Case Study 01
Word-Tech is a medium-sized firm that designs and manufactures electronic
systems for the mass transit industry. It competes with other firms to win contracts to
provide such systems. When Word-Tech receives a contract, it creates a project to
complete the work. Most projects range from $10 million to $50 million in cost and
from one to three years in duration. Word-Tech can have 6-12 projects going on at
any one time, in various stages of completion some just starting and others finishing.
Word-Tech has a handful of project managers who report to the general manager;
other people report to their functional manager. For example, the electronics
engineers all report to the manager of electrical engineering, who reports to the
general manager. The functional manager assigns particular individuals to work on
various projects. Some people work full time on a project, whereas others split their
time among two or three projects. Although individuals are assigned to work for a
project manager on a specific project, administratively they still report to their
Jack Kowalski has been with the company for about 12 years, since graduating
from college with a BS in electronic engineering. He has worked his way up to senior
electronics engineer and reports to the manager of electrical engineering. He has
worked on many projects and is well respected within the company. Jack has been
asking for an opportunity to be a project manager. When Word-Tech is awarded a $15
million contract to design and manufacture an advanced electronics system, the
general manager promotes Jack to project manager and asks him to run this project.
Jack works with the functional managers to get the best people available assigned
to the project. Most of the people are buddies who have worked with Jack on previous
projects. However, with Jack s position as senior electronics engineer vacant, the
manager of electrical engineering has no one with the appropriate level of expertise
to assign to Jack s project. So the manager hires a new person, Alfreda Bryson. Lured
away from a competitor, Alfreda has a Ph.D. in electronic engineering and eight years
experience. She was able to command a high salary more than Jack is making. She is
assigned to Jack s project full time as the senior electronics engineer.
Jack takes a special interest in Alfreda s work and asks to meet with her to discuss
her design approaches. Most of these meetings turn into monologues, with Jack
suggesting how Alfreda should do the design and paying little attention to what she
Finally, Alfreda asks Jack why he is spending so much more time reviewing her
work than that of the other engineers on the project. He responds, “I don t have to
check theirs. I know how they work. I’ve worked with them on other projects. You re
the new kid on the block, and I want to be sure you understand the way we do things
here, which may be different than at your previous employer.”
On another occasion, Alfreda shows Jack what she thinks is a creative design
approach that will result in a lower-cost system. Jack tells her, “I don t even have a
Ph.D. and I can see that that won’t work. Don’t be so esoteric; just stick to basic sound
During a business trip with Dennis Freeman, another engineer assigned to the
project who has known Jack for six years, Alfreda tells him that she is frustrated with
the way Jack treats her. Jack is acting more like the electronics engineer for the project
than the project manager, she tells Dennis. Besides, I have forgotten more about
designing electronics than Jack ever knew! He really isn’t up to date on electronic
design methodologies. discuss the matter with the manager of electrical engineering
and that she would never have taken the job with Word-Tech if she had known it was
going to be like this.
1. Do you think Jack is ready to serve as a project manager? Why or why not?
How could Jack have prepared for his new role?
2. What is the major problem with the way Jack interacts with Alfreda?
3. Why do you think Alfreda has not had an open discussion with Jack about the
way he is treating her? If Alfreda approaches Jack directly, how do you think
he will respond?
4. How do you think the manager of electrical engineering should respond to
5. What should be done to remedy the situation?
6. What could have been done to prevent the situation?
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