Title: Critical Evaluation of Sodor project team performance on the Sodor oil terminal design, planning and construction

Module Name: Project Management and Control

Sodor Oil Terminal Project

Summary

This critical appraisal seeks to come up with a methodical assessment of the Sodor Oil Terminal, Planning and Construction Project. It involves an analysis of the project and different aspects of the management approach employed by my team (5) from start to finish. The appraisal approaches the exercise from the standpoint that the requisite project management tools and techniques were applied in all phases of the project. The critical appraisal is based on principles and ideas gleaned from project management theories, journals, case studies and real life experiences. In the end, the evaluation concluded that the Sodor Oil Project followed relevant project management tools and techniques and was overall well managed. The report on the project’s critical evaluation mainly draws supportive literature from journals associated with project management.

Introduction

Manzoor et al. (2011) concluded from an evaluation of real life experience and project management literature that project success is a virtually assured outcome if applicable project planning techniques and procedures are used accordingly. These tools and techniques include pertinent planning, effective communication, team work, monitoring and evaluation, exceptional problem-solving ability, change management abilities, delivery reviews, excellent implementation of project strategy, project reviews, milestone checklists, Gantt chart and scorecards among others (Baker and Day, 2006). That being the case, excellent management skills was absolutely paramount for the success of the Sodor Oil Project. At the end of the report, concluding remarks as well as recommendations on project management will be given. The MS Project Baseline Plan at the beginning and the closeout baseline plan are attached to the appendix.

CRITICAL REVIEW OF HOW THE TEAM WAS ORGANISED

The end goal of the Sodor Project was the construction of an Oil Terminal on the isle of Sodor near Kirk, Ronan.

Team formation

The project began with the selection of a five-member team, scheduling of biweekly meetings and set the team’s goals as designing, planning and construction of the terminal.

The frequent meetings were instrumental in enhancing team building as well as in setting specific objectives to guide the team to achieve the intended goals. During the meetings, the team discussed and highlighted the importance of effective communication, team roles, interpersonal leadership skills, and commitment to the project goals. Huang (2013) describes shared leadership as a collective leadership technique which is effective in promoting commitment of members. Kramer and Crespy (2011) concur with this view, arguing that shared leadership enhances a collaborative approach on members of the group. The team duly agreed to follow this approach in implementation of the project. Under this approach, every group member was afforded a chance to exercise leadership over other members of the group periodically and on specific tasks. Wi et al. (2009) cited that, choosing a competent leader for a position of managing a team and having competent members collaborate as a team is a key to accomplishment in a project. For the purpose of precise control, where each member was aware of their specific role, we chose to apply the team role theory as put forward by Belbin (Aritzeta, Swailes, and Senior, 2007). The approach also helped in selecting a manager and assigning specific roles to each member based on their strengths, weaknesses and professional expertise. The team was broken up into five roles; project manager, IT assistant, whom assisted in updating the project plan, assistant project manager, who performed the minute taking, vendor selection investigator, who took the task of selecting the vendor and account/financial officer, produced the cost model for the sodor project. The core role of the manager was that of supervising the project as a whole as well as coordinating and assigning duty to other members of the team (Baker and Day, 2006).

Team Communication

With the absolute need for effective communication and project success in mind as laid out by Ramsing (2009), the team devised a strategy on achieving effective communication throughout the life-cycle of the project; effective communication is necessary for each project as it helps in setting out and achieving outlined objectives in the foreseen timeline. Effective communication and information management are two useful tools in the designing of project management structures (Mazzei and Ravazzani, 2011). In view of this fact, the team decided to apply a variety of communication channels, including phone calls, whatsapp messaging app and email among others. Google Mail and Drop-box were picked as the platforms of choice in sharing project materials, and this was expected to help us to follow the projected project milestones and critical path.

Team Motivation

It is regularly to team member’s greatest advantage to join a project team in order to complete their tasks in a more proficient way (Zhu, Huang and Contractor, 2013). For example, in a situation whereby a team member with less experience and low skills would bring about a high cost; taking quite a long time or a high risk of inability to finish a task by themselves. In this way, the team member has more utilitarian needs to collaborate with other team members to accomplish assigned tasks. In addition, by working in teams and watching other team members carry out tasks, low-skilled members might learn from highly-skilled team members and enhance their skills. However, few members of the team had little or less skills in utilising the MS project tool during the Sodor project plan, hence we adopted a mutual interest and collective action to motivate the team for effective collaborative work.

Team Commitment

In a project team, the success of the team falls apart when the team members lack commitment. Commitment is one of the main considerations to aid the project to enhance and accomplish its objectives; every member of the team putting in their best amid the time of work as team members. When the project team members are committed, everyone in the team will appreciate sojourning and performing towards the development of the team. According to Permarupan et al. (2013) Team commitment is the strength of the team members’ identification with the objectives of the project team. At this point, the project team members discovered how important each and every member was to the team, and how helpful we would be to the project.

Vanvuuren et al. (2008) Suggested that team standard and guideline comparability are the strong structure of good conduct and commitment. Once the project team is committed to the tasks being carried out, all team members will definitely acquire more skills we didn’t possess.

Time Factor

Time has always been the most valuable factor in our lives, and this is one of the good things I have learnt from working in a project team. However, there were some time constraints that affected some team members, such as; family issues (picking up kids from school, travelling to home country: family in crisis, and etc.); being absent from few meetings and peer review during the sodor project game, but the team connectedness enabled us to work collaboratively to achieve our designated goals.

Douglas, Bore and Munro, (2015) describes time management as personality functioning and self regulated learning. Arguing that team members with these behaviours; plans, organise, set goals, self monitoring and self evaluation, and as well as reporting high self efficacy, attributions and intrinsic interest in any task. To support this view, Claessen et al. (2007) Specified time management behaviour as practices that aim at accomplishing an effective utilisation of time while carrying out certain objective coordinated exercises.

CRITICAL EVALUATION OF THE PROJECT

Burger and Josler (2005) Outline planning, organising, control, monitoring, and activities scheduling as an essential project flow path in project management. On the part of this project, the use of a project management methodology was a crucial step in achieving our goals. In this section I will assess the project through the planning, control, monitoring, and closeout phases.

Planning

According to Prabhakar (2008), the planning phase of any project is targeted at defining a workable schedule to organise and guide the team in achieving the objectives of the project. Sudhakar (2012) additionally credits the use of a well-designed plan with inculcating a sense of responsibility in each team member, with the intended outcome of keeping the project objectives within the set timeframe.

We employed the MS Project in the Sodor project to help with scheduling of project activities from start to finish. We used the Gantt chart to calculate the estimated project completion time, even if we surpassed the foreseen timeframe as a result of a misstep at the initial stage. Additionally, we used the predetermined critical path to keep track of project activities throughout their implementation cycle. This approach enabled us to bring back on track any task that had derailed. Due to imprudent utilisation of resources, we were not able to integrate overtime into the project workflow structure. Sun and Meng (2009) emphasize the uncertain nature of project implementation, with unexpected changes likely to come up during the process. Owing to the resultant random contingencies, we were unable to control the costs and as such ended up exceeding the project budget. This is in line with Latif, Baloch, and Khan (2011) assertion that failure to put proper budgeting procedures in place can precipitate huge challenges. The Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier Project which cost double the initially allocated amount is a good example of poor budgeting processes, with huge inconveniences arising from this error.

The planning process also involved the drafting of minutes of meetings, which outlined the activities that were to be carried out each week. Sun and Meng (2009) cite minutes-taking as an important activity as it enables project implementers to comprehend different aspects of the project such as size, deadlines and objectives. Our minutes for the Sodor Project were shared with different project stakeholders in order to convey important information regarding the aforementioned aspects of the project. In the planning phase, the team also designs a baseline project plan which indicates the activities and resource requirements for use in the project implementation phase. In view of new information arising in the course of the project, it is important to mention that the baseline changed frequently during the project implementation phase.

A risk assessment exercise- a critical tool in project management- was also part of the planning process for the Sodor Project. This was crucial in determining the standards that were necessary for the successful completion of the development (Iyer & Reckers, 2008). As in the universal approach, the project involved the identification of the causes of uncertainty, the approximation of likely outcomes from these uncertainties and the initiation of a reaction to the projected outcome. Lawson (2005) defines risk assessment as a structured procedure that seeks to establish the extent and likelihood of certain outcomes in a project. For instance, with the Sodor project relying on outside suppliers for materials; it was important to establish what the consequences of the supplier failing to deliver these materials would be. The next step involved an overall assessment of the vendors to ensure that they met the required rating of the project. This was an important step in reducing the likelihood of project failure. Bent (2005) supports this view, asserting that an overall assessment is a prominent way of ensuring required project standards.

In a further effort to streamline the implementation process, we conducted environmental impact assessment and risk assessment among a variety of other appraisal efforts. According to Kabir and Momtaz (2013) an environmental impact assessment is necessary in order to study and reduce the probable impacts of a project like Sodor on the environment. We duly conducted an environmental impact evaluation in accordance with this recommendation. Some unforeseen occurrences in this regard include oil spillage due to pipe leaks which would be catastrophic to human and animal life. The infamous BP oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 is an example in this case, with huge long-term implications to both human and aquatic life reported. Further considerations of private and public health policy both locally and internationally also added weight to the necessity of such an exercise (Fischer & Jha Thakur, 2013).

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