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Case Study on Project Team Management - Issues of Dual Reporting

Project Management Practice – a Case Study On Team Management

Project Manager

It was Tuesday morning and the clock started ticking 11 am, John Gillon looked worried as he skimmed through delivery timeline for various projects in his portfolio. He was wondering how he can ensure smooth deliveries from the “Institutional-Billing” group.

TeleMeck has been a small but renouned IT services and consulting companies in Telecommunication industry. Its Billing & Payment practice group was headed by a company loyalist John Gillon. Having consulted many telcom companies in US and Europe for more than 20 years, John was known as manager with thorough domain knowledge and hands-on experience of various billing systems and payment processes.

The growth record:
Under John’s leadership, the Billing & Payment Department has grown multi-fold: revenue was tripled and team size has grown from 60 members to 350 resources. Looking at the strong financial performance in past few years and current size of projects in the sales-pipeline, senior management has entrusted John to expand his practice-group.

The sub-practice group:
Thomas McGill joined Billing and Payments department six years ago as a consultant; since then he worked closely with John. Having exhibited high level of commitment, Thomas easily entered into circle of people trusted by John. It was not surprising to see that Thomas got promoted over the years and now as a project manager, he is leading a sub-practice group ‘Institutional-billing’ and in turn a team of thirty people (Direct + Indirect). Sarah, Silton and Jason are directly reporting to Thomas and they in turn, are managing team size of approximately ten members each. Sarah, Silton and Jason shared very good rapport with Thomas.

Project delivery issues:
Though all other things, apparently were looking good, since last couple of years, John Gillon started sensing some problems in the project deliveries. Couple of clients also complained about lack of sound project management practices in his department e.g. A vice president at Erricxen Corporation and a sponsor for couple of projects for ‘Institutional-Billing’, voiced problems regarding stakeholder updates, slippage of delivery schedule, quality audits, etc. John Gillon was aware of these concerns. After consulting his colleagues and senior managers, he concluded that

  1. His department lacks the expertise in project planning and deliveries. Current team members who have got promoted as project manager were assigned this role purely because department has grown and company needed somebody to manage bigger teams
  2. His department needed experienced and certified project managers to streamline project management practices and in turn deliveries. These project managers would also guide current team about best practices in project management.

Solution devised:
Hence a year ago, John decided to hire experienced and certified project managers and one such hire was Alex. Alex was certified PMP who has worked in CMMi level 5 compliant organizations and holds considerable work experience in financial sector. Alex joined ‘Institutional-Billing’ – the sub-practice group sharing project delivery responsibilities with Thomas. Thus ‘Institutional-Billing’ has got two project managers. Alex was a experienced project manager but he was not an expert in ‘Billing and Payment’ in telecom domain.

As couple of months passed, Alex realized that he was not able to get correct information about deliverable,resource utilization, their availability, project plan, actual progress & state of deliverable. Sarah, Silton and Jason were not sharing complete picture of what their teams were working on, who was working on what, when would they deliver certain deliverable to the client. As Sarah, Silton and Jason were directly reporting to Thomas, they were not paying much heed to Alex’s requests. Alex strongly suspected that Thomas was deliberately preventing his team from sharing/passing on the information.

If PMO or John Gilton ask for specific project data, Alex would remain unsure of the inputs he had provided whereas Thomas was able to provide precise details to the same requests. Yet Alex and Thomas’s sub-practice-group started facing delivery issues even more prominently – delayed deliveries, increased attrition rate, instances of non-compliance with PMO guidelines.

When Alex complained about these issues to John, John advised him to understand the domain well and indicated that Alex has not been able to tackle team properly. Alex was in a fix, that neither he was well aware of the technology, domain, etc to argue about, in the meeting nor he was able to manage the deliveries properly.

Six months later, the same issue prevailed; despite of the fact that Alex tried hard to break silos. Alex has come to conclusion that he is at a wrong place and he would look out for another job. He even indicated the same to John.

What do you think?
1. Was John’s decision to induct two project managers for ‘Institutional-Billing’ sub-practice group, correct?
2. Since ‘Institutional-Billing’ practices needs to be streamlined, what alternate approach would you suggest?
3. If you were at Alex’s place, how differently would handle the situation?

* The instances mentioned in the are real however name of the company and people in this case, are completely fictitious. Any similarity of these names is purely coincidence.

** Because of space constraints, the case is presented with apt brevity. You may make your own assumption to analyse the case in that context.


Here is the next part of the case study, covering case discussion and what really happened.

Img Credit: US Dept of Labor



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I am a co-founder of Zilicus Solution and I write about project management, collaboration, productivity, project management software, cloud computing, requirement management and business empowerment.