Making Soft Toys: Project Management

Project Title Rationale and Description

The implementation of this project will bring to realizing the findings provided in an earlier survey which indicated that the majority of the ABC employees agrees that their productivity at the workplace could be improved if they were given some leisure time. The findings from the survey indicate that almost all employees prefer some kind of recreational activity at their place of work. A majority of the employees were provided the point of view that the presence of recreational facilities at the work place could enhance their productivity and motivate to perform effectively. The company has proposed a project of making soft toys that will benefit employees’ children and other children in the society. This is a good project for the firm as it will help the firm increase its productivity while giving back to the society.

Project Management practices vary from one organization to another and the performance of the outcomes is what determines an optimum practice. The cause of variation in the project management practices may be not due to the kind of organization only, but also the type and purpose of the project and most importantly, the level of performance desired. Ramabadron, Dean and Evans (1997, p.53) investigated the effect of influence of management practices on performance. An inter-industry survey of 140 respondents, comprising 58 from the service sector, 62 from the manufacturing sector and 20 from the construction sector was carried out. Their findings indicate that quality management practices differ from industry to industry and from one organization to the other.

In addition, Gowan and Mathieu (2005) in the empirical study of 449 system managers, found out that the performance of a good Information Systems (IS) depends to a greater degree on the intervention of specific project management practices (formal project methodologies and outsourcing). The project performance was however in the context of meeting project target dates only. These findings give an indication that the kind of project management practices engaged in for the management of the hospital project depends on the university. This will thereafter have a subsequent relation to the project management team composition too. The practices present within different organizations therefore require identification and further examination.

Project Selection Model justifying the Project’s Implementation

Project Selection Model
Project Selection Model

The project aims at implementing the findings of the survey pertaining to hobbies and family lives of ABC Ltd company employees. The implementation of this project will result in improved employee performance. According to Meyer (2010, p.20), employees should be allocated some leisure time during their working hours. This would help employees come up with new creative and innovative ideas (Christensen & Schneider 2010, p.87). According to the American Association of Therapeutic Recreation (2003, p.1), individuals who engage in workplace recreation enjoy several positive outcomes since they improve their ability to cope with work related stress. They also improve their decision making skills, enhancement of their ability to structure time effectively as well as enhance the quality of discretionary use of time. Once the project is completed, children will easily acquire play materials within their neighborhood.

Project scope-work breakdown structure and project objectives

Under the project scope, the goals of the project are clearly defined. this role is performed by the project manager with some help from the project team members. The project has received the necessary approval from the top management and its implementation will fully take advantage of the technical expertise of the project manager and the individual talents of the team members. The key success factors at this stage is the support from top management, an achievable work schedule and a committed team. The project scope of the current project involves creation of soft toys.

Soft toy making is relatively easy. Furthermore, it requires less investment activities. Employees will make toys of various sizes and designs using acrylic and fur. The toys will be manufactured in various colors, sizes and they will assume the shape of various popular domestic and wild animals including the famous teddy bear. The toys are fun to play with and there are significant chances that more children will be attracted to use them more often. More products will be made based on changing technology and the dynamic tastes and preferences of children. The project is expected to be complete after a one month period.

The objectives of the project are to provide employees with a leisure activity in their workplace. The employees will engage in the creation of soft toys for children depending on their tastes and preferences. According to Cleland and Ireland (2006, p.54), the fulfillment of these objectives will support the company’s mission of enhancing the well-being of the society through the provision of soft toys for children. In doing so, the company will equally earn profits because through leisure activities, employees will become more creative thereby they will improve their overall performance and raising the company’s profitability. The final objective is to create a positive image of the company. This will be one of its corporate social responsibility activities. It is possible for ABC Ltd to use an agile approach which presupposes addressing short-term objectives with minimum planning (Cobb 2011, p.32).

Structure (WBS) for ABC Ltd Company

ABC work breakdown structure, indicates the specific tasks, the needed resources to accomplish each task and the expected duration in which a task is to be completed.

Structure (WBS) for ABC Ltd Company
Structure (WBS) for ABC Ltd Company

Cost estimates for project resources

The cost estimates below are made based on a market survey done to ascertain the pieces of raw materials in the market. The costs are assumed to apply under the normal conditions prevailing in the market. The project duration will be measured in days for each task in the WBS. The major costs associated with the project are machinery costs which will be incurred in acquiring and installation of the toy making machines. The machines and equipment include; sewing machines, tapes, needles and scissors plus machines used in packaging. In addition, raw materials will have to purchased and utility bills paid before the project begins. A budget ceasing of $ 5,200 has been set within which we expect to complete the project.

Budget Plan for the Soft Toy Project

Budget Plan for the Soft Toy Project
Budget Plan for the Soft Toy Project

Time schedule for project activities including the critical path and slack

In this section we highlight the specific project tasks and the durations which they take. The project has six major activities which are to be undertaken. The importance of the time schedule in the present project is that it enables the project manager to identify sufficient resources that will facilitate the projects completion, achievable deadlines are set and the critical path identified to ensure that all tasks on the critical path are implemented without delay so that the project is delivered on time. The first activity will be a meeting of the project members which will take a whole day (1 day), we will then require a 30 day period for machinery to be ordered, delivered to the company premises and installed, this will then be fooled by a 12 day period for ordering and delivery of the necessary raw materials.

Once the raw materials have arrived, the employees who will participate in the project will be trained for two weeks (14 days). This will be followed by a two day orientation period thereafter toy making begins. Through the Gant charts, the project will be kept on track and its progress monitored. Any value gained after the completion of each task will equally be noted. The Gant Chart will provide a platform for information reporting to all the partners in the project (Gant Chart in the Appendix).

For us to ascertain the critical path, we need to link the six activities from the first meeting to the point where toy making begins. Let’s denote the activities by alphabetical letters A, B, C through F. The following rules will apply, B will occur after A, C comes after A, D comes after B, E will follow D and finally F follows E. Activity B can only completed once activity A is complete, therefore the early start time (ES) for activity B is 1 day and the earliest finish (EF )= 1+30= 31days. Similarly, D cannot begin until B is performed ES= 31 days, while EF = 31+14 days= 44 days, ES for E= 44 days and EF= 46 days which is the time the toy making process officially begins. Activity C lies outside the critical path since it can be undertaken separately without significantly affecting the projects completion time. He network diagram is indicated below:

Network diagram
Network diagram

A Costed Strategy to Shorten time by 20%

Given that this project is a second line of operation for ABC Company, the available resources will be limited. To reduce the entire project completion time by 20 percent, some tasks can either be combined or the activities initiated at an earlier date, for example the placement of orders of machinery and raw materials can be done at the same time. By doing so, the raw materials will arrive 18 days before the machinery and equipment and the project will not have to wait for another 12 days after the arrival of machinery to get the raw materials. Furthermore, the training of the employees can begin at a much earlier date because it is not dependent on the preceding activities.

A Quality Management System and a Quality Control System

Through quality management, we expect to complete the project within the budget limit of $ 5,200. In addition, it will facilitate the achievement of the project scope defined earlier. We expect to minimize on the external costs by promoting a good public relations campaign that will create a soft landing for our products and we are certain that we will deliver quality to the consumers (children).

Furthermore, consultative meetings will be held from time to time by the project team members who are responsible for specific tasks. Through brainstorming, new ideas will be noted and forwarded to the senior management for further action.

To ABC Ltd’s quality, the aggregate features and characteristics that soft toys will bear in terms of the firm’s ability are implied needs of children in homes and the society at large. The firm aims to deliver quality service in two areas; quality soft toys produced and the quality of ABC’s employees. Employees will participate in soft toy making activities in time and they will always be neatly dressed and clean. Through employees, ABC Ltd will make sure that the children receive quality soft toys and in a timely manner, which implies that ABC Ltd employees must remain innovative to keep up with the changing tastes and preferences. The company has designed a standardized operational procedure to ensure that children who are its customers receive exemplary soft toys that they can enjoy playing with. Even in the leisure activity of toy making, employees will emphasize teamwork and high energy in order to ensure that quality work is done within the limited time.

The materials used in making the toys will be chosen locally from amongst the most durable. Furthermore, the design of the toys will be such that they can last for long periods even when the children play with them continuously. We pledge to deliver quality products to the children and our employees will have the best use of their leisure time. In addition, we shall continuously enhance the quality of our toys based on the feedback obtained from the children who play with them and the suggestions from parents. Even though the employees will be engaged in their hobbies, we shall offer training in Toy making to ensure that the products meet certain minimum standards while still allowing for creativity among individual employees.

The project manager will ensure the satisfaction of the children by understanding and managing their needs. This will be achieved through making soft toys that conform to the specifications set and fitness of use for the children. Given that this is an additional activity that the organization is undertaking, more attention will be devoted to prevention rather than inspection of mistakes. This will result in significant cost savings because avoiding mistakes is more affordable compared to the cost of correcting them. The project manager will from time to time carry out quality improvement initiatives to improve both the quality of the toys produced and the quality of the project. All project participants (employees) will be issued a quality management plan that will guide the overall process of soft toy making. It explains the soft toy making quality system which includes individual responsibilities, processes and procedures needed.

The overall quality management systems that ABC Ltd has adopted is geared towards setting the project direction and meeting the expectation of the children in terms of quality play toys, reduce the wastage of both time and money, lowering the overall project cost, raising the staff morale and facilitating involvement and training of the employees involved.

Steps or Activities undertaken to ensure Superior Project Performance

The project managers will consistently monitor the project results to determine if toy outputs are in conformity with relevant quality standards. This will be done across the entire project including project deliverables, timetable and costs. The major tools that will be employed in quality management are the: work results that include both product results (soft toys produced) and the process results. A comparison shall then be made between the planned and the actual and necessary actions taken. The second input will be the quality management plan, which will describe how employees will implement the toy quality policy. Characteristics of a good quality toy involve suitability to the age and development requirements of a child. In addition, the toys should be simple to enhance a child’s creativity and imagination. The third tool will be operational definitions that specifically describe what the soft toy is and how it is evaluated through the quality control process. The final tool is the project checklist that is a structured plan that will be used to verify if all the required processes in toy making have been carried out.

In order to ensure that team members remain focused on achieving the toy making objective, a number of activities are to be undertaken. The project managers together with the team are to design the conditions for project acceptance or the criteria for acceptance (starting with the end result in mind). This was the first document to be produced. This document will address varied expectations of team members that will continually change as the project progress. Through the shared vision that is to deliver quality soft toy products to children while improving on the overall employee performance, the outcome will most certainly be realized. The shared vision is both practical and based upon the needs of end users (children) of the product (soft toys). The project’s teams will work from the end result backwards and the project will be divided into stages (measurable control milestones) that will help determine if the team is on the track towards achieving its set goals.

The second activity is training. After sub-dividing the project into separate tasks and activities, the outcomes of individual activities are understood and agreed upon by the project team members. This will be achieved through knowledge realization by all the team members before the execution of each task is undertaken. The project manager will ensure that each team member is responsible for executing his task in the overall process. Each project participant will therefore study and understand the relevant information necessary to execute his / her part and the project manager will explain to the team members how individual outcomes of various activities will be achieved, measured and verified. Furthermore, the members of different teams will be encouraged to disclose their strengths and weaknesses. In case a team member lacks the necessary skill or experience, then the team must supply necessary support and skill required to execute the task in the best possible way. Through such a mechanism tasks within the toy project will be done right the first time and every time.

All project team members (stakeholders) are involved in the formulation of the project quality review plan for all the deliverables. Because of this, no team member will accept the outcomes the way they are without first verifying that they were done correctly. The individual who is responsible for the subsequent activity in the process will have to be convinced that the previous task has met the conditions for acceptance and quality. For each control point in the entire project, a quality plan is prepared and a review is done to ascertain that the work was completed in conformity to the expectations of the team. This process will be applied to each activity in the plan and all tasks assigned to the team members will be interlinked to each other.

Effective Communication among Project Participants

Through communication, the team members will interact with each other giving rise to synergy in action and close ties amongst the team members and other project stakeholders. When the project faces challenges, good communication will improve the team’s morale, integrity and trust. With effective communication, the team members will share vital information in timely manner leading to better project outcomes. The following activities were undertaken to ensure effective communication; a communication directive was developed that explains how information will be shared vertically and horizontally across the team, a document management system was adopted to ensure that the team members that will ensure team members can access the latest information on a particular issue relevant to the project tasks. Furthermore, various communication practices have been adopted to facilitate effective listening and communication. They include; the use of e-mails, meetings, phone calls and text messaging.

A monitoring System linked to the Project Schedule

This project has adopted a result based system of evaluation and monitoring. For each activity A through E a result based monitoring and evaluation will be applied. Here the suppliers will be evaluated based on how well they perform.

The first meeting intended to kick off the project will be evaluated based on the outcomes. It sets forth the budget of all the materials and resources needed to aliment the project. The success of the meeting will be determined by the number of members who support the project. The second activity is the procurement of the raw materials used in the manufacture of soft toys from suppliers. Furthermore, purchase evaluation will be done to choose the suppliers based on their ability to supply the needed raw materials. A criterion for evaluating the suppliers will be developed and adopted by the project participants. The evaluation process will give the actual status and quality of the respective suppliers performance before they are awarded the tenders. Re-evaluation will be done from time to time to ensure the suppliers deliver the goods in time and in the right quality.

The third activity involves making purchase orders for the necessary machinery and equipment. The machines will be evaluated based on the technology they use, the purchase of simple tools like needles, threads will based on their durability and ease of use. The fourth task which is employee training will be evaluated by the output produced by the employees. In order to a ascertain whether the team members acquired additional knowledge during the training, continuous assessment shall be done to test their skills set and performance after each training activity. The final task which is the making of toys is the central part of this project. Its evaluation and monitoring is very critical to the overall performance of the project. The output (project deliverables) which is the toys should be durable, of high quality and safe for the children (Lock 2007, p.171). These are the benchmarks to be applied in evaluating the employees’ performance.

Steps required to close the Project

The steps required to close the project include; a post implementation review done to assess the results received once the project has been delivered. Through this, the project manager will evaluate to what extent the project objectives have been achieved and whether the plan was followed in keeping the project on track. Furthermore, the review following implementation shall be finalized by issuing a report. The key aspects that will be looked into in the post implementation review include; a preparation of the project input information including the raw materials and labor used in the toy making activity, an analysis of the project to assess how close the project results match the projected objectives, deliverables and goals, in addition, project closure lessons will be organized to capture the best management practices drawn from the overall project.

The second step will involve conducting lessons learned exercise which comprises of a set of activities aimed at collecting, documenting and analyzing the feedback received from parents and children in addition to describing the major events that occurred during the project. The key activities to be undertaken under this stage are; an announcement of the exercise is made and all the stakeholders are involved including the project manager and the team members, a date for the exercise will be scheduled following the projects completion date, finally, the lessons leant will be discussed in a positive manner by promoting best management practices and asking questions to get feedback and comments.

The third step is the transfer and release of the staff members. This involves the shifts in responsibilities and tasks because the project has come to an end. Employees are therefore released or are allocated new projects. Major activities under this stage include the process of transfer and release of the staff members, planning ahead for staff management options and practices and adequate preparation of the feedback on staff performance. In addition, letters of recommendations are drawn for those staff members who have shown exemplary performance. Finally, the project manager will coordinate with the human resource manager to keep the employee files update.

The fourth step is the financial closure by finalizing all financial aspects related to the project, for example, closing accounts and transfer of the project assets. At this stage, all outstanding invoices will be cleared, transactions completed and financial obligations resolved, equally all financial accounts related to the project are organized for closure. The fifth stage will involve archiving of the project. The project artifacts and documents will be systematically stored. These include items like working papers, project charter, and documents of lessons learnt. This data will provide valuable insights for future project planning. The sixth and final stage is celebration, which is a fun making event that will be organized to appreciate the successful completion of project, goals and milestones.

A brief Acknowledgement of Obstacles to Project Success

There are a number of obstacles that the project might face, these include: Skill sets challenge for the project team members. This can arise when the team is not in a position to support the project due to a gap in the technical skill set either partially or wholly. To solve this challenge, the available skill set should be identified at the start before the project commences, committing the team members to specific roles and responsibilities in addition, resources can be made available to the team so that they can learn the needed skills.

The second possible obstacle is the possibility of a challenging schedule. The set delivery dates may make it impossible to deliver on time. This will be evident if team members complain of no enough time. The project manager will address this by committing the team to effective analysis. The third is delayed delivery of project tasks. This is evident when the team members are not finishing their tasks on time. This will be addressed by effectively communicating the delivery dates and times in addition to timely response to supplier side issues.

The third possible obstacle is inadequate resources; ABC may not finance all the project resource requirements due to limited resources available, given that it is a nonprofit initiative. This might call for everyone working overtime until the project is completed. This will be addressed by clearly communicating the resource requirements of the toy project to the sponsor (ABC Ltd).

Clear and Succinct Recommendations

Not all parents can afford to purchase toy products for their children to play with; the initiative taken by ABC Ltd company employees to produce soft toys during their leisure hours is therefore commendable as it will provide an opportunity for children to have fun while developing their imagination and creative skills. Furthermore, despite the value of children in the society, few organizations devote their corporate social responsibility activities towards their benefit. This project will allow the employees of ABC Ltd to become more innovative while providing services to the society inform of soft toys. Such activities will equally enhance their productivity in the company. Furthermore the employees will spend their leisure time in a more productive way by giving out to the society. This is one way through which ABC will perform its Corporate Social Responsibility (ABC Ltd).

Although the company will initially perform this project as a way of giving back to the society, it presents a good business opportunity that the business can diversify to in the long term. The demand for soft toys is continually increasing and such a business is likely to reap huge profits. The company should therefore do more research in the area of toy making and the available market in order to position itself for a possible future expansion. Given that this project is a part time duty, proper planning must be done by the project manager and the entire team to ensure that activities do not fall behind schedule. Equally, activities on the critical path must be accomplished without delay. For the project to be effective resources must be readily available. From the estimated budget, the project has a total outlay of $ 5200 dollars; ABC Ltd Company may not finance the entire project. The project manager must therefore look for other sponsors who can provide additional funds. Equally, the implementation of this project will significantly affect the employees involved as they will have to achieve more than a single objective in the same organization.

List of References

Christensen, K & Schneider, B 2010, Workplace flexibility: Realigning 20th-century jobs in a 21st-century workforce, Cornell University Press, New York.

Cleland, D & Ireland, L 2006, Project management: Strategic design and implementation, McGraw-Hill Professional, New York.

Cobb, C 2011, Making sense of agile project management: Balancing control and agility, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken.

Gowan, J & Mathieu, R 2005, ‘The importance of management practices in IS project performance’, The Journal of Enterprise Information Management Systems, vol.18, no.3, pp.235 – 255

Lock, D 2007, Project management, Gower Publishing, Ltd., Burlington.

Meyer, P 2010, From workplace to playspace: Innovating, learning and changing through dynamic engagement, John Wiley & Sons, San Francisco.

Ramabadron, R, Dean, J & Evans, J 1997, ‘Benchmarking and project management: a review and organizational model’, Benchmarking for Quality Management & Technology, vol.4, no.4, pp. 47-58.

Appendix: Gant Chart

Gant chart
Gant chart