Monday, December 05, 2005

Project Kaizen: Why improve Projects?

Project Kaizen: Why Improve Projects?

Marie had a problem. Why was the supplier slow? Why did they miss promised delivery dates? Why were there quality problems with this vendor? How could she get the design improved? How could she evaluate alternate designs? To do this, she had to involve the vendor, sales people, engineers and production staff. She had a project. She could apply project kaizen.

Scotty had a problem. Organizational changes meant a product previously made elsewhere was coming in-house. How did he locate supplies? How did he modify standard work? How did he let end-users know where to order? How did he find the manufacturing space? To do this, he had to involve production engineers, customer service and sales folks, shipping team. He had a project. He could apply project kaizen.

We often solve problems by initiating a project. And since there seems to be no shortage of problems, we are surrounded by projects. Even in a process based system, projects are everywhere. So, why not get better at them?

A project is different than a process. A project is a one-off event. It has a start and an end. It often involves a variety of tasks. Many depend on other. Often, the project has multiple performers. It almost always affects multiple people.

Projects originate from multiple headwaters. Most often, they come from a) top-down demands (the big guy issues a declaration) or b) bottom-up “gotta improve this” demands (this process is impossible to do).

Often, we don’t see projects for what they are; one time, time-consuming events. Instead, we pretend they are a potted plant in the corner, there, but of no real significance. So we pile them on top of other, regular work. And then we wonder why we feel overloaded.

Projects are central. No less a guru than Tom Peters wrote a book The Project 50 to show just how crucial our projects are. While Tom ranted well in this book, we can do better in making them work better.

Projects happen in four settings. We’ll talk about each. But get started now.

Get in the habit:
1. Identify, in writing, three projects for you or for others that you come in contact with in the next four hours.

2. Write down 4 things about each one: The start date, the end date, the person responsible and the person who has the power to say “I am pleased, the project is done”.

3. Use this short list as your context to understand what my cobloggers and I will discuss this week on improving projects.

Check out what the rest of my co-bloggers have to say:

Bill Waddell
Chuck Frey
Hal Macomber
Jon Miller
Mark Graban
Norman Bodek

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