Saturday, 29 December 2018

From Quality Control to Quality Improvement

Everybody is familiar with control charts for quality control. An example of a control chart is shown below. In the example a packaging company who made blisters for the pharmaceutical industry found the process average for a critical characteristic was out of control. There were some ideas about possible causes but, as in most other companies, they were lacking the knowledge and resources to perform experimental design to find the causes of variation. They decided is to use their statistical process control (SPC) program to make the step from quality control to quality improvement.

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Figure 1: Control Chart Example

The first step the company took is to add extra information columns to their data. These columns can be used for tracking and tracing information like operator, lot number, batch number, etc. Other columns could be sources of variation like process parameters, machine batch numbers, temperature, humidity, etc. The company extracted this data from PLCs (programmable logic controllers) and from the company’s ERP (enterprise resource planning) system.

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Figure 2: Control Chart Data

The control chart shows us when the process is out of control, but we can also use the same measurements to analyze if there are differences in the process between different settings or different material batch numbers.

The second step is to analyze the control chart and indicate where process changes are made. This can be done using vertical bars, but the charts are even more meaningful if we show the variation with each process change in zones. An example of the chart with specific zones for each material batch number is shown in the picture below.

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Figure 3: Control Chart Zones

Each zone in the graph above indicates a material batch change. The graph clearly shows that there are differences between batches and it seems that the process within a zone is statistically in control.

Another way to present the same data is the multi-vari chart (below is an example of a multi-vari chart).

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Figure 4: Multi-vari Chart

We can see for example that the average of 6724 is higher than the average for 9988359. The obvious question is whether this is a significant difference or just random variation.

To compare the averages of two data sets we need to perform a T-test, but first you need to check if the two data sets are coming from a normal distribution and if the variability of the two datasets are more or less the same (F test).

In the example the F- and T-tests are calculated for the two selected datasets marked with a circle. For each point the actual data can be shown in the form of a small histogram standard with a normal curve superimposed on top of it. This allows us to check the data for normality (see screen shot below).

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Figure 5: Multi-Vari Chart

From this analysis the company found out the material batch number was the main cause of variation in their process.

The method above shows a very quick and effective way to make the step from quality control to quality improvement, and it helps closing the gap between using control charts and applying experimental design. The benefits of the approach described above are:

1. Analysis can be performed by many more people than the specialists trained in experimental design. The techniques described above are much easier and faster to learn than experimental design.

2. By adding extra columns with parameter information to the control charts and making operators responsible for recording data, you can perform many more experiments than by applying experimental design alone.

3. The mindset of people using control charts will shift from process control to analysis for improvement.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

The 5S of Communication

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Lean 5S (sort, simplify, shine, standardize, sustain) are about organizing work space so we can be more efficient, effective and productive. All Lean concepts are about how work gets done. There are many benefits Lean 5S can provide including improving safety, decreasing down time, raising employee morale, identifying problems more quickly and establishing convenient work practices. They are also used to strengthen employees’ pride in their work, to empower employees to sustain an organized work area and even to promote stronger communication among staff.

How effective is your communication? How Lean is your communication?

Communication is a two-way dance and involves an offer that is accepted by the audience. It is as much about how content is delivered as the content itself. The most effective communication happens when content is delivered in a process that can be “heard” by the audience. This involves attention to not only words, but also to tones, gestures, postures and facial expressions.

Effective communication has many strong connections to Lean principles and concepts, including 5S. When communication is done right, it helps employees and leaders work together in a safe and open environment. It increases the quality of personal and professional lives. Everyone feels respected and appreciated for their unique gifts. Down time is decreased as positive conflicts are handled without drama, which means that effective problem solving is expedited. Because employees feel safe and connected, they feel pride in working in an organization where their gifts are valued; therefore, they continue to contribute to improving work processes.

Like Lean, effective communication is about the how; it is about how communication takes place, as well as what is said. With that in mind, here are the suggested 5S of communication: size up, seek, simulate, stabilize and sustain.

Size Up

Be open, trustworthy and transparent. Be open to understanding different personality types and individual needs; be able to assess employees’ preferred communication styles and respond accordingly. Sizing up is about being self-aware of your personal communication needs, strengths and blind spots, and being able to shift communication styles to cater to others’ needs.


Seeking is about aligning the way you communicate to cater to individual preferences. It is about being resourceful, willing to discover ways to effectively connect with others, encouraging creativity, innovation and problem solving while appreciating and leveraging personality differences.


Polish your communication and compassion skills so you know how to motivate employees based on their different needs. Simulating is about being inquisitive and curious about what makes people diverse and leveraging that diversity.


To stabilize means to consistently apply effective communication by connecting with, and motivating employees, based on their needs to resolve conflict and eliminate drama in the workplace. This requires a leader who is persistent, willing to stick with employees who are different, willing to help without judgement, who can listen and empower.


Be proficient in communication practices so you can motivate employees based on their needs and connect at their level, consistently and effectively. It is about accepting people the way they are – listening and holding themselves and others accountable. It is about recognizing your own propensity to create or participate in drama, and having the compassionate skills needed to lead a healthy organization.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Building a Project Meeting Structure That Works

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As a project leader, you’re required to chair meetings before, during and after any major project. To ensure everyone is on the same page and working in the right direction, you need to plan these meetings effectively. But how do you plan and execute a project meeting structure that works?

1. Set your objectives

If you’ve ever been to a meeting that seemed to last hours but had no clear conclusions, chances are the meeting had no clear goals set beforehand. Positive meetings have a clear set of identified goals. Make sure these are outlined at the start of the meeting and assess your progress before the meeting ends.

2. Agenda

Don’t let the meeting drift. Nobody wants to be in a meeting any longer than they have to. Make sure the agenda is circulated before the meeting and give clear timings for each matter on the list.

3. Materials

Make sure you have any required materials in place and organised before you start. No one wants to sit there as you sift through reams of documents to locate the right information. Keep any information short and to the point.

4. Attendees

Make sure only the relevant team members are in attendance. Being asked to attend a meeting that doesn’t concern you can be frustrating, as you may know. As a general rule, the fewer people in attendance the better. If decisions need to be made, make sure all the people needed to make them are in the room.

5. Environment

Too hot, too cold, wrong venue? These environmental factors can scupper a positive meeting. Make sure everyone is comfortable, and sort out drinks or other requirements before you start so there are no interruptions.

6. Stick to the plan

Other matters come up in meetings that are not on the agenda but it might be better to save these for another time. Try to make sure you start and finish the meeting on time. If it’s clear that the meeting will go way past the planned finish time, then it might be worth scheduling another.

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There are many types of project management meetings, but the above principles always remain the same. Effective meetings are well planned and well executed. If you are unsure about planning a meeting, then utilise tools such as a project meeting agenda sample or project board agenda template. This will help you to plan and direct your meeting and help you achieve your prioritised goals.

As you become more experienced chairing meetings, you develop an understanding of how they work. But when you start out, it’s all about the details. Making sure you are prepared and that the meeting has been planned correctly are key to success.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

The Qualities of a Good Project Manager

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Understandably, we believe that being certified in project management is a sure-fire way to boost your career chances, knowledge of best practice and overall skillset. However, without the right personal skills, a qualification can only take you so far. We’ve pulled together 4 essential attributes you can use to take your PM skills from good to great.

1. Organisation

People tend to believe that you’re either naturally organised or you’re not, and that for those who have the gift, staying organised is a walk in the park. Neither of these are true. You can teach yourself a number of organisational tactics that suit your personal working style, but they require hard work, consistency and perseverance.

Disorganised project managers either struggle or fail. The best project managers know how to tailor helpful organisational tools, such as Gantt charts, to their own company’s practices, and apply a range of techniques to organise both themselves and others. Set yourself reminders, create to-do lists and be sure to update both regularly; organisation takes time.

2. Communication

Project Management could be defined by this word alone. The project manager will liaise between their team, stakeholders, project board, suppliers and more, so will have to relay information accurately and succinctly. Being able to communicate in a number of voices will help. That includes adopting a more formal tone for stakeholders than you’d use with your team.

Another important, but often overlooked, aspect of effective communication is to know when not to give someone information. This obviously means keeping sensitive information to yourself, but also means not copying everyone from the CEO to the janitor into your email chains. Consider whether the information is actually need-to-know for your target audience, and tailor it appropriately.

3. Logic

Logic can cover a number of bases. One project management practice where logic is essential is Risk Management. This requires you to use linear thinking and historical information to draw possible conclusions. Logic will also help with both organisation and communication, as previously discussed.

Logic also takes time. As with Risk Management, your past experiences will inform how you apply logic to future projects. Take time to properly assess how your team’s actions and processes will affect the final outcome, and if anything doesn’t make sense, trust your gut and take a critical look at processes and solutions.

4. Empathy

Empathy is one of the most important soft skills a project manager needs for effective leadership. It’s in your interests as a PM to have your team feel as though they can trust you, both with issues and with ideas. Being honest, open and understanding can set an exceptional project manager apart from an average one.

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As with any of the skills listed in this article, empathy isn’t an innate, unteachable talent. You can cultivate empathy like any other ability: with practice. Make conscious decisions to listen to your team more carefully, and pay attention to how your actions and their circumstances may affect their mood and performance. Remember, being empathetic doesn’t mean being a push-over – be sure to make your own expectations and boundaries clear too.

Never underestimate the impact your soft skills can have on your project management prowess. Taking time to develop these more intangible skills can give you and your team’s work a serious boost, and combining it with a tangible methodology or framework will set you firmly apart from other PMs.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

How to Manage Multiple Projects

When things get busy in the office, it can be a real challenge figuring out how to manage multiple projects. There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get it all done.

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Handling multiple projects can quickly get out of control, and taking your eye off the ball can quickly lead to extra work, mistakes or even failure. So how do you manage several different projects at the same time? And what is the secret to effective multi-tasking?

Get a strategy

There are many strategies for facing the challenges of multiple projects. But the first thing to think about is training. There are project management training courses out there which teach you all the basics of how to run successful projects concurrently. PRINCE2 courses teach the strategy behind effective management and help you fully integrate this approach into everything you do at work.

In essence, there are several key principals behind effective project management that you need to know. These are:

1. Prioritise

This is fundamental knowledge that is absolutely key to being a successful project manager. If you are not able to identify which areas are the most important and pressing, then you can spend all day wasting time flitting between one area and another, never really achieving or moving anything forward. This is especially important if you are working in a team and can delegate certain tasks. Using your time wisely to do the most important jobs first is always a good idea.

2. Block time

To help you prioritise, you need to be able to block your time to focus on one area without being distracted by the long list of other things you have to do. If you aren’t constantly switching between jobs, you can get into a flow state. That means you can achieve work goals much more rapidly.

3. Review

You need to able to accurately assess how you are getting on with your workload. So take time out to look over what you have done and think about what you need to do next. Set aside a specific time each week, either on Friday afternoon or Monday morning and go over where you are in each project. This will inform where you are overall and help identify areas that need more work.

4. Manage expectations

Sometimes projects run into problems because people are expecting too much too quickly. As the manager, it is your job to make sure all stakeholders have a realistic view of what is involved and how long things take. Of course, your job is to deliver, but it is always better to deliver quality than rushed work. You need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively if you need more time or assistance to bring projects in to brief. As the manager, this is a key part of what you do.

Saturday, 15 December 2018


PMI PBA vs  IIBA CBAP Find out which one is better.

PMI has come up finally with a certification to satisfy the hunger of the business analysis community.

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Of late, business analysis has been a very valuable skill to learn for the project management community as well due to the need for the PM to perform BA roles also.

The certification space for the BA community has been dominated by IIBA with its certifications, CCBA (basic level) and CBAP (Advanced level). PMI has recently come up with a BA certification, PMI-PBA for business analysts. And all of us are aware of the market share of PMI for its most popular certification for Project management stream viz PMP. This gives rise to the dilemma for the BA community on which certification to go for in the current scenario.

Here is a small comparison of PMI-PBA and IIBA Certification:

◈ PMI PBA has come to market early in 2015 and is yet to gain familiarity with the market. Whereas IIBA has already got the early mover advantage and has been very popular in corporate and as well as among professionals. However, the rate of growth of PMI PBA has been impressive. By mid of 2018 there are about 2850 PMI PBA certified individuals.

◈ However, PMI has got a huge following from the corporates and individuals for various project management related certifications (there are more than 600,000 PMP certified professionals worldwide). PMI PBA has relaxed the eligibility criteria by considering 2000 hours of Project management experience in the applicant’s career.

Rest of the points seems to be more or less similar, please see the exact apple to apple comparison below.

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CBAP Recommended –

◈ Pure play BA/enterprise level BA and planning to stay in the same path
◈ Part of BA Center of Excellence/BA Competency team
◈ If your organization has IIBA certifications as part of the competency framework

PMI PBA Recommended –

◈ BA with a project or program management background/experience
◈ BA with PMP certification
◈ PMP certified professional /Project manager with BA responsibility
◈ If your organization has a partnership with PMI
◈ If your organization has PMI certifications as part of the competency framework

PMI-PBA is for business analysts who work on projects and programs and have project management experience in their career, whereas, in contrast, IIBA® looks at Business Analysis in a much broader perspective and covers activities that exceed project and program and applies to the entire organizational involvement/initiative.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

What Are the Connections & Differences between COBIT and ITIL?

COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology) and ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) have been used by information technology professionals in the IT service management (ITSM) space for many years. Used together, COBIT and ITIL provide guidance for the governance and management of IT-related services by enterprises, whether those services are provided in-house or obtained from third parties such as service providers or business partners.

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ITIL could be seen as the way to manage the IT services across their lifecycle, while COBIT is about how to Govern the Enterpise IT in order to generate the maximum creation of value by the business, enabled by IT investments, while optimizing the risks and the resources. COBIT 5 describes the principles and enablers that support an enterprise in meeting stakeholder needs, specifically those related to the use of IT assets and resources across the whole enterprise. ITIL describes in more detail those parts of enterprise IT that are the service management enablers (process activities, organizational structures, etc.).

COBIT is based on five principles:

1. Meeting Stakeholder Needs
2. Covering the Enterprise End-to-End
3. Applying a Single, Integrated Framework
4. Enabling a Holistic Approach
5. Separating Governance from Management

And seven enablers:

1. Principles, Policies and Frameworks
2. Processes
3. Organizational Structures
4. Culture, Ethics and Behavior
5. Information
6. Services, Infrastructure and Applications
7. People, Skills and Competencies

ITIL focuses on ITSM and provides much more in-depth guidance in this area.

There are five stages in the ITIL Service Lifecycle:

1. Service Strategy
2. Service Design
3. Service Transition
4. Service Operation
5. Continual Service Improvement

The distinction between the two is sometimes described as “COBIT provides the ‘why’; ITIL provides the ‘how.’” While catchy, that view is simplistic and seems to force a false “one or the other” choice.

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It is more accurate to state that enterprises and IT professionals who need to address business needs in the ITSM area would be well served to consider using both COBIT and ITIL guidance. Leveraging the strengths of both frameworks, and adapting them for their use as appropriate, will aid in solving business problems and supporting business goals achievement.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Process Improvement in the Age of Smart Manufacturing

Process improvement projects have typically been a labor-intensive and imprecise process. Labor-intensive in that capturing the as-designed vs the actual current-state process required facilitated meetings, interviews, surveys and analyzing operational data over an extended time period. Imprecise in that workers will typically act differently when they know they are being watched and measured. The Hawthorne effect was first described over 50 years ago and predicts that workers will typically improve a process while being observed as part of a process improvement project, but will revert to their pre-project behavior once the project has ended and the observers departed.

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In my experience of running dozens of process improvement projects over a 30-year period, sustaining improvements is always the most daunting challenge.

◈ Six Sigma practitioners will admit that the final control phase of the five step DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) process is its weakest link. The reason is pretty obvious. Six Sigma projects have a beginning, middle, and end. Even though the Control phase is designed to include the business owner taking responsibly for sustaining the project, little is in place to monitor the sustainability of the improvements.

◈ Lean advocates a continuous improvement process designed to overcome the problems with a project-based approach, but the Hawthorne effect is very much in play limiting the sustainability of improvements.

◈ A common problem with all continuous improvement initiatives is the very dynamic nature of today’s business environment with ever shrinking product life cycles, and rapid developments in automation, mergers and acquisitions. The result is the improved process may become obsolete in a matter of months.

Now consider the new age of process improvement with “smart manufacturing.” Much has been written about the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) creating significant opportunities to capture operational data from machines and equipment. While this will assist in improving processes, it is limited to reading machine metrics, with few insights into how people interact with machines and products. It is not well understood that people are a key element to Smart Manufacturing – empowering them with more robust operational information, helping them eliminate bottlenecks and solving tough quality issues.

Adding passive, non-obtrusive, sensor technology to continuously monitor operations – people, machines, and products – provides a much greater opportunity than merely making machines smarter.

Process and Value Stream Maps

◈ The Past: Labor-intensive process and value-stream charts only capture a qualitative and subjective snap-shot in time that typically can vary from day-to-day and from person-to-person.
◈ The Future: Continuous hard data capture over extended periods using unobtrusive sensors watch the interaction of people with machines and products. The Hawthorne effect is defeated by the subtle nature of the observation tools and their permanent nature.

Gage R&R (Repeatability and Reproducibility)

◈ The Past: Gage R&R is most difficult challenge in every process improvement project I’ve tackled because of the major discrepancies from the as-designed process when comparing one person to another and comparing one day to another. The variation typically grows with the complexity of the process and skill level of the people involved.
◈ The Future: With continuous monitoring of several people over several days and weeks, all variations are captured for analysis. Best practices, bottlenecks and training opportunities are much more easily discovered.

Sustaining Process Improvements

◈ The Past: Because of the labor-intensive, qualitative/subjective and snapshot nature of process improvement efforts, a majority of them fail according to a Wall Street Journal article.

◈ The Future: Because monitoring is on-going and not obvious to people, variations from the improved process are easily identified in real-time via alerts and dashboards. There is no need for complex reports or expensive consultants to interpret them.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Top 7 PMBOK® Templates

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We have compiled a list of what we believe are the Project Management Body of Knowledge’s (PMBOK®) seven most critical project management templates. Each of these templates represents an important part of an effective and integrated project plan.

1. Project Charter – The project charter can be considered the foundation of a project. A completed and signed project charter establishes the authority to begin a project to address a business need that has been identified. Great care and detail should go into the creation of a charter because of its importance. If you sacrifice quality with the project charter, your project performance and deliverables will almost surely suffer.

2. Project Management Plan – If the project charter is the foundation of a project, the project management plan is its core. The project management plan is important because it is an integrated framework which includes the management plans from all of the project management knowledge areas. It ties these management plans together into a collective whole which is then used to manage the project through to completion.

3. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) – Projects have the potential to be very large and very complex. Because of this it is useful to have a tool to break project work down into manageable pieces. This is why the WBS is so important. The WBS allows the project manager and team to break work down into smaller work packages. Each work package can then be viewed as a mini scope statement and managed as such to ensure completion of all project work.

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4. Communications Management Plan – Communication is arguably the most important and most difficult project knowledge area to plan and execute. The key to any successful project is effective communication. As such, a detailed management plan is needed to ensure effective communication occurs throughout the project lifecycle. The importance of the communications management plan cannot be overstated.

5. Scope Management Plan – One of the most common causes of project failure is scope creep. If scope is not carefully managed, it can and will get away from a project manager in a hurry. Without a deliberate scope management plan, project stakeholders, with varying influence and interests, will try adding or changing requirements and deliverables which may no longer meet the intent of the original project charter.

6. Risk Management Plan – Everyone understands that project risks must be prevented, avoided, or mitigated. However, before any of these actions occur, risks must be identified. The risk management plan is important because it spells out how risks will be identified and documented. It also lays out the processes for how risks will be categorized and handled. Without this plan many risks will not be identified until it is too late to take action.

7. Lessons Learned – We have heard it over and over again: organizations strive for continuous improvement. But how many of these same organizations ignore one of the key components of improvement? Lessons learned are one of the most critical, and often overlooked, project documents. Lessons learned should be completed at the end of a project, reviewed by the project manager, team, and stakeholders, and archived for use in future projects. By doing this, organizations can take advantage of this key tool in adding to the future success of the organization and its projects.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

6 Things PRINCE2 Certified Project Managers Should Do Every Day

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Projects are often very complex endeavours, but PRINCE2 is a project management method proven to deliver them successfully. Projects can vary greatly in their nature. The activities carried out by the project manager at any one time can be quite diverse. They depend on the exact nature of the project and where it is in its lifecycle. However, there are certain common activities that a PRINCE2 Certified Project Manager will carry out almost every day. Below we’ve highlighted a few key daily activities, these have been drawn from the PRINCE2 2017 A3 Process Map, which is available for free download.

1. Business Case Maintenance – PRINCE2 Project Managers understand how critical a Project Business Case is throughout the entire project, and as such are business savvy. They understand where the project fits into the big-picture: that the project is designed to deliver outputs which will deliver new capabilities to the organisation, with benefits that contribute towards an organisation’s strategic objectives. They are aware that the Business Case is a delicate balance of cost vs benefit, and they keep a keen eye on that delicate balance throughout the project in case it changes.

2. Plan – Because PRINCE2 emphasises management by stages, PRINCE2 Project Managers understand that an entire project can’t be planned up-front in minute detail. Instead, they understand that planning is a continual activity, with plans subject to revision as the project changes. Stage Plans periodically plan the next phase of work in more detail, ensuring consistent updates and remaining a central and valuable artefact to the project. This is unlike some project plans, developed as a “fire-and-forget” artefact at the start of the project, soon ending up on a dusty shelf – or even in the bin.

3. Manage Risks – Unmanaged risks can derail the best laid plans. PRINCE2 Project Managers are acutely aware of this and are constantly working to manage these risks. They use the PRINCE2 5-step procedure of Identify-Assess-Plan-Implement-Communicate to ensure risks are identified and analysed, and that the optimal risk response plans are put in place.

4. Oversee Work Packages – PRINCE2 Project Managers practice management by exception: they empower subordinate team leaders to take ownership of work packages. The PRINCE2 Project Manager’s role is to authorise activity to deliver the work package, monitor progress via team Checkpoint reports, implement a Corrective Action if it goes off-track, then finally accept the completed Work Product.

5. Report – The Project Manager needs to keep the Project Board up to date on the status of the project. They do this via Highlight reports, and if something has gone off-plan, an exception report. The PRINCE2 Project Manager understands that effective reporting means that the Project Board doesn’t need to pester or distract the project manager day-to-day. They receive the information they need when they need it, so they can allow the project manager room to deliver the project.

6. Reflect & Improve – Continual improvement is essential for a project. Understanding what worked and what didn’t enables you to react accordingly. PRINCE2 Project Managers understand this. They achieve it by maintaining a Lessons Learned Log, and producing End Stage Reports following each phase of the project. This ensures that the good, the bad and the ugly are captured and examined honestly, to inform how the project needs to evolve in the future.

On many projects, day to day delivery can sometimes almost feel like controlled chaos. But PRINCE2 Project Managers are different, they are equipped with the techniques from a proven method to successfully deliver whatever project they are working on. The key activities identified above will often be a staple of their day-to-day activities – and they should be of yours. Do you think a best practice methodology like PRINCE2 could benefit your day-to-day performance as a project manager? Click here to start your journey towards PRINCE2 certification.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Seven Focus Areas to Drive Lean Six Sigma Results

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A Lean Six Sigma program that incorporates technically knowledgeable and motivated people at all phases of the deployment, along with a solid project charter and proper incentives, will not only ensure successful teams and management buy-in, but will also deliver better business results in the long term. The following seven focus areas will help drive passion and results, and make any projects in a Lean Six Sigma program successful.

1. Start with a Top-level Sponsor

A participative leader attends meetings, encourages team members and gives them the resources, budget and tools to succeed. Without such a sponsor, a Lean Six Sigma program will never produce the value necessary for the company and the viability of the initiative. To ultimately motivate the sponsor, Lean Six Sigma projects must be driven by and align with the company’s highest-level objectives.

2. Select the Best Available Team

While the Black Belt is the Lean Six Sigma team leader, a solid, properly chosen team is the key to success. The team must be motivated, cohesive, dependable, participative and technically knowledgeable. But those technically-competent stars are usually in high demand. They are pulled as key software developers, project managers and testers. It is up to the management to allocate some of these people to Lean Six Sigma projects.

Pick project team members who are connected to the process and have something to gain from improved results. Where possible, the process owners are the best match. The team also should have a solid Black Belt, coupled with a project sponsor, who is a proven leader respected by the organization and the team members. Publicize and promote the accomplishments of each team member in their particular areas of expertise and in past projects, if applicable. Everyone wants to work with successful people, and everyone takes pride in being acknowledged. If team members believe in the team, they are much more likely to be motivated and ultimately generate optimum results.

3. Align the Project Charter With Business Initiatives

The project charter should contain all the key information and data needed to accept, drive and fully support the process improvement. This includes the project’s estimated return on investment, goals, resource requirements and team members. The most critical item in the charter is the scope. Many projects are initially set with a “boil the ocean” scope. Instead, the scope should be appropriate and realistic. Once a proper scope is in place, attainable goals must be set.

4. Look for Simple Lean Fixes First

It is usually possible to find issues of the Lean variety much quicker and easier than more subtle changes unearthed in Six Sigma. Bottlenecks, wasted time and excessive wait time between steps are often isolated early in project activities. Some of these can provide critical wins while the team works on the tougher issues using Six Sigma. For example, I was once involved in a project to reduce cycle time from 44 months to 20 months. Within days, we uncovered a 26-signature sign-off process. A few simple and logical reductions drove the process from 44 months to three months before we continued the Six Sigma process to find the tougher improvements.

5. Address ‘What’s In It for Me’

Normally, team members are working on Lean Six Sigma projects while continuing with their “real jobs.” The overall Lean Six Sigma initiative must understand this fact and address it early and often during a project to keep participants as motivated as possible. These actions can range from special lunches at team meetings surrounding key milestones to public acknowledgement of successes to financial benefits at the end of the project. Such actions require a miniscule percentage of project savings, but keep people motivated and ready to contribute to the next project.

6. Make Performance Part of Management-level Bonuses

To make real achievements, goals, expectations, bonuses and results must be part of all leaders’ annual performance plans. The sponsor cannot preach Lean Six Sigma and then reward leaders solely on the basis of results in the typical reward areas. If goals and expectations relating to Lean Six Sigma are not fully in place, a deployment is doomed to second-class status.

7. Share Positive and Negative Results

Sharing results will help establish management buy-in and will demonstrate that Lean Six Sigma really works. If people in the organization do not see the positive results, they will feel that their work is in vain – a very unmotivating position to be in. Publicizing solid benefits and results will show that they have made a difference. Why publicize negative results? People often learn more from mistakes, errors or bad decisions than from good results. Also, it adds credibility when team members talk of negative items in this light to demonstrate a fair view of reality.

Monday, 3 December 2018

What Do Project Managers Do?

If you work in construction, IT, manufacturing, architecture, chemicals or any other major industry, you’ve almost certainly come across people with the job title ‘project manager’. Unlike some other positions within your industry, say site foreman or quantity surveyor, the moniker ‘project manager’ doesn’t really indicate what this person does. Yet, the project manager, PM, might just be the most important person on any specific task.

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That’s because project managers are responsible for the overall initiation, planning, design, monitoring and execution of any specific activity. The PM needs to apply knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to activities to ensure the outlined goals of any project are met and completed on time and to budget. As you can see, there is a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of any project manager.

What does it mean to be a project manager?

If you are leading a project as the PM, you must rely on a series of skills. You must have the ability to assess situations clearly and accurately, asking penetrating questions, detecting potential issues before they arise and resolving any conflicts before they threaten to derail the project.

One key attribute is risk management. This is the main factor that can jeopardise any project and the issue that many unskilled project managers, or projects that are manager-less face. Risks need to be both formally and informally managed on any project and at every stage until completion.

Risks generally come about through uncertainty, which means the project manager needs to be an expert in communication, listening to other stakeholders and workers to identify risks in every aspect of the project. They then need to make decisions, both big and small, to mitigate these risk factors.

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PMs also need to be versed in using relevant software to help them and others keep the project on track. There are several major software packages available, most of which allow PMs to produce work charts and reports quickly and clearly.

Project manager responsibilities

The exact defined role of a project manager depends on the nature and scale of the project. However, it is very likely to include:

◈ Planning and defining the scope and reach of the project

◈ Planning the sequence of works required to achieve the objective

◈ Monitoring and planning resources

◈ Communicating work schedules

◈ Estimating time and costs

◈ Risk analysis

◈ Monitoring and reporting

◈ Quality control

These are just some of the main areas of responsibility, and you can imagine how difficult it would be to manage a project without a lead point person or manager in charge. To effectively manage all the above and more, you need to be able to trust the PM and place faith in their ability to get the job done. That’s why appointing a project manager is often the key factor in the success and failure of any project.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Different Phases of Project Planning

Image 1: Project Management Phases

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Project Management activities are a finite set of activities dedicated to a particular outcome. The project management process consists of five main sequential activities which are adopted at the differing phases of project activities. This article aims to dissect the stages of project management, into manageable digestible concepts, to help clarify any misconceptions you may have pertaining to the subject. For the phase assessment, I’m going to utilize an organizational wellness program as the project example.

1. Project Initiation

Initiating a project represents the commencement of project management activities. As a background, let us assume that the medical department of your organization has identified that employee wellness programs are a good means via which your organization can improve its employee morale. Studies have revealed that healthier employees are happier employees, and one way of encouraging healthy employees, is to build into their work curriculum opportunities to exercise either before or after work. A rival company has successfully managed to incorporate a similar program, and their employee retention has gone up.

After a suitable presentation to the senior management of the organization, the project’s feasibility and profitability are carefully assessed. Organizations no longer only focus on the bottom line, so if there’s an improvement to a quality standard in their overall operations, the odds of acceptance will be high.

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The medical administrator would present their case via a business case, which is a document that highlights the pros and profits to be gained from implementing the project. This would typically be in for form of metrics such as dollars saved, or employee absenteeism reduction. As long as there is a positive reaction to the project activities, and the managers feel that the savings to be gained from executing the activity are favorable, then the project will be approved and the next phase of activity – Planning is then incorporated.

2. Project Planning

Typically, a business case document is outlined as a problem solving A3 in Lean and Six Sigma thinking. The business case value would have been determined by assessing the current condition of particular metrics. In this case, since the project is focusing on employee wellness, the critical wellness parameter prior to implementing the program, and subsequent to implementing the program would be assessed and compared. Additionally, since there would be literature involved, the anticipated changes due to implementation would already be scientifically proven.

The case study’s methodology can then be transferred to the organization in question, and broken down into the critical process steps. Thought processes such as what tools will be needed to facilitate this transition? Will Fitbits help us, or can regular pedometers do the trick? How will we promote the campaign? All these questions…once answered, can be ordered into a format, a sequential and logical plan that can be executed in the next phase of the exercise.

3. Project Execution

There’s a saying that goes “A goal not written down is just a wish.” Adding to this…is that even if a goal is written down, if it’s not acted upon, it will still remain a wish. After the project execution plan has been laid out it is time to facilitate the appropriate execution of the project. This often involves ensuring that the appropriate project ambassadors are recruited, and their services are offered the right place and time across the project time line.

In the planning phase, the appropriate timelines for each activity would have been identified, so all that would be left for the accomplishment of the project is ensuring that the activities are facilitated. All resources would have been sourced, and the project value then created via synthesis of all these project activities to create the final outcome.

4. Project Monitoring and Control

What gets measured, gets managed in Lean and Six Sigma. When the project itself has been designed, and is being executed, it is important to ensure that accountability measures are in place to ensure an on-time delivery. If project activities are set for a particular due date, it is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure that the project management activities are being executed on time. If there is a delay, appropriate corrective measures are to be executed. If an activity is running ahead of schedule, that is always a good thing. Critical project key performance indicators, cost allocations, and time are critical parameters to monitor across the project execution process.

5. Project Closure

Projects are not intended to be ongoing activities. According to the project plan, certain activities are to be executed by a particular time. Once all critical project activities are executed, the project itself becomes complete. The project manager, as the project was being executed, would have been checking to ensure that all project time, cost, quality deliverables were being met. Once all deliverables are met, the project itself ends, and operational activities then take over.

As acknowledgement of the project’s closure, a communication to the critical project stakeholders can be held. This could be done in the form of a meeting highlighting the project activities, and also any testimonials or demonstrations of the final product in execution. Inclusion of the project operational activities such as monthly organizational publications is a good means via which the stakeholders will keep the project at the top of mind. Many activities tend to stagnate due to lack of attention, so keeping up with the activities is a critical way of ensuring that the project continues to deliver value.