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Project Management In The Automotive Industry: A Critical Review

2053 words - 8 pages

The chapter ‘Project Management in the Automotive Industry’ by Christophe Midler and Christian Navarre from The Wiley Guide to Managing Projects (September 2004) traces the inception and transformation of project management in the automotive industry from the post-war period to the early years of the new millennium. It is an interesting article which categorizes the period into four phases on the basis of organizational structure and strategy pertinent to most of the automotive manufacturers in each era. This classification helps the authors elaborate on the change in corporate structures and relationships within the organization and with their subcontractors over the years. Examples of leading car manufacturers have shown how project management has developed into an essential aspect of managing complex activities, and how the automotive industry has steadily evolved from being function-oriented and bureaucratic to being innovation-oriented and modular.
Throughout the article, the authors’ focus has been on changes in automotive organizations in terms of their hierarchy, individual responsibilities, inter-organizational communication and product strategies. The details of project management aspects novel to each phase have been presented with an extensive research and illustrations. Examples of leading car manufacturers such as Chrysler, Renault and Toyota help relate the authors’ theories with real world situations. It is interesting to note how the vertical corporate structure from the first phase was gradually complemented by a horizontal line of authority as organizations embraced project functions to cope with the ever-increasing number of products and their decreasing life cycles. A clear trend of differentiation of projects from project management can be seen. Notably, the fourth phase has no associated illustration. During this phase, the automotive industry set foot on the path of globalization and corporate structures extended beyond the realms of a single organization through mergers, acquisitions and alliances. Rather than the traditional vertical organizational structure, this phase can be better represented by a matrix chart which includes the parent organizations, allied organizations, subsidiaries, brands and subcontractors. Nevertheless, a visual representation of matrix organizations has challenged managers due to the complexities of secondary relationships within the matrix.
The characteristics of each phase of automotive project management have thus been explained elaborately. In fact, the time periods have been chosen aptly since there is a clear differentiation of one phase from another. But since the underlying causes for change have not been discussed, there seems to be a discontinuity between the phases. Market trends and customer demands play a major role in determining the decisions taken by car manufacturers and are today the driving force behind product innovation. This competitive environment which, as stated by the...

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