Monday, February 09, 2004

The Gutter Project--Intro

How do we get a mid-sized effort done in a Lean setting? While much of Lean literature is focused on the basic tools of kanban, flow, 5S, and such, how do busy people in a hectic environment make something new?

My friends Hal Macomber and Frank Patrick write with great experience and breadth on the subject of project management and I have learned much from them. I'm now launching into an experiment in this which I'm going to make fairly public via this blog. I want to see what, if anything, I've learned. Further, I want to learn while I do, rather than learning in a vacuum. I invite your scrutiny as I try to do this in the open. Here's the deal.

The Story of the Project

We are attempting to insource the manufacture of the gutters we use on the eaves of our buildings. We've purchased them from various vendors over the years. But, to get to a more "just in time" delivery, we want to make them ourselves. We've reviewed this with our current vendor and they have concurred. Further, they will supply us with the steel coil we need to make the gutters.

The Participants

At this point, four of my colleagues are with me in the effort. Bryan and his team will do the physical renovation of the area in which we will make the gutters. John has two roles. He'll end up supervising the manufacture when we get going. Secondly, he's a near-genius on machines and all things mechanical. I need him to fabricate all the pieces/parts that will go into this. Ken understands the supply of material and the flow of inventory marvelously. He'll keep us in coil. Dave understands better than any of us the design of our buildings and the process by which we will generate work orders. My job is to run the project, be accountable and document what we are learning.

As we get into the project, others may join us.

Current State of the Project

We have approval from upper management to proceed. We have a reasonable budget to get the job done.

Other than that, there is nothing. The five of us met for the first time Friday. Well, er, uh, not all five. Bryan forgot to write the meeting time down and so I have to bring him up to speed on Monday. First Improvement: Send out meeting reminders.

In our 90 minute initial meeting Friday, we mostly talked about the broad objectives of the fact it was almost all story telling. Why gutters? Why now? Why not with our existing vendor? Where will we build it? How much space to we really need? Who else needs to know about this? No Gantt charts yet. No timetables yet. No major lists of fact, only two specific items so far on the list. My objective was to get these very smart colleagues to grasp what it was, broadly, we want to do. And, then, let them percolate on this in their own worlds.

Project Metrics

At this point, we will use Percent Plan Complete (PPC) to assess our performance. At it's simplest, we'll document the promises individuals make and then assess if they fulfill those promises completely. If so, it is complete. If not, it is not complete. Yes/No assessment. A fundamental of Lean. We will then look each week at our PPC, both for the week and cumulatively. Best practices seem to point to phenomenonal results when PPC exceeds 80%. How will we do??

Next Steps

Only two for next week. Both mine. a) Review the plans with Bryan, who missed the meeting. b) Get a current quote on the gutter machine. So, our PPC next week will be either 0%, 50% or 100%.

Current Learnings

Best stated by Dave, our very perceptive and deep thinker on the team. "How do we squeeze this in with all the other 'key' projects we're each working on?" Yeah. That's it. We'll be watching this.

I hope these postings will be helpful for you. I invite your comments, via the comment section here or via email to me. Thanks for listening. Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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