Completing this simulation greatly changed my perspective of project management. The functional discipline of project management as a whole consists of the organization and management of resources so that the project results fall within the scope, time, quality, and cost as set forth and agreed upon with the customer. From the very beginning of the simulation with the story “The Six Blind Men and the Elephant,” I was intrigued. It was interesting to see how each of the men described an elephant, which they have presumably never seen, based upon just a piece of it and compared it to something from their past. They could have never realized how large the elephant was as a whole, especially when they were basing their statements on such small components.
The story concisely covered the old adage “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” That is precisely what project management is; the ability to look at an assignment like pieces of a puzzle and interlock them as smoothly as possible. These kinds of projects are usually a one-time undertaking intended to produce an outcome that is generally unique to the organizations inevitably generating change and value for the entire company.
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Project managers use the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) as a map for achieving project goals. It is important for the project manager to understand the logical flow of the WBS before embarking on the project. This enables managers to effectively plan, execute, monitor, and control the work of the project. In this simulation, the learner will use the project network as a graphic flow chart of the project job plan, sequence the activities of the project, balance time and risk constraints, and deal with contingency situations for a non-governmental organization.
One of the biggest limitations of project management that was identified in the simulation is breakdown. There is always the potential for breakdown in any endeavor which is why planning for such can be critical. Providing backup instructions in the event things do not go as planned with the project helps to alleviate stress among the team members, particularly the project manager who may need to come up with a completely new plan in a very short amount of time.
In completing the simulation, it was my responsibility as the project manager for Operation Elephants’ Ark to ensure that the end-result is not jeopardized by choices made to combat unanticipated bottlenecks throughout the process. Even in the most straight-forward procedures there were elements that could save a great deal of time or completely throw the entire schedule off balance because of a decision.
As the project manager, I had always thought it would not be incredibly difficult as participation is limited in the physical activities of the project but rather being an overseer would be far simpler. It is not, throughout the simulation I was thinking about different tasks and who was completing them in contrast to my position and I think that it would be much more stressful to have the weight of the project on your shoulders rather than deal with a task like loading the elephants or physically tranquilizing them. Although those individuals have no real responsibility other than that given to them by the project manager, they also have no real satisfaction in the end when the project is completed successfully; so there are pros and cons to both sides. However, I have concluded that the pros of being a project manager far outweigh the cons.
Risk is inherent in every project and no amount of planning can completely eliminate risk. During a crisis, the project manager will need to minimize the impact of the event on the project without compromising the scope or the safety of the project. One helpful element of project management that gives a small cushion when in crisis mode is slack time. This refers to the amount of time an activity can be delayed before it becomes critical and affects the overall outcome. The slack time can be increased or decreased throughout the project based upon timeliness of all other aspects over time. It is important for project managers to not only make the best project plans but to be also suitably prepared to tackle contingencies and minimize their impact.
If it is completely mandatory to crunch the project, compromising on time appears to be the lesser of the two evils; however difficult it may be to go against the triple constants of project management. Taking risks in the event of a crisis in an attempt to circumvent ultimate damages to the project regarding time, rather than safety, and cutting corners can lead to even more risks and less time in the end. I am often reminded of the tortoise and the hare in situations like this. In the fable, the tortoise paced himself and did his best forging ahead as strong as possible while the hare took shortcuts and played off of his abilities that he thought would allow him to win effortlessly. Nothing should be taken for granted in project management. There can always be hiccups in reality that offsets the entire plan as it appears on paper.