Here is a paper I wrote for a Project Management Applications class I took in 2009. This class was a high-pressure class, and one of the best I have ever taken. In the class, each group had to develop a product, "sell it", and each participant had to simulate a rough day at the office as a project manager. You didn't know in advance which day you would be expected to be the project manager. When you weren't the one being the project manager, you still had to function as a project contributor in your group.
This paper is an analysis of the dynamics of our group in the Project Management Applications class that took place from 8/17 – 8/19. Our group consisted of six people: Edwin, Herman, Jane, Julia, Mary, and myself. Our backgrounds were diverse on many measures, including our years on the job and experience in project management. The majority of us had minor project manage experience, consisting of being team members on projects using project management principles. My real-life experience was having worked on several teams that use project management terms and documents, such as project proposals, change requests, and lessons learned. One member, however, worked directly on projects and had experience reading contracts.
Over the time of the class, each member learned more about project management activities, principles, themselves, and working with others to complete a difficult task. Much like the typical stages of a project, the days of the class, from 8/17 to 8/19, and the tasks completed over the days, can be considered the Forming, Storming, and Norming stages that took place in our group. Each person helped, in their own way, to move the team from stage to stage. This paper will focus specifically on how I helped move the team along, and general observations.
For the first few units of the class, we were not only struggling to come up with a team, logo, and song, but also learning how to communicate with each other and gauge each other’s experience level in project management. This is only natural, since the class, and the complexity of the tasks were new to us at this stage. At this early stage, we had to create group rules and roles and responsibilities, which at this stage were difficult to strictly adhere to. For my part, I came up with the name “ThirstBusters” for our team, as well as the idea for the logo and parts of the song. I was also trying to “break the ice” by talking to people and get ideas flowing. Luckily, everyone in the group has worked together before, although not all at the same time, so ice-breaking was easy. In addition, our group was very outgoing, so discussing matters was relatively simple. I was the first in the group to do a presentation for the class because at this stage no one wanted to present. It is interesting to note, that as more people took ownership in the later tasks, group members simply volunteered to present on the topics that they were directly responsible for, as assigned by the Project Manager.
For the fourth and fifth units of the class, we were having lively debates and exchanging information more efficiently. We were still struggling somewhat with being efficient and thorough, but we were more organized in general. We also engaged in more sports and things not directly related with the project to earn our group points. I helped type up several documents, including the Project Requirements Document. I made efforts to keep time, and keep the sub-group on task, for example, when we were listing the risks. I also volunteered to write items on the chart for the group. Additionally, I made many points in the basketball game. As a whole, we tried to make our points outside of sports and sucking up, based on principle. I believe at this stage the project manager evaluation and feedback was easier to fill-out and give verbally.
For the sixth unit of the class, we were very productive. We may have not finished a section entirely to our satisfaction, but we typically did finish. Moreover, we completed more work than the first two units combined. Part of the reason for this was that we were assigning work by what we knew each other was good at. For example, Mary and I were good at the risk stuff, so we got all risk-related tasks assigned to us throughout the project. Herman and Julia got all pricing tasks, which was suited to their backgrounds, and they did excellent navigating those huge documents and oceans of numbers. Lastly, Edwin and Jane got schedule tasks. We would also assist other sub-groups when we were completed with our sub-group tasks. For example, if I was done with risk evaluation, I would help out with the schedule or pricing. We also stood behind our decisions more, both to ourselves and when speaking to upper management in the simulation. Looking back, we thought if we had to develop a team name and logo now it would be extremely easy. I was one of the members who did all the risk-related tasks at this stage, such as risk re-identification, assessment, ranking and re-ranking, and planning. I also typed up the risk planning document. I made efforts to applaud all project managers, Edwin particularly, for their handling of complex, high-stress project tasks in a short amount of time.
In this class our group evolved from knowing little, to knowing more, to knowing a lot more than when we started. I believe I can speak for the group when I say that we are now more competent to handle various tasks if we were on a project team or if we became a project manager in the future. As far as my ability, I am now more confident that I can perform in a group, sub-group, and do some tasks on my own. I am more confident in reading contracts, compiling, interpreting, and organizing information, documenting my work, brainstorming, and risk analysis.
At first, I was annoyed that the example of the beverage delivery system was so foreign to us, and I thought “Why do I care about this?” and “No matter the activities, I won’t like it because the examples are made-up”, and I started thinking about words for a nasty review (not against the teacher, of course, but against the class content). However, about mid-way through the class, it occurred to me that while this is an exercise in frustration, it is purposely designed that way! That is, no matter how good a group does, no matter how well prepared, Will, or another higher-up, will ask us to prove our work, will challenge us, will ask us for documentation, or other reasons. This purposeful frustration and challenging is preparing us better than a more work-related project would, for example a survey or census. This is because for a survey or census we would have some familiarity, and we would be in our comfort zone from the start, which is not going to challenge us. So while the project is made-up, it is, in a way, realistic, because we will definitely get challenged outside the classroom.
To summarize this class, a diamond can only be made by applying pressure, a lot of it, to coal. Our group started out as coal, and we’re on our way to diamond after we finish the project management classes and get more real-world project experience. In the future, I will apply what I learned from the class and my group, especially the risk analysis (although probably I will have more numbers to do quantitative analysis), lessons learned, and interpersonal skills, to projects I will be working on, and contribute to their success.
I hope you found this paper interesting! Please go check out some project management classes that your work may offer or that you can take on your own. I sincerely believe they will enrich your life.
If you enjoyed any of my content, please consider supporting it in a variety of ways: