Critical Reflection: Team Work and Project Management

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Introduction

Over the centuries, the innovation world has undergone major transformations. This has in turn called fro more calculated measures and approach towards product development management. While most persons have attempted to undertake projects without proper planning, this has proved suicidal. In many instances, various products have failed as soon as they are initiated because of lack of proper planning. Development of strategic product development plans has therefore gained fame over time. Usually a strategic product plans gives a detailed description of the product and its development plan. Product development plan involves a t a bit by bit analysis of the key elements of the project (Chitale, 1998: 174). A god product development takes into consideration a number of important aspects

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The first and most fundamental part of writing a good strategic product development plan is to give a clear description of the intended project you intend to do. This includes the name, location and a proper mission statement. A mission statement if a very fundamental as most if not all decision making aspects will rely on it (Chitale, 1998: 174). A good mission statement will always ensure proper success of any enterprise if involved in all decision making arenas. It is on this basis therefore, that it becomes fundamental to define the enterprises mission adequately and ensure that it forms the basis of developing the strategic business plan.

Once a proper description of the enterprise is done, the next step is to conduct a situational analysis of the enterprise and further define the best strategies that are to be used to make the business achieve its objectives. To effectively do this, SWOT analysis is recommended. This will basically involve identification of the strengths and weaknesses of organization identify the opportunities and threats that the business is facing or might face in the near future (Chitale, 1998: 175). Analyzing the opportunities and the threats within the enterprise is important as it takes into account the external factors that might affect the enterprise. This helps in developing of proper strategies to combat any of these effects. Taking each factor into account eliminates the risk of surprises that might affect the enterprise negatively.

Further, a good strategic business plan will have properly defined marketing strategies that will help the enterprise be able to effectively infiltrate a new market or even further penetrate the existing market. Any business that wishes to be successful must adequately address the issues of market as this is the key to sales. Additional product description is also a necessary part of any strategic business plan. Product description covers basic aspects of the product being produced including branding and identification of laws relevant to the product (Chitale, 1998: 176). Further clear pricing strategies, service delivery and relevant suppliers are described. A proper financial analysis of the enterprise must also be provided for in order to be able to estimate the financial status of the firm at any given time. To conclude, development of a proper strategic business plan, it is also important to conduct a risk analysis in order to cushion the enterprise from future mishaps. To crown it all, an assessment strategy for the overall plan should be developed.

In conclusion, it will be important to note that by taking into consideration all the factors aforementioned, the entrepreneur/manager does not only make the product development process run smooth but also cushions it against future eventualities that could ruin it. Additionally, it provides clear and proper guidelines for evaluation of the performance of any product. It is therefore vital that every business manager, no matter how small the business is, develops a strategic product development plan.

Team Work and Project Management

Teamwork is often a fundamental part of project management. Unlike self management, managing a group of individuals proves a rather cumbersome endeavour. Dealing with various persons in a group, presents a number of challenges. These include learning, styles of communication, ethics, and time management. Team relationship is therefore fundamental to the success of the project. In our local team, communication presented significant challenges just as would be expected of any new group. It is important to note that initially we knew little about each other and hence we begun from a point where communication barrier was rife. Generally the relationship between our group members was slippery. Meetings were irregularly held and hence discussions about the project were also irregular. It is not the fourth week that the group members shared phone numbers to enhance communication. It is important to note that prior to grouping, we didn’t know each other and hence had to build up from scratch while at the same time keep pace with the time necessary to design the hovercraft. This created difficulty in adapting to each other and bridge the communication gap which later hindered our operations enormously

Just like the overall team relationship, team management too was poor. Most of the group felt that everyone was mature enough to handle himself and hence no need for a team leader. This was despite my frantic efforts to try and convince them to appoint a team leader who would be charged with the responsibility of charting the way forward. Generally, management of the team was left to individual members self responsibility, a strategy which recorded significant failure as per mu observations. Based on the stringent and non-committal approach taken by the group, I felt that we would have done better if we had chosen a different group management approach. Most members of the group avoided their responsibility and left the workload to a few of us who were wiling to sacrifice their time for the sake of the project. Each individual ended up working independently. Generally I must appreciate the fact that the groups approach to leadership taught me the importance of leadership in every aspect of life. Not necessarily to represent superiority but as a symbol of guidance and idea centralization to come with unified approaches to projects. In some instances, individual failed to provide information required on time. Depending on the cause of this delay, we would always chart a way forward. For instance if it was out of sheer negligence, the available members would take it upon themselves to re-assign, search for this information amongst ourselves while in cases where this delay was due to research difficulties, the group members would suggest possible research ideas and content ideas to the member in order to facilitate his research and later resent the needed information.

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Communication

Communication emerged as the most significant impediment to our group’s performance. Initially, we did not know each other and hence communication was primarily done via the blackboard. However, after two weeks period, we exchanged contacts to improve our communication media and ease. However, phones calls were rarely made, rather only SMS’s were used for communication. The blackboard however remains a fundamental communication and was used for a large percentage of communication by the group members. Its functions basically involved information sharing, communication and keeping track of what everyone was doing without having to meet. The information shared via the blackboard included research information useful for the development of the product, information that would help other member’s access good research resources and those that would guide members through an informed research. Additionally, members used the blackboard to highlight the difficulties they were facing with regard to the parts assigned to them in turn the blackboard was also used to suggest possible solutions to the problems they were encountering.

The communication modes used across throughout the project can therefore be summarized as shown below:

Communication methods Frequency
Face to face 5
Text messaging 3
Phone calls 1
Blackboard Indefinite

The summary indicates that the widely used method for communication throughout the project was blackboard followed by face t0 face communication though at minimal levels. However, of all the methods, face to face communication emerged as the best as lots of information was disseminated via it, immediate responses were availed and hence conclusive decision made within a short time. However, my main limitation to face to face meeting was language given I am nort a native English. Text message was rather easy though limiting given that I am able to effectively deliver my ideas in writing than verbally. Text message was therefore the best alternative to use in issuing of directions which are not lengthy and require precise response for example (Why u give me this work? I shouldn’t do this part. This is should be done by A), so the good thing is to prevent some unwilling argument. Our communication during project preparation taught vital lesson on the importance attached t different communication methods. Additionally, I was able to learn and understand the importance of willingness to engage in communication as a bridge to better communication across groups. Generally, I felt that failure to build communication bridges amongst ourselves enormously affected our project development process and largely compromised the overall outcome quality.

Seven challenges have often been cited and affecting communication between personalities. Unconsciously, our communication during the project seemed to touch on all these aspects. These include responsive listening, conversation theme negotiation, expression of one’s individual thoughts; creative asking of questions, appreciation expression, and adoption of continues learning attitude (Prince, 1996). Throughout our communication I learnt to appreciate the importance of all these aspects in coming up with reasoned out end products that espouse the ideas and contributions of all the group members within reason. However, our lacking aggregate to perfect the contribution of all these aspects was self responsibility. In generally, I may summarize that communication between us was perfect. What lacked was general commitment towards accomplishment of the project.

The feasibility study

The market

Analysis of market is an important procedure for new product/new entrants into a market (McCarthy & William, 2005: 23). The focus is to meet the needs/demands of new clients of hovercrafts. Over time though, referrals are bound to arise from other areas leading to broadening of the customer bases. Additionally, with more research into areas where possible application s possible, the customer’s bases is expected to continuously rise within the coming years. It is important to note that the hovercraft industry is characterized by lesser CR ratios indicating that the market is en to relatively fair competitive. This is unlike large CR industries where small firms are unable to competitively compete. This results from the fact that their products may be little known given the fact that the market is controlled by few large companies (McCarthy & William, 2005: 59). The prices offered by large firms due to large scale production may also render them unable to compete effectively since they would incur more to produce a similar quantity of product that is produced by large companies which produce in bulk. However, when quota system is put in place they may be able to thrive e.g. in oil producing nations where even small companies are allocated quotas.

Currently the hovercraft market is dominated by a few major players who remain the largely known prospective buyers. However, hovercraft is a new idea that is yet t gain ground and still widely unknown to many. The market is therefore fresh and growing everyday. The new technology offers solutions for the future and demand is likely to project upwards in the coming periods for as long as awareness campaigns, demonstration and marketing are conducted.

Marketing will aim to position our product as the leading product of choice within our area of operation. Additional it will focus on expanded client growth and hence consolidation of a considerable portion of the market. More specifically, we intend to consolidate a market share of not less than 5% over a period of one year.

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Marketing strategy

In marketing of the hovercraft, three broad groups will be used resulting into market segmentation. Previous research indicated that that demonstration through the internet and other public media increased purchase possibilities of the product by 75 – 82%. Our will also use pricing as a marketing strategy. Initially the market price will be set lower than that of our competitors to attract customers. Having initially conducted a study on consumer preference, the product produce will address most if not all of the problems with the design currently in market. These elements are expected to attract customers after which a loyalty program will be put in place to help retain the customers. This will be in form of incentives, maintenance offers, and routine checks to loyal clients. The target market however, remains the same market our competitor are eying or have already gripped. In general, marketing strategy will involve initial low pricing accompanied with high quality in addition to media campaigns and demonstrations aimed at sensitizing public on the good qualities of our hovercraft design.

Keys to success

Key to success of this venture includes:

  1. Growth and maintenance of a customer’s network.
  2. Focus on expertise an production of unique and efficient products
  3. Rapid and timely production of the product.

Competitor analysis

Competitors to or products were largely identified via the internet. Despite little information on their market share, size and distribution, it is clearly that their activities are concentrated in the developed countries. Primarily this source was adequate to effectively identify the major hovercraft manufacturing firms which are likely to pose increased challenges to us in the market. Our competitors are largely developed companies which have accumulated experience over the years and are largely known to the prospective buyers. This generally put us at a competitive disadvantage and we are new entrants into the market and our success is largely dependent on marketing rather than history.

Competition

The major competitors to our products are American and European companies including Turbo Hovercraft pty. Ltd and Aeromobile Inc. Most of these companies are large and already have a grip on the existing market. Competition is however shaped by emerging technological change and market trends. The world has over the last years experienced a high rate of technological advancement as well as market diversity. As new technology erupts and new market trends emerge, there has been increasing need advance our marketing objectives to meet or even surpass marketing techniques used by our competitors. This will not only improve their performance but will also ensure that the resulting products competitively seek a market space (Anderson, 2005: 11) lastly, is the nature of competition? Competitors play a very critical role in making decisions within any organizations. Produce development and marketing must therefore put into consideration the milestones made by competitor in terms of their products and marketing endeavours.

Pricing policy

Our selling price is basically a product of various consideration including raw materials used, projected labour costs, existing market prices by competitors and market entry considerations. Though this aspect was not deeply addressed by the team, I believe the end strategy choice of low market entry price was justified especially taking into consideration the fact that all major competitors already had a competitive edge in almost every aspect.

Services

In addition to manufacture of the product, additional services will be offered to the clients to facilitate usage of the product. This will include consultancy services for intended users and suppliers, design services for individual models customization and field services. Field services will include 24 hour troubleshooting assistance, enabling representation of customers during equipment testing and maintenance initiatives for preventive measures.

Risk assessment

Assessment of risk is fundamental to every project. Risks compromise of uncertainties and events which constraints successful implementation of a project or hamper a part of a project cycle. Development of new projects is often subject to inflated levels of risk (Anderson, 2005: 11). The major risk faced by this project was financial constraint. It is important to note that the project is a new venture and most financiers would always be skeptical about investing in such. Additionally, when wiling financiers are found, they fail t appreciate the fact that every project is a risk venture and demand immediate results. This is further complicated by the lengthy periods required before returns are register to this investment. Investors doubts will however be addressed by availing simulated demonstrations to them and other information deemed relevant to confirm to them the project’s viability (Anderson, 2005: 11). Additionally a time plan will be developed in advance to ensure that projector funders have clear guidelines as to the actual period of the product and hence avoid unnecessary pressure.

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Failure risk cannot be ignored more so considering that the idea is untested. However, to reverse this risk, various prototypes will be constructed and tested against various condition sets before the actual production is approved. The series of test will guarantee that the product does not fail or develop quality problems once it is released to the market. Anthe possible risk that this project faces is possible failure to penetrate the market taking into consideration the fact that other large players have already built brand names in the product line. As mentioned earlier this possibility will be reduced by setting of reduced at lower rates compared to that of the competitors. Additionally, media and internet demonstrations will be employed to market the hovercraft’s ability and hence gain public confidence. With proper marketing and the low prices the product will be expected to hit the market gradually. Additionally, our product will be focused on emerging markets and tourism industry in underdeveloped countries. These areas remain largely unexplored and are likely to create openings for non-competitive markets.

Another possible risk likely to be faced by the project is lengthy periods of returns. Often design, development, and production of a product takes a lengthy period. The same is expected for this product. Design phase is likely to take a lot of time in addition to the time taken before the product hits the market. This is likely to lengthen the period of time before any significant returns on the product are recorded.

Given the less meetings undertaken by the group, this area was not adequately explored. Various risks could therefore have been overlooked due to little time assigned to exploration of risk associated with the project. However, I believe that the area received moderate attention and most possible risk factors were identified and are discussed above.

The finance

The time and money required for this project was basically based on projected expenses associated with the product. Estimation of time and revenue needed for development of the product took into consideration the following factors:

  • Marketing research period and resources
  • Product design duration and resources
  • Product materials and labour requirements
  • Product development duration
  • Product testing and redesign costs
  • Tim necessary to test the design.
  • Manufacturing costs.
  • Contingencies

The breakeven point was set at 2 years from initiation of the idea. Having taken into consideration the above mentioned costs, various other aspects were measured to come up with a realistic break even point. These included the costs on initial investment on the products development, schedule of time for the complete development cycle, capabilities of the product, and its manufacturability and affordability. The derived breakeven pint is therefore justified and realistic as all the important factors which may affect it were taken into consideration in its derivation. This is probably one of the aspects that were deeply explored by the group. This is due to the fact that most of the members lacked prior understanding of its generation and hence lots of research was focused on.

The technical product

Our game philosophy design involved role playing of a competition involving hovercrafts across water and land. The group members would idealize the possible improvements that would make them emerge as winners minimize possible accidents and design failures. Additionally, the members would brainstorm on the possible improvements that would make the design aesthetically appealing.

Our design strengths include:

  • Increased maintainability
  • Increased reliability
  • Improved aesthetic qualities.
  • Enhanced power and seed capabilities
  • Adaptability to change.

Material considerations was treated with utmost care in order to come with am material which meets the design specifications set at the start of the project design initiative. These considerations build on the strength of the design over competitors both in terms of quality and cost. Materials selection t build ton the designs strength was based on the aspects discussed below:

Cost: The selected material was to be less costly without compromising the efficiency of the fan in general (Leslie, 2007: 46).

Weight: The selected material need to be of light weight yet capable of performing its intended purpose without being deformed by the resisting forces.

Wear resistance: The material should be one that has considerable wear resistance properties more so to effects of air either mechanically or through chemical reactions (i.e. abrasion and corrosion resistance) (Leslie, 2007: 46).

Formability: formability of the material is considered important given that it determines the process to use. Simple processes are recommended as they minimize the process related costs. Cold working/machining are the primary processes that will be used in making the hovercraft.

Recyclability: considering the growing global environmental concerns, the selected material should be one that is easily recyclable to ensure that in future they are easily re-used hence minimize environmental impact.

Increased strength and elasticity: Strength and elasticity are considered important as they determine the ease with which the structure may deform while in operation (Reddy, 2005: 32). Good strength and elasticity limits the chances of shape deformation of the product while in operation. Additionally, they determined how durable the blades will be.

Joining methods: ease of joining is considered. The material should be one that allows joining using the normal methods such as soldering, riveting, adhesive bonding and riveting (Chitale, 1998: 175). Generally, the design is made up of simple fix and plug parts which make its customization for specific purposes easy.

Additional various materials choices were brainstormed against each other to come up with the final material choice. For instance, deciding which materials was best suited for building of the overall outer structure of the hovercraft, the following table was developed.

Materials

Property

Aluminum Steel Best suited material
Weight Aluminum is very light as compared to steel. Its specific weight is 2.7 g/cm3is this minimizes deadweight loss to the structure. Has relatively large weight compared to aluminium with a density of up to three times that of aluminium Aluminum
Elasticity and Strength Aluminium is just as strong as steel having tensile strength ranging from 70 to 700 MPa depending on the alloy elements and the processes used in manufacturing it (Matthews, 2008: 37). Aluminum’s young’s modulus of elasticity is 70,000MPa which is a third that of steel. To achieve deflection up to there times moment of inertia required for steel is need for aluminium. It is as strong as Aluminium and has high resistance to fracture. However, it has a large modulus of elasticity as compared to aluminium thus its deflection is much likely to occur. Aluminium
Formability Formability of aluminium is excellent making it possible to process it using a variety of methods including extrusion, machining and casting among others. Steel is malleable and ductile hence has good formability properties. Either of the two
Wear resistance Often on contact with air, a thin oxide layer is formed thus protecting Al. against corrosion. It strength also enhances its resistance to abrasive forces. Steel is vulnerable to corrosive action (rust) thus is always coated to avoid such. Aluminium
Machining and Joining
Aluminium has good machining properties. Normal machine appliances can be used to work on it. It’s a suitable forming material for both hold and cold processes. It can also be joined using a variety of methods including riveting, soldering, welding and using bolts and nuts Steel as compared to aluminium has poor machinability properties given their toughness and rapid work hardening. Aluminium
Recyclability Aluminum is 100% recyclable with no quality degradation. It s recycling energy is very little energy requirement for primary metal production. Steel is relatively difficult to recycle with increased energy consumption. Additionally, recycling degrades steel quality. Aluminium

Forming processes of the materials were also analyzed as discussed hereafter:

Steel

Steel can be processed through various processes. Such processes include drawing, extrusion, forging, friction and machining where applicable (Degarmo, 2007:54). However, its processing is more expensive as compared to aluminium given its mechanical properties (Schmidt, 2003: 440). For instance, its toughness and rapid work hardening makes it difficult to cold process it effectively and produce a perfect shape as may be desired.

Aluminium

Aluminium exercises versatility lending itself to a variety of processing techniques. Common methods used in aluminium production are extrusion, rolling, sand casting and die casting (Degarmo, 2007: 56). Cutting and machining is often used where the aluminium structure to be developed does not require complex processes. It is also important to note that heat treatment processes are easily applicable to aluminium structure formation processes. Based on the aforementioned properties that make aluminium the better suited material as compared steel, the blades are formed through simple cutting and machining of the aluminium sheet to the desired size. Shaping involves machining and a little work hardening where applicable.

Cost estimates were developed after a complete activities schedule had been derived and all possible risk taken into consideration. Causes of variation in project cost were also assigned values to cater for such in case of any. This generated the scheduled activity/material cost estimates. Various alternative estimates are identified and considered. All additional costs are checked for justification in additional savings in the life cycle process. For instance, application areas and additional work are often considered to hold increased likelihood reducing the cost of the execution phase and product operations. Resources for which costs are estimated include infrastructure, labour, materials, equipments, etc. and special categories like inflation or contingency. If the performing organization does not have formally trained project cost estimators then the project team will need to supply both the resources and the expertise to perform project cost estimating activities.

The product design processes has widened my understanding of the importance of embracing team work in product development. Through the process I have learnt the failures that may often accompany. Additionally, the whole process has helped me appreciate the role of strategic plan in product development. Strategic planning is useful in ensuring that all the important aspects in a project cycle are adequately addressed.

References

Anderson, E.T. (2005) “Managing a New Product Launch.” Harvard Business School, 28(4). p 11-12

Chitale, R.C. (1998) Product Design and Manufacturing, New Delhi: Prentice Hall, p 173 -186

Degarmo, E. Paul et al. Materials and Processes in Manufacturing (9th ed.). Wiley, New York, 2007

Leslie, R. T. (2007) Basic Manufacturing, London: Oxford University Press, p 44 -50

Matthews, C. (2008) ASME Engineer’s Data Book, New York: Three Park Avenue, p 33 – 42

McCarthy, J. E. & William, D. (2005). Basic Marketing: A Global-Managerial Approach, 15th Ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill Irwin

Mitchell, P. E. (2008) Tool and Manufacturing Engineers Handbook: Material and part handling in manufacturing, University of Michigan.

Reddy, V. et al. (2005) Fundamentals of design and manufacturing, New Delhi: Alpha Science International

Schmid, S.R. et al. Manufacturing Processes for Engineering Materials. Pearson Education, London, 2003, p. 437–440

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