Scope of the task
In effect, the CEO, Lisanne, is seeking from you:
1. a ‘lessons learned’ brief of the two projects, and
2. how these learnings can be adopted into MAC’s growth ambition project.
Firstly, you will need to critically examine what the two companies have done, or may have done, at each phase of the project management cycle (initiation, planning, execution – including monitoring and control but ignoring closing) and how that led to the final outcome. The outcome could be either positive results or negative results. As detailed information on the projects is ‘Commercial in Confidence’, it is highly unlikely that any company-originated documents would be available in the public domain. You will need to rely on company media releases, news reports, and professional case studies for information. In some instances you will need examine the outcome (e.g., inability to connect electric cablings between A380 aircraft modules) of the relevant project activities (e.g., engineering design) and make some assumptions as to what the companies might have done or not done in terms of following proper project management methodologies (e.g., quality plan …etc). Focus on the international context whenever you need to. This is particularly important for the second part of this task. You are working for a Japanese company, with a female CEO and your supply partners are from across the globe. What strategies are you going to recommend to your CEO to ensure MAC does not repeat Boeing’s and AirBus’ mistakes because of cultural differences and other issues that are unique to international projects?
The video on the AirBus A380 and 787 will provide a fair amount of information about the issues that both projects faced and should assist you with this task.
Your report should be presented in an essay format. It needs to look and sound professional and to be suitable for presentation in a Business Development debate.
Preparing your submission:
Prepare your submission as a Word document, up to 2000 words (excluding references). Make sure you include at least three references to academic and/or professional body publications, using the Academy of Management referencing style.
Refer to the Assessment 4 marking rubric before starting work on your submission.
You should by now have a good understanding of the unique characteristics of international projects. You should have a firm grasp of the way in which uncertainty impacts on a number of project management activities, in particular how the culture of international stakeholders affects the planning and execution of projects. Your task now is to analyse and critique an international project in terms of how well it is being conducted, the problem areas and possible improvements.
You have been appointed by Murasaki Aircraft Corporation (MAC), a relatively new aircraft manufacturer in Japan, as the Project Director. MAC’s shareholders include parent company Murasaki Heavy Industries (MHI) 64%, Toyota Motor Corporation (10%) and Mitsubishi Corporation (10%) and Sumitomo Corporation and Mitsui & Co with minor shares. MAC is only producing Regional Jets and has no ambition to compete with Boeing and Airbus, especially since MAC is manufacturing Boeing’s 787’s wings. However, the CEO, Lisanne wishes to grow the company to the next level by entering into the medium size passenger jet market directly competing with the Big Two. She wishes to use Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner lightweight construction technology to reduce the weight of the aircraft and the partnering strategy (international consortium approach) that Boeing and Airbus employed for the 787 and A380 aircraft respectively to spread the manufacturing risks – although the partnering proved to be problematic for both companies. In order to develop the concept, Lisanne has asked you to collect as much information on the 787 and A380 projects as possible and determine what they did well and in which areas they should have paid more attention, and perhaps performed better, in order to avoid the problems that plagued their projects. Lisanne needs the information to determine how feasible her concept is from a project perspective and to ultimately build a business case to persuade the shareholders, if the issues identified by you can be resolved.
Read through the case study material carefully.
The Airbus A380 Program – One of the Most Ambitious Aviation Industry Endeavours
At the time, the Airbus A380 was to be the largest passenger plane ever built.
The Airbus saga: Crossed wires and a multibillion euro delay
TOULOUSE, France — On Jan. 18, 2005, top executives of Airbus and its parent company, European Aeronautic Defense & Space, staged the aviation industry’s equivalent of a Broadway musical for the A380’s coming-out party here, complete with strobe lights, smoke machines and chorus girls. Before a rapt audience, Jacques Chirac, the French president, extolled the colossal, twin-deck jet as an unparalleled symbol of European manufacturing prowess.
“When it takes to the skies,” Chirac said, “it will carry the colors of our Continent, and our technological ambitions, to even greater heights.”
By NICOLA CLARK DEC. 11, 2006, The New York Times
Why the A380 Program Became Distressed – One Analysis
The quest to build the A380 and the problems that were usually encountered in undertaking such a large feat of engineering were underpinned by some strong goals:
The Airbus saga: Crossed wires and a multibillion euro delay
“When Airbus was founded in 1970 two major objectives prevailed. The first was to create a consortium of existing companies whose facilities had been scattered at sixteen sites in four European countries including France, Germany, Britain, and Spain.
The second was to transform these existing companies into a modern and integrated organization capable of competing more effectively with American companies that included such giants as Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed. Today, the only two surviving commercial aircraft companies are Airbus and Boeing. Airbus now employs about 57,000 people.”
By BARRY SHORE 2009, Global Project Strategy
Reading: Brief Historical Overview and The Drastic Failure and its Main Drivers
This is a very informative paper on the problems experienced by the A380 Program. It has a number of valuable facts which you can use for your analysis. Be mindful that this paper is written from an organisational, not from a project management perspective, however there are crossovers between the two disciplines and other information that you can utiltise for this assessment task. Frame your analysis and recommendations based on the international project management knowledge that you have learned in this subject. Don’t simply repeat/rewrite the content of this or any other papers. You are expected to demonstrate your understanding of the theories, concepts and processes taught in this subject and your ability to apply them in this case scenario.
Read the brief historical overview and the drastic failure and its main drivers sections from the following articles:
• Dörfler, I. & Baumann, O. 2014. Learning from a Drastic Failure: The Case of the Airbus A380 Program. Industry and Innovation, 21(3): 197-214.
Reading: Statistics about the A380 project
• BBC News. 2012. Factfile: Airbus A380. (February 8, UK). Accessed February 22, 2017.
Reading: Delay Issues Cloud A380 Visit
• Rochfort, S. 2006. Delay issues cloud A380 visit. The Sydney Morning Herald, November 28. Accessed February 21, 2017.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner
“The production of the Boeing 787 promised the next evolution in flight technology. Since its introduction, however, the plane has been fraught with crippling malfunctions. What’s to blame for the potentially fatal mishaps of this one-time dream machine of the skies, and how much information is being hidden from an unsuspecting public?” (Broken Dreams: The Boeing 787, Top Documentary Films, 2014)
Watch this Al Jazeera documentary for a good overview of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner project (48 mins).
The primary focus of this documentary is on Boeing’s management and alleged unsavoury corporate behaviours. Two main problems reported, amongst others, were the management of quality & safety and the problems with the lithium-ion battery technology. As in any project initiation research, you have to look beyond the obvious issues and also focus on the underlying factors that may be useful to your project. Determine which is the applicable information, synthesis it so that it is in context of your project and analysis how it can be used. For example, how did the corporate culture affect the project’s progress and chances of success; what were the processes that they did poorly or by-passed where you as a responsible project manager would not do. Here are just a couple of hints, there is other valuable information that you can gather in this documentary which would assist you on this assessment task. In short, exercise your critical thinking skills when watching the documentary.
Readings: the Boeing 787 Dreamliner
We have included four articles on the 787 project to get you started on this assessment task – however you are expected to conduct your own research and seek additional information from other reputable sources. Do not simply rely on the information provided on the LMS.
The articles by Shenhar et al (2016) and Elahi (2014) focus specifically on one aspect of the overall project management problem, i.e., the complexity caused by innovation and problems with Boeing’s integrated outsourcing framework respectively. Denning (2013) gives a ‘broad brush’ overview of the various risk factors existed in the program. The MarketLine Boeing Case Study – The 787 Dreamliner provides a concise and useful background on the rationale of the 787 Business Case.
There are other resources available online and via the library from which you can draw valuable information. There have been a number of documentaries on the Boeing 787 program made by various investigative journalists from major news networks such as CNBC, Al Jazeera and the like. They are very informative and I would recommend you to search for those on the web if they are still available.
• Elahi, E., Sheikhzadeh, M. and Lamba, N. 2014. An Integrated Outsourcing Framework: Analyzing Boeing’s Outsourcing Program for Dreamliner (B787). Knowledge and Process Management. 21(1): 13–28
• MarketLine Case Study. 2012. Boeing Case Study. The 787 Dreamliner. Accessed 22 February, 2016.
• Shenhar, A. J., Holzmann, V., Melamed, B. and Zhao, Y. 2016. The Challenge of Innovation in Highly Complex Projects: What Can We Learn from Boeing’s Dreamliner Experience?. Project Management Journal. 47(2): 62–78.
• Denning, S. 2013. What went wrong at boeing. Strategy & Leadership. 41(3): 36-41.