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Project management can be defined as discipline in which various activities such as “planning, organizing, managing, leading, securing, and controlling resources are carried out in order to achieve a specific goal” (Phillips, 2003, p. 5). In most cases, projects are short activities that have a clear start and finish, and are carried to facilitate some beneficial change (Pinto & kharbanda, 1996). Projects are often subject to time, deliverables and fundinglimitations. This paper seeks to conduct the following: make a brief overview of the Boeing Dreamliner project, identify the problems that were encountered during project implementation and relate them to theory, and give a recommendation on how the project could have been done to enhance success.
The Dreamliner project, issues experienced and recommendations
Late in 1990s, Boeing began to take measures to replace its aircraft programs amid dropping sales for some of its airliners, including the Boeing 767. The Company initiated work on a Sonic Cruiser that was expected to fly at 15% higher speed while consuming fuel at rates similar to the Boeing 767(Phillips, 2003). The September 11 terrorist attacks and increased petroleum prices pushed the interest for a more efficient aircraft. Thus Boeing discontinued the Sonic Cruiser project and instead began to work on an alternative project using Sonic Cruiser technology in a conventional way (Dinsmore, 2005). Based on the analysis of focus groups the Company began to work on the 7E7, a midsized twin jet, as opposed to the large Sonic Cruiser. The name Dreamliner was given to the jet following a public voting contest conducted over the internet. The development and production of the Dreamliner would involve collaboration with many companies around the globe.
The design for the Dreamliner was commenced in 2004, a time when orders from customers had surpassed 200. The production and assembly of various parts of the aircraft were subcontracted to companies in close to eight countries around the world, with Japan playing the lead role. The final assembly was to be conducted at the company’s factory in Everett, Washington (Stekkman & Greene, 2010). This seemed to be a well calculated process. However, the supply chain was not clearly determined and, therefore, there was a chance that problems would arise (Pinto & kharbanda, 1996).
Hitches began when the first six airplanes to be assembled were found to be overweight. Boeing initiated measures to work on the excess weight and this resulted into delays. The first Dreamliner had been planned to fly in August 2007. However, by that time most systems were not installed yet and other vital parts were attached temporarily with non-aerospace fasteners (Huffman, 2008). The subcontractors faced several challenges in completing their work, partly because they could not get the needed parts and complete a sub assembly on time (Kropf & Scalzi, 2008). It was apparent that the project implementing committee did not have a total understanding of the scope of the work they were undertaking (Kropf & Scalzi, 2008). The time needed by the subcontractors to order for different parts and assemble them was not factored in the Dreamliner schedule.
On September 5, 2007, Boeing announced that the Dreamliner project was going to be delayed for three months and cited the shortage of fasteners and incomplete flight software (Stekkman & Greene, 2010). Problems experienced with the foreign and local supply chain and continued delays with the flight software and fasteners saw the company announce a second three month delay in October. This was followed by the replacement of the program manager. The project planning process was clearly affected by the lack of proper leadership and, therefore, Boeing found it appropriate to replace the project manager. The needs of the subcontractors were not addressed in the vision and scope of the project during the planning phase. It was the first time Boeing had outsourced services on a large scale and most of the companies that were awarded tenders had not envisioned the challenges they would face in gathering the required resources (Kropf & Scalzi, 2008).
A third three month delay was announced and the Company cited lack of progress on travelled work. A fourth delay was announced in April 2008 in which it was revealed that the maiden flight would be conducted in the fourth quarter of the same year (Dinsmore, 2005). In November 2008, Boeing announced a fifth delay citing faulty installation of the fasteners. The maiden flight was henceforth postponed until the fourth quarter of 2009. Boeing also postponed the launching of some of its variants to a later date. At this point, several airlines such as the United Airlines and the Air India began to demand for compensation (Phillips, 2003).
Due to the fact that Boeing had not implemented such a project before the managers of the Dreamliner project needed to use risk planning in order to keep the project realistic. The Dreamliner project had many unknowns that demanded careful planning. Had the program manager questioned how the subcontractors will get the required resources then a proper estimate of the time required could have been determined, and this could have saved the Company from the long embarrassing delays (Pinto & kharbanda, 1996).
In the year 2008, the company conducted several successful testing activities on various components of the Dreamliner. The maiden flight was conducted in 2009 and consisted of 6 aircraft. Further delays in delivery were announced in November 2010 and Boeing explained that this was meant to correct all mistakes that were discovered during g the testing stage. Having delayed the project for more than three years, the first airplane delivery was accomplished in April 2011.
The long arduous process of implementing the Dreamliner project was a sad experience for Boeing. The delays that occurred and the false promises that were made showed how the project was badly managed (Dinsmore, 2005).It is obvious that the project manager was under pressure and, therefore, gave unrealistic promises that failed to consider the reality on the ground. The project manager must have felt vindicated leading to the disillusionment of the entire team.
Several factors required consideration before giving a time frame for the Dreamliner project. First, the managers could have conducted a thorough evaluation of what was needed to successfully complete the project (Huffman, 2008). Ideally, all subcontractors involved in the project could have done their own evaluations to give a correct estimation of the time required to meet their initial responsibilities. Writing down assumptions to reflect how the scenario would be in future could have helped avert some of the delays that witnessed during project implementation (Phillips, 2003). All stakeholders could have held a meeting to brainstorm on the overall needs of the project.
This paper sought to conduct such important aspects as to make a brief overview of the Boeing Dreamliner project, identify the problems that were encountered during project implementation and relate them to theory, and give a recommendation on how the project could have been done to enhance success. The paper has established that all the issues that arose during the implementation of the project could have been avoided with more careful planning.
Dinsmore, P. (2005). The right projects done right! New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Huffman, L. (2008). Project managers discuss success. Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings, 8-12.
Kropf, R., & Scalzi, G. ( 2008). Great project management = IT success. Physicians Executive, 30(3). 38 – 40.
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Phillips, J. (2003). PMP Project Management Professional Study Guide. London: McGraw-Hill Professional.
Pinto, J., & kharbanda, O. (1996). How to fail at project management (without really trying). Business Horizons, 39:45-43.
Stekkman, A., & Greene, J. (2010). Why Software Projects Fail. Web.