Denver Airport Baggage System: Management Issues

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The Denver Airport recently engaged itself in building one of the modern days biggest exploits by trying to engage technology to automate the entire baggage system within the airport. Nonetheless, the project was a disaster that cost both money and time to the airport. It is now a case study to determine what the essential plans of management are in the achievement of project goals, especially in the case of large projects such as this. This paper is an executive summary of the problems in management that the Airport faced, and the formulation of a plan to mitigate such problems in future projects.

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There were about five leading issues within the overall management of the project that were red lights from the beginning of the project. However, the lack of consideration of this tell-tale signs led to the disaster that was experienced during this venture. An estimated $560 million was lost due to the poor planning of the project (Calleam Consultancy, 2008). Furthermore, the cost to the maintenance of the project could not match its input. Therefore, the project was disbanded after a while in its implementation. However, it was possible from the beginning to avert the problems that the project had, if only they were dealt with in good time.

Goal and Vision

The role of a goal and vision within a project or organization is undisputable. The goal gives the specific, tangible outcome that is expected to flow out of the project. On the other hand, the vision states the expected outcome of the project (Kockemuller, 2007). As such, the lack of an answer to the why of the project led to the serious catastrophe that the creators had. There was no goal or vision at the end of the project. Furthermore, this was evident as the sponsor and organization benefitting from the system lacked a consensus on the goals of the project. As such, the decision making processes were determined by the sponsor according to personal goals, rather than the organization which was the beneficiary of the project. This lack of adequate reasoning within the goal and vision of the project was the first point of failure.

Leadership Concerns

The project lacked a clearly defined leadership for the completion of the project. No specific people were assigned duties within the organization to facilitate the smooth running of the project, leading to confusion of roles. Furthermore, the sponsor was passive as to his role in the project leadership. This led to various concerns, among them, the sole burden being on the project manager for the success of the project. This was a large project requiring the demarcation of departments for ease of management. However, this was lacking as the project didnt have specific leadership domains that would be necessary for such a large project. As such, the project manager was responsible for the development of the technical, financial and organizational leadership of the project inarguably a huge load for one person. Leadership, being a key component of the entire project, was in bad shape and giving the project various needs that were supposed to be met. These needs not being met meant that the project was going under.

Requirement Concerns

The scope and requirements of the project was also a matter of concerns for the completion of the project. Considerations were made for the requirements of the project. However, there were some serious failures on the part of the airport in setting up the project. The specifity of the project scope was among one of the major concerns of the project. The lack of formality in defining the scope of the project and vagueness in definitions were among some of the issues that caused concern. Different people would interpret the assertions made in the requirements differently because of a lack of proper and clear language. In addition, there was a serious lack of understanding concerning the final operational context of the planned changes to the airport. The project identified certain changes that it would make. However, this was not envisioned within the requirements. This means that the project and how it would serve various stakeholders once it was completed was not considered. This was fueled by the lack of consultation between parties, especially those that were expected to use the system. There was no survey tactics involving the public and their perception of the new system (Calleam Consulting, 2016).

Team Issues

Another concern was for the team that was working on the project. There was the lack of definitive roles for team members in the course of working. Without clear roles and responsibilities for team members, costly errors and omissions were unavoidable. This led to the constant need to repair and revisit completed phases of the project. The major cause of this was the lack of adequate training for proper performance in the course of working on the project. Without training on usage and adding that the workers were often working on a technology that was a prototype in the area of air transport, there was bound to be fatal mistakes that would lead to the ultimate failure of the project. Furthermore, employee motivation methods were rarely used so that there was no way of getting feedback from employees concerning the progress of the project, or the concerns that they have concerning the functionality of the project.

Stakeholder Engagement

The stakeholders were almost always out of the loop concerning project proceedings. There was a clear lack of identification on who was the stakeholder and additional inability to engage them in the course of the project. As such, it was impossible to gauge whether the stakeholders were on board with the project or had recommendations to make on the betterment of the entire exercise. This means that airlines, airport staff, travel agents, travelers among other stakeholders were not engaged in the course of implementing the project. This would thus mean that the project was a one-man pursuit. In the cases where stakeholders were engaged, there was inadequate communication of changes to the project, and far less communication of the stakeholders views concerning said changes. There were yet cases of a single stakeholder taking pre-eminence in considerations as opposed to other, less vocal stakeholders. As such, the feedback on the progress of the project, where available, was largely biased because it was the views of only the most vocal stakeholder. These five challenges comprised the major issue that was faced by the company in its operations.

Risk Mitigation

For the sake of mitigation, there was an initial report stating that the project was not feasible. This would have been the first tell-tale sign concerning the inability of the construction to maintain the work on an automated system. Proper management consultation would have found this to be viable after the critical assessment of the report by the independent consulting party.

When the airport realized that there was no bidder ready to engage them for an airport-wide integration of the proposed system, this would have been another sign to ensure that there was trouble brewing. At this point, the automation system would have been cancelled in favor of a manual system. The plan to automate the first concourse would have proceeded and the automation of the other two systems would have been implemented pending the success of the first concourse. As such, resulting fines and extra expenses that were incurred would have been averted.

Furthermore, a phase by phase implementation of the project would have been more viable noting that the entire project was a pilot project whose go-ahead was not given at the beginning. It was thus necessary to have the project reviewed on a stage basis rather than the entire project being taken up at once. In addition, management and team issues for an implementation of automation on one concourse would have been easier as opposed to the concurrent automation of three concourses. Nonetheless, worker roles must be specified even in the phase automation approach. Having deliverables due at the end of each tenet of the project phase would ensure that the need for goals and a vision were achieved. This would also eliminate the use of vague language in the expression of project needs as there are targets at the end of each tenet.


Management issues were key in the failure of the project. It is necessary that a mitigation plan involve the solving of such management issues so that there is adequate efficiency in project enactment. As such, the project necessitated the need to make targets and break down the project, beginning with a pilot project first and proceeding with manual handling in the other two concourses pending the success of the automation process in the first concourse. This would have determined if a continued automation to the other two concourses would have been viable.


Calleam Consultancy. (2008). Case Study Denver International Airport Baggage Handling System - an illustration of ineffective decision making. Retrieved March 5, 2016, from Calleam:

Calleam Consulting. (2016). 101 Common Causes. Retrieved March 5, 2016, from Calleam Consulting:

Kockemuller, N. (2007). Importance of Mission Vision in Organizational Strategy. Retrieved March 5, 2016, from Small Business Chron:

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