Based on the outcome of the teambuilding sessions with all team members, and a considerable number of additional one-to-one interviews, we presented a project plan to the Board of Directors, for the introduction of continuous improvement into the new project organization.
Most team members agreed that continuous improvement should focus on picking up the learnings from previous projects into new projects. The best opportunities for improvement was commonly expected to be found at the interface between the JV and the Firm. Each one of them would individually perform pretty well: Problems surface only when one needs another and when work is shifted between two parties.
In the past, teams had been quite successful in the identification of opportunities for improvement. Projects used to be intensely monitored during project execution, generally during formal review meetings. Yet learnings would remain within the team and the partnership seemed to fail at transmitting the learnings to other project teams. Neither would new teams learn from previous teams, neither would teams active in one stage (design for instance) receive feedback from teams further down the line (construction for instance). All in all, there seemed to be no sound method of picking up the learnings and of reaping the benefits. This causes even more damage, since teams change all the time. All team members are apparently transferred to other projects and/ or replaced as soon as they’re experienced enough to avoid mistakes… Another complicating factor seemed to be the fact that almost by standard, specialists like to introduce specific tailor-made solutions into their projects, rather than picking up ready templates from the shelf.
The main cause of this, according to the team members, is the fact that all team members are working in a state of constant overload. There’s always something more urgent and immediate to be dealt with than implementing learnings and transferring knowledge from one team to another. This overload seems to be caused by too much work in progress. Most team members are working simultaneously on several projects at a time. Some reported to be simultaneously involved in no less than 20 projects: Never a dull moment! And never enough time for continuous improvement.
Another important cause might be the fact that reviews are done too late. The evaluation is done only after the project has been completed. As a result, the evaluation is hardly to the benefit of the project team. And the list of learnings is often quite long. Too long to be easily implemented.
First steps for improvement
Based on these findings, team members proposed to focus our continuous improvement effort on stabilizing the project planning, on introducing standardized work methods and on having regular reviews per project, to the benefit of the project team itself, rather than its successors. Also, it was suggested to introduce dedicated teams per product line and/ or to search for longer commitment from team members to one particular project.
As a conclusion on all this, we presented a proposal to set up a structure for continuous improvement based on:
- Weekly 30 minutes reviews (or retrospectives) per project, in order to ingrain a routine and mindset of continuous small step improvement (using the Toyota Improvement Kata as a guideline);
- A Value Stream Mapping exercise, in order to identify a number of larger issues to be solved by teams from both the JV and the Firm.
- Resolution of one major theme per month, through 3, 4 or 5 days kaizens;
- Lean Training of some of the key personnel, in order to promote a common understanding of the principles for solutions to eliminate waste from processes;
- Application of Lean and Agile Project Management, for the execution of the continuous improvement project of the partnership, in order to walk the talk.
Not surprisingly, the Management Board accepted this proposal. After all, it had been the product of their own reasoning and that of their own team members. And they readily added the expectation that all this effort should lead to shorter lead times per project and to more dedicated working time per project per team member.
Great, we now have a goal to go after! And not only a goal, but a goal which is supported by much of the organization and which the Management Board will be monitoring. In my opinion an absolute condition sine qua non for any implementation of Lean & Agile Project Management.
This blog is part of my LAPM Implementation Journal: