Monday, December 22, 2014

Climb Out of Project Pitfalls

By John Clemons, International Board Member at Large, Americas Board Member, and Marketing Committee Chair of MESA International

There’s a lot of factors that can derail a manufacturing IT project. Simply being aware of these factors can help you avoid a pitfall. However, if you find yourself in a pitfall, here are some steps you can take to climb out:

1)    Recognize where you are, how you got there, and think about what it’s going to take to get you and your project out. Obviously that’s easier said than done but just stopping to take stock of what’s going on and planning some strategies to get things on track again is a great first step to getting out of the pitfall.

2)    Review your project objectives and re-validate your alignment with the business. No matter what the situation, this is always the right thing to do. If you’re really aligned with the business, and you stay aligned with the business, there’s really no way you can get that far off track.

3)    Do an honest assessment. Re-prioritize. At this step a little honesty goes a long way. You have to look yourself in the mirror and honestly figure out what happened. Look at ways to re-prioritize the activities to quickly get back on track.

4)    Focus on the fundamentals. Get back to the project management basics. Scope, schedule, budget, and resources are always part of the right answer to get yourself and your project straightened out. Don’t get too fancy – just apply project management 101 and get the project back on track.

5)    Focus on the basics of the project and on delivering value to the business.  Again, if you’re delivering value to the business it’s hard to get too far off track. Stay close to the basics and make sure you’re delivering true value to the business.

6)    Don’t try to climb out all at once, re-plan the project based on baby steps, but provide value each step of the way. You probably can’t jump out of the pitfall in one leap. You’ll need to take a few small steps to climb your way out but make these steps strong with value.

7)    Get support from the project sponsors and from the key project stakeholders. Don’t try to do it yourself. If you’ve got the right sponsors then the project is very important to them and they’ll help you get out of the pitfall. Get the right help from the right people.

8)    Execute project postmortem reviews. When you’re done with the project do a thorough review of the project. Look at the positives and the negatives of the project and learn from both of them. Make sure you have people from all aspects of the project in on the review.

9)    Publish key learnings to other teams. Don’t keep all the lessons to yourself. Provide the key learnings to other teams and other projects.  Make the lessons that you’ve learned part of the project culture so that everyone can benefit from the lessons you’ve learned.

So, if you find yourself in a pitfall, take a deep breath and look around.  You just didn’t fall and you’re probably not going to just pop right out. Take a look at these ideas for getting out of the pitfall and getting the project back on track. The quicker you can assess what happened the quicker you can succeed.

I hope your project never lands in a pitfall, but if it does, how you handle it will be far more important than the cause of it. Just recognize you’re there and figure out how to get yourself out. I hope these ideas will help.  

Until next time, good luck and have fun!

John is the Director of Manufacturing IT for Maverick Technologies.  He is on the MESA Americas Board of Directors and is Chair of the MESA Marketing Committee.  John has been working in the field of Manufacturing IT for over thirty years.  He is the co-author of the book Information Technology for Manufacturing:  Reducing Costs and Expanding Capabilities.

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