By Rebecca Langdon
You will not be surprised for me to tell you that Project Managers make mistakes – of course they do – they are only human. These mistakes are unfortunately fairly common and simply having awareness of them can make it easier to avoid.
- Mismanagement of project scope
Whilst project scope should be clearly defined at the beginning of a project, we recognize that project change may be necessary. However, there should be a clear change management process in place which is carefully reviewed for dependencies. One of the most common mistakes is allowing additional requirements to come into scope causing scope creep, when proper due diligence has not been completed.
- Mismanagement of resources
A project will usually have a team of resources, some fully assigned to the project and others who work on it part time. Within that team you will have a mix of skill sets. There is usually scope throughout the life of the project to vary the profile of the resources. The first mistake PM’s make is to not optimally use the resources they have, and the second mistake they make is to not review the resources they need periodically against the plan and adjust accordingly.
If a team is to evolve and become more productive, there should be an environment where feedback can be shared and there is a process for learning what went badly, and what went well, and embedding that into future processes. This is something sprint teams are very good at as they incorporate this into their process via retrospectives. If a culture of feedback is not developed there is no environment for growth.
A Project Manager is there to manage the team, and a key part of that is to ensure that there is the right type and frequency of communication both within the team and to stakeholders. Surprisingly, one of the most common mistakes made by PM’s is either not communicating themselves and/or not ensuring communication within and outside of the team.
The project manager is there to manage, but this does not give them carte blanche to go on an ego trip, with it being their way or the highway. Project Managers should be collaborative and encourage input and discussion.
Being a Project Manager is all about coordinating a set of resources to achieve a particular outcome. It is a role where if the basics are not done right, the project will quickly be impacted. It is however a really interesting role, and one that you can gain an accreditation in called the PMP.
By Rebecca Langdon
When I started my career in supply chain we learnt a lot about sustainability in text books. As I eagerly joined the workforce I came to realize that sustainability was something the smaller organizations rarely cared about, and the larger ones paid lip service to. As standard practice we would ask vendors about their own sustainable practices in tender processes, but they were seldom reviewed. Why? The truth is that unless it was legislative to perform sustain-ably, most organizations saw it as a distraction from the bottom line.
In more recent years I noticed a shift with organizations hiring professionals who were focused on organizational sustainability and environmental issues. Yet the same issue seemed to linger – that these individuals invariably had any real influence to enforce the issues. As we rapidly move through 2017, a lot of voices in the industry are finally saying that organizations are genuinely interested in sustainable supply chains. The pessimist in me wonders what could have caused this change – when altruism had always failed to produce wide reform in the past.
Long term resilience
Board rooms are not focusing on the short term only, they recognize that to be successful they must plan for the future. They are looking as far as 20 years ahead, and are taking business continuity and disaster recovery within their supply chains very seriously.
Increasing public pressure
This is not an issue that is going to go away from a public perspective, and there are an increasing number of consumers that want transparency about how products and services they consume are manufactured. If they don’t like the answer, they will be willing to vote with their feet.
Smarter measurement of environmental impacts
As technology advances we are becoming better at measuring and understanding environmental impacts. This in itself allows the government and other bodies to more accurately measure the impact organizations are having on the environment and introduce controls accordingly.
Businesses have long talked about supply chain sustainability but rarely genuinely backed this up by their actions. As the interest in this increases I would expect supply chain professionals to be tasked with driving it forward. It looks like they may finally get to practically use what they have studied in their qualifications.
By David L
If you look around your company you can probably identify a number of areas that would benefit from a Six Sigma project, but trying to tackle everything at once is a greater issue that not tackling anything. The adage of if a job is worth doing it is worth doing well holds here and only half-heatedly running a Six Sigma project is likely to leave you in a worse position.
Instead of trying to solve all of your problems in one go, a structured approach will give you more wins in a shorter period of time, and by evaluating your likely projects using certain criteria, you will be able to identify which should be tackled first as well as checking progress at strategic points. The ten most effective measures are;
- Establish a link with business imperatives. Not every project will have an obvious business strategic element, but if it positively impacts business goals, productivity, employee well-being, or quality of process or product, then it can only help the business.
- Business buy-in. Six Sigma projects are best completed when they are run with the knowledge and the support of the whole company. At the start of a project you should make both the problem and the team tackling it known throughout the company, and ensure that they get full support.
- Team engagement. Black Belts invariably lead projects but some tend to forget that as well as applying their Six Sigma knowledge, they are expected to motivate and lead the other team members. If your leaders are really doing their job, the whole team will be focused on the task.
- Positive sponsor engagement. You need to ensure that the project sponsor is just as engaged as your team and understands the positive effects that a satisfactory conclusion will bring. The sponsor should be the most engaged of the whole team.
- Realistic timescales. Projects should be chosen on the basis of specific deliverables that are achieved in a set timetable. Any project that risks not meeting either of these criteria should not be attempted.
- Delivery of expected results. Your project should set out what it intends to achieve before starting. Fluid goals are worse than no goals.
- Transition enabled. With goals met, any process or system changes should be smoothly handed over to the area owners, who should be able to use them and get full benefits right from the start.
- Replicable results. A completed project should return the same results as demonstrated by the team. If it does not, then the project is incomplete.
- Use Data Envelopment Analysis. DEA can be used to compare and evaluate like performances, so a process that has undergone Six Sigma modification, can be measured against a comparable one that has not.
- Sustained improvement. The results from a modified process should show continued and measurable improvement that continues with time.
Many businesses choose to focus on their own core competencies and outsource various aspects of facilities service provision to third parties. When a Facilities Manager outsources a service it does not extinguish their responsibility for what is delivered to the organisation. This means that Facilities Managers need to be equipped with the skills to both select and manage suppliers. Here we focus on how to get the selection right.
1 Run a process
Don’t contract with a random recommendation or the first company that cold calls you. You need to undertake a sourcing process, even if it does not require a full blown RFP. Make sure you consider all of your requirements and understand if and how each vendor can meet those expectations.
2 Do your due diligence
In any tender process, vendors will make plenty of representations about what they can and cannot do for you. It is prudent not to take this on face value but to speak to some of their current clients to do references. Avoid allowing the vendor to be present for this meeting as you want to try and get the best opportunity for the truth.
If you are seeking a long term relationship with a supplier, you have a vested interest in understanding their road map for future products/services they plan to offer.
- Proven service transition experience
You are likely to be working on a service that is already provided internally or by another third party. The priority is to be confident that the vendor has experience in managing service transitions seamlessly and confidently.
- The vendor hires appropriately
Employees of the vendor will be providing services to your organization. This may be in the form of account managers, helpdesk staff, engineers, and so on. You are outsourcing the service so it is not your role to be involved in the management of those employees, but you want to be confident that the vendor is hiring good staff. Ask about hiring processes, training, retention, and so on.
As I said at the beginning, outsourcing a service is not equivalent to extinguishing your responsibilities. It is in the interest of the Facilities Manager to select the best vendor possible. To learn more about facilities management, you might consider undertaking a professional qualification such as the FMP.
Each project is different but the steps to get from a business requirement to execution remain the same. The project itself starts with a statement of need that outlines what the project is aiming to achieve and usually a brief statement of what it is not trying to achieve. There are four steps to follow to ensure a smooth path to execution.
All requirements must trace back to the statement of need. This might be checked and documented using an Excel document for example. The purpose of this is to ensure that there is no project scope creep being introduced, and conversely that the entire statement of need is covered within the requirements.
The other purpose of a traceability matrix is to make it clear where each requirement originated so that the entire team has transparency of the project direction.
Requirements should be captured in a way that is easy for the team to understand. However, as multiple members of the team may have produced the requirements, at varying levels of detail, and over a period of time, the Project Manager may need to clarify what has been provided. This may include running sessions to ensure that all team members have a common understanding of what has been produced. The PM may also need to seek additional detail if requirements are not complete.
As the PM and the wider team work through the requirements they will produce specifications to create the final product. Keeping full documentation of how the requirement formed the specification is important for the team to stay on track and as something to refer back to.
The fourth and final step is to check the original requirement against what has been executed. This is often done through testing and is the last step before the project can be officially closed.
Project Management is far more straightforward through adherence to processes and procedures such as the 4 steps from requirements to execution as described above. For further information on project management techniques, feel free to explore the PMP course.
By Rebecca Langdon
For manufacturers, distributors and retailers, managing inventory is absolutely critical to their success or demise. Holding too much stock can cause liquidity issues and obsolete stock as consumer needs change. The situation is also bad for organizations holding too little stock or lacking the ability to acquire it in line with customer expectations.
First of all you need to know how much stock you have and this ideally should be a real time position. Furthermore you need to measure how quickly it takes to replenish that stock and therefore calculate at which stage of stock diminishing you need to order more, and how much you will need.
This is going to be most important for perishable stock and items that have some type of seasonality or date element. The principle is simple but so often is not managed correctly. Consider what type of stock management is right for your business – whether that be first in first out, or last in first out.
There are plenty of inventory management professionals who can assist you to manage and optimise your inventory. Ensure you have accountable people both in the warehouse and in a more senior inventory management role. Train these people and keep them up to date with industry best practice.
Invest in systems that will assist you to manage your inventory. This may include barcode scanners, point of sale systems, order tracking, and so on. Don’t expect to be able to run your inventory from a spreadsheet as it will lead to disaster.
For many organizations the majority of their value is held in stock. Therefore this is not an area of business that should be under resourced or ill managed. For more information about inventory management, take a look at our course syllabus for the SCM.
Many Six Sigma initiatives fail because they haven’t been planned properly. Without structure, continuous improvement becomes disjointed when the steps to achieve it haven’t been thought through, making the whole process difficult to handle and ineffective. By applying six simple steps to your Six Sigma program, you can ensure that each action is not only effective but is seen through to completion. These steps are:
- Establish set goals. No plan is going to meet its goals if they are not set before the start of the project, and all stakeholders must be aware of what the project intends to tackle, who will tackle it, and the timescales for completion at the very least. Any Six Sigma project must have a well detailed plan which can be updated and rolled out to the company as it progresses.
- Pick the right team. Each project is different and may need different core competencies depending upon what it is trying to achieve, and because the principles of Six Sigma can be leveled at any company operation, some of them may require more financial analysis or Human Resources input or that of technical personnel. Therefore, teams should be picked to reflect business needs, while also ensuring that there is balance with other business functions too.
- Understand the gap. Any project will start with a problem statement and a sound knowledge of the current situation. This may be in the form of sales figures, production throughput, returns from the field, or many other measurable elements. The objective of the project is to alter that data in some way, and while exact data will not be known until the project is complete and has run for a period of time, it is appropriate to understand and convey at least the scale of expected improvement. A ten percent change is a long way from a ninety percent change and business stake holder will expect to know what they are likely to get for their investment.
- Use your team. A Six Sigma event is a group affair, and while it might be run by the black belts and project sponsor, the whole team should have an input. You will be using tools such as brainstorming and it is important that the whole team becomes involved and feel able to voice their points and suggestions. Everyone has valuable points to make, and it becomes important that your team has the air of being open and accepting.
- Distribute tasks according to skill set. A project will have many tasks to fulfill and you should have team members who excel at some more than others. Whether it is data collection, data analysis, procedural understanding, or specialist knowledge in a particular field such as Sales, Production, or Design Engineering, you should try to match people to their strengths.
- Check and check again. Everyone makes mistakes and any data coming into the project should be checked against what is expected for sanity. If you have a particularly difficult area of expertise, and only one expert assigned to you team, it pays to have some route to validation of data. If you start your project with skewed or unreliable data, then you cannot hope to run it to any kind of success. Plan to have at least two people who can interpret data.
With a Six Sigma project run correctly, a company will be well aware of what they are getting for their money, and will have benefits that are almost immediately obvious.
Gone is the day when FM was an archaic and static function within an organization. In fact it is frequently seen as holding strategic opportunity. With that in mind, we expect organisations and their Facilities Management teams to be particularly interested in the trends of 2017 that might provide business advantage.
- Collaborative workplace design
The likes of Google and Pixar have worked really hard to introduce ‘collaborative working spaces’. So what does this really mean? It is all about encouraging interactions between colleagues who might not have met in the past, with the view of sparking innovation through collaboration. In simple terms the aim is to get people talking and working together. The ways to do this are fairly straightforward:
- Avoid single occupancy offices
- Create open working areas and flex desks
- Design high volume places such as canteens and walkways
- Alternative places to work just as break out zones
The fact we told you Google and Pixar have being doing this for years, might make you wonder why we are talking about this as a key trend for 2017. The reason is that this is going to enter many more traditional organizations in 2017 who are going to begin challenging their previous office designs.
As organizations become more global in nature, employees are increasingly likely to be travelling and/or working more flexibly to manage time differences. The changing make up of family and views on work life balance also demand more flexibility. Providing the technology solution will undoubtedly fall to the IT department, but the changes to work space, and the need for travel will certainly fall to the FM team.
Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, drones, machine learning, IOT. There are so many innovations on the horizon and they are now being commoditized into products and services for the FM industry. Expect to be speaking to your vendors about how these technologies can provide enhanced service and or increased efficiency in 2017.
2017 is going to provide a huge amount of opportunity for FM professionals to take advantage of. It is a good time to consider a facilities management qualification such as the FMP.
By Rebecca Langdon
You may be asking yourself why we are singling marketing out as a discipline that needs its own article on how to run project management. It is a good question and one that we are about to answer. Marketing projects are often more complex than traditional projects due to the wide range of tasks being carried out, from weekly SEO to monthly newsletters, to huge and complex global ad campaigns. Work done via social media has a very different profile to above the line with social media requiring greater agility hence leaner processes.
Yes the projects vary, but there will be common themes that will allow you to produce a set of templates to increase efficiency. Work out what the main types of projects are and create a set of templates that can allow consistency whilst recognising variability across the portfolio.
If you view the marketing efforts as a programme of work which is the machine, the cogs are all of the projects. For the machine to be productive, all of the cogs must be operating efficiently and cohesively. While resources and stakeholders will operate within one or more projects, but unlikely the entire programme, it is important to introduce programme level communication.
- Embracing Marketing Metrics
Measures in other departments are often far simpler and fewer in number; most commonly being related to delivery of a pre-defined set of requirements such as a software installation. Marketing is often different in that the success of a project is typically another measure once the requirement is delivered. For example, the requirement of Project A might be a video on demand ad, but the measures of success go beyond if the ad was delivered. There will be measured targets including the number of viewers who saw the ad, and how many of those were within the target customer profile.
Different marketing projects will require different process flows. I said at the beginning that the project templates will differ and the same is true for process flows. An agile project for example will have a leaner set of processes and will likely rely on backlogs, sprints, and scrums. Whereas a more traditional project will lend itself to a more process driven waterfall workflow.
The breadth of the activities within the marketing function, and the exposure to the ever changing social media environment, mean that to be effective, project management must be adaptive. For further information on project management techniques, feel free to explore the PMP course.
Within the CSCP qualification, budding Supply Chain Managers learn a lot about the different types of logistics and how they contribute to the wider organization. It is one of the main organizational functions and it has a very wide reach and important role. So whether you are already studying and this is a quick recap, or perhaps you are considering becoming qualified, we hope you find this useful.
Procurement logistics covers a number of activities such as requirements planning, researching the market, making or buying decisions, managing suppliers, and ordering. In essence it is procuring the goods and/or services.
Production logistics covers processes within a value added system, such as a factory. Within the factory example its purpose would be to ensure that each machine has the materials it needs at the right time, the right quantity and at the right quality. As Logistics Managers’ focus on smaller inventories and batch sizes, just in time becomes an important methodology for consideration.
This covers getting the products/services to the customer in the right condition, in the right place, in the right quality, and at the agreed time. If you consider a next day delivery service for a company such as Amazon who sells a vast range of products, you can easily imagine the complexity of getting it right first time, every time.
This refers to the management of and minimization of costs associated to disposal of waste during the production of goods and services. For example it might be disposal of waste by-products created in a factory.
These are the main subcategories within the overarching logistics function. It is an exciting role, and offers the opportunity to deliver business value to an organization. If you are interested in learning more, why not consider the CSCP qualification.