How Good Is Your Project Cue Action

Right now, pretty much every organisation is involved in their own pressure game involving multiple projects to respond to the challenge of the new normal. Reflect for a moment on that.

To avoid the risk of making a poor call under pressure, those at the top of their Snooker or Pool game rely on repetition to internalise the basics well so that under pressure, they can rely on their instincts to pull them through.

Despite Project Management being as important to management and team leader roles, as cuing action is to a Snooker or Pool player, this and the Project Governance basics that secure results will probably have been developed on the fly.

For larger projects there are well documented procedures and protocols which might be called on to ensure the basics are in place but these are based on the assumption that the front end specification is fixed at the start of the project. Prince 2, for example, specifically excludes the "suck it and see" approach that most organisations are having to use as they feel their way through the current uncertainty.

Below are some best practice project basics to help you get your projects started on the right track and keep them there.

These are from the Early Equipment Management toolkit. A process designed to engage stakeholders with surfacing and resolving knowledge gaps early in the project. That provides the foundation to secure the glide path day one operation. Just like the old carpenters adage of "measure twice cut once!"

  • Project Scope: This should contain the desired business outcome not a rigid specification. Recognise that the solution will emerge over a number of steps. Mobilise a cross functional team of less than 6 people involving customer facing, operations and technology personnel. Use the mobilisation session to brief them on the business challenge.
  • Plan the Plan: The team should use milestone planning to set out a project road map covering actions to capture current knowledge, systematically explore options, organise resources, enhance project added value, surface and mitigate future risk.
  • Risks to consider, Market, Financial, Operational and Volume risks
  • Develop completion criteria for each milestones. This is your game plan setting out what good look like at each project phase. Use these to trap problems, capture learning, update risk probabilities and confirm readiness to proceed at each milestone.
  • Timetable: Develop timing plans in outline for the overall project, in detail for the next 2 milestones. Leave detailed planning as late as possible to allow for changes in circumstances and improving insight.
  • Integrate all internal and external workstream plans against the project milestones so that there is a single, realistic and achievable plan for all project workstreams.
  • Assure Project Quality using project milestone completion criteria. Formally confirm that vendor and sub contractors plans are realistic and achievable and that they are ready to proceed at each milestone.
  • Specification Development Phases. Key (LCC = Life Cycle Cost)

Specification Phases

Manage Factory Readiness by involving users at every phase including:

  • Define the specification: Collate tacit knowledge by documenting the current "day in the life of" cycles (start up, steady state, close down) and capturing things that go wrong, hidden losses and contributors to human error. Make these part of the specification goals and option assessment process.
  • Design completion criteria for each milestone. This is your game plan. Write it down at the start and check progress formally at the end of each phase. Timetable a couple of hours to review where you against the game plan and reflect on what you need to do next. Make sure all parties prepare for that session because that will surface weaknesses and aid communication at the review session.
  • Refine the plan including learning plans for future steps as the details become clearer. Don't delegate this to vendors, do it in house with their support. Remember, only your people know your business well enough to make this work. This level of detailed planning can only start in earnest after vendors have been selected. Treat this NASA would plan a mission to the moon. Aim to design a glide path to follow with check points for tests to confirm trajectory and assure a smooth landing.
  • Improve internal capabilities from day one operation. Develop new habits, capture lessons learned and standardise ways of working. Map out the first 12 months of focussed improvement activity after day 1 to optimise and bed in the new approach.

Simple tools that can help

  • Gantt chart/timetable. Setting out detail activities between each milestone. Complete this as late as possible, ideally during milestone 1 for milestone 2 etc.
  • A3 Process Map: a simple way to summarise the project aims, outputs from the "day in the life of" review, forward milestones, workflows and timings. Use this to track progress and reflect on status at each milestone. This format can also be used to document individual work streams and options selections.
  • 5W1H: A 1 page summary statement of the project "What, Where, When, Who and How" is sufficient to provide a project scope The team can then see how to use this to define the specification for all phases

Google these terms. There are lots of free templates on the web or contact us for a free Workbook including briefing note and templates. 

Early Equipment Management If you want to know more about Early Equipment Management, check out the video below