The ill-fated Trophy Project was in trouble right from the start. Reichart, who had been an assistant project manager, was involved with the project from its conception. When the Trophy Project was accepted by the company, Reichart was assigned as the project manager. The program schedules started to slip from day one, and expenditures were excessive. Reichart found that the functional managers were charging direct labor time to his project but working on their own “pet” projects. When Reichart complained of this, he was told not to meddle in the functional manager’s allocation of resources and budgeted expenditures. After approximately six months, Reichart was requested to make a progress report directly to corporate and division staffs. Reichart took this opportunity to bare his soul. The report substantiated that the project was forecasted to be one complete year behind schedule. Reichart’s staff, as supplied by the line managers, was inadequate to stay at the required pace, let alone make up any time that had already been lost. The estimated cost at completion at this interval showed a cost overrun of at least 20 percent.
This was Reichart’s first opportunity to tell his story to people who were in a position to correct the situation. The result of Reichart’s frank, candid evaluation of the Trophy Project was very predictable. Nonbelievers finally saw the light, and the line managers realized that they had a role to play in the completion of the project. Most of the problems were now out in the open and could be corrected by providing adequate staffing and resources. Corporate staff ordered immediate remedial action and staff support to provide Reichart a chance to bail out his program. The results were not at all what Reichart had expected. He no longer reported to the project office; he now reported directly to the operations manager. Corporate staff’s interest in the project became very intense, requiring a 7:00 A.M. meeting every Monday morning for complete review of the project status and plans for recovery.
Reichart found himself spending more time preparing paperwork, reports, and projections for his Monday morning meetings than he did administering the Trophy Project. The main concern of corporate was to get the project back on schedule. Reichart spent many hours preparing the recovery plan and establishing manpower requirements to bring the program back onto the original schedule. Group staff, in order to closely track the progress of the Trophy Project, assigned an assistant program manager. The assistant program manager determined that a sure cure for the Trophy Project would be to computerize the various problems and track the progress through a very complex computer program. Corporate provided Reichart with twelve additional staff members to work on the computer program. In the meantime, nothing changed. The functional managers still did not provide adequate staff for recovery, assuming that the additional manpower Reichart had received from corporate would accomplish that task.
After approximately $50,000 was spent on the computer program to track the problems, it was found that the program objectives could not be handled by the computer. Reichart discussed this problem with a computer supplier and found that $15,000 more was required for programming and additional storage capacity. It would take two months for installation of the additional storage capacity and the completion of the programming. At this point, the decision was made to abandon the computer program. Reichart was now a year and a half into the program with no prototype units completed. The program was still nine months behind schedule with the overrun projected at 40 percent of budget. The customer had been receiving his reports on a timely basis and was well aware of the fact that the Trophy Project was behind schedule. Reichart had spent a great deal of time with the customer explaining the problems and the plan for recovery. Another problem that Reichart had to contend with was that the vendors who were supplying components for the project were also running behind schedule.
One Sunday morning, while Reichart was in his office putting together a report for the client, a corporate vice president came into his office. “Reichart,” he said, “in any project I look at the top sheet of paper and the man whose name appears at the top of the sheet is the one I hold responsible. For this project your name appears at the top of the sheet. If you cannot bail this thing out, you are in serious trouble in this corporation.” Reichart did not know which way to turn or what to say. He had no control over the functional managers who were creating the problems, but he was the person who was being held responsible. After another three months the customer, becoming impatient, realized that the Trophy Project was in serious trouble and requested that the division general manager and his entire staff visit the customer’s plant to give a progress and “get well” report within a week. The division general manager called Reichart into his office and said, “Reichart, go visit our customer.
Take three or four functional line people with you and try to placate him with whatever you feel is necessary.” Reichart and four functional line people visited the customer and gave a four-and-a-half-hour presentation defining the problems and the progress to that point. The customer was very polite and even commented that it was an excellent presentation, but the content was totally unacceptable. The program was still six to eight months late, and the customer demanded progress reports on a weekly basis. The customer made arrangements to assign a representative in Reichart’s department to be “on-site” at the project on a daily basis and to interface with Reichart and his staff as required. After this turn of events, the program became very hectic. The customer representative demanded constant updates and problem identification and then became involved in attempting to solve these problems. This involvement created many changes in the program and the product in order to eliminate some of the problems.
Reichart had trouble with the customer and did not agree with the changes in the program. He expressed his disagreement vocally when, in many cases, the customer felt the changes were at no cost. This caused a deterioration of the relationship between client and producer. One morning Reichart was called into the division general manager’s office and introduced to Mr. “Red” Baron. Reichart was told to turn over the reins of the Trophy Project to Red immediately. “Reichart, you will be temporarily reassigned to some other division within the corporation. I suggest you start looking outside the company for another job.” Reichart looked at Red and asked, “Who did this? Who shot me down?” Red was program manager on the Trophy Project for approximately six months, after which, by mutual agreement, he was replaced by a third project manager. The customer reassigned his local program manager to another project. With the new team the Trophy Project was finally completed one year behind schedule and at a 40 percent cost overrun.