Wednesday, 14 November 2007 04:55

Achieving Project Excellence: What

Written by Claude Emond
Many organisations are working to improve their business processes in an effort to stay competitive. Most try to travel the ”Toyota Way”, using lean manufacturing approaches including, among others, “Achieving Excellence” (AE) initiatives.

Because of globalization and innovation imperatives, many of those organizations are plagued by projects, programs and portfolio activities in their AE initiatives. They then try to improve their project-oriented business processes, or whatever shadow of a project management process they might think they have. Hence, they mistakenly apply AE frameworks for recurring operations to project-oriented activities and processes. By doing so, they make a very costly mistake, similar to the one that was made when everyone tried to apply ISO 9001-1994 - a standard addressing manufacturing issues - to service industries.

Those who know a bit better include OPM3-type assessments and approaches to their AE initiatives. But, frankly, I am not that sure either that the OPM3 model is based on a proper understanding of “what wastes we are trying to eliminate” when we talk about implementing Lean Project Management processes. Lauri Koskela and Greg Howell, in their landmark article, The underlying theory of project management is obsolete1, published in the 2002 Proceedings of the PMI Research Conference, invite us to ask ourselves very relevant questions about this model. It should be read by anyone who thinks that applying blindly such a model will help his or her organization attain the Nirvana of Lean, World-Competitive Business Excellence.

It is easier to criticize the efforts of others, many of them trying to help each other in complete good faith, than to improve on them. The truth, however, is that improvements on mainstream PM models have already been offered by organisations like the Lean Construction Institute2. Alas, they are not well known, although the true wastes of currently used project management processes have already be identified and documented.

Wastes associated with recurrent production, as identified by Taiichi Ohno (the late father of the Toyota Production System), concern themselves mostly with managing a flow of materials. Opposingly, wastes associated with project work, as identified by Greg Howell, Lauri Koskela, my friend Hal Macomber3 and lately by Norman Bobek, who identified a ninth one4, concern themselves mainly with managing a flow of humans and of human thoughts. They are, including a tenth one of my own design (that I’ll explain in my next blog entry): 

  1. Not using people's talents 
  2. Underutilized people's skills and capabilities 
  3. Lack of relevant information (on what to do or how to do it) 
  4. Excess irrelevant information 
  5. Behavioural Waste (not listening, not speaking) 
  6. Not taking advantage of people’s thoughts (wasting good ideas) 
  7. Providing something the customer doesn't value 
  8. Making do (working without the proper resources) 
  9. Saying No (resistance to change)
  10. Not managing perceptions

Anyone who wants to Achieve Excellence in project-oriented activities should have a very good look at this list, because those are the wastes associated with current mainstream project management processes; these are the wastes to eliminate to become lean. Thus, It would be a very good idea to add a measure of their current status in current AE or OPM3 assessment tools and then take action to eliminate them.

Furthermore, using PMI’s proposed IPECC (Initiate, Plan, Execute, Control, Close) recurring project management process loop – the essence of the PMBOK and a real stroke of genius – would be a very good idea for anyone trying to implement AE initiatives in their organisation. I see many of those initiatives going on; most won’t make it for lack of proper phasing, scope definition, work breakdown structure and target dates. They are not properly defined and planned, although they should be. After all, Achieving Excellence in manufacturing is a project-oriented endeavour…. and it is subjected to the same wastes as those found on any other type of project work.

What do you think?

1 http://www.leanconstruction.org/pdf/ObsoleteTheory.pdf
2 www.leanconstruction.org

3
http://www.reformingprojectmanagement.com/2004/08/15/394/
4 http://www.reformingprojectmanagement.com/2007/10/09/841/


Claude Emond is one of the founders and president of Qualiscope Enterprises, a project management consulting, coaching and training firm based in Montreal, Canada. He has degrees in chemical engineering from Canada's Royal Military College (BEng) and Montreal McGill University (MEng), a MBA from Ottawa University, workshop leadership training from Le Centre Quebecois de la PNL, and is a certified PMP. He has over 25 years experience managing major public and private projects. He teaches project risk management in the Schulich School of Business Master certificate in project management and the PMP certification revision class for PMI, Montreal. He is one of the authors of the current PMI standards for Portfolio Management. Claude can be reached at claude.emond@qualiscope.ca

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