Cowshed Projects - Better projects and profit from flexible project management
I've had the pleasure of working as client, contractor, designer, consultant and project manager and I'm extremely grateful to have experience them all in order to understand all sides perspective.
..... But it’s also given me the opportunity to see and avoid the disconnects .... where the money leaks away when managing a project.
Here are 5 key areas where time and money can get wasted.
1 - PROJECT INCEPTION
Lets start at the beginning... sales/development win the project. They hand it over. It gets done.. easy.....
Yes, for them. No for the project! This is the key part of a project .... the start is where a project starts to fail. It's the one time you get to really negotiate and influence, not just the price, but also how the project will be run.
If the negotiation is blind to the project needs and is only about securing the work, you have missed a golden opportunity to deliver it in the best way you can for yourselves and the client
So this is how it goes, ‘Here's the project’, as the client has stipulated, throw the potato .... and ..... “boom”, waste time having to backtrack, find information, realign the communication and make a plan to fit, all at the same time as needing to start the work...not have the best plan to move forward with. You are immediately reacting and on the back foot. The costs are being used up and you are going backwards, not forwards.
Easy attitude is "Meh, there's time to make it up"... but both time and money are finite on projects. You are already eating into your profits.
A bit of forward project planning and understanding of projects at the start, while the project is being secured, would help maintain profit.
2-BETWEEN DESIGN AND PRODUCTION
The biggest obstacle here is that the design process and production process are at odds with each other.
Design is a process of achieving the best solution .... production is the process of getting the best value... Both in the most efficient time.
I think of design as a series of loops ... Construction as a flat line. Where they meet conflict and leaks appear as you try to flatten the design out.
The conflict occurs because design won't let go. They continue to have the mindset to improve it and production want to grab it and run with it, not look back! Much time and money are wasted here in poor/unclear information, unchecked assumptions and bad communication. But, if the transition is managed well and understood, wastage can be reduced.
3-BETWEEN FINANCE AND THE PROJECT
A lack of project information is where everyone misses out on projects. Without information you can’t manage a project and you certainly can't review it! You just have to wait till the end and hope for the best.
Finance is one of the most important parts of project information.
The problem being that Finance and the project are at odds with the information they need. Finance needs predicted information to know what's coming, the project needs real information, to see what's gone before and so often neither understands the others needs ... A disconnect results in repeating work and producing meaningless or out of date information that isn't trusted on both sides. Garbage in, garbage out. Wasting time and money.
Keep information simple and relevant and you have a chance!
4- BETWEEN SITE AND WORKSHOP
Distance is a killer in communication, shown at its worst between the workshop and site.
The times I have seen all the thinking and planning in the workshop being lost in translation on site and vice versa is uncountable. Work gets repeated, redone, or not relayed correctly, if at all. This is a massive profit hole in the bucket, that can't be entirely blocked. However, it can be reduced. Unfortuntlaty, the site team are out of sight and out of mind ... Listen to them!
I have another name for this, but for now this is a good title!
Superheroing happens for many reasons, but is the act of a senior manager stepping in and taking control of the project from a person or process that is seen to be failing. Nothing wrong in that, trying to make it better…. Bring in a superhero .... Apart from its always far too late ....a result of not listening, bad reporting or wrong information. Being focused on or saying only what people want to hear, not what is actually happening.
But the profits don't need a superhero .....
When someone jumps in and takes control ... The issues don't change... The problems don't go away ... You can't reverse time ... Yes, you can do things in a better way, but you are still working with the same project ...
I’ve yet to see this happen a different way, even when I’ve tried it myself….. The superhero ends up wasting time, finding out the same issues, asking the same questions and fighting the same battles that have got the project into the mess in the first place! Everyone repeats themselves. The question is why has it got to this? ...but that’s another blog!
The project does not need a hero if it gets to this stage, it needs a supporter. It needs the issues finally understood, worked with and an honest evaluation of what can be done given. That, or you waste money getting to the same point that the caped crusader arrived at.
Don't get me wrong I've worked with some brilliant people and companies who do things really well, I've learned a lot from them. I’ve tried, succeeded and failed at solving all of the above myself.
Awareness is the first way that these can be avoided. Every project, though, will be different and there is no tool or process that will give you the answer for all. The best way to avoid the leaks though management is to look forward, adjust the tools and processes as needed … and stop wasting money!
I'd love to hear your views, experiences and comments and if you're interested in finding out more, drop me a line.
Thanks for reading
Hi I'm Simon. I've worked in projects for a while now, either management or design. I love projects but they're frustrating. Hope some of this help you.