EDUC 6145 – Learning from a Project “ Post-mortem”

So for this week’s assignment we are to reflect on a previous project that either failed or did not result in the desired outcome. The project that springs to my mind was my Testing Center Rules and Regulations project. When I first started working for Ivy Tech Community College my department ran the testing center for the campus. In the past we had only administered proctored exams for online courses but in the fall of 2013 we were given all testing in Ivy Tech. Due to the drastic increase of students we needed to update our testing center rules and also include new rules for tests we have not administered before. I was placed as the leader of the rules and regulations committee and tasked with creating a new set of rules and regulations that would not only cover all the necessary steps for proctoring all the different tests, but increase efficiency of the center to better accommodate the increased population.

The process of creating this document which we followed was throughout the creation of these rules and regulations the committee would send in a draft for review. We would then complete any edits that they asked for and continue moving forward adding more and more components. We completed the project early and we gave the final result to my supervisor and her assistant to do a final review. The next day the supervisor called me into her office and stated that she and her assistant were not pleased with the rules and regulations and that we had too many rules which would decrease our efficiency. She went on to state that she and her assistant had gone over the final document and made some very large edits and that would be the new list of rules and regulations. I was in complete shock, I thought the project was going great, but when I look back at it I noticed a few major warning signs.

As we would work on the rules we kept adding on more and more rules and regulations, Portny, S. E., et al, (2008) suggest that the project plan includes “a detailed description of the results to be produced” (p78). I had a vague objective that I should have clarified better with the supervisor instead the committee had the motto of the more the better and this is what essentially killed the project. I also notice when looking back that the communication with my supervisor was problematic. The largest problem was that she and her assistant were reviewing our work and we would receive contradicting edits which would then have to be clarified, plus the fact that none of the edits illuminated us to the fact that the document was becoming too bulky. Portny, S. E., et al, (2008) states that a potential pitfall is “not identifying and sharing key project assumptions” and that to remedy this I should have “Recognize that information one person considers true might not be. Investigate the rationale behind all assumptions” (p. 107). I understand as the project manager I should have kept a closer eye on the end product and how well it would actually work for us, but I was blinded by making an amazing set of rules and regulations that would cover every step of what a test proctor would do and every possible occurrence to happen. The scope of the project got away from me and if I had produced a more detailed description of the results I might have been able to avoid this. In the video Practitioner voices: Overcoming ‘scope creep’ (Laureate) Vince Budrovich explains that “The challenge of setting the scope right is fundamental if the project is going to work right and sometimes that’s a key big question right at the start”.

Looking back I feel that if I had been following the PM process the define phase would have cause my project to be a success. In the define phase I would have prepared roles and objectives very clearly and would have a detailed list as to what was the end result of the project. This list would have allowed me to see the scope creep and taken action to rectify it before it got out of hand. I also think that the extra time I took discussing the details of the project with my supervisor would allow me to understand and clarify any assumptions I may have had.

References

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Practitioner voices: Overcoming ‘scope creep’ [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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7 thoughts on “EDUC 6145 – Learning from a Project “ Post-mortem”

  1. Angie says:

    Daniel, I think we’ve all had projects that we can look back at and say woulda, coulda, or shoulda. In this case, I can see where defining the scope more clearly would have helped, but in all fairness, this is the kind of project that has so many angles coming out of it that it can make your head spin. For example, you start to define the parameters for a test, then realize they might not know what multiple choice means or short answer. After defining them, you think, “Maybe we should give definitions for all types of questions. It can get deeper and deeper and all the while you feel like you are heading for the original target! Rabbit trails are so natural because they head off the main path. I think you rightly identified it as scope creep, but again, in this type of project, it can easily happen. 🙂 We live and learn, right?

  2. Sriya Krishnamoorthy says:

    Dear Daniel,

    Being in the middle of a project, where deadlines are quick and demands are high, it is easy to overlook warning signs. Project managers often bear sole responsibility for successes and failures during a project, but this may not be the best approach. For example, Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer (2008) contend that accountability and responsibility must be balanced for a successful project; that is, everyone plays a role in project successes and failures. In your opinion, could your supervisor have played a more significant role in guiding the process? I welcome any thoughts that you may have.

    Best,
    Sriya

    Reference

    Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

  3. Krista says:

    Daniel,

    I can certainly attest to the situation you faced with the project you worked on. It certainly sounds like the lack of communication and preplanning caused a fair amount of the obstacles. I have been in several situations in which roles where not allocated so nobody ever knew what the other person was responsible for and the end result was not successful. I am glad the information we gained this week has allowed you to go back and reflect on how the project could have been planned from the start.

    Krista

  4. Hi Daniel, I have been on a few major projects where the initial scope was not clearly defined. It rarely ends well, but at least you learned from the experience and can apply it to future projects. I was on a software development project where, for the most part, we had free reign to do what we wanted. Unfortunately, the lack of focus and seeing the next big thing that could be developed caused the entire project to fold in on itself and we never got past beta testing.

  5. Daniel,
    What I learned from reading your post is that almost every task can be approached as a project. In creating a list of rules, I would not initially think you would need a project manager of to follow the project cycle. But if you would have used Greer’s approach and defined the project concept clearly enough so that you could have gotten support from get support from key people you would have been in betters shape. According to Greer this process would have involved conversations, brainstorming sessions and discussions that may have lead to you having a better understanding of the supervisors expectations, which could have lead to better results.

    Mia

  6. Karyn DeFouw says:

    Daniel,
    Wow! As Mia said, I would not have thought this would have needed to have a project plan. But, it does make more sense looking back at it that you should have drafted some basic ideas about what they were looking for. It may have made the project run more smoothly if they had coordinated together for the drafting of your rules and regulations also. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Great post Daniel,

    I can relate to you being surprised that your project was not on track. I have been in that boat before thinking that I was doing a good job but was in fact off the mark. I like the structure and process of the ADDIE model and the PM stages. I think following structure can keep PMs and IDs on the right track.

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