Friday, March 12, 2004


Gutter Project Update 

Several weeks ago, I posted the first intro to the Gutter Project, an effort on my part to learn more about lean project management by actually conducting one.  I also committed to doing it “in public” and letting this group view what we were doing.  We have been working on it, even though other events events have gotten in the way of my writing.  Here’s the latest though. 

  • Keeping the story of “why are we doing this” is crucial.  More so than I imagined.  Just this morning, Chad asked what the point was.  Not that he had a problem…it is just that he has other jobs too and wanted to reorient. Dave did an excellent job of capturing the story; so well, he did it by asking  great questions of the group.  ( More on project story telling )
  • Promises are an effective tool for maintaining progress.  I use a simple spreadsheet to keep track of these, leading to a weekly calculation of “Percent Plan Complete” or PPC.  If you’d like to see what this looks like, Email me and I’ll send it to you.  Feel free to use or modify.
  • Mock ups really have helped in our “design” process.  I constructed a simple scale model of the space we had to work with, and then made same scale models out of the two gutter machines, coil storage racks and wrapping table.  We then simply began to move the “machines” around the space.  It brought many issues to light about real world flow issues we would not have seen otherwise.  It also brought about a much simpler system for handling coils than we had earlier. 
  • We have consciously not set deadlines for the entire project, even though we have set clear expectations of each promise.  Why?  The project is uncertain; we are in new waters, as we’ve never roll-formed metal before.  We did not believe it was prudent to set a time to build until we believed we had a reasonable flow for the end product.  In this case, the implementation costs have kept going down, as we get the layout and machines cleaner and cleaner.
  • All of us are smarter than any of us.  While we’ve heard this old saw, it is true.  Bringing in key players to review the progress has vastly improved anything that any one of us, particularly me, would have come up with. 
  • We miss us when one of us is not there.  As a corollary, it is key to have regular participation.  Three of us were gone one Friday (our regular meeting day) and that knocked things back for a week.  One colleague had a surprise conflict come up last week and his wife go in for surgery…we’ve missed him now for four weeks.  And we need his expertise. 
  • PPC is a useful metric.  We are cumulatively at 87% PPC right now.  We have worked at getting the conditions of satisfaction for each promise stated clearly and agreed to.   

We have a long way to go to start building our own gutters.  I’ll keep you posted as we go along.   

I hope this is helpful. 

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