With 2014 upon us we asked Thomas Whitney, a 30 year veteran of project management for his take on projects in the New Year and what it takes to ensure success.
by Thomas Whitney
The question was posed as to what it takes to ensure a project will be successful to me a 30-year veteran of completing or mentoring projects. I’ve managed projects throughout my career in most types of businesses along the entire value chain and seven crucial need-to-have conditions come to mind in order to ensure a projects success and prosperity.
I thought it might be useful to use these seven critical need-to-have conditions to structure my New Year’s resolution project: “I am going to lose weight”.
Need-to-have condition 1
Define the project correctly.
A correct definition of a project must contain a realistic scope, an operational definition of what is going to be measured and a realistic goal to be achieved given the scope.
- A realistic scope must be correct in both time and space to achieve the desired goal. The scope of my project will be the time frame of one year and apply to anywhere in the world I happen to be living or traveling.
- An operational definition of what is going to be measured means that what is measured must be quantitative and objective enough that anyone will know exactly what and how to measure the value. Very important to an operational definition is proving via MSAs whatever device used to measure the quantity is capable. In addition a primary and counter measure should always be used. My primary measure will be body weight. My countermeasure will be body fat/mass. I do not want to lose weight at the expense of muscle mass deterioration that I believe is unhealthy.
- My goal will be sixty pounds over a one -year period. That’s five pounds per month. This in my mind makes this not a “diet” but a gradual change in eating and or exercise habits.
The project definition I will use is, “I will achieve a sixty pound weight loss over the next year living or traveling anywhere in the world. The primary measure will be pounds as measured by a singe scale able to measure down to one half pound, measured only weekly. The counter measure will be body weight/mass as measured by the same professional person who does these types of measures, measured only monthly.
Need-to-have condition 2
Assign the proper team to the project.
A correct team always has three types of members:
- A Stakeholder/Champion. This team member funds the project and is responsible for getting roadblocks out of the way of the working team. This person is to whom the working team is responsible to deliver benefits/results.
- Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). These people are the technical resources used by the team to help understand what factors drive poor performance of the primary and counter measures and may or may not be working team members.
- The working team members are the people that actually do the day-to-day project work and are given sufficient time to help in a substantial way. Team member time commitment is typically the top reason why projects fail in my experience.
My stakeholder will be my wife who worries about my weight and WILL demand results and benefit emotionally as I thin down. My SME’s will be two friends I have that have slimmed down, stayed slim for years and can testify to eating and exercise changes in habits. And my team will be at least three other people who have the same resolution and we will do the project as a support/accountability group.
Need-to-have condition 3
Contain the variation and poor performance of the primary and counter measure.
Containment is anything done to insure results start immediately whether costs or other resource commitments increase in the short term or not. (In the business process world this is often increased inspection of work or product).
My containment activity will be to:
- Eliminate all junk food and high sugar, fat or salt food/drinks from the house.
- Have no supersized food; stop adding French fries, cheese and no more mayonnaise or special sauces.
- Eat only the “healthy” food offering in formal restaurants.
Need-to-have condition 4
Implement short-term corrective action.
The SMEs and working team use the appropriate problem solving tools and come up with hypotheses as to the best way to manage the factors that cause poor performance of the project measures. The hypotheses are tested and the one with the best results is implemented. Several well-known hypotheses are:
- Use diet pills only
- Use personal trainers with their eating suggestions
- Use a prepackaged food program where all food is bought
- Some combination of fat, sugar, salt, portion control and exercise plan
- Eat mainly carbohydrates foods and some level of exercise
- Eat mainly non-carbohydrates foods and some level of exercise
Need-to-have condition 5
Verify the short-term corrective action
Once one of the hypothesis has been settled upon that it will work in the long run, it must be confirmed. This is called a capability analysis of a project solution. It typically takes 3 to 6 months of data where the primary and counter measure is stabilized at an acceptable capability. I will look for a continued one to two pounds of weight loss per week, week after week for six months.
Need-to-have condition 6
Implement a long-term corrective action
Refine the original short-term management of input factors to get maximum stable long-term results.
I will be looking to refine my eating and exercise habits to meet my verification weight loss performance. This will allow me to set a second year goal of another forty pounds by just doing what I’ve been doing.
Need-to-have condition 7
Implement preventative actions.
Figure out how to insure the original project conditions never return based on the learning of the project thus far.
I fully expect to have learned enough about how my body reacts to food and exercise that I will be able to adjust both as necessary to keep weight gain/loss at zero in the long term. However, life changes will always come into play so I will become an SME to others and keep a support group around me either personal or social media. If I gain more than twenty pounds, I will start another weight loss project!
Good luck on your New Year’s Resolution!