Thursday, March 25, 2004


The Gutter Project...all of a sudden, it is over!

The gutter project I wrote about starting and then continuing is now concluded!   It is kind of amazing and I think instructive, though not in the way I expected it to be instructive. 

About 10 days ago, as part of fulfilling a promise to identify equipment we'd need to handle the slit steel coil to make the gutter, team members Ken and Dave visited our current vendor.  Their discussions with the vendor sparked in the vendor's manager's mind (I'll call him Steve).  The next day, Steve called me to request a meeting.  Soon.

He came down and described to Ken and me an alternate production schedule he was thinking about and wondered if it would work for us.  After discussion and some tweaking of the proposal, we realized his proposal met all of our short, we didn't need to make our own gutter anymore if he could deliver in this new manner. 

What he proposed, in effect, got away from large batches of gutters being run every three weeks to more of a flow of gutters (no pun intended), delivered weekly.  This was our core problem that moved us to try to in-source gutter manufacture in the first place.  So, we'll write it up and the new plan will be rolling in a couple of weeks.

So, last Friday, we held our last project meeting, saying thanks to Chad, Dave, Ken, Bryan and John for participating. We'll also inform our senior managers that we won’t require the funding we had earlier requested.

What did we learn? We did a plus/delta at the end.

-The hard work to get the physical layout right was worth it.  A simple simulation with sticky notes, made to scale, was a super tool.
-Driving open discussions with the vendor ultimately affected his response.
-Our intention to insource probably triggered the flexibility by the vendor.
-Utilizing reliable promises was useful and understandable to all.  Everyone on the team had several promises they had to deliver on during the project’s six-week one was left behind.  My thanks to Hal Macomber for this concept. 
-PPC metrics also gave us a feel for where we were doing. 
-We learned a lot about stating, openly, conditions of satisfaction.  It felt mechanistic and stiff at first.  We persevered and it got better.
-We need to practice this approach to projects to get better at this.
-We committed no funds.  We spent only time.  We did not work that we were not fully ready to do.  

It was disappointing to not take this through to a physical completion.  But we did get our desired result, which is hardly disappointing. 

I hope this has been a small bit helpful.  I suspect I may try this effort at a "public project" again in the future.  Stay tuned.

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