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Project ‘Save Miner’

SNE Heavy Equipment, is working with Cold Stone Minerals, a mining company, as their project consultant in Nunavut in Aberness, Scotland. The Project Manager is Alfred E. Newman and he has a team of ten people on the job. The project is about prospecting mining sites with prospecting computer equipment purchased from Brainy Systems (BS) Inc. The payment to SNE Heavy Equipment is subject to the identified site yielding precious minerals. I work at SNE and have just received an SOS communication from my Director to proceed to Aberness since the project there has been a complete disaster.

The computerized locator is not able to prospect correctly; and SNE is losing money since each identification costs a few thousand dollars, but since yield is negative, Cold Stone does not pay them, as per the terms of the charter. It is difficult when I look at the scenario- the system deployed by us for the client, Cold Stone Minerals, has given incorrect data, and the team has not been able to sort it out. On further investigation, it has been found that the computer system being used for locating or prospecting has never been tested outside a laboratory, which makes it vulnerable to error in real life situations.

Also that a 10% error quotient exists anyway at the current level of the system, and the project team and our organization have known about it all along. It also comes to light that we have lost or misplaced any documents and reports on the key tests conducted on the computer from Brainy Systems (BS) Inc. , and there are no back-ups either for us to stake our claim on BS Inc. There have been gaps in communication between our team and the client, which have boomeranged on our trust and work charter.

Our integrity is in doubt since we have not delivered on our promise. The point about the error probability has not been communicated to the client, or built into the charter or agreement. While the Project Manager has suffered loss of face with the client, his own team has begun to resent him because of his irrational behaviour and poor management skills. He has been rather inconsiderate in preventing his people from going home to London, on the pretext of cutting costs to make the project viable- but it has resulted in loss of efficiency and motivation.

Added to this, the Project Manager does not enjoy a very efficient reputation back home and I wonder why he has been assigned such a critical project delivery. In all fairness to the Project Manager, he has tried to make the project cost effective, but unwittingly he has cut down on essential expenses which have exposed gaps in the project implementation. He has not signed the maintenance contract with BS Inc. with a view to saving money, and instead has gotten his team trained to troubleshoot on their own, but it has not worked well at all.

The irate and dissatisfied client has declined to spend any more money to rectify the mistakes in project implementation, or extend the efforts since they have exhausted their budgets. After my arrival in Aberness, I have had occasion for one meeting with the Project Manager, his team, and two representatives from Cold Stone Minerals, our client who insisted on being there, and it has been an extremely unsatisfactory experience. This is a clear case of an unsuccessful project execution. The Project leader, Alfred E. Newman has a difficult case on hand, which I have to now analyse and rectify.

As next steps, my first thought is to get my team who worked with me successfully on the project in Barbados, and turn the Aberness project around. As per my Director’s communication, I have only three weeks. And maybe it will be better to work with the team which is already on the project, to cut down on initiation and orientation time. The first thing I need to do is to find out what exactly has gone wrong and why; so I must hold a detailed meeting with the Project Manager and his team. Then I must know what the client thinks of the entire situation and find out their levels of confidence in us.

Knowing that they are most unwilling to shell out more money, I have to think of a way of managing within available resources. I also have to go back to BS Inc. and discuss with them our way forward- we are long term business partners and we have not been prudent in this particular dealing. But keeping in mind the ongoing relationship, I must have their cooperation on this. I also have a nagging suspicion on why the computer gave inaccurate results in Aberness which experiences severely low temperatures, when it was relatively better and 90% accurate in the warmer towns of Dorset, London, etc; and I am keen to probe this hunch.

Therefore the project ‘Save Miner’ is born. Project Organization To add to the problems, the responsibility of the failure is on SNE Heavy Equipment, who works on the project for Cold Stone Minerals, located in Nunavut, Aberness, Scotland. Brainy Systems (BS) Inc. is the supplier of the faulty computer system which is used for prospecting by SNE Heavy Equipment, but ultimately it will cost SNE a hefty amount in the form of a project contract refund if Cold Stone Minerals decides to withdraw the charter. Current responsibility matrix, as it was before I step in, with Work in Progress (WIP) status, appended as Annexure 1.

Fact finding session The immediate task before me is now to get to the root of the problem. For this, my first target is Alfred, the Project Manager, who is already so defensive that it is difficult to get straight facts out of him. I must be careful to interact with him as a team mate, and not as a person who I will replace for the remaining tenure. He needs to brief me totally and candidly, with the least amount of hang-ups or resentment. This is where my leadership skills come to the fore- I lead from the front and simultaneously adopt a bottoms up approach to get a true understanding of the situation.

This complete understanding will facilitate my actions and help me in steering the project back on track. My attitude is conciliatory, not condemning. His problem is now my problem too. The blanks can be filled by Alfred’s team, in whom I must inspire the confidence to pick up where they left off, and take the project forward again. I have to be strong, balanced, proactive, motivating. My key task is to take stock of the situation and communicate a clear goal, win the team’s commitment and confidence through appropriate empowerment and motivation, win client’s trust, initiate a result oriented agenda and turn the project around.

The project must not fail- I must not lose my client. Project Initiation Document Executive Summary Project ‘Save Miner’ is essentially an effort to salvage a mining project gone wrong. The Project Manager along with his project team of ten has neglected the basic tenets of successful execution, including managerial capabilities, as well as people skills and technical excellence, and SNE Heavy Equipment is on the verge of losing a big ticket client in Nunavut, Aberness in Scotland.

Cold Stone Minerals, the client, wished to cancel the charter with SNE Heavy Equipment and expects them to refund the Project contract investment money which is close to US $ 1,300,000. The paradox being, that the responsibility for the failure is not so much on SNE as on the technology suppliers, Brainy Systems (BS) Inc. who have installed the computers for prospecting precious metals. The computer has continuously given incorrect data and the sites prospected have not yielded any precious stones, which has cost SNE dearly. However, the Project Manager is at fault for poor planning, coordination and implementation.

I am asked to step in as a trouble shooter and turn the situation around in exactly three weeks. The challenge is intimidating; but I like to take my chances. I set about systematically analysing the scenario, establishing our mistakes and acknowledging gaps in our relationship with Cold Stone Minerals, which will help me frame a corrective plan of action once my charter goes through successfully. I create timelines for these three weeks which are very critical for my career and assess risks and constraints. The project ‘Save Miner’ is born.

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