Every project stems from an organization’s need to accomplish something—to increase production capacity, for example, or to reduce costs across a process or within a department. No matter the type of need that launched it, each effort is expected to return some kind of value back to the company.
Project Management Tips
When multiple sub-teams and cross-functional groups are working on the same project, there is a risk of disparate project plans popping up. These are typically fractured and incomplete, and they create all sorts of trouble for PMs and the organization’s leadership. One key to project success is avoiding this proliferation of different plans and schedules, particularly when executing large, complex, or high-visibility initiatives that are strategically important to the company.
Conducting ongoing checks of a project’s health is something teams should do on a regular basis, but surprisingly few actually do. If your organization is one of those that doesn’t already carry out routine monitoring, it’s an important skill that’s worth the effort to develop. A well-informed assessment gives project managers the level of awareness they need to proactively spot potential problems, deploy solutions, and monitor the results to ensure their fix was effective in bringing the project’s progress back on track.
Information is one of the core pillars underpinning every successful project. With the evolution of technology and more compute power available than ever before, there’s little reason centers of excellence should continue to rely on data that may be days or even weeks old when it comes to identifying potential issues, forecasting activity schedules, making strategic decisions, and pouncing on opportunities in the marketplace.
Complex projects often have more than one critical path, and in order for the project to reach a successful completion, each of these paths must be carefully managed. Even if the primary path is achieved, a lack of progress on any of the follow-on paths could doom the project to failure in the long run.
Teams that execute these challenging projects need to be mindful of what it takes to manage multiple layers of requirements and actions. A strong awareness of all the paths that make up a project is critical if the Project Team wants to ensure that nothing falls behind schedule or drops off the radar.
If your center of excellence is facing a can’t-fail project with multiple paths, it’s important to understand the risks that exists and where opportunities for success can be found.
The risks behind multiple critical paths
One risk often encountered when executing projects with more than one critical path is the potential for tasks outside the primary path to be neglected. It’s easy for the project team and executives to be so focused on the primary critical path that other important issues outside of that narrow scope go unnoticed. Without a course correction, this fixation can cause the additional paths to become critical as well. Milestones might be missed or, as schedule adjustments are made to reflect the project’s progress against the target completion date, activities outside the primary critical path may not be properly re-sequenced.
If activities in one path begin to slip, it will eventually trigger problems for the team and could cause considerable grief to the project. The organization may need to spend more time or money to get progress back on track than was originally estimated. Not only could the project’s completion date be in jeopardy as a result, but the Project Team may also go over budget trying to set things right.
The other common risk arises when any of the secondary or tertiary paths overtakes the primary critical path in importance. Occurring most often as a result of failing to adequately attend to follow-on paths, one of these lower-priority paths could suddenly become the most important path when the team realizes they’re dangerously behind schedule or not prepared to execute activities as needed. The primary critical path is then at risk of also falling behind.
Tips to successfully manage multiple critical paths
Driving these complex efforts to a successful completion requires a cohesive methodology that delivers the necessary insight, while also providing the tools to act quickly and effectively.
Robust project controls are a vital component when managing multiple critical paths. The right project management methodology will enable the team to identify problem areas early. With insight into the project’s progress and a knowledge of potential challenges lurking on the horizon, the Project Team will be able to maintain sufficient awareness of not only the primary critical path, but also all everything that follows behind it.
Communication is another key to sustaining the right level of connection across all of the important paths that are part of the project. Information sharing should be a focus as the Project Team works to balance the needs of the critical path alongside those of the secondary and tertiary paths. Data must flow from the project team up to the executives to ensure everyone is aware of progress and issues. It will also need to be channeled from the leadership group down to the center of excellence. This may be in the form of strategic direction that influences project decisions or activity scheduling, or input to help resolve problems so the project can move forward.
Companies worried about the future should instead turn their focus toward planning. Contingency planning has long been a core skill behind successful project management, and it’s a competency that organizations can turn to as the Brexit process moves forward. After reviewing the firm’s goals and where the changing environment might intersect (or interfere), project managers will be able to lay out several contingent paths that can guide the business through the uncertain years ahead, leaning toward one or another of these potential paths as information about the future becomes more clear.
Scheduling challenges exist in every type of project, but manufacturing efforts bring with them some unique risks and obstacles. Outside influences and unexpected developments can impact timelines in surprising ways, putting the team in a difficult position. Frustration arises when a schedule goes off track, sometimes pushing Project Teams to cut corners as they…
There are many potential challenges hiding within manufacturing projects. Without the right kind of planning and preparation, issues can crop up with little warning and cause Project Teams to compensate by cutting corners, either in the level of work being performed, the materials used, or even in the overall scope of the project.
Teams tasked with executing manufacturing projects have a lot on their plates. To get things underway as soon as possible, it can be tempting to skip over the development of a work breakdown structure and go right to carrying out tasks. But any perceived time savings gained by avoiding this step will quickly come back to haunt PMs, often in the form of delays, critical activity conflicts, and tasks left uncompleted.