Posted: November 7th, 2023
Midterm Paper: Ajax Project Case Study
February 1, 2022
Midterm Paper: Ajax Project Case Study
In the contemporary, dynamic and competitive world, project managers play a critical role in ensuring projects cope with unexpected events. Success in traditional project management emphasizes long-term planning and stability in controlling risks. In contrast, modern-day managers face more complex problems, which require a combination of conventional and agile methods to reduce risk and improve project performance. The Ajax case study is a good example of such compound challenges in modern project management. The project manager, Tran, displays a focus on strong management and leadership. Although Tran faces frequent challenges, he is an effective project manager because he provides communication, direction, motivation and group facilitation for better team performance.
Tran as a Project Manager
Tran is a reliable and effective project manager who does his level best to ensure the success of the Ajax project. According to Fapohunda (2013), successful leaders motivate and inspire people towards common goals. Tran employed money as an incentive for motivating employees to perform better. The leader offered a bonus to his group to complete the project on schedule. Tran also motivated the team through team building. One of the main objectives of team development is to inspire employees towards a climate of collaboration and problem-solving (Fapohunda, 2013). Tran organized a two-day team-building exercise for the entire team, which improved cooperation between hardware and electrical engineers.
Tran understood the importance of effective communication in guaranteeing project success. One key characteristic of a successful project manager is superior communication skills (Kerzner, 2018). When the Alpha two test failed, demotivating the team, Tran responded through daily status meetings. The communication platform allowed the leader to set new objectives for the day, which was beneficial in establishing a positive momentum. Communication is important in ensuring all parties share the same interests and work well with each other.
Functional and Dysfunctional Conflict
Poor wage and salary policies are an example of functional conflict in the Ajax project. Kerzner (2018) defines functional conflict as discrepancies associated with organizational policies, goals and objectives. The case study discusses the tension between hardware and electrical engineers, centred on salary issues. The younger, more tech-savvy electrical engineers received bigger pay than the older, more experienced hardware engineers. The policy-based conflict provides management with an opportunity to reflect and rethink its wage structure to better motivate staff.
Generational differences were the main cause of dysfunctional conflict in the Ajax project. Dysfunctional conflict can emerge from personal differences on non-work related issues, such as religious belief systems (Kerzner, 2018). According to the case study, the older hardware engineers came from conservative families, making them more conformist. On the other hand, the younger electrical engineers were rocky, open-minded and adventurous. The generational differences could promote interpersonal hostilities at CEBEX. Such an event would lower employee satisfaction with the work environment. The eventual result would be a reduction in project performance.
The Ajax project faces a scheduling risk following the constant Alpha test failures. Mentis (2015) defines scheduling risk as project tasks and activities taking longer than initially estimated. The project issue is a result of poor planning. After failing to pass the Alpha two test, the Ajax project lost three weeks to software debugging. To make matters worse, it is unknown how long the team will take to solve the problem underlying the Alpha three test failure. Scheduling risk is closely associated with increased operational costs and a reduction in project benefits.
The Ajax project also faces a decline in employee morale and performance. Employee motivation is essential to ensuring workers deliver the best work they can (Fapohunda, 2013). Ajax project employees no longer expect to earn a bonus following the three weeks lost to debugging. The case study equally highlights that Tran is left looking down at the employees as they walk individually to their cars after the third test failure. The description suggests a strong feeling of disappointment and admission of defeat among the employees.
The Ajax project risks a widening gap between the employees and management. A failure in the reward system in a project can cause workers to reject emerging project management initiatives (Fapohunda, 2013). The Alpha test three failure demoralized the Ajax team while making the leader appear ineffective in the eyes of the team members. The project needs a small win to enhance employee acceptance and commitment. The perception of progress is equally important in improving employee confidence in the project’s leadership.
Tran needs to put measures in place to prevent scheduling risks going forwards. Successful project managers plan for the long-term but include regular plan reviews to accommodate changes in scope requirements (Mentis, 2015). Instead of waiting for Alpha tests at the end of each project phase, the Ajax team should integrate regular assessments to identify possible risks and assumptions. Scheduling risk management is dependent on periodic assessments and suggestions for project adjustments. It is difficult for project managers to see beyond the horizon; therefore, planning regular reviews helps avoid scheduling errors from occurring in a project.
The Ajax team needs to enhance its accountability for individual roles to reduce the time taken to identify and address errors. Zhou et al. (2020) employ their decades of experience as school administrators to promote the adoption of daily check-ins to combat complacency and inaction in project teams. After the third test failure, the Ajax team feels unmotivated and unconnected to the project. The introduction of daily check-ins will help enhance employee attention to individual roles while reiterating the value each team member brings to the project.
The Ajax project needs a reward system that counters the effects of the test failures. Zhou et al. (2020) advocate for the implementation of group reward systems due to their impact on team participation and productivity. Given that the Ajax team will not be receiving a bonus, Tran should introduce profit-sharing as an additional incentive. The group benefits from the collective work at the end of the project. Such an approach will encourage the employees to recommit to the project after the Alpha test failure.
Importance of Team Building
It was essential that Tran conduct formal team-building sessions to establish trust and cohesion in the team. A metadata analysis of scientific studies covering team building in the acute care setting outlines that most department heads believed team building influenced how team members felt around each other (Miller et al. 2018). Tran needed to find a way to address the generational divide affecting how Ajax team members perceived each other. Tran was able to foster a proactive environment for sharing ideas and listening to each other through the team-building sessions. As a result, the old and young team members could learn to rely on each other despite the cultural differences.
Tran had to find a way to foster creativity and learning in the project, explaining his use of the team-building sessions. Literature informs that effective team building encourages workers to learn from each other, build on each other’s skills and bring together the collective experiences to create innovative ideas to existing problems (Miller et al. 2018). Following the Alpha three test failure, Tran needed to develop a new pathway for recovering and completing the project. Formal team building sessions provided the opportunity to brainstorming ideas. Moreover, learning from each other allows room for new perspectives and ideas.
While the Ajax project has faced several challenges, it does not display signs of poor management or leadership. Tran is a good example of a reliable and effective project manager. The leader leverages communication, financial incentives and team building sessions to establish an effective team characterized by trust, creativity and high performance. However, the leader needs to put measures to prevent scheduling risks and the decline in employee morale. Going forwards, Tran and the entire Ajax team will have to use the team building sessions to consider changes to the work culture, work processes and organizational structure. How well the team functions together will determine whether the Ajax project is completed in time.
Fapohunda, T. M. (2013). Towards effective team building in the workplace. International Journal of Education and Research, 1(4), 1-12.
Kerzner, H. (2018). Project management best practices: Achieving global excellence. John Wiley & Sons.
Mentis, M. (2015). Managing project risks and uncertainties. Forest Ecosystems Journal, 2(2), 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40663-014-0026-z
Miller, C. J., Kim, B., Silverman, A., & Bauer, M. S. (2018). A systematic review of team-building interventions in non-acute healthcare settings. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1), 146. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-018-2961-9
Zhou, Q., Mao, J. Y., & Tang, F. (2020). Don’t be afraid to fail because you can learn from it! How intrinsic motivation leads to enhanced self-development and benevolent leadership as a boundary condition. Frontiers in Psychology, 11(699). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00699
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