneficial and friendly relationship with stakeholders. According to Bourne (2015), it is essential to delegate responsibility clearly, determine rules for plan deviation in advance, engage in necessary communication without withholding information and regularly review and report progress. The company’s stakeholders have to know what is happening in the project at any time and when their participation will be required. This information sharing will enable them to participate efficiently, reducing wasted effort and delays for both the stakeholder and the project.

These aspects are particularly significant concerning the final concern that managers should have in the execution stage, cost and time control. In this particular scenario, it should be safe to assume that the transport contractors will be providing their services through a fixed-cost contract. Wilson (2015) notes that in this case, conserving costs is not a large concern because there is not much opportunity for them to escalate. As such, project managers should concentrate on ensuring that the agreement terms are fulfilled. In this regard, Mr Lewis should put pressure on the team and companies to ensure that every stage of the project begins and ends promptly.

The Closure Stage

The closure stage takes place after the project’s conclusion when there is no more work to be done. As such, the project manager should ensure that activities such as the review of the installation’s success and the machines’ operation take place during the execution phase. According to Harrin (2016), Mr Lewis’s task is to end the project in a controlled manner, learning lessons, disbanding the team, helping the members transition into their next role and finishing any leftover work. Most of the tasks in this phase will be paperwork and considerations for the future.

The lack of urgency that characterises projects after all of the core activities have been completed makes the closure stage an excellent time to reflect and learn. As Martinelli and Milosevic (2016) claim, people should learn from their experiences throughout the project, while they are still fresh. However, the time after the work is over offers one an opportunity to consolidate the knowledge gained in this manner and enter it in the company directory. In doing so, Mr Lewis will ensure that he performs better the next time he has to manage a project and potentially improve the performance of the company’s other activities.

As mentioned in the case study, Mr Lewis’s subordinates come from different departments and answer to other managers while working under him. However, they will likely have to abandon their old positions for a considerable time while working on the project due to its need to move to Eastern Europe. The project manager has to officially disband the team and enable the members to return to their old positions. He will also have to acknowledge their contributions and report them to the workers’ respective managers. In this manner, their performance will be rewarded, and they will receive career opportunities based on their contributions.

With that said, the team members will have spent significant amounts of time away from their positions. As such, they will not be able to enter their old positions immediately due to the lack of current knowledge. To maximise their productivity while they adjust, Mr Lewis should transition them gradually. He should slowly begin reducing their responsibilities and communicate with their respective managers to make sure they get light tasks at their old jobs that will familiarise them with the new environment. As such, they will be prepared to fulfil their old duties, or possibly those of their new positions if they receive promotions, by the time there is no work remaining.

Lastly, the project manager should ensure that there are no remaining issues in the project. He should finalise the stakeholder paperwork and ensure that the terms of all contracts are observed. Mr Lewis also has to guarantee that the staff at the new location can operate the machinery, enter the details of the project into the company databases and complete other duties. It would be beneficial to establish some system of post-project monitoring at the destination facility. Strictly speaking, this tendency may not be the responsibility of Mr Lewis, as he is not responsible for managing the facility. However, his expertise can help the company establish the system and generally improve performance.

Conclusion

Project management is a complex problem, regardless of the size and difficulty of the task. It consists of four different stages, each of which gives the project manager multiple responsibilities. The initiation and planning stages will require a number of projections and considerations to formulate the overall scope, cost and timeline of the project. In the execution stage, the manager’s task is mostly the monitoring of progress and efforts to ensure that it is as close to what is planned as possible. Lastly, in the closure stage, the team finalises any leftover aspects of the project and disbands. Mr Lewis should satisfy his needs as well as those of all the stakeholders by following the directions in this report.

Reference List

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Appendices

Appendix A: The Work Breakdown Structure

The Work Breakdown Structure

Appendix B: The Gantt Chart

The Gantt Chart