Realization's Project Flow 2010 conference was loaded with customer case studies and interesting discussions in the hallways. I thought there were some interesting themes and ideas across all of the presentations.
Communication, communication, communication. Project management isn't about creating a project plan and managing tasks. It's about getting the organization synchronized around completing projects quickly. And to do this, the organization needs to have excellent communications. One element is that many organizations have implemented specific communication processes to help with the focus. These are
- Regular task status meetings where people review current work for challenges or problems; resolve and escalate those issues; and look forward to make sure upcoming work is prepared and ready as soon as the predecessor work is complete.
- Regular escalated task resolution. If there are issues that task managers and local people cannot resolve that are causing delays, The longer these issues sit unresolved, the more damage is done to the project. Management has to set the expectation and environment that these roadblocks can be and will be removed.
- Regular active project review or portfolio review that looks at the active projects with a focus on those projects that are in danger of being delayed. Don't focus on everything that is "going wrong" on the project. Only focus on those things that are creating damage on the project (significant buffer consumption).
Commitment. Just as important as communication is long-term, dedicated, transparent support from senior management. Maybe commitment is even more important than communication: once the CEO is operating under new principles, it doesn't take long for everyone else to follow suit. You could say this about any change effort, whether it's Theory of Constraints, Knowledge Management, Social Media or ... If management's attention are elsewhere, they are not engaged in the effort. And that means the priorities in the organization will not be clear, which means people elsewhere in the company may not connect or see the importance of the new ways of working. The nice thing about the case studies was that there were several which talked about the success they found with management engaged, or that they found renewed success when they renewed clear management support of the effort.
Collaboration and openness. Not only is management commitment needed, but there has to be commitment throughout the organization to quickly process and resolve any roadblocks or problems that arise the in course of executing projects. This requires plenty of working together, and a joint commitment to getting the project done.
A number of presentations talked about Sustainment and making these implementations stick. This is where many of the discussions of communications, commitment and collaboration arose.
WIP Control and Full Kit. There are many pieces to CCPM, but two that I heard over and over again are some of the key elements of how Realization recommends implementing within organizations: WIP Control and Full Kit. I mentioned WIP Control / Pipelining in the piece on Realization's Mantra, but the idea is that the number of projects needs to be monitored so that it does not exceed the capacity of the business to run projects. And a key element of WIP control is the idea of Full Kit (or "full kitting"): if the project doesn't have all its pieces in place, DO NOT release it into the system. Don't start working on it. There is a similar need for tasks within the system, and this is managed by the task managers. I particularly liked the stories. For example, if a construction project needs 15 elements (parts, contracts, etc) as part of the full kit and 2 of those elements are not going to be ready, DO NOT START the project simply because you have most of the elements available. Writing it out doesn't seem as surprising, but I had a gut reaction to this when it was described in one of the case studies. That is exactly right.
There were a lot of other interesting pieces and elements to the stories, such as one person describing how after five years of CCPM implementations in a large manufacturing facility, there have been no lost-work accidents. While it is hard to ascribe this safety record entirely to CCPM, it doesn't hurt to have the focus and low multitasking that this brings into project environments. I've seen the same claims for improved quality of work as a result of Theory of Constraints implementations.
Good stuff. Thanks, Realization.
[Photo: "Takeaway #2" by Steven Lilley]