Business

Franklin Equipment, Ltd.*

Franklin Equipment, Ltd. (FEL), with headquarters and main fabrication facilities

in Saint John, New Brunswick, was founded 75 years ago to fabricate customdesigned

large machines for construction businesses in the Maritime Provinces.

Over the years its product lines became strategically focused on creating

rock-crushing equipment for dam and highway construction and for a few other

markets that require the processing of aggregate. FEL now designs, fabricates, and

assembles stationary and portable rock-crushing plants and services its own products

and those of its competitors.

In the 1970s, FEL began to expand its market from the Maritime Provinces to

the rest of Canada. FEL currently has several offices and fabrication facilities

throughout the country. More recently, FEL has made a concerted effort to market

its products internationally.

Last month, FEL signed a contract to design and fabricate a rock-crushing

plant for a Middle East construction project, called Project Abu Dhabi. Charles

Gatenby secured this contract and has been assigned as project manager. This

project is viewed as a coup because FEL has wanted to open up markets in this

area for a long time and has had difficulty getting prospective customers to realize

that FEL is a Canadian firm and not from the United States. Somehow these customers

view all North American vendors as the same and are reluctant to employ

any of them because of international political considerations.

A project of this scope typically starts with the selection of a team of managers

responsible for various aspects of the design, fabrication, delivery, and installation

of the product. Manager selection is important because the product design and fabrication

vary with the unique needs of each customer. For example, the terrain, rock

characteristics, weather conditions, and logistical concerns create special problems

for all phases of plant design and operations. In addition, environmental concerns

and labor conditions vary from customer to customer and from region to region.

In addition to the project manager, all projects include a design engineer; an

operations manager, who oversees fabrication and on-site assembly; and a cost

accountant, who oversees all project financial and cost reporting matters. Each of

these people must work closely together if a well-running plant is to be delivered

on time and within cost constraints. Because international contracts often require

FEL to employ host nationals for plant assembly and to train them for operations,

a human resource manager is also assigned to the project team. In such cases, the

human resource manager needs to understand the particulars of the plant specifications

and then use this knowledge to design selection procedures and assess

particular training needs. The human resource manager also needs to learn the

relevant labor laws of the customer’s country.

FEL assigns managers to project teams based on their expertise and their availability

to work on a particular project given their other commitments. This typically

means that managers without heavy current project commitments will be

assigned to new projects. For instance, a manager finishing one project will likely

be assigned a management position on a new project team. The project manager

typically has little to say about who is assigned to his or her team.

Case

* Courtesy of John A. Drexler Jr., Oregon State University.

Chapter 11 Managing Project Teams 415

Because he secured Project Abu Dhabi and has established positive working relationships

with the Abu Dhabi customer, Gatenby was assigned to be project manager.

Gatenby has successfully managed similar projects. The other managers assigned to

Project Abu Dhabi are Bill Rankins, a brilliant design engineer, Rob Perry, operations

manager with responsibility for fabrication and installation, Elaine Bruder, finance

and cost accounting manager, and Sam Stonebreaker, human resource manager.

Each of these managers has worked together on numerous past projects.

A few years ago, FEL began contracting for team facilitator services from several

consulting firms to help new project teams operate effectively. Last month,

FEL recruited Carl Jobe from one of these consulting firms to be a full-time internal

consultant. A number of managers, including Gatenby, were so impressed

with Jobe’s skills that they convinced FEL top management of the need to hire a

permanent internal facilitator; Jobe was the obvious choice.

Because Gatenby was instrumental in hiring Jobe at FEL, he was excited at the

prospect of using Jobe to facilitate team building among Project Abu Dhabi team

members. Gatenby was very proud of having secured this project and had expected

to be appointed project manager. He knew that this project’s success would

be instrumental in advancing his own career.

Gatenby told Jobe, “This project is really important to FEL and to me personally.

I really need for you to help us develop into a team that works well together

to achieve the project’s goals within budget. I’ve observed your success in developing

teams on other projects, and I expect you’ll do the same for Project Abu

Dhabi. I’ll take care of you if you help me make this work.”

Jobe outlined for Gatenby how he would proceed. Jobe would begin by interviewing

team members individually to learn their perceptions of each other and of

the promises and pitfalls of being involved in this project. Meetings of the entire

team would follow these interviews using the information he collected to help

establish a team identity and a shared vision.

Jobe interviewed Bruder first. She expressed skepticism about whether the project

could succeed. During the interview, Bruder appeared to be distant, and Jobe

could not figure out why he had not established good rapport with her. Bruder

intimated that she expected a lot of cost overruns and a lot of missed production

deadlines. But not knowing Jobe well, Bruder was reluctant to identify any specific

barriers to the project’s success. While she would not directly say so, it was clear to

Jobe that Bruder did not want to be a part of Project Abu Dhabi. Jobe left this

interview confused and wondering what was going on.

Jobe’s next interview was with Perry, the operations manager. Perry has worked

at FEL for 15 years, and he immediately came to the point: “This project is not

going to work. I cannot understand why upper management keeps assigning me

to work on projects with Rankins. We simply cannot work together, and we don’t

get along. I’ve disliked him from day one. He keeps dropping the fact that he has

earned all these advanced degrees from Purdue. And he keeps telling us how

things are done there. I know he’s better educated than I am, and he’s really smart.

But I’m smart too and am good at what I do. There’s no need for Rankins to make

me feel like an idiot because I don’t have a degree. Jobe, I’ll be honest with you.

Rankins has only been here for five years, but I hold him personally responsible

for my problem with alcohol, and for its resulting effect on my marriage. I got divorced

last year, and it’s Rankins’s fault.”

Jobe next talked with Rankins, who said, “I don’t care what you do. Perry and

I simply can’t work closely together for the nine months it will take to get it done.

One of us will kill the other. Ever since I arrived at FEL, Perry has hated my guts

416 Chapter 11 Managing Project Teams

and does everything he can to sabotage my designs. We usually worry about customers

creating change orders; here it’s the fabrication and operations manager

who is responsible for them. Perry second-guesses everything I do and makes design

changes on his own, and these are always bad decisions. He is out of control.

I swear he stays awake at nights thinking up ways to ruin my designs. I don’t have

this problem with any other manager.”

Jobe left these interviews thoroughly discouraged and could not imagine what

would come up in his interview with Stonebreaker. But Stonebreaker was quite

positive: “I enjoy these international projects where I get to travel abroad and

learn about different cultures. I can’t wait to get started on this.”

Jobe asked Stonebreaker about the ability of various team members to work

together. Stonebreaker replied, “No problem! We’ve all worked together before

and have had no problems. Sure, there have been ruffled feathers and hurt feelings

between Rankins and Perry. Rankins can be arrogant and Perry stubborn, but it’s

never been anything that we can’t work around. Besides, both of them are good at

what they do—both professionals. They’ll keep their heads on straight.”

Jobe was even more bewildered. Gatenby says this project’s success rides on

Jobe’s facilitation skills. The finance manager appears to want off this project

team. The design engineer and operations manager admit they detest each other

and cannot work together. And the human resources manager, having worked on

projects with Perry and Rankins before, expects a rosy working relationship and

anticipates no problems.

Jobe had a second meeting with Gatenby. Before discussing the design of the

team-building sessions, he asked questions to learn what Gatenby thought about

the ability of team members to work together. Gatenby admitted that there has

been very bad blood between Perry and Rankins, but added, “That’s why we hired

you. It’s your job to make sure that the history between those two doesn’t interfere

with Project Abu Dhabi’s success. It’s your job to get them to work well together.

Get it done.”

Their dialogue toward the end of this meeting progressed as follows:

Jobe: “Why do you expect Rankins and Perry to work well together, given

their history? What incentives do they have to do so?”

Gatenby: “As you should know, FEL requires formal goal setting between project

managers and functional managers at the beginning of each project.

I’ve already done this with Bruder, Stonebreaker, Perry, and Rankins.

Perry and Rankins have explicit goals stating they must work well

together and cooperate with each other.”

Jobe: “What happens if they do not meet these goals?”

Gatenby: “I’ve already discussed this with top management. If it appears to me

after two months that things are not working out between Perry and

Rankins, FEL will fire Rankins.”

Jobe: “Does Perry know this?”

Gatenby: “Yes.”

Questions:

1. Evaluate the criteria FEL uses to assign managers to project teams. What efficiencies

do these criteria create? What are the resulting problems?

2. Why is it even more important that project team members work well together

on international projects such as Project Abu Dhabi?

3. Discuss the dilemma that Jobe now faces.

4. What should Jobe recommend to Gatenby?

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