| Presently, I am in the
process of adding and subtracting Project Management responsibilities
to and from my current assignment, and I am developing
strategies to execute these changes. As fate would have
it, I recently stumbled across the 1994 publication by
Dr. Alex Laufer titled "In Quest of Project Excellence
Through Stories," to which I had been fortunate to provide
a few of the stories in the book. I took some time to
reread my stories and was somewhat taken aback by how
appropriate they were to my current situation. I thought
I'd share two with you since we are in a changing world
and thus always find ourselves either "going or coming."|
I was being reassigned to a new project management position.
Before leaving the project I was working on, I wanted
to resolve as many outstanding issues as possible for
the new Project Manager to begin work with a clean slate.
Prior to beginning this transition, I sensed the project
team did not fully understand the engineering process
we were planning to begin or what everyone's roles would
be in this process. To add to my concern, some people
had just joined the project team and needed to be brought
up to speed.
I had several options on how to proceed with my transition.
One would have been simply to let the new Project Manager
deal with the problem. Another would have been to meet
with the Operations and Plant Managers to share my concerns
about the project. Though this option would have been
important for its own sake, it would have supplied little
detail to the project team and new Project Manager. The
option I finally decided on was to provide the new and
veteran project team members with the right kind of information
to do their jobs. Thus, I opted to implement a "training"
kick-off meeting in lieu of the planned project kickoff
My assumptions about the team's understanding of the project
turned out to be accurate. The action I took was the right
response. By taking a day to train the entire project
team and the new project manager on the future engineering
requirements of the project, team members were better
able to ascertain the total breadth of their roles as
well as understand what stage the project had reached
in the engineering process. More than 80 percent of the
project team believed the project was further along than
it really was. However, at the completion of the day of
training, everyone understood additional work was required
to meet the project's needs, and they were aligned on
signs of uncertainty or misunderstanding because
people don't always know what they don't know.
In one-on-one discussions with project team members after
this meeting, it became clear that 100 percent of the
people in attendance did not fully understand the engineering
process, though none would have admitted to this if asked
in a group setting. Thus, the training provided an essential
learning forum. As a Project Manager, you must check your
assumptions. Look for signs of uncertainty or misunderstanding
because people don't always know what they don't know.
- You should not adhere religiously or blindly to
the original plan; rather, based on a continuous diagnosis
of the situation, adapt it -- sometimes radically
-- to fit the situation.
- You should not consider planning assumptions to
be facts. Rather, you should continually review their
validity and be ready to quickly revise them.
Early in my project management career, I assumed project
management responsibility for a multi-phased project from
another Project Manager who resigned. The Project Manager
I replaced had been new to his position; he considered
this a simple project and was eager to try some innovative
techniques for completing it. His execution strategy called
for minimal engineering and construction effort, utilizing
just a handful of manufacturing and engineering personnel
to complete relocation of existing equipment at small
engineering cost. Both the project team and upper management
supported his plans.
Unfortunately, under this execution strategy, the first
phase of the six-phase project was 30 percent over its
original capital budget, did not meet its original start-up
schedule, and did not meet the original target production
goals until twelve months after start-up. The Project
Manager I replaced resigned following the first relocation.
After reviewing the project status, I determined the project's
original execution strategy did not have the proper business
focus, nor was the original capital cost forecast sufficient
to successfully complete the remaining five phases. The
original strategy had failed to guarantee there would
not be any business interruptions. It had focused on minimizing
engineering costs, instead of optimizing the overall capital
costs, and did not take into account the business importance
of each phase of the project.
Rather than trying to make the best of the original plan,
I developed a new execution strategy, which included a
formal strategy for completing the remaining phases. This
new strategy defined engineering/project teams for all
remaining phases and treated each as a separate project
with specific cost and schedule targets. The new plan
enabled the project teams to focus their energies and,
therefore, achieve the desired business results. Team
members were able to successfully relocate the businesses
without having to shortship or delay business initiatives
with the trade during very crucial time periods.
|It is imperative
for the Project Manager to have the flexibility
to revise, recalibrate, and convince management
to alter the original plan
As the Project Manager assuming responsibility for someone
else's project, I learned how crucial it is to carefully
develop an execution strategy capable of delivering the
business need. If the execution strategy is unable to
deliver this need, it is imperative for the Project Manager
to have the flexibility to revise, recalibrate, and convince
management to alter the original plan.
- There is a time for fixing a plan and there is a
time for devising a new plan. Often it may seem easier
to fix the plan rather than devise a new one, especially
when upper management supports a "fix mentality."
However, to succeed as a Project Manager, you must
be ready to stand by your convictions and confront
upper management when you believe starting anew is
Scott Cameron is Capital Systems Manager for
the Food & Beverage Global Business Unit of Procter
& Gamble. He has been managing capital projects
and mentoring other capital management practitioners
for the past 20 years at Procter & Gamble within
its Beauty Care, Health Care, Food & Beverage, and
Fabric & Home Care Businesses.