Pursue Projects with Persistence

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which reviewed 10,640 projects from 200 companies in 30 countries and across various industries, found that only 2.5% of the companies successfully completed 100% of their projects.

Yikes! That’s a surprisingly low success rate!

While the above study almost certainly refers to complex I.T. projects, I have seen disappointing results in seemingly straightforward logistics cost-savings and process improvement projects.

There are a myriad of project management methodologies that contend to shepherd a project to a successful completion: Lean Six Sigma uses DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), there is Agile, Waterfall and, of course, the Project Management Institute (PMI) has their own special sauce.

Based on my many years in the logistics business and with my fair share of projects (a few failures and many more successes!), I have developed my own 5-step method of project management.

It’s called…
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Regardless of which method you use, your PERSISTENCE throughout the life of the project will be essential. Invariably, there will be delays, roadblocks, complaints, scope creep and other distractions that will try to keep you from your goal.

You need to be focused on the end goal and be persistent with yourself and your team in order to achieve success.

1. DETERMINE OBJECTIVE(S)

Establish a clear and concise “goal statement” such as “improve container utilization of our international ocean containers from Europe to the US East Coast form the current 55% to 85% or greater” or “switch from LTL shipments to FTL milk-runs from our Minneapolis-area suppliers to our facility in Columbia, SC in order to reduce transportation costs by 10%”.

Your objective must be specific (geographically, functionally, by business-unit, etc.), concise and contain metrics that will be measured to ensure the project’s success. It is best to fully understand the base-line situation, otherwise known as the “AS-IS” state.

I find it easier to show the benefits graphically using a “one-pager”: on the left half of the page is the AS-IS process flow or cost structure and on the right half of the page is the TO-BE situation. The benefits should be clearly visible.

2. NOMINATE TEAM

Engage the relevant stakeholders: they will be asking themselves “what’s in it for me?” and you must be able to articulate the benefit of the project to all major stakeholders.

You will be requiring time and effort from these folks, so they have the right to understand how big the pot of gold is at the end of the rainbow.

Typically, the answer will be lower expenses, reduction of headcount or an improved process. Use the AS-IS / TO-BE analysis to show the value proposition.

You should also be clear as to the time commitment that will be expected from the team, so they are aware from the start.

3. FOLLOW-UP

Follow-up and communicate regularly!

Regardless of how easy you and your team think this project may be to implement, you will need to approach it understanding that it COULD be a long, drawn-out slog!

Why?

Although the stakeholders may have committed to your project in the beginning, you are now weeks into the project and the stakeholders have gone back to their “day jobs”. They will be consumed with the day-to-day activities of running their plants, managing new product launches, handling a customer emergency, fixing an unexpected quality issue, completing their month-end financials, dealing with employee turnover issues…the list goes on!

The “follow-up” phase is really where the PERSISTENCE comes in.

Set up weekly (or every 2 weeks at the most) meetings with all stakeholders and go through the tasks needed to complete the project or one phase of the project. Be clear about deliverables, due dates and owners.

Make it known that you will escalate to upper management, if delays occur week after week.

4. ADJUST

You will certainly need to adjust, modify and adapt the project as you move forward.
Perhaps some of the original assumptions made at the “determine objective(s)” phase were incorrect or understated (or overstated!). Or competing interests have intervened… whatever the case, be prepared to adjust or modify the original scope and/or objectives of the project. Of course, any changes need to be agreed upon by all stakeholders and communicated with upper management.

This “adjust” phase could also lead to frustration and discord within the team. If you are leading the team, you will, again, need to reach deep down for the energy and optimism to push forward.

Your persistence will bring rewards…and you are very close to the “close”!

5. CLOSE & EVALUATE

Once you and the team have met your objectives, whether the original or modified, you are ready to claim victory and report-out to upper management.

You will need to be prepared to go back to the deliverables of the project at a future date (maybe in 1 month or 3 months or 6 months) and ensure that your objectives continue to be measured and met.

If not, you will need to re-engage the team and understand the issues that are preventing a full implementation of the project.

Good luck to you on all of your future projects!
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Sources for this piece can be found at:
http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/152429/cost-bad-project-management.aspx

About Lenny

Many years of experience in a Fortune 1000 companies, especially in the logistics and I.T. areas of manufacturing companies. Through process improvements and the use of many of the tools mentioned here, I have been able to identify and implement savings opportunities worth up to $10 million. I hope that some of these real-life stories, suggestions and tools can help you!
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