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Chapter 1. Project Management and the Problem of Politics - Pg. 1

1 Chapter 1. Project Management and the Problem of Politics Tim Robinson has a problem. Sitting at his desk after yet another in a seemingly endless round of project planning meetings, he is beginning to wonder if his project will ever get off the ground. Tim, a bright young engineer, two years out of graduate school, is excited about his job as a software engineer with a major computer manufacturer. He has worked on several project teams since he joined the firm, and less than three months ago was given his first project to manage. The project, an upgrade of a popular system integration program, was considered important but not overly dif- ficult to manage. Now, reflecting on recent events, Tim is not sure if it is even possible to complete the upgrade. Problems started almost immediately after Tim was assigned the task of running the project. He set up a series of meetings with senior managers to get their support for the project and commitment of their personnel to staff the team. Quickly it became clear that, while never being overtly hostile, the managers--by and large--viewed his project as intrusive and were reluctant to commit them- selves or their resources to his goals. Tim's frustrations were encapsulated in a recent conversation with a senior manager in the diag- nostics department. Diagnostics, charged with debugging all program code, is integral to the suc- cess of the program upgrade. Sitting at his desk, reflecting back on his rather one-sided conversation with Ed, the diagnostics manager, Tim felt bewildered and angry by the messages he received. Tim told Ed, "I have to get a firm commitment from you for two of your people before we can kick off the upgrade project. The preliminary schedule I sent you last week shows they will need to be available on more or less a full-time basis within a month of project start-up." "Well, Tim, the problem is that you're doing this at a real busy time in my schedule," Ed replied. "I'm already running these people at 40-plus hours per week and we're already committed to a full slate of projects into the early part of the fiscal year." "Ed, I appreciate your concerns," Tim said, "but the folks at the top want this project to move fast. You know if we don't meet the September launch window we lose any market advantage the up- grade could give us." Ed, clearly becoming irritated, said he knew the schedule, thought it was totally unrealistic and made clear he wouldn't "give up two of his people on a full-time basis when (Tim) whistle(s) for them." Trying to control his mounting frustration, Tim replied, "Look, Ed, I know you have your hands full, but if we don't get this project moving, top management is ..." "Is what?," Ed interrupted. "You keep referring to top management. Who are you talking about? Who's backing this project?" "Well, you know," Tim tried to explain, "upper management wants this upgrade on the market as fast as ..."