Aviation Project Management Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1571 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Business - Management

Project Management Considerations in the Aviation/Aerospace Industry Today

Today, project management should be a planned, organized effort dedicated to achieving a specific, often one-time goal. Such projects can range from a simple task to a complex multidisciplinary effort, but they all require some careful attention to detail and process to be successful. To see what is involved, this paper reviews relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature concerning opinions and recommendations relevant to large-scale Project Management. For this purpose, the aviation/aerospace industry will be used as the basis for illustrating project management considerations. A summary of the research and important findings are presented in the conclusion.

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Regardless of complexity, all projects require a project plan. The more complex the project, the greater the need for a plan that defines: objectives, resources, assignments, budgets, timelines, and deliverables. Controls must be in place to ensure the project stays on the "critical path." Project management typically follows major phases including feasibility study, project planning, implementation, evaluation and support/maintenance to name a few. The challenge to properly manage a project increases with the complexity of its goal. The aerospace industry's projects are typically very complex and expensive. Staggering financial damage can result when a cost or schedule overrun occurs. According to Massue (2004), "Bombardier of Canada wasn't a believer in project management offices. It soon changed its mind when two large projects, worth U.S. $100 million and $30 million, ran over budget by nearly 100%" (p. 1).

TOPIC: Term Paper on Aviation Project Management Assignment

Various project management approaches have been tried in the past. For example, the Manhattan Project is reported to have used a direct reporting structure; that is, everyone on the project worked directly for the project manager. The initial aerospace projects used a more hierarchical approach. Compact groups were established and assigned a manager. That manager had responsibility for a specific portion of the project; however, top management retained overall responsibility. This approach was successful but it was often contentious. Aerospace projects became increasingly complex and required the effective integration of multiple technologies to achieve their goal. Large, complex projects simply overwhelm the customary approaches. A new management model was needed and the aerospace industry provided the perfect opportunity. According to Stuckenbruck (1981), "the Atlas program has been said to be the beginning of modern project management" (p. 15). Regardless of the project management approach in use, though, there is agreement that a common skill set is required - good people skills. Perhaps this is best summarized by Wysocki, Lewis & Decarlo, (2001), who advise, "This means that the only way they will get anything done is through the exercise of influence, persuasion, negotiation, and maybe a little begging at times. So interpersonal skills are at the top of our list" (p. 37). Presuming the project manager has these skills, the focus then becomes how best to support them in an on-going project. The challenge is the vast quantity of data present in a large project and how to effectively monitor its status. This paper will now address these points.

The aerospace focus on project management:

The volume and value of projects in progress worldwide defies estimation; however, success is more easily identified and measured. As Massue (2004) quoted, "A recent "Chaos Report," published by industry analyst Standish Group, estimates that one-third of projects can be deemed "a pass"; two-thirds are either "challenged" or "outright failures" (p. 1). These rates are clearly disappointing assessments of the effectiveness of project management today. Key influencers within the Project Management community recognized the risk and responsibilities of their chosen profession. Over time, the profession's response has been to organize, educate, certify, and adapt as conditions warranted. One development was the formation of professional associations such as the Project Management Institute ("PMI"). Their Web site at http://www.pmi.orgboasts of a membership of 240,000 professionals in over 160 countries! A large number of PMI members formed a subgroup for the aerospace industry - PMI Aerospace and Defense Special Interest Group ("SIG") which has as one of goals "to advance the state-of-the-art of project management for aerospace and defense project management professionals" (Mission and vision, 2007).

It should be noted that on February 26 and 27, 2008, NASA will host its "Fifth Annual NASA Project Management Conference." The sponsor of this annual event is NASA's Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership (APPEL). The keynote address by Mr. Anthony DeMarco is entitled "Five Questions a Project Manager Should Ask about Every Estimate." Clearly, the aerospace industry is very attentive to project management. Following are project control techniques currently used to improve the probability of success.

Today's Project Management:

Per Knack (2004), "Project management has been described as organized common sense" (p. 1). Specific tools help organize that "common sense," and include: a project scope statement, a project charter, and a work breakdown structure. With these in hand, a project manager is prepared to organize information, deploy resources, and divide complex tasks into manageable pieces. Before beginning the project, it is good to keep in mind the advise provided by Stuckenbruck (1981), who notes, "Project success is completely dependent on adequate planning, direction, scheduling, monitoring, and control. These project functions must be closely bound together by an adequate information and control system if project performance is to be adequately measured and controlled" (p. 181). The key underlying point is "plan but monitor"; be prepared to adjust as required. Recognizing and reacting to changing conditions is crucial to success (Stuckenbruck, p. 181).

Software has been developed to assist the project manager in organizing and monitoring the project data. This software provides the ability to easily produce a variety of reports that are well-known within the project management profession. For illustration purposes this paper will provide examples from the most commonly used project control software, Microsoft Project; however, software alone will not bring a project to a successful conclusion. Conveying the information it produces and, convincing others of the appropriate action plan, requires effective communication and people skills.

Communicating project status:

It is said that a picture is word a thousand words so what might be the value of a well defined report? Consider that reports are based on data. The building blocks of project software are the assignments (i.e. tasks) and the resources (i.e. people). Task table information contains details such as task: name, estimated effort, start and stop dates, dependencies on other tasks (critical path information) etc. As shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Task Table Information.

Source: Generic Software Development Plan - Microsoft Project Template, Developing a User Manual (2008)

Resource table information contains details such as person: name, time per period (i.e. workday), cost per period, classification, etc. (see Figure 2 below).

Figure 2. Resource Table Information.

Source: Generic Software Development Plan - Microsoft Project Template, Developing a User Manual (2008)

Status information is then input to the appropriate data stores and these are used to generate reports. The resulting intersection of task and resource status data provides the basis for producing the various project reports.

One of the most useful reports for project management is the Gantt Chart (see Figure 3 below). This presents a graphic of the plan and can be viewed at various degrees of detail (i.e. major milestones or individual tasks). It will present the project so that the Critical Path items are clearly identified. It will also identify areas of overlap where discrete resources can work in parallel without adversely affecting the other.

Figure 3. Sample Gantt Chart.

Source: Generic Software Development Plan - Microsoft Project Template, Developing a User Manual (2008)

Similar data can be presented to show "actual vs. plan" status. Colors can be used to indicate favorable and unfavorable variances based on time or cost. The project management software is very adept at leveraging small amounts of data into useful management reports. However, one… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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