“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” – Dwayne Johnson
Aldridge Kerr is often asked what we see as one of the most common operational challenges organizations have. The answer? Lack of consistency. We joke that it is better to do something consistently ineffective and/or inefficient than to perform a task in multiple different ways.
Why is consistency so important to operational effectiveness? If an organization does not consider consistency important, it can impact many areas within the organization. We believe consistency is a characteristic for operational effectiveness and regularly discuss it in our insights and blogs, as exemplified in a previous Insight.
Consistency provides the following as it:
Reduces confusion for both Staff and Customers.
Sends clear messaging both internally and externally.
Allows for scalability as tasks and processes are performed using the same approach.
Encourages ease in training others, especially for new Staff.
Creates repeatable, sustainable processes as it standardizes how processes are performed.
Defines terminology for reference to systems, forms, requirements, methodologies supporting that clear messaging.
Characterizes operational effectiveness.
A routine review of Critical Processes supports the ability to establish consistent, clear methods for doing business. This creates operational effectiveness.
“Operational effectiveness and strategy are both essential to superior performance.”
– Michael Porter, Author, Harvard Professor
Each year, we select a theme with hints on that topic for discussion throughout the year. Our theme for this year is identifying the signs of an operationally effective organization.
We often ask our Clients if their organizations are operationally effective and typically the answer is either “Of course” or “I’m not sure.” How do you know if your organization is operating as intended? How do you know if your organization is effective? Are you sure your day-to-day tasks are aligning with the organization’s Mission and Goals? What is missing to achieve your operational excellence? These are the questions we will be exploring throughout this year.
As we begin, we need to first define “what is operational effectiveness?” Unfortunately, there is often confusion between “effectiveness” and “efficiency.” Dictionary.com defines efficiency as “performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort,” while defining effectiveness as “producing the intended or expected result.”
Often, an organization will concentrate on being efficient without realizing that they must first look at what is being done daily and align those tasks with the organization’s strategic goals (or “intended or expected result”). Understanding the goals and priorities of an organization is the foundation for effectiveness.
Our focus this year will be to more clearly outline the characteristics that are needed for an operationally effective organization. This will ultimately create an efficient organization as well.
The phrase “rinse, repeat” indicates “an action or process that needs to be repeated.” It is used to indicate that a certain pattern of steps and/or actions will, inevitably, occur again. If we can provide any takeaway from this year’s insights, it is that we are hopeful that you have learned some hints to use in the effective execution of projects and/or initiatives.
One value of identifying best practices is to be able to repeat those practices over and over again (i.e., “rinse, repeat”). As we reflect on our insights from this year, we hope you have learned – or been reminded of:
Executing any project or initiative is not easy, as we discussed in our January insight with the story of the Father wanting to get to the Empire State Building’s observation deck.
As we continue our discussions on effective execution of any project and initiative, a critical element to success requires robust project management, as we have discussed previously. An element of a good project plan is directly related to mitigating risks that will delay or worse, sabotage the project’s execution.
Assessing risks throughout the life cycle of any project or initiative will increase the probability of a smooth execution. As we state in our website:
Every Organization, regardless of size, is susceptible to risks. Some risks are common, while others are industry specific. Unfortunately, risks cannot be eliminated. However, risks can be mitigated. Understanding those risks that create the highest exposure should be identified and steps taken to mitigate them.
So how can a Project Team incorporate risk mitigation into its project management methodology? Here are some hints to mitigate risks:
Consider the risk impact to any changes to the project plan
“Quality means doing it right even when no one is looking.”— Henry Ford
It is so frustrating when a software solution becomes available…. whether a new solution or an upgrade…. and it just does not work as intended. Why does this happen so frequently? In many cases, this is due to lack or inadequate testing of the software solution.
An intricate step in the success of any project is to include testing to ensure whatever has been developed will meet the requirements defined by the End Users. Testing should be part of every project regardless of whether it is a software implementation, a new market launch, training, or any other deliverable. It ultimately produces the quality deliverable that is desired.
What should be considered when testing? Develop a Test Plan that defines:
The focus of the testing to ensure the deliverable is working as intended and meets the needs of the End User
Define what should be tested – examples:
If it is a software solution (or upgrade), ensuring the software is working correctly
If a new process, testing its effectiveness, efficiency, and repeatability
If documentation, is it communicated clearly and is it easy to understand the document’s topic
If a market launch, does it meet the needs of the User?
Select Testers who are willing to do what it takes to validate the intended deliverable is working as intended
Determine the requirements for successful results from the testing and measure the testing to those requirements
Do not settle for “good enough” – this ultimately results in additional work effort
Incorporating testing into the overall project plan creates a more successful, high-quality implementation. Aldridge Kerr can help your organization define the requirements for a Test Plan to ensure a successful execution of your project.
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”
Steve Jobs, as quoted in Forbes
“Change is hard” is an adage that seems to be universal. Most of us do not like change and resist it whenever possible.
Ironically, change seems to be easy during the execution of a project. Considering changes are a major factor why projects are delayed and/or are not completed. During the life cycle of a project, there are two challenges that often arise:
Scope creep and/or
Poorly managing change
What is “scope creep?” Whenever a project adds to the defined project’s scope that will impact the project’s timeline, costs, deliverables, and resources without appropriate consideration to the changes impact and/or approvals, this results in scope creep. Unfortunately, scope creep is a common obstacle to a project’s successful and timely execution.
In order to mitigate scope creep, consider the following:
Ensure the project’s scope is clearly defined prior to starting the project
Define the additional requirements before incorporating the requested changes into the project’s scope
Determine the implications of expanding the requirements to the scope of the project, as well as the implications if the scope does not change (in other words, define the risks for changing the scope versus not changing the scope)
Evaluate the impact of the change to the project’s cost, resources, timeline, and deliverables
Document the requirements, including the impact to the project to ensure there is clarity on change requests
Obtain appropriate approvals prior to making any changes to the project
Update the project plan if the change is approved
Aldridge Kerr can help your organization execute your projects. We are experienced project managers.
“Everybody who’s been successful has gotten lots of help and input from many, many people.”
– Carol S. Dweck, Author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”
The Project Team was excited that the project was almost completed. Then, they were surprised when they presented it to the End Users and there were major concerns. Those who would be using the completed product had not been consulted throughout the Life Cycle of the project and were not happy with what would be delivered.
This is, unfortunately, a common scenario when executing a project or initiative. Executing a deliverable without End Users’ input can create unnecessary issues in the success of the completed project.
Involving the End Users throughout the project’s Life Cycle increases the probability of a successful execution. Why?
The results of the execution effort align with the business needs being addressed
Reduces wasted time, energy, and resources on rework created due to a deliverable that does not meet the End Users’ needs
Addresses the “they versus us” mentally that is caused whenever the Project Team and End Users are able to work together to achieve a unified goal
Encourages a more successful and timely execution of the project/initiative
Creates ongoing collaboration between the Project Team and the End Users
When should the End Users be involved?
During the Requirements Phase of the project’s design
At critical milestones of the project
As Testers of the desired outcome
The success of any execution requires involvement by those who will benefit from its implementation. Aldridge Kerr can help your organization more clearly define the End Users’ requirements and needs. We use a proven facilitated methodology to define the requirements needed for a successful execution.
“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” Conrad Hilton
Momentum: Merriam-Webster defines it as “strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events.” As we continue our discussions this year on effective execution, one of the challenges Organizations may face is a project not remaining focused or worse, stalling. The objective is to ensure that the project continues to move forward and gains momentum.
Here are several hints to keep your project moving forward:
Focus on the value the completed project will bring to the Organization: remember the end game and why the project is being done
Ensure all impacted Team Members, Stakeholders, and End Users are aware as to the “why” of the project: a project can stall when all involved are not focused on the project’s objective
Pay attention to the Project Plan’s due dates and dependencies as they drive the project’s success: the Project Plan is the roadmap to successful execution as was discussed in an earlier insight
Resolve the issues that may (and typically do) arise causing delays
Remain aware of risks that could occur and need to be mitigated
Communicate, communicate, communicate as defined within the Project’s Communication Plan
Don’t allow your project to stall, stay focused on the end game, and keep that momentum going by being mindful of these hints.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
– George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright
A Client once commented: “People are seemingly constantly asking how the project is progressing. We are never going to get this project done with the interruptions.”
My response was simple: “Are you providing regular updates on the status of the project?” My Client then asked: “Why would I do that?”
I smiled and said: “The list is long!” And, yes, the reasons for establishing consistent, regular communication on the status of a project is long, including but not limited to:
Provides all impacted on the progress of the project
Reduces confusion and speculation
Creates positive anticipation
Effectively manages expectations
Reduces the regular questions due to lack of communication
Strengthens the Project Team as members better understand the role each plays on the project
Educates End Users on the project’s impact prior to its completion
Presents progress to Stakeholders and the Steering Committee reducing concerns
Contributes to employee engagement
Establishing and maintaining frequent and consistent communication on the progress of a project or initiative better positions an Organization to effectively execute, as we have been discussing this year. By creating a Communication Plan as part of the overall project’s management, all those impact by the project are now invested in its progress. Do you need help creating a Communication Plan for your project/initiative? Aldridge Kerr are experienced Project Managers and can provide the project management framework to successfully execute your project.
“Managing projects requires managing dependencies.” – Charlene Aldridge, President of Aldridge, Kerr & Associates, Inc.
Did you hear about the Builder that attempted to install the sinks before the foundation was laid? Or the IT Engineer developing enhancements to software before the original software had even been designed? Or that same Builder attempting to paint before walls were even built. Or the Baker icing a cake before it is baked? The answers to these questions are all the same: “of course not!” Some tasks simply cannot be performed until others have been completed.
As we continue our discussions on hints for effective execution, this month we will be focusing on understanding the role of dependencies in implementing any project or initiative. Although we may not think about it often, dependencies are an intricate part of our lives:
Plants are dependent on sunlight and water
Fish are dependent on water
Babies are dependent on caregivers
Ability to effectively function is dependent on enough sleep, food, water, shelter, etc.
Dependencies are sometimes, unfortunately, not considered when performing tasks related to any project or initiative. This can lead to the project stalling, creating wasted time, energy, and resources, or worse jeopardize the completion of the project.
Dependencies have a huge impact on any execution’s success. Here are some dependencies to consider:
Project constraints that drive dependencies related to time, cost, and/or the project’s scope
Resource dependencies: the resources available to perform the necessary tasks influence the ability to get the work done. The order in which tasks are done is partially driven by the availability of the resources as well as the expertise of those resources.
Expectational (or preferential) dependencies: the expectations of Leadership, the Project Team, the Customers, and other Stakeholders all impact what needs to be done and may become required dependencies.
External dependencies: the saying “the best laid plans” applies here. There will be some things outside the Project Team’s control that will impact the project’s completion. These unplanned delays should be factored into completing the project. In addition, subsequent tasks can easily be impacted due to these external factors.
Logical dependencies: the example of the Baker having to wait until the cake is baked before frosting it is a great example of a logical dependency. Some tasks simply must be performed in a certain order.
The success of any project or initiation is considering and planning for dependencies that could impact subsequent tasks. Planning for these dependencies will ultimately ensure a more successful execution of a project.