Information Systems
College of Business Administration
University of Missouri - St. Louis
Solving the Water Shortage

In the heat of the desert a small village in Africa was suffering a terrible water shortage. Days had gone by and the only water source was miles away, through burning hot sand dunes, and miles of wasteland. All attempts to retrieve the water had failed, because in all the tribe no one person possessed all the traits required to complete this task.

In their most desperate hour the tribe turned to the chief to come up with a plan. The chief identified what resources he had at his disposal. He understood that everyone in the tribe had different talents and that their job function should focus around those talents. The chief identified three categories of workers: runners, transporters, and collectors. The runners could transport water containers quickly, but were poor at water collection and could not travel over hot sand. The transporters with their tough and leathery feet could travel over hot sand, but they were not the fastest runners and poor at water collection. Finally, the collectors were strong enough to collect and handle water quickly, but their immense size made them slow at transportation and susceptible to hot sand.

The chief’s plan was implemented in the following manner. First, he positioned the stronger collectors in a stationary position along the edge of the water supply where they could easily bend and scope up the water into containers. Second, the water was then passed off to the transporters who carried the water across the burning hot sand dunes. Finally, the water was handed off to the runners who rushed it back the village across the wastelands. The chief oversaw this operation and made adjustment when needed. The village was saved and the system worked so well that it was written down in the “great journal” for future generations to learn and improve upon.

Moral: This example demonstrates the role and importance of project management in the following ways: defining the resources available and determined the best use of them, determined the process flow (who gets what, when, and how), developed a standardized way of performing a process.

In this story the chief took on the role of project manager. The workers represent the human and technical resources available to the project and the transfer of the water represents the flow of data through the system. As project manager the chief performed several activities to access the problem and determine a solution. The first of these activities being the identification and utilization of resources, which was demonstrated by the separation of job functions based on ability of the workers. The second activity, the chief designed the sequence of activities, which is represented on how the water starts with one type of worker and is passed on the next. This exhibits technical problem solving, establishing a flow of data and determining how it is passed though the process.

These stories are adapted examples written in my class, IS 6840 (formerly MSIS 488).
© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.

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© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.