Simplify the Process
As originally published on May 3, 2013
Managing Projects Overseas
We just spoke of global perspective of managing projects overseas, followed with how PMs can minimize culture gaps in these situations. We now conclude with a value-based sequel relating to simplifying the process as we successfully manage our project (s) overseas.
Meeting Your Timeline Objective:
As PMs we are expected to deliver on-time if we cannot make it happen ahead of time. Dell Corporation came up with a philosophy “Just-In-Time” (JIT relates to Kanban started in Japan), where, as an example (in the US), vendors would arrive within a window to deliver the raw materials ordered by Dell. Coming in too early raises the inventory managing cost for Dell, while a late arrival means a product assembly holds causing delays to Dell’s customers. So JIT was the industry mantra there onward. The Japanese religiously applied this in their industries as well as in society with their trains and passenger boarding process effectively. China started benchmarking this and even improved this with their major metropolitan commuting trains.
Likewise, a PM had to, at the least, deliver his project on time. I have heavily relied on a technique I termed as “Backward Integration of Forwarding Needs” (BIFN) in my approach, especially when there are at least two people involved in a project. When I speak with my customer on this concept to get them started on a Lean Six Sigma project, they tease me saying it is PM 101, the basics and rarely do I see someone actually putting it together and following it to the hill. I have personally observed that when I failed to institute this myself, the results were disastrous.
BIFN Technique – Not fully exploited – How could you tell if your PM is not using the BIFN Technique even though he claims to be a certified PM? Here are some observations you need to watch for:
- BIFN Format (MS Project or Equivalent SW online or offline acceptable):
- Got to be in MS Excel or equivalent (Not in PPT or Word)
- Has to be a prerequisite to project execution at each stage ongoing in parallel
- No such thing as “I will do the BIFN later” and let me first get the project completed
- Project Activity, Review, Progress, and Implementation all go hand-in-hand which is purely non-negotiable
- BIFN Tool in MS Excel:
- Probably didn’t build in the formula for the timelines, but just typed in actions and dates
- Each time some change occurs, a manual update would be necessary
- Errors can occur and some dates can be left out if the project has multiple line items
- Inability to analyze and estimate probability of “project closure on-time success”
- BIFN in mere Series or Includes Parallels:
- He has ignored many action items that deserve being run in parallel?
- He would be unable to execute efficiently as upstream errors would hold him from completing his part
- Pays his vendors for services independent of the BIFN
- Budget for vendors and other elements in this overseas project is not in alignment with the supposedly clean BIFN plan.
- Milestones based on time and resources allocated as opposed to linking project complexity to resources’ track record
- Review of Project Execution Per BIFN Plan:
- Frequency of project review is inconsistent or inadequate – Client is not updated frequent enough
- Shows weak linkage between objective and activities are not linked – Weak project mgt.
- BIFN and Budget Allocation and Renewal Time:
- Do we have enough in the budget for the next quarter? (Is there value based on the project charter?)
- Will we be able to allocate the needed budget? (Will be able to afford the 3Ds with the customer associated with this project?)
- What scopes do we need to reduce if we lack the budget? (Why was the project scoped larger before?)
- Are there interim allowances to reallocate budget as necessary?
In today’s world managers and executives are investing in tools and techniques of data analytics to design their business strategic planning. Whereas, in their project management areas, PMs have complicated the process to such an extent that PMP 101 has become a formality more than a reality. There aren’t places where the projected date and actual date have been regressed and residuals drawn upon to reason and improve.
PMs and Program Managers including those signing the payments to vendors and external consultants need to be proactive in challenging the process not just when resist and ask tough questions during a budget crunch, but do so when there is a “Logic Crunch.” Logic Crunch refers to situations when work and payment have no rational between them and is running on pure emotions. True that the customer should also feel that they are getting value in the journey we take them through, but ensure through their internal financial measures, that business value has been achieved without doubt!
Simplifying the process refers to questions we would ask if we were to pay for these projects out of our own pockets:
- Will I invest in these projects with these people at this time with my own funds?
- If so, how would I want them to structure the work and payment schedule for my organization/business?
- What am I getting for my investment (ahead of, during the, and post project activity)?
- Why should I just invest in it just because I am not being asked to document and justify the projected returns?
- Should I only ask these tough questions when my upper management questions me?
- How are my peers performing and how do they think in these areas?
- Am I doing “What is Right” proactively, or am I just doing “To Be Right” to cover my future?
This would simplify your efforts, time, and even help you get other projects down the line approved easier as you have a unique track record of keeping things simple, effective, and highly worth their returns.
With this final sequel, I sincerely hope you have all enjoyed reading the three parts and I look forward to your valuable comments, clarifications, as well as criticism, so that I would better understand the real-world scenario out there for you as you either get ready or plan to manage projects overseas without having to go there physically, as we would otherwise.
Good Luck with your overseas projects!!!