Friday, June 6, 2008

Project Management on the Home Front

I had a little infrastructure upgrade project going at my own house. While the project was a success it had some of the classic qualities of most projects.

  • Multiple strategies

  • Scope Creep

  • Budgetary pressures

  • Unavailable Resources

  • Doubts from stakeholders

  • Potential Cancellation

Two weeks ago my Maytag Neptune Front Loading Washer stopped functioning as designed. It would wash the clothes but would not spin them properly which meant that they were extremely wet when they went from the washer to the dryer. This caused the drying time to increase considerably. Also I did not want to risk washing anything that was delicate or expensive.

I originally figure that the problem was with the belt or the motor. It seemed to spin correctly in the early cycles but just went through the motions in the final spins. I called Maytag to setup a service call and I discovered the following.

  • The Maytag Neptune Washer had been part of class action suit that had been settled by Maytag in April of 2005

  • It was going to cost $75 to for a service call

  • There was going to be an additional charge for getting the washer fixed that was unknown but based on past service calls with other appliances I was looking at a total charge of $275 to $500

  • Even though I had the same complaints as listed in the Class Action Suit I was not going to be able to participate in it. I was now on my own.

The washer/dryer unit came with the house when I bought the home in November 2004. The suit only covered purchases before August 2004. I did not have the original purchase information. Also, I needed to have filed a claim by August of 2005.

The original plan was to test the repair strategy and spend $75 to get an estimate of the total cost of repair. However, this plan was not so obvious since:

  • I was not happy with the washer and I have been wanting to get new equipment. Since it was a want rather than a need the decision was always postponed. Now it had become a need.

  • The estimated cost of a new washer would be around $400. Which means that the $75 service call was almost 20 percent of the cost of a new washer. This was actually a low estimate since the cost of a washer was going to be closer to $900. However, the actual cost of the repair would have been closer to $300 and the original logic would still hold.

  • The service company did not honor the original schedule and called to reschedule the appointment for the following week

  • Best Buy is only 1.5 miles from my house so it would not be hard to investigate an alternative strategy of buying a new washer

As part of my risk mitigation strategy I took the rescheduled appointment and went over to Best Buy to investigate my options.

The original plan was to get a Maytag top loading washer and keep the current Maytag Neptune Dryer. It quickly became apparent that the original $400 estimate with for a 3.2 cubic foot washer that was not close to being large enough. I was going to need at least a 3.8 cubic foot washer if not a 4.0 Cubic Foot. Best Buy did not have a lot of top loading washers on display (just like most dealers these days) but the salesperson showed me some options on her computer. It became clear that my estimate was low and I was looking at $800 plus for a right sized washer.

I started to look at all new equipment and I noticed a Frigidaire Front Loading Washer/Dryer that was on sale for $1100. There were a couple of factors pushing toward replacing both the Washer and Dryer (classic scope creep).

  • My background in IT Infrastructure has taught me that once one part of a solution starts to fail the dam has broken and there will be more failures coming soon. Light bulbs are the same way. If you are going to replace one you might as well replace them all because you will soon replace the rest of them.

  • Best Buy was offering 18 months of no interest financing which relieved some of the budgetary pressure

  • My cycling gear cannot be tumbled dry and the LG dryers have an rack that allows for air drying. Swim suits and rash guards require hand washing as well.

I did not go with the Frigidaire because it was only 3.5 cubic ft and I did not like the buttons on the front panel. I was going to with Samsung models but they were on back order and I did not have the time to wait (the project needed to be completed before I had to start traveling again for work). I had my eye on the LG products and I quickly noticed a model that fit my budget. In fact the price for the dryer was for the gas model (gas usually is an additional cost but ends up being cheaper in the long term).

Even though I had decided that the purchase of a new Washer/Dryer was the right direction (I called the original service call while I was in Best Buy) I did have some doubts. I had originally schedule the equipment to be delivered on Sunday and installed on Monday but I changed it to delivered on Thursday and installed on Friday. This gave me some more time to think about it.

I had doubts all week long but the delivery came on Thursday evening and the gas dryer was installed on Friday morning. So far everything is working fine. I missed my Thursday evening ride but I will make up for it over the weekend. The first load of clothes was all of my riding gear.

The biggest downside of the whole project is that I have a line of credit at Best Buy. Not a good idea for me. In fact I can hear a 40" HDTV calling my name.


Anonymous said...

While this was interesting to read, this doesn't say much about using PM to manage this project. It just looks like a couple of elements of the project retold through the lens of PM.

Anonymous said...

This was a pleasure to read. Thank you for sharing. I will make two comments.

I think a better analogy than replacing light bulbs would have worked here. Since you'd typically run the dryer as many times as the washer, and assuming the MTBF is close, you may want to replace the dryer a the same time. All of the light bulbs in your house, however, probably shouldn't be replaced at the same time since you wouldn't be getting a good return on the investment.

Then the comment "I had doubts all week" leaves me with the feeling of an incomplete plan. In this case it might have been better to include a few other vendors or options (e.g. hand washing, using a friends washer/dryer, using the laundry mat, etc.). Doing telephone interviews and internet research for information gathering would have saved you the travel time. This way you could have the feeling of having a good plan with few doubts.

All told this was a great read. Thank you again for it.

Greg, PMP

Flametop59 said...

Thank you for the positive comments. I am glad that you found it interesting. It was fun to write.