Sarah’s project had now become more complex than she had anticipated.

Sarah’s project had now become more complex than she had anticipated. Sarah’s company had a

philosophy that the project manager would be assigned during proposal preparation, assist in the

preparation of the proposal, and take on the role of the project manager after contract award,

assuming the company would be awarded the contract. Usually, contract go-ahead would take

place within a week or two after contract award. That made project staffing relatively easy for

most of the project managers. It also allowed the company to include in the proposal a detailed

schedule based upon resources that would be assigned upon contract award and go-ahead. During

proposal preparation, the functional managers would anticipate who would be available for

assignment to this project over the next few weeks. The functional managers could then estimate

with reasonable accuracy the duration and effort required based upon the grade level of the

resources to be assigned. Since the go-ahead date was usually within two weeks of contract award

and the contract award was usually within a week or so after proposal submittal, the schedule that

appeared in the proposal was usually the same schedule for the actual project with very few

changes. This entire process was based upon the actual availability of resources rather than the

functional managers assuming unlimited resources and using various estimating techniques.

While this approach worked well on most projects, Sarah’s new project had a go-ahead date of

three months after contract award. For the functional managers, this created a problem estimating

the effort and duration. Estimating now had to be made based upon the assumption of unlimited

availability rather than the availability of limited resources. Functional managers were unsure as

to who would be available three or four months from now, yet some type of schedule had to appear

in the proposal.

Sarah knew the risks. When the proposal was being prepared for Sarah’s proposal, the functional

managers assumed that the average worker in the department would be available and assigned to

the project after go-ahead. The effort and duration estimates were then made based upon the

average employee. If, after go-ahead, above-average employees would be assigned to her project,

she could possibly see the schedule accelerated but had to make sure that cost overruns did not

happen because the fully loaded salary of the workers may be higher that what was estimated in

the proposal. If below-average workers are assigned , a schedule slippage might occur and Sarah

would have to look at possible schedule compression techniques, hopefully without incurring

added costs.

Award of Contract

Sarah’s company was awarded the contract. Sarah had silently hoped that the company would not

get the contract, but it did. As expected, the go-ahead date was three months from now. This

created a problem for Sarah because she was unsure as to when to begin the preparation of the

detailed schedule. The functional managers told her that they could not commit to an effort and

duration based upon actual limited resource availability until somewhere around two to three

weeks prior to actual go-ahead date. The resources were already spread thin across several projects

and many of the projects were having trouble. Sarah was afraid that the worse case scenario would

come true and that the actual completion date would be longer than was in the proposal. Sarah was

certainly not happy about explaining this to the client should it be necessary to do so.

Approaching Go-Ahead Date

As the go-ahead date neared , Sarah negotiated with the functional managers for resources.

Unfortunately, her worst fears came true when, for the most part, she was provided with only

average or above-average resources. The best resources were in demand elsewhere and it was

obvious that they would not be available for her project.

Using the efforts and durations provided by the functional managers, Sarah prepared the new

schedule. Much to her chagrin, she would be at least two weeks late on the four-month project.

The client would have to be told about this. But before telling the client, Sarah decided to look at

ways to compress the schedule. Working overtime was a possibility, but Sarah knew that overtime

could lead to burned-out workers and the possibility of mistakes being made would increase. Also,

Sarah knew that the workers really did not want to work overtime. Crashing the project by adding

more resources was impossible because there were no other resources available. Outsourcing some

of the work was not possible as well because of the statement of work identified proprietary

information provided by the client and that the contract would not allow any outsourcing of the

work to third party. Because of the nature of the work, doing some of the work in parallel rather

series was not possible. There was always a chance that the assigned resources could get the job

done ahead of schedule but Sarah believed that a schedule delay was inevitable

Time for a decision

Sarah had to make a decision about when and how to inform the client of the impending schedule

delay. If she told the truth to the client right now, the client might understand but might also believe

that her company lied in the proposal. That would be an embarrassment for her company. If she

delayed informing the client, there might a chance that the original schedule in the proposal would

be adhered to, however slim. If the client is informed at the last minute about the delay, it could

be costly for the client and equally embarrassing for her company


1. Is this common situation for most companies or an exception to the rule?

2. Is it possible to convince a client that the schedule is just a rough guess during

competitive bidding and finalization of the schedule can be made only after go-ahead?

3. What were improvement that could be suggested in Sarah’s company to avoid schedule


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