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Firecracker: how the project could have been approached at strategic level
Project Firecracker: The value of strategy
The case study Project Firecracker chronicles the issues which arise as a result of the National's ill-fated venture called Project Firecracker. When the chief engineer of National, was in negotiations with another company for a contract, he learned that a potentially lucrative deal had been rejected outright by the sales department, given that National currently did not have the capacity to produce the part. However, given the size of the deal, the chief engineer was certainly open to this project. His company possessed the expertise to manufacture the part and to satisfy the needs for the project would only require one additional new machine, the costs of which would be far less than the money gained via the contract (Kerzner 2013: 93).
The chief engineer had no idea why company's sales vice president, had refused the offer. However, he did understand that the situation indicated a profound problem with how National was managed. Instead of the strategic sharing of knowledge that takes place at other major corporations, National was a bifurcated organization -- even when one department knew how to do something very well, it had little knowledge of the expertise of other areas of the company because of the barriers which existed to sharing knowledge and planning. This is why strategic project management was so essential for National for it to take advantage of its full capabilities. Eventually, the fate of Project Firecracker was an unhappy one-National lost the project. "Hours were wasted because of poor communications, nonuniform priorities, and the fact that there was no project manager" (Kerzner 2013: 96). National learned the hard way that without someone to steer the ship of the organization, it was adrift, no matter how capable its individual personnel might be or how strong different aspects of the company might be as an enclosed entity.
A review of the company's standard operating procedures
The common cliche that if you will something to be it will come to fruition is not necessarily the case with project management. With the creation of any new product, it is vitally important that the project engineer work with the production design manager to ensure that there is harmony between the marketing of the product and what the product is actually designed to do. National did make some attempts to ensure that this was the case but its corporate structure was clumsy. "Many times a product design is too ambitious an undertaking or cannot be economically produced. Interaction between both departments is essential to working out such problems" (Kerzner 2013: 92). However, the way the company was structured; such interactions were inevitably forced and orchestrated after the fact, rather than evolved seamlessly in conjunction with the generation of the original project.
Furthermore, customer specifications may be unrealistic. But at National "in such a case the project engineer contacts the product design department, which contacts the sales department, which in turn contacts the customer" (Kerzner 2013: 92). Rather than having all departments work together with the customer from day 1, instead there was a clumsy and inefficient 'vetting' process. This also resulted in customer frustrations, because a customer might assume that project specifications were approved if he or she spoke with, for example, the sales department, who then, after consulting with the project engineer would then learn that such a design was not feasible. The process as it currently exists is overly lengthy and costs the company additional money and time without a clear reason. It also creates bad public relations between the company and customers and creates an impression of incompetence.
Furthermore, despite these imperfect attempts by the company to create coherence between customer demands, project objectives, and the needs of engineers, there are notable discrepancies in terms of the 'chain of command.' For example, "the engineering department has no authority over time study, production, product design or other areas" (Kerzner 2013: 92). This can create an unfortunate gap between the dreams of the design team and the needs of engineers. Rather than having the engineers merely correct potential mistakes after they occur, having different areas of the company work together strategically would be a far more efficient process.
The value of project management
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Strategic Project Management: Project Firecracker National Corporation is a big name in the industry and is operating successfully for more than hundred years. The company has annual sales of about $600 million and there are around 8000 employees. The company is a large multinational and produces specialty machines, components, and tools for different automotive and aircraft manufacturing companies. The organizational structure of the company is strictly mechanistic and bureaucratic. The company is
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