The Silent Aircraft Initiative

Funded by the Cambridge-MIT Institute in 2003 in conjunction with more than 15 private corporations, the Silent Aircraft Initiative is a project to develop a new conceptual and innovative design for an aircraft whose noise would be almost unnoticeable outside the boundaries of an airport.

US-based Boeing, UK-based British Airways, and Germany-based Deutsche Post World Net (DHL is part of this global logistics company) are among those companies, who along with other academic institutions, airport operators and governmental agencies, have contributed enormous amounts of knowledge and their facilities to realize this project.

Initially envisioned to provide huge noise reductions, especially for those people who live neighbouring the airports, the highly-efficient and ground- breaking design of the ‘silent aircraft’ SAX-40 also offers improvements of around 25 per cent in fuel consumption when compared to the actual consumption in present aircrafts.

In order to obtain the required expertise and commitment from all the parties involved in the project, thorough planning was paramount. Continuous monitoring was critical in keeping to the objective of the project. There was a small team of academics managing the major parts of the projects with around 40 researchers overseeing the different aspects of the project. They needed to strictly prioritize the research topics in order to not get overwhelmed by the complexity of the task. They also needed to put all available resources onto critical issues in order to stick to the schedule. Trans-Atlantic co-operation between Europe and the USA happened on a daily basis, using e-mails and videoconferencing.

The objective of the project was challenging and required a holistic approach to the design of the new aircraft, rather than the more traditional design approach, whereby the body of the aircraft is made by a certain company and the engines by another. This proved to be especially demanding due to a need to align all the contributed ideas and information to the overall plan of the project. Decision making needed to occur in a multi-disciplinary team due to the different technical areas involved in the project. Only if all the parties involved trusted each other and offered their full support in terms of knowledge contribution could the overall ambitious target be met. This initiative has been able to provide the basics of the design of the next generation of aircrafts that are said to become a reality in the year 2030.

Question: Review the project management literature to highlight the main communication challenges that face International Projects. Discuss how effective communication could improve planning and monitoring in the Silent Aircraft Project.

Mini Case 2: Siemens One

Siemens AG, headquartered in Germany, is a global conglomerate with six divisions: Automation and Control, Power, Transportation, Medical, Information and Communications, and Lighting. The company, which was founded 160 years ago, has approximately 475,000 employees. In the fiscal year 2006, Siemens had sales of approximately 87.3 billion Euros and a net income of around 3 billion Euros. The conglomerate provides innovative technologies and comprehensive know-how to customers in over 190 countries.

As part of its continuous improvement and adaptation to a changing environment, Siemens has initiated a program called ‘Siemens One’. This programme has the purpose of helping the company to implement its new strategy – strengthening its customer focus. Siemens One aims at improving market penetration and driving growth in new business fields by enhancing co-operation across the entire organization. By bundling its products and services to reach comprehensive solutions, the program should create extra value for the customer. A combination of the capabilities and knowledge of different divisions should enable the customer to do ‘one-stop-shopping’, thus reducing the complexity, reducing the cost of ownership, and enlarging the comprehensiveness of any solutions. To sum it up, ‘the objective of Siemens One is to harness the power of Siemens for the optimum customer partnership and develop the whole company toward an even more customer-centric organization model’ (Senn, 2006: 29).

The programme ‘Siemens One’ consists of different international projects. Siemens is providing solutions for mainly big infrastructure projects or international events, such as was the case for the Olympic Summer games in Athens 2004. According to estimates, hosting the Olympics cost the Greek government 10-12 billion US$. Siemens among others provided the following products and services: the overall security concept, solutions for the more than 20 stadiums, traffic management for the metro, light train and trains, a total public telecommunication network extension, an upgrade of medical equipment, a stabilization of Athens’ energy network, and the installation of lighting automation for hotels and the athletes’ accommodations. Another international project belonging to ‘Siemens One’ was Bangkok’s International Airport Suvarnabhumi, officially opened in September 2006. The project comprised the following products and services: an airport management database, power distribution, a cargo handling system, a hydrant network control system, and the rail link with Bangkok’s city centre.

Question: Discuss the challenges of planning international projects and how cultural aspects can impact the planning of such projects. Critically discuss how these are dealt with in the project management literature. Apply your findings to the Siemens One programme.


Case 3: The World Bank’s global program for Avian Influenza control and human pandemic preparedness and response: Strategy and structure

Main decision takers at a global level came to the conclusion that the risk of a global pandemic needed to be mitigated. Therefore, a global response to the threat to global health was formulated in terms of the following strategies:

The prevention of the spread of the disease in animals in order to lower the animal origin virus load in the environment.
The mitigation of the effect of an outbreak in humans.
The help of affected populations to cope with the effects of the pandemic in case this will occur.

The need for a shared vision was identified. The representatives of more than 100 countries who participate in the program were invited to Beijing in January 2006 in order to jointly formulate a vision and a common set of activities. The vision is to minimize the global threat and risk of HPAI in humans and domestic poultry, by controlling and eliminating the virus H5N1 from terrestrial domestic poultry in Asia.

The delegates of all countries present at Beijing pledged almost 1.9 billion US$ in support of the program on a country, regional, and global level.

The overall strategy has the following focal areas where action is required:

Capacity building in terms of strong and sustainable human and physical resources in all countries that are capable of disease surveillance and control, policy development and socio-economic analysis.
Research into the nature of the virus including an evaluation of the efficacy of vaccines.
Analysis of the production and marketing systems of the poultry sector in the infected countries and at-risk countries, including a restructuring of the sector in some countries.
Development of regional policies and harmonized technical standards related to live-animal movement, compensation plans, capacity building, disease reporting requirements and poultry sector restructuring.

Read the full case in Koster (2010) pp 29-31 where it demonstrates that the global programme for Avian Influenza has numerous stakeholders who need to be coordinated and managed well. Therefore, a special Coordination Framework of the GPAI was developed. The framework aims at:

Avoiding a duplication of work.
Optimizing the use of global assets and resources.

Question: Discuss what would be the key success factors in this international project and develop a set of critical success criteria?

Mini Case 4: How to lead an international, geographically dispersed new product development team − the experience of ABB

International projects are characterized by diversity. A geographically dispersed new product development project with sites in Finland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and the USA involved, has to deal with diversity in terms of national cultures, organizational cultures, local languages, etc. In this international project, the differences between organizational cultures on the various sites involved in the project were quite high, also due to the fact that some of the sites had originally belonged to another company and had been acquired by ABB over time. Hence, each site had its established way of doing things, and also when it came to project management tools and techniques. The manager heading this international project decided not to interfere with these local processes and procedures. Rather he concentrated on some high level qualitative deliverables, mainly the input and output of the locations involved along with the major milestones.

He left it to the local organizations how they wanted to work: one site, for instance, was using a project management model focussing on deliveries. Therefore, they conducted many routines and tests of the delivery goals. Another site was focussing more on the new product development process as such. The project manager only focussed on some of the key qualitative measures he used to monitor the project, leaving the diversity of organizational cultures and procedures intact. The purpose of this approach was not to create too much change which would cost time. As on-time delivery was the key critical factor of the project, anything that would shorten development cycles needed to be done. A standardization of processes and procedures on all the sites involved would have taken a lot of time. Moreover, it could have been perceived as undue interference and arrogance by any given project manager, who in this project was a Swedish person. Project members in Italy could have said: What does he know about our local conditions? Why does he want to change a running horse?

Critical for success is to make sure that the key figures and measures collected from the different sites are understandable and reliable. This requires a certain level of trust among the project management team to be established (Eriksson et al. 2002). In addition, on-time delivery was of paramount importance.

Question: Discuss what type of leadership style would be most appropriate in this context and why; what would be your suggestions to build a high level of trust among the international project team? You are expected to consult the project management literature, particularly where relevant to International Projects.