Here’s a fairly simple little story. Listen carefully.
It’s 4-00 pm and I call you in.
‘Look, there is a Mr. Singh staying in Hotel President. Do you know where it is?’
‘Yes, in Cuffe Parade (in North Mumbai). I’ve seen it.’
‘A proposal has to be reached to him before 6 pm. He has a flight to catch. It’s absolutely important that he gets this proposal before he leaves. You understand?’
‘I can’t trust this job to anyone else. I want you to drop whatever you’re doing and take this envelope to him. And there must be no goof-up of any kind. You get it?’
‘Now quickly tell me what else you want to know and get going. It’s a little tight going from here (Andheri, in South Mumbai). It’s like a project and how do you plan to go about?’
The story ends here.
This is one of the several scenarios I had devised to push the aspiring project manager and assess his responses. Back in those days we did not have PMI certification or any other equivalent to go by!
At this point some of you aspirants wanting to try out this role-play – stop reading further, as the game is given away in what follows.
If you’re done with the role-play, it’s time to look at the ulterior motives of the story.
This scenario, though crafted, is not very unlike real-life situations in projects. It has several questions to be resolved for the candidate even before planning the execution:
– Mr. Singh’s full name – ‘Singh’ is a very common name, to be found even among non-Sikhs. How is he identified on the guest list and visually too?
– How could one reach him on phone directly for coordination? No cell-phones, then.
– How much is the budget for transport?
– Is 6-00 pm absolute and non-negotiable or there is a margin?
– In the event of a delay despite best efforts, what should be done?
– What kind of an acknowledgement is due from Mr. Singh on receipt of the envelope?
– What kind of confirmation is desired during the execution and at the conclusion of the ‘project’?
The answers to these questions fill up important gaps in the definition of the project, the customer and the handshake and also ascertain performance parameters and prevailing constraints, at least the major factors.
Next is the planning process. There are 2 hours available to commute from one end of the city to the other end. In the slot of 4-00 pm to 6-00 pm the traffic on roads in Mumbai could be notorious in spots. Are these environmental risks factored, in addition to the permissible expense budget, to plan the route and the mode of transport?
In the execution process, again questions arise:
– How goes one sense the deadline would not be met staying on the current course? Are there intermediate milestones or check-points?
– If so, what are the switching options available to recover from or mitigate the delay?
– What office support could possibly be drawn upon during the execution process?
The story and the role-play go this far.
While the above is a direct presentation of the issues involved, in the assessment exercise I push the candidate helpfully towards some of the issues that he overlooks.
The scoring of the responses is not very relevant here as the main objective is elucidate on the issues and practices in project management through this story.
It was quite interesting to see how the candidates handled this simple ‘project’. The responses ranged from naïve, funny to some unexpectedly new insights that contributed to subsequent evolution of the story.
One candidate did not know any of the half-a-dozen destinations I pulled out one after another. She was new to Mumbai.
I remember how I had to plug the story after another aspirant steered the story entirely on a different course! Innocently, he asked: Couldn’t he meet up with Mr. Singh and handover the envelope when he reaches the airport, only fifteen minutes away, he asked, instead of trudging all the way to Cuffe Parade?
Credits: openclipart.com (jabernal) for the image.