Project Management

02 Sep

Case 1   Disaster Recovery at Marshall Field’s (Another Chicago River Story)

Early in the morning on April 13, 1992, basements in Chicago’s downtown central business district began to flood. A hole the size of an automobile had developed between the river and an adjacent abandoned tunnel. The tunnel, built in the early 1900s for transporting coal, runs throughout the downtown area. When the tunnel flooded, so did the basements connected to it, some 272 in all, including that of major retailer Marshall Field’s.

The problem was first noted at 5:30 A.M. by a member of the Marshall Field’s trouble desk who saw water pouring into the basement. The manager of maintenance was notified and immediately took charge. His first actions were to contact the Chicago Fire and Water Departments, and Marshall Field’s parent company, Dayton Hudson in Minneapolis. Electricity—and with it all elevator, computer, communication, and security services for the 15-story building—would soon be lost. The building was evacuated and elevators were moved above basement levels. A command post was quickly established and a team formed from various departments such as facilities, security, human resources, public relations, and financial, legal, insurance, and support services. Later that day, members of Dayton Hudson’s risk management group arrived from Minneapolis to take over coordinating the team’s efforts. The team initially met twice a week to evaluate progress as the store recovered. The goal of the team was to ensure the safety of employees and customers, minimize flood damage, and resume normal operations as soon as possible. The team hoped to open the store to customers 1 week after the flood began.

An attempt was made to pump out the water; however, as long as the tunnel hole remained unrepaired, the Chicago River continued to pour into the basements. Thus, the basements remained flooded until the tunnel was sealed and the Army Corps of Engineers could give approval to start pumping. Everything in the second-level basement was a loss, including equipment for security, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, fire sprinkling, and mechanical services. Most merchandise in the first-level basement stockrooms also was lost.

Electricians worked around the clock to install emergency generators and restore lighting and elevator service. Additional security officers were hired. An emergency pumping system and new piping to the water sprinkling tank were installed so the sprinkler system could be reactivated. Measures were taken to monitor ventilation and air quality and dehumidifiers and fans were installed to improve air quality. Within the week, inspectors from the City of Chicago and OSHA gave approval to reopen the store.

During this time, engineers had repaired the hole in the tunnel. After water was drained from the Marshall Field’s basements, damaged merchandise was removed and sold to a salvager. The second basement had to be gutted to assure removal of contaminants. Salvageable machinery had to be disassembled and sanitized.

The extent of the damage was assessed and insurance claims filed. A construction company was hired to manage restoration of the damaged areas. Throughout the ordeal, the public relations department dealt with the media, being candid yet showing confidence in the recovery effort. Customers had to be assured that the store was safe and employees kept apprised of the recovery effort.

This case illustrates crisis management, an important aspect of which is having a team that moves fast to minimize losses and quickly recover damages. At the beginning of a disaster there is little time to plan, though companies and public agencies often have crisis guidelines for responding to emergency situations. Afterwards they then develop more specific, detailed plans to guide longer-term recovery efforts.


1. In what ways are the Marshall Field’s flood disaster recovery effort a project? Why are large-scale disaster response and recovery efforts projects?

2. In what ways do the characteristics of crisis management as described in this case correspond to those of project management?

3. Who was (were) the project manager(s) and what was his or her (their) responsibility? Who was assigned to the project team and why were they on the team?

4. Comment on the appropriateness of using disaster recovery efforts such as this.

5. What form of project management (basic, program, and so on) does this case most closely resemble?


Case 2 Flexible Benefits System Implementation at Quick Medical Center

The management committee of Quick Medical Center wanted to reduce the cost and improve the value and service of its employee benefits coverage. To accomplish this it decided to procure and implement a new benefits system. The new system would have no meet four goal; improved responsiveness to employee needs, added benefits flexibility, better cost management, and greater coordination of human resource objectives with business strategies. A multifunctional team of 13 members was formed by selecting representatives of departments at Quick that would rely most on the new system—Human Resources (HR), Financial Systems (FS), and Information Services (IS). Representation from each department was important to assuring all departmental needs would be met. The team also included six technical experts from the software consulting firm of Hun and Bar Software (HBS).

Early in the project a workshop was held with team members from Quick and HBS to clarify and finalize project objectives and develop a project plan, milestones, and schedules. Project completion was set at 10 months. In that time HBS had to develop and supply all hardware and software for the new system; the system had to be brought on-line, tested, and approved; HR workers had to be trained how to operate the system and load existing employee data; all Quick employees had to be educated about and enrolled in the new benefits process; and the enrollment data had to be entered in the system.

The director of FS was chosen to oversee the project. She had a technical background and, prior to serving as director, had worked in the IS group where she assisted in implementing Quick’s patient care information system. Everyone on the team approved of her appointment as project leader, and many team members had worked with her previously. Two team members had worked with her previously. Two team leaders were also selected, one each from HR and IS. The HR leader’s task was to ensure that the new system met HR requirements and the needs of Quick employees, and the IS leader’s task was to ensure that the new software interfaced with other Quick systems.

Members of the Quick team were committed to the project on a part-time basis. Roughly 50 percent of the time they worked on the project; the rest of the time they performed their normal daily duties. The project manager and team leaders also worked on the project part-time. When conflicts arose, the project took priority. Given specific performance requirements and time deadlines, the Quick top management committee made it clear that successful project completion was imperative. The project manager was given authority over functional managers and project team members regarding all project related decisions.


1. What form of project management (basic, program, and so on) does this case most closely resemble?

2. The project manager is also the director of FS, only one of the departments that will be affected by the new benefits system. Does this seem like a good idea? What are the pros and cons of her selection?

3. Comment on the team members’ part time assignment to the project and the expectation that they give the project top priority.

4. Much of the success of this project depends on the performance of team members who are not employed by Quick, namely the HBS consultants. They must develop the entire hardware/software benefits system. Why was an outside firm likely chosen for such an important part of the project manager in meeting project goals?


Case 3   Glades County Sanitary District

Glades Country is a region on the Gulf Coast with a population of 600,000. About 90 percent of the population is located in and near the city of Sitkus. The main attractions of the area are its clean, sandy beaches and nearby fishing. Resorts, restaurants, hotels, retailers, and the Sitkus/Glades County economy in general rely on these attractions for tourist dollars.

In the last decade, Glades Country has experienced a near doubling of population and industry. One result has been the noticeable increase in the level of water pollution along the coast due primarily to the increased raw sewage dumped by Glades County into the Gulf. Ordinarily, the Glades County sewer system directs effluent waste through filtration plants before pumping it into the Gulf. Although the Glades County Sanitary District (GCSD) usually is able to handle the county’s sewage, during heavy rains the runoff from paved surfaces exceeds sewer capacity and must be diverted past filtration plants, directly in to the Gulf. Following heavy rains, the beaches are cluttered with dead fish and debris. The Gulf fishing trade also is affected; pollution drives away desirable fish. Recently, the water pollution level has become high enough to damage both the tourist and fishing trade. Besides coastal pollution, there is also concern that as the population continues to increase, the county’s primary fresh water source, Glades River, will also become polluted.

The GCSD has been mandated to prepare a comprehensive water waste management program that will reverse the trend in pollution along the Gulf Coast as well as handle the expected increase in effluent wastes over the next 20 years. Although not yet specified, it is known that the program will include new sewers, filtration plants, and stricter anti-pollution laws. As a first step, GCSD must establish the overall direction and mission of the program.

Wherever possible, answer the following questions (given the limited information, it is okay to advance some logical guesses; if you are not able to answer a question for lack of information, indicate how and where, as a systems analyst, you would get it):


1. What is the system? What are its key elements and subsystems? What are the boundaries and how are they determined? What is the environment?

2. Who are the decision makers?

3. What is the problem? Carefully formulate it.

4. Define the overall objective of the water waste management program. Because the program is wide-ranging in scope, you should break this down into several sub- objectives.

5. Define the criteria or measures of performance to be used to determine whether the objectives of the program are being met. Specify several criteria for each sub-objective. As much as possible, the criteria should be quantitative, although some qualitative measures should also be included. How will you know if the criteria that you define are the appropriate ones to use?

6. What are the resources and constraints?

7. Elaborate on the kinds of alternatives and range of solutions to solving the problem.

8. Discuss some techniques that could be used to help evaluate which alternatives are best.


Case 4 West Coast University Medical center

(This is a true story.) West Coast University Medical Center (Pseudonym) is a large university teaching and research hospital with a national reputation for excellence in health care practice, education, and research. Always seeking to sustain that reputation, the senior executive board at the Medical Center (WCMC) decided to install a comprehensive medical diagnostic system. The system would be linked to WCMC’s computer servers and be available to physicians via the computer network. Because every physician’s office at WCMC has a PC, doctors and staff could access the system from these offices as well as from their homes or private-practice offices. By simply clicking icons to access a medical specialty area, then keying in answers to queries about a patient’s symptoms, medical history, and so on, a physician could get a list of diagnostics with associated statistics.

The senior board sent a questionnaire to manager in every department about needs in their areas and how they felt the system might improve doctor’s performances. Most managers felt it would save the doctor’s time and improve their performances. The hospital computing and information systems (CIS) group was assigned to investigate the cost and feasibility of implementing the system. CIS staff interviewed medical-center managers and software vendors specializing in diagnostic systems. The study showed high enthusiasm among the respondents and a long list of potential benefits. Based on the study report, the senior board approved the system.

The CIS manager contacted three well-known consulting firms that specialized in medical diagnostic systems and invited each to give a presentation. Based on the presentations, he chose one firm to assist the CIS group in identifying, selecting, and integrating several software packages into a single, complete diagnostic system.

One year and several million dollars later the project was completed. However, within a year of its completion it was clear that the system had failed. Although it did everything the consultants and software vendors had promised, the few doctors that did access it complained that many of the system “benefits” were irrelevant, and that certain features they desired were lacking.


1. Why was the system a failure?

2. What was the likely cause of its lack of use?

3. What steps or procedures were absent or poorly handled in the project conception phase?


Case 5 X-philes Data Management Corporation

X-philes Data Management Corporation (XDM) requires assistance in tow large projects it is about to undertake: Agentfox and Mulder. Although the projects are comparable in terms of size, technical requirements, and estimated completion time, they are independent and will have their own project managers and teams. Work for both projects is to be contracted to outside consultants.

Two managers at XDM, one assigned each to Agentfox and Mulder, prepare RFPs and send them to several contractors. The RFP for Agentfox includes a statement of work that specifies system performance and quality requirements, a desired completion deadline, and contract conditions. As an incentive, the contractor will receive a bonus for exceeding minimal quality measures and completing the project early, and will be charged a penalty for poor quality and late completion. The project will be tracked using precise quality measures, and the contractor will have to submit detailed monthly status reports. The REP for Mulder simply includes a statement of the type of work to be done, an expected budget limit, and the desired completion date.

Based on proposals received in response to the REPs, the managers responsible for Mulder and Agentfox each select a contractor. Unknown to either manager is that they select the same contractor, Yrisket Systems. Yrisket is selected for the Mulder project because its specified price is somewhat less than the budget limit in the REP, and Yrisket has a good reputation in the business. Yrisket is chosen for the Agentfox contract for similar reasons—good price and good reputation. In responding to the Agentfox REP, Yrisket managers had to work hard to get the price down to the amount specified, but they felt that by doing quality work on the project they could make a tidy profit through the incentive offered.

A few months after the projects are underway, some of Yrisket’s key employees quit their jobs. Thus, to meet their commitments to both projects, Yrisket workers have to work long hours and weekends. It is apparent, however, that these extra efforts might not be enough, especially because Yrisket has a contract with another customer and will have to start a third project in the near future.


1. What do you think will happen?

2. How do you think the crisis facing Yrisket will affect the Mulder project? The Agentfox project?


Case 6 Star-Board Construction/West-Starr Associates

Star-Board Construction (SBC) is the prime contractor for Gargantuan Project, a large skyscraper project in downtown Manhattan. SBC is working directly from drawings received from the architect, West-Starr Associates (WSA). Robert Starr, owner and chief architect of WSA, had designed similar buildings and viewed this one as similar to the others. However, one difference between this building and the others is in its facing, which consists of very large granite slabs—slabs much larger than traditionally used and larger than anything with which either WSA or SBC has had prior experience.

Halfway into project, Kent Star, owner and project manager for SBC, started to receive reports from his site superintendent about recurring problems with window installation. The windows are factory units, premanufactured according to WSA’s specifications. Plans are to install the granite facing on the building according to specifications that allow for dimensional variations in the window units. The architect provided the specification  that a ½-inch tolerance for each window space be made (that is, the window space between granite slabs could vary as much as ¼ inch larger or smaller than the specified value). This created a problem for the construction crew that found the granite slabs too huge to install with such precision. As a result, the spacing between slabs is often too small, making it difficult or impossible to install window units. Most of the 2,000 window units for the building have already been manufactured so it is too late to change their specifications, and most of the granite slabs have been hung on the building. The only recourse for making window units fit into tight spaces would be to grind away or reinstall the granite. It is going to be very expensive and will certainly delay completion of the building.


1. What steps or actions should the architect and contractor have taken before committing to the specifications on the window units and spacing between granite slabs the would have reduced or eliminated this problem?


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