Dim Lights, Big Pity

Paula Weber
"I can' t stop thinking of the revolting situation at the Low Energy Company, an East Coast electric company with grand plans to expand as an Internet service provider," Kyla Watt explains. "It started when Low Energy purchased a high-end software package (ZAP) from my company, Sweathouse Consulting & Universal Development (SCUD), to solve all of Low Energy's data processing problems. Once ZAP was installed, Low Energy and SCUD defined two unique phases of project management as part of the ZAP purchase. These phases would require several hundred consulting hours that would add nicely to SCUD' s bottom line." 
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In the first phase of this project, SCUD was contracted to support Low Energy as it converted certain vendor data to the acceptable Low Energy format and provided management reports for cost containment and other decision-making functions. Phase Two of this project would convert additional Low Energy products and services, thereby enhancing the cost containment and decision-making functions of Low Energy's upper management.

Just before the contractual windfall with Low Energy, SCUD had lost a significant contract with another client. Therefore, there were lots of SCUD personnel eager to jump on Low Energy' s billable bandwagon. 

"Everyone at SCUD knew the performance of some of our consulting resources was below par, but with diligence and good follow-up, SCUD management decided these shortcomings could be contained," Kyla shrugs. "You won' t be shocked at what happened next. Someone should have pulled the plug!"

The scene evolved unhappily for all parties when a separate division of Low Energy decided to outsource the data processing platform--the very platform that the SCUD software would run on. The winner of the outsourcing agreement was a SCUD competitor. Although the competitor had lost the bid for the initial software purchase, it was still in contention for additional consulting services.

Phase One: A Partial Success
The SCUD consultant assigned to the project, Jerry Mander, had good interpersonal skills, was a quick study and made the right, politically correct moves. Unfortunately, he did not understand ZAP and had little technical understanding of the platform it was running on.

The SCUD consultant assigned to the project, Jerry Mander, had good interpersonal skills, was a quick study and made the right, politically correct moves. Unfortunately, he did not understand ZAP and had little technical understanding of the platform it was running on.

Issues developed early into Phase One, when the meter for consulting hours spun wildly, but the work never got done.

The Low Energy project manager, Wendy Wuss, was ineffective in dealing with processing problems that arose due to conflicts with the outsourcing vendor. Even though no work was getting done, Jerry Mander knew that his success in the eyes of SCUD management was directly related to the number of hours he billed, so he booked entire man-days without producing any deliverables. Neither SCUD nor Low Energy managed progress against funds expended.

Phase One ended as a partial success, even though it was over budget and required a lot of clean-up work--work that got done in Phase Two.

Phase Two: Pull the Plug, Please!
In Phase Two, additional SCUD consultants were brought on: Ben Zadrine and Kyla Watt. Ben and Kyla were to provide the analysis and planning needed to bring the additional services onto the platform. 

In Phase Two, additional SCUD consultants were brought on: Ben Zadrine and Kyla Watt. Ben and Kyla were to provide the analysis and planning needed to bring the additional services onto the platform. 

"Ben Zadrine was a young pup with good technical skills, but he totally lacked ability to manage himself or his work," Kyla recalls. "This was recognized on his last project, but once again SCUD management decided they could overcome these shortcomings through superior management skills. Right!"

Kyla Watt was assigned to the team based on her strong knowledge of the ZAP software product and her maturity, which SCUD mistakenly thought would bring both Jerry Mander and Ben Zadrine under control.

As Phase Two progressed, Kyla Watt raised the red flag to her management: Jerry Mander was a goof-off, and Ben Zadrine had personal issues that rendered him ineffective on the project.

Phase Two ended when the hours that Low Energy had contracted for were used up. Approximately half of those hours had been spent by Ben Zadrine working with Jerry Mander to clean up Phase One; the other half was spent on the tasks that were contracted for--analysis and conversion. Phase Two ended with no visible deliverable. 

Postscript for the Curious
Ben Zadrine and Jerry Mander were fired. Kyla Watt took a hard look at how SCUD managed its projects and is currently looking for a new job.

Ben Zadrine and Jerry Mander were fired. Kyla Watt took a hard look at how SCUD managed its projects and is currently looking for a new job.

Step On It
The Low Energy project could have used a jump-start from these Project Accelerator topics:

Getting Management Buy-In
Integrating With Other Projects/Efforts
Staffing Your Project
Identifying Critical Success Factors
Setting Expectations
Training the Team
Tracking Issues
Managing Scope

You're a real project manager. Do you have a real project management story to tell? We want to hear the good, the bad and especially the ugly. Contact the RPM Editor if you want to share your war stories. If we use your story, we'll send you a gantthead.com T-shirt, mug or hat. You've earned it.  

 

 



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