Project Porsche 911: Where the rubber meets the road

19 November 2012
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Porsche 911 Genius RedAlthough the Porsche 911 will celebrate its 50th anniversary in a few months, it definitely doesn’t look its age!  It is an absolute classic among sports cars and its timeless design never goes out of style.  In the world of Project Management, the Porsche 911 is certainly a flagship project.  According to German magazine “MotorKlassik” only 10 prototypes were built prior to its release in September 1963.  This fact alone, is almost unbelievable, compared to today’s mass-production manufacturers who can burn through 100s of prototypes before a product launch.

On the occasion of its 40th anniversary, now almost 10 years ago, three gentlemen, who played a pivotal role in the Porsche 911’s success, told their inside story to “MotorKlassik”. What I learned from their story is that in many cases smaller project teams led by talented resources wearing multiple hats can mean better visibility within projects and more efficient results.  The former race car driver and development engineer at Porsche, Hans Mezger told the MotorKlassik that he was not only in charge of engine design, but also of road testing.  Peter Falk, one of the lead engineers, explained that the short development time was due to the fact that decisions could be made quickly and put into practice immediately (as their was no red tape to deal with at that time).

Another advantage the project team had at that time was their small size and close proximity rendering them nimble and flexible.  Peter Falk mentioned that it was possible to be sitting at your desk while looking out into the workshop conducting vehicle testing.  In today’s project environment it would be very difficult to manage a project in this fashion.  Although the people today at Porsche are still great innovators, the reality is the vision and creativity they strive to share with their project teams do not have the same freedom of movement and are often stifled by norms and regulations.  The truth is, there is probably no other industry in the world which has such stringent levels of legal regulation and constraints than does the automotive industry.  As a result, the ability to deliver successful results has become a huge challenge.

From R&D to the mass production of vehicles, car manufacturers must strictly adhere to the realities of regulatory compliance.  In addition, today’s project teams face the obstacle of being larger and in many cases working with globally dispersed teams that need to collaborate with minimal physical interaction.

By: Sofia Hess, Genius Inside Germany

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