The utopia on all projects is getting the best quality, in the quickest time, for the least amount of money. It’s everyone’s goal … why wouldn’t it be, we want it all!
Most clients, although dreamers, are semi realistic and expect something close to what they think the tender is. But they don’t set out to the shop to buy 2 pints of blue top for the £2.10 advertised and expect to end up with a pint of out-of-date skimmed milk for £4.
Unfortunately, this is often the case of what they get. Why? Well, they walk into the shop and the blue top is only available in 4 pints at a cost of £4.15. There is only one left. Then they phone home to find out what they should get, by which time it’s been sold.
I had a boss that used to demand better quality, cheaper price and having it yesterday, all the time. He was successful at pushing the projects to a higher level, but always ended up with the out-of-date skimmed milk. Just maybe got two pints of it instead of one and allways 3 hours after breakfast!
This translates to a client trying to get to a specification as well as a production company trying to deliver a project.
The idea of this is being, if you set out to get the best of all 3 criteria, that’s good. But at the same time, you end up going round in circles. You can’t focus and make a decision on all three at the same time. To move on you have to have the focus on one criteria more than another. If there is no direction as to what that criteria is, everyone stops, paralysed. They are not able to move forward or are scared of the finger being pointed at them. Ultimately, achieving all three can’t happen at once.
I’ve noticed on projects, there is a definite pattern of importance or see saw of the 3 holy grails … at the start, quality is on the ascendancy. There is time to make it, and the costs will be sorted later. Then there is the middle section, when it is realised the costs are rocketing and need value engineering. Then, once the costs have been reduced comes the realisation that there is no time left and the program is now the main focus ….. Just get it done! ….. Oh, and of course ‘we want the quality we thought we wanted at the start, which we had to value engineer when we realised the costs were to high …. but we don’t want to pay to expedite the works and now we have run out of time.’
I think that this flow is a normal human reaction to a project. You dream and want the best, but can you afford it? Then you’ve spent too much time deliberating, so you just buy what you can. This is the “project goal see saw”.
This inevitably leads to missing the best of all 3 goals. The project Is perceived as a failure.
Every project is different and when managing it you need to keep an eye on the criteria that isn’t being focused on by everyone else. But how do you do that without paralysing the project? Well, it is difficult.
The best way, I think, is instead of focusing on goals, which should always be there, is to managed them by priorities. Let the team know which of the priorities are being focused on at that point. Then they don’t get so frustrated, can make and understand decisions and keep being forward focused, ready for the next criteria of the project see saw rising.
Don’t fight it, feel it.
Then, when the cost warning hooter sounds, you are ready. When the program panic alarm sounds, you have some answers to deal with it.
This is forward thinking management and will save you time and money in the long run.
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
Companies grow and projects grow in similar ways to accommodate the company size. The way those projects are structured also needs to adapt.
When companies start up, finances are usually spread thinly and you don’t have the perfect set up. Everyone mucks in, does what they can. Yes it could be done better, but the company grows from it. Some fail whilst others succeed and the latter slowly get it to something that works for them.
In the world of the project, as the company grows the projects have to grow in terms of size or number. How they are managed develops accordingly.
The management have to stop getting their hands dirty in the work of producing so and take on more responsibility for managing the projects. Then they take a step back to just manage the company duties which grow as well.
How the projects get managed also needs to evolve. The ultimate textbook version is a model, where there is some sort of change/contract control and quality control.
Well, that’s what they say you should aim for, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way across the board! After all every project is different, so why should the way you structure them be the same? Don't get transfixed by a one way fits all approach if you want to have successful projects!!!
You do need to be aware though of the different ways to use them effectively.
This is the all-in project. It is run unconsciously. Everyone mucks in. You have a tight knit group that can communicate very effectively. No one needs to be the manager. Someone will be a leader but how it gets done doesn’t tend to matter.
This is a simple managed structure. The management take a step back and deal with the management of the project. Again, it is a small group, with little sub-contracting. There is a bit of structure and a few defined roles and responsibility. It exists well, with a tight group that communicate well.
Here, there are now quite a few projects going on. The management is unable to look after them all, but still need to be aware of them and make decisions. A roll is formed to manage the project that sits between the management and the doing.
This is a fully developed single project model. The projects are complex and management are very busy. At this point there needs to be authority in place to cope with decision making in the important areas of quality and change.
Some companies are happy to remain in model 1. Others never feel comfortable enough to progress beyond model 2. There is nothing wrong with either. Many end up in some form of model 3 in order to cope. For most model 4 is a bridge to far or not understood!
There is also an option to introduce a project assurance role. This is project quality (not the quality in terms of the product, but the quality of how a project is managed, sometimes in the form of a project director, head of projects or PMO). This roll picks up the elements that perhaps are being missed by the doers and the managers in checking that the project is being run properly and where changes to the project may be needed.
There is another way Model 5.
It gives you the reassurance of model 4 with the balance of resources and tighter communication that you get from model 2 and 3. This allows management to be involved in the project without doubling up on project management work. It may mean taking a conscious step back from how the company is naturally developing, but could be more efficient.
This is to remove a controlling project manager, removing the barrier between the doing and management and using more effectively the project assurance roll.
The project management responsibilities are given to the appropriate people on the project team, this removing another layer. Responsibility and leadership of the project is given to the people doing it. The project assurance oversees and picks up the gaps that can’t be filled by management and maybe also do some of the ‘doing’ depending on skills available to the project.
It reduces the lines of communication in and out of the project, whilst protecting the project from getting out of hand.
It, like all the other models, will not be right for every project, but it is an option, which, if monitored, can work very well.
It is also where cowshed projects can really help above advising. If you are interested in finding out more please get in contact firstname.lastname@example.org
I will explain more about the management and doing items that compliment these models in another blog soon. Also to consider are program and portfolio management (this is how multiple projects are managed at the same time)
NB: This is a very high level view of how projects can be structured for a waterfall style project.
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.