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CHAPTER 9

Crash Times
Collecting crash times for even a moderate-size project can be difficult. The
meaning of crash time is difficult to communicate. What is meant when you define
crash time as “the shortest time you can realistically complete an activity”? Crash
time is open to different interpretations and judgments. Some estimators feel very
uncomfortable providing crash times. Regardless of the comfort level, the accuracy of
crash times and costs is frequently rough at best, when compared with normal time
and cost.

Linearity Assumption
Because the accuracy of compressed activity times and costs is questionable,
the concern of some theorists is seldom a concern for practicing managers.
Reasonable, quick comparisons can be made using the linear assumption. The simple
approach is adequate for most projects. There are rare situations in which activities
cannot be crashed by single time units. Instead, crashing is “all or nothing.” For
example, activity A will take 10 days or it will take 7 days, but no options exist in
which activity A will take 8 or 9 days to complete. In a few rare cases of very large,
complex, long-duration projects, the use of present value techniques may be useful;
such techniques are beyond the scope of this text.

CHAPTER 11
Managing Conflict within the Project
Disagreements and conflicts naturally emerge within a project team during the
life of the project. Initial disagreements can escalate into heated arguments with both
parties storming out of the room and refusing to work together.
Sources of conflict are likely to change as projects progress along the project
life cycle. Figure 11.5 summarizes the major sources of conflict in each phase.
FIGURE 11.5 Sources of Conflict over the Project Life Cycle

During project definition, the most significant sources of conflict are


priorities, administrative procedures, and schedule.
During the planning phase, the chief source of conflict remains priorities,
followed by schedules, procedures, and technical requirements
During the execution phase, friction arises over schedule slippage, technical
problems, and staff issues.
During the delivery phase, the level of conflict tends to subside.

Encouraging Functional Conflict


The demarcation between functional and dysfunctional conflict is neither
clear nor precise. In one team, members may exchange a diatribe of four-letter
expletives and eventually resolve their differences. Project managers should
recognize that conflict is an inevitable and even a desirable part of project work; the
key is to encourage functional conflict and manage dysfunctional conflict.
A shared vision can transcend the incongruities of a project and establish a
common purpose to channel debate in a constructive manner. Therefore, agreeing in
advance which priority is most important can help a project team decide what
response is most appropriate.
Sometimes it’s not the presence of conflict, but the absence of conflict that is
the problem. They can also orchestrate healthy conflict by bringing in people with
different points of view to critical meetings.
Project managers can legitimize dissent within the team by designating
someone to play the role of devil’s advocate or by asking the group to take 15
minutes to come up with all the reasons the team should not pursue a course of action.
Functional conflict plays a critical role in obtaining a deeper understanding of the
issues and coming up with the best decisions possible.
One of the most important things project managers can do is model an
appropriate response when someone disagrees or challenges their ideas.
Organizations have a tendency to create too many yes-men, and the emperor needs to
be told when he doesn’t have any clothes on.

Managing Dysfunctional Conflict


Managing dysfunctional conflict is a much more challenging task than
encouraging functional conflict. First, dysfunctional conflict is hard to identify. This
change occurs when technical disagreements evolve into irrational personality clashes
or when failure to resolve an issue causes unnecessary delays in critical project work.
The second major difficulty managers face is that there is often no easy
solution to dysfunctional conflict. Project managers have to decide among a number
of different
strategies to manage it; here are five possibilities:
1. Mediate the conflict.
2. Arbitrate the conflict.
3. Control the conflict.
4. Accept it.
5. Eliminate the conflict.
In summary, project managers establish the foundation for functional conflict
by establishing clear roles and responsibilities, developing common goals or a shared
vision, and using group incentives that reward collaboration. Well-timed humor and
redirecting the focus to what is best for the project can alleviate the interpersonal
tensions that are likely to flare up on a project team.

Rejuvenating the Project Team


Over the course of a long project, a team sometimes drifts off course and loses
momentum. On one project that was experiencing rough going, the project manager
stopped work and took the team bowling to relieve frustrations.
Another option is to have the project sponsor give a pep talk to the “troops.”
In other cases, a friendly challenge can reinvigorate a team. For example, one project
sponsor offered to cook a five-course meal if the project got back on track and hit the
next milestone.
Sometimes more formal action needs to be taken. The project team critiques
its performance, analyzes its way of doing things, and attempts to develop strategies
to improve its operation.
Often times an external consultant is hired, or an internal staff specialist is
assigned to facilitate the session. Furthermore, if preliminary information is to be
collected, team members may be more candid and open to an outsider.
One caveat about using outside consultants is that too often managers resort to
this as a method for dealing with a problem that they have been unable or unwilling
to deal with. For such sessions to be effective, project managers have to be willing to
have their own role scrutinized and be receptive to changing their own behavior and
work habits based on the comments and suggestions of the project team.
Consultants use a wide variety of team-building techniques to elevate team
performance. For example, a team probably has little influence over delivery of
contracted supplies, but team members do control how quickly they inform each other
of sudden changes in plans.
If the group becomes preoccupied with issues outside its control, the meeting
can quickly evolve into a demoralizing gripe session. This is where the expertise of
the external facilitator becomes critical for identifying interaction patterns and their
implications for team performance.
As important problems are discussed, alternatives for action are developed.
The team-building session concludes by deciding on specific action steps for
remedying problems and setting target dates for who will do what, when. These
assignments can be reviewed at project status meetings or at a special follow-up
session.
It has become fashionable to link team-building activities with outdoor
experiences. The outdoor experience places group members in a variety of physically
challenging situations that must be mastered through teamwork, not individual effort.
By having to work together to overcome difficult obstacles, team members are
supposed to experience increased self-confidence, more respect for another’s
capabilities, and a greater commitment to teamwork. At the same time, unless the
lessons from these experiences can be immediately transferred to actual project work,
their significance is likely to vanish.