Sunday, November 11, 2001

Trans-Asian Road Delay

This week, I came across an article online via UOPHX’s library search from “The Vietnam Investment Review” describing delays in the building of the trans-Asian roadway project. The goal in completing the project is to “help build an effective, harmonized and advanced transport network between Asian member countries … to promote economic linkage and development in the region.”

However, after completing a little more than 50% of the project, a determination has been made that upon 100% completion, the project’s finish date will have slipped by nearly one year and the required investment capital will have almost doubled to near $60 million.

The discussions as to the reason for the delay and cost over-runs seem to center around poor design issues related to the actual road and bridges required as well as poor advance knowledge as to soil conditions that might be encountered. The current vendors complain that design instructions were referenced but missing from the original bid packages and the soil information was not even mentioned in the bid packages.

From the article, one might conclude that at stake is a public affairs project for which the public’s instigators did not do their preparation work adequately. On the other hand, I would question the vendor as well given that they received a bid package seemingly without adequate instructional detail or environmental information, and yet they chose to ignore those shortcomings and file a bid response anyway. So to a large extent both party’s planning and preparation facilities are responsible for this situation.

On a related note, I would also probe into why and how the project got past the halfway point before these trouble spots came to light. Was there something unique to the situation as in the sections lacking instructional detail and possessing the poor soil conditions were help until the second half or was the vendor “valiantly” struggling along without informing project management of the pitfalls until they deemed they were far enough along to assure their request for increased cost and time over-runs. (However, this view may simply be the cynic in me!)

How it gets resolved to the public’s benefit remains to be seen.


Reference:

The Vietnam Investment Review (October 1, 2001). Trans-Asian road project delayed by inefficient designs. [Online].
Available: http://ehostvgw12.epnet.com/ehost.asp?key=204.179.122.129_8000_-669879019&site=ehost&return=n&profile=ft.

Monday, November 05, 2001

Virtual Project Teams

At first glance, virtual project teams might seem to strike at the very heart of the modern, Internet driven way of doing things. The very idea that work will continue around the clock 24 hours a day and seven days a week as project team members log in at time driven by their local time zone to contribute their part seems a model of efficiency.

In such a scenario, one can quickly visualize increases in speed toward a project’s goal, lower personnel and office space overhead charges, increased adaptability and flexibility in dealing with required changes along the way, and even improved quality of life for all participants.

The idea of virtual project teams holds the promise of leveraging the very best of resources, wherever they are located, to drive toward the project’s goal. Such leverage however, comes with its own price tag and this price must be understood and accounted for ahead of time.

Some drawbacks of virtual project teams.

One of the very first frustrations likely to be noticed in a virtual project team is the lack of immediate body language and facial expression feedback in team meetings. In spite of the humorous promise that “on the Net, no one knows you’re a dog” the challenge of being deprived of so many of the visual clues one might be used to can be disorienting at first.

One of the keys to making any team work to its potential, whether virtual or not, is the level of trust amongst the various members. Developing trust levels in a virtual environment can be tougher than in a real world scenario as the exchanges can be much more limiting. And while technology continues to afford us tools at which to chip away at the veil of virtual-ness, seeing someone face to face and seeing them over an electronic medium require adjustments of the doubting Thomases amongst us. What’s more, the time/place distance inherent in virtual teams also means that the offline opportunities to develop that trust are not so readily available.

While finding ways to develop the level of trust amongst virtual team members can chip away at many of the above noted drawbacks, the reality of differing time zones and the need to smoothly hand-off informational updates and such means that some members of the virtual team will undoubtedly being working late or early to accommodate the time zone differences involved. At times, working across the coast within the USA’s difference of just three hours can be difficult. However, doing the same halfway around the globe can be a true challenge, especially if the virtual team involves multiple time zone locations as in members in Europe, Asia, and the USA.

My personal experience with virtual project teams.

By the definition of my current role, I’m involved in virtual teams on an almost daily basis. The business development team in our division consists of six members with five member located on the East coast (including the team leader) and myself in San Diego. Though there is good reason for the split, I find I’m constantly working against being the odd-man out or lone appendage of the group. Beyond my own departmental team, I also regularly work with technology teams on the East coast and related teams in Tokyo to advance our various new business efforts.

Beyond the work-a-day world, I must admit I’m enthralled with the concept of creating a virtual team company and I continue to strive toward the proper combination to hit success. My first attempt fizzled after about nine months but I believe it was due to the underlying business driver (too narrowly limited to a single potential scenario) and not because of issues with the team itself. The three person team that assembled (located in MI, IL, & NJ) worked well in that we were able to maintain a critical focus, we met on a regular basis, and because of various prior experiences together, we had a core level of trust to see us through.

In spite of that initial “failure” however, my theory continues to be that if one can stitch together an appropriate team, an enjoyable business should be available for the making to the benefit of all. Thus, I’ve made list after list of team possibilities and idea possibilities yet haven’t had the opportunity or simple fortitude to make one work yet. Perhaps a proper project plan is what has been missing? J


Reference:

Kiser, K. (1999, March). Working on world time. [Online]. Available: http://www.virtualteams.com/company/press/world_time.htm