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Monday, July 25, 2005

Strategic MRO and Asset Management

I just returned from a conference entitled MRO-World. The purpose of the conference was to enhance learning around activities that support Asset Management and the Maintenance, Repair, and Operation (MRO) of those assets. How does this fit in with Project Management? As we all know, Operational activities are focused on maintaining, while Project activities are focused on change. Having said that, Operations activities still have change that needs to be managed.

Strategic MRO is composed of business processes, and is not meant to be an activity management mechanism. Strategic MRO is focused on managing change and continuous improvement in regards to a company's assets. Where I work, we have Strategic Assets that must work nearly 100% of the time. Our systems consist of Water Distribution, Waste Water Treatment, Storm Water Management, Land Fill Operations, Roads, Traffic Control, IT Systems, etc. How these assets are maintained, repaired, and operated can have a huge impact on the bottom line.

In my opinion Project Management can help in the implementation of software to manage assets, in helping scheduling the work to support the MRO of the assets (preventative maintenance for example) , and additionally through communicating the status of critical work and changes to assets going on in the Enterprise.

Part of any organization's responsibilities is to manage their assets to maximize their value. To do this they must:

Define the current state of the asset
Determine the future asset state objectives
Perform a gap analysis between the current and future states
Develop a prioritized task list of what needs to be done to close the gaps

This sounds a lot like project management to me. As I said, I will be doing more research in this area and will report my findings here. As always I welcome your feedback.

Monday, July 11, 2005

What is a Project?

As the readers of this blog know, I try to cover the basics of Project Management. As project managers, we get in trouble when we try to complicate things. In my career, I have worked for many different types and sizes of organizations. Some have embraced Project Management and others have made excuses so as not to be constrained by what they believe is a process that slows things down (adds cost and overhead). I have preached the same message for years. Project Management is designed to help reduce or eliminate rework and surprises at the end of a project.

So why don’t some organizations see the value of Project Management? Usually it is because they do not understand the benefits of Project Management, they do not trust the Project Managers they currently have, or the ones they have encountered in the past. OK, we can accept that, however, what we should never accept is the idea that Project Management just adds cost and overhead.

We need to educate those around us about the difference between projects and other organizational work. Senior management needs to realize the fact that work is basically broken down into two areas: Operations (focused on Maintaining) and Projects (focused on Change). Most organizations do an adequate job of managing their operations; however, my experience (limited as it is) has shown that projects and the support of project management vary greatly.

Every organization has projects; sometimes they are just too busy to realize it. As project managers, we need to keep fighting the good fight of educating the influencers in our organizations about the benefits of Project Management. In addition, we need to realize that the benefits of Project Management are demonstrated in the successful implementation of projects. Do not preach the benefits of Project Management; demonstrate them by walking the walk and talking the talk.

Therefore, to answer our central question and wrap this up, a project is:

A temporary endeavor to create a unique product or service


Constrained by a finite budget

Constrained by a finite timeline (defined start and end date)

Composed of interrelated activities

Focused on attaining one or more clearly defined objectives

The last point needs to be stressed. Without clearly defined and agreed upon objectives your project is doomed to fail from the start. I would also add that your project does not have a chance for success unless you have an engaged, influential, and respected executive in the role of project sponsor.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Quality Project Management

Continuous Improvement is the output of a good Quality Management process, and Continuous Improvement requires the proper application of Quality Tools and Techniques. One of the most recognizable Quality Tools is the "Deming Wheel". The Deming Wheel is a simple diagram that focuses efforts around: PLAN, DO, CHECK, and ACT (PDCA Cycle). While this diagram may seem simplistic at first sight, it is a very powerful tool when applied to projects. In fact, Project Management is dependent upon the PDCA Cycle to deliver effective results.

A quick summary of the PDCA Cycle follows.

Plan is the intial phase of the PDCA Cycle. High levels goals and objectives are agreed upon and resources are acquired. In this phase we are identifying a particular problem or problems and breaking them down into manageable tasks. We want to decide specifically how we will solve the problem and establish metrics to measure progress.

Do is executing the Plan. Also, reporting is done in this phase to check progress. Do can be prototyping in the IT world, designing experiments, constructing a building, buiding a model, etc.

Check is the evaluation phase. Did we do what we said we were going to do? Did we meet the project's objectives? What does the data tell us? This is where are metrics are analyzed. We are looking at our KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and making reccomendations for action.

Act is the adjustment phase. What are we going to do to get back on track or to make improvements? Should we continue or cancel the project? Do we need to replan and start the cycle over again? Here we are acting on our findings from the Check phase. We want to make sure we are acting on the right information at the right time.

The PDCA Cycle is a great tool to help us be successful in Project Management. Using proven Quality Management tools that support Continuous Improvement will help project managers to do a better job managing their projects.

Remember the Four Principles of Quality Management are:

Customer Satisfaction

Plan Do, Check, Act (PDCA) Cycle

Management by Fact

Respect for People

Combining these Quality Principles with your Project Management Processes will lead to powerful results for your customers.