17 Jul 2017

Challenge of Egypt – Project Management

WYN team was invited to facilitate a Game Based Business Simulation, the Challenge of EGYPT. The Game Based Business Simulation trains participants for Project Management Principles and tools. It sets the participants to the 4th Dynasty in ancient EGYPT, wherein they need to build a pyramid next to Nile for their Pharaoh.

You may think what does Project Management have to do with EGYPT?

Well, the ancient Egyptians built Pyramids which are enormous structures in a fairly short time. This cannot be done without proper project management. How are you going to get millions of stones to the right place and to make sure that tens of thousands of people work as efficiently and effectively as possible? Obviously, this didn’t just happen all by itself. Furthermore, the process was continually subject to the changing demands of the pharaoh, the weather, diseases, wars, etc. You need to have the project management skills and instruments do deal with all these issues.

During the four rounds of this interactive workshop, the most important aspects of best practices project management appear and are experienced. This is done actively, and interactively. The building process for a pyramid is simulated letting the participants experience the control elements of good project management. During the building process, all participants have a role within the project management environment. The project team is given the task of building the pyramid within a fixed time. The process is affected by real-life events that occurred in that period. During the building process, there are several reflection moments to learn from the Egyptians and from the team’s own experience. At the end of the project, when the pyramid has been built, there is a project evaluation and all the instructive points are listed.

Key Reflection: Learnings & Takeaways

1.Collaborated well, or rather too well: The team consists of individuals with decades of years of experience, not knowing each other performed well initially. They exhibited good teamwork and collaboration.

2.Understand input & output: The team was given 20 minutes to understand each other’s roles & responsibilities. They spent the same discussing details of each roles description, activities, tools, requirements and objectives. Time could be managed better if the team had limited their discussion towards the objective of each role, its input and output requirements and dependencies.

3.Need to Empower the Project Manager:
Avoid Business from micro managing Each role within the simulation, was over involved with the entire project. The Business was micro managing the Operations. Due to this massive time was lost, processes were not followed and too many people interfered with operations, because of which quality was lost.

Avoid Project decision making at Operations level: The Operations team faced several issues during the project, without a proper PM reporting, they started taking project level decisions at their own end. Without a view of the Big Picture, taking larger decisions caused the teams to lose out on cost and quality considerations.
The team realized the need to empower the project managers role. With assigning PM with clear responsibility for the successful initiation, planning, design, execution, monitoring, controlling and closure of a project, each role would have concentrated on their own work and in this way delay, quality and reporting would be controlled. Team also, recognized the key traits of a successful Project Manager in their Organization.

4.Proactive vs Reactive Risk Management: The Risk Managers job was to take the time to consider the risks and what could go wrong…what could affect starting the project? What could affect the progress or quality of the project? What if? What if? As said by Benjamin Franklin“an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” he certainly provided timeless advice when considering risk. With Risks identified, the team needed to work on mitigations or controls to get ahead of the risk and PREVENT it from occurringsuch as Can delaying the project increase the quality? Can partnering with a different vendor reduce costs? Can Marketing run an awareness campaign to improve adoption? Once the risks and mitigation plan was identified, a role needed to be assigned the responsibility for executing the plan. Without an owner, the plan won’t work itself.
While the team did identify the Risks to the project, Risk Mitigation as a process was missing because of which the team was reactive toward the issues faced.

5.Problem Management:There was a clear communication gap between the teams and Risk Manager role for the issues faced and the corresponding resolution action taken. Not maintaining an issues log prevented the team from any problem management. The issues started piling up and the team was losing its grip on the challenges with time.

6.Knowledge Transfer: During the simulation, some roles were unavailable during certain times, which is a challenge faced with real project scenarios. A standardized knowledge transfer through documentation and responsibility assignment would have prevented from the project to standstill and cause delays.

7.Reporting &Tools:The Project team spent considerable amount of time planning for the project at a detailed level on the whiteboard. They had all the tools for the same which they overlooked and dived deep into the planning. This caused delays and unavailability of the PM for teams during the planning phase. The team agreed that usage of tools would have considerably reduced the delays. Timely reporting would have reduced the silos which was building up within the teams.

8.Contracts are Not Templates: All contractual obligations with third party (suppliers, vendors, contractors, subcontractors, consultants) who provide a product and or contracted to perform agreed works on a project, need to bereflected in the contracts and properly synchronized (e.g., delivery dates, extensions, warranty periods, licences) avoid project delays and risks.

Recognizing these reflections is one thing but what can you do to address them? One way is to confront people with the reasons and then let them change and improve themselves.
Easily said. By confronting people, we don’t mean show them the list. We mean let them experience the fail factors, and let them see and feel the consequences. However, you don’t want to do this is a live project environment! Why? for one thing it is too costly and risky, and two it takes too much effort and time to manage the learning process.

The Demo was run for round 1, which means they first, experienced the fail factors and consequences. Next, team reflected on actionable and practical learning & takeaways.
With a full day of intended simulation, in subsequent rounds, they could then define and test a solution and see, feel and experience the results.

Despite challenges, the teams positive support for each other and collaboration, proved a winner and they successfully started building their pyramid.

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