Making the most of every resource available is what gives project management professionals the ability to achieve success on every project. It’s difficult to do, though, when wasteful practices permeate a Project Team’s operations. Earlier we looked at ways to spot waste within the project office, whether it was in the form of duplicated efforts or time lost to inefficient processes. The bad news is that identifying waste is usually the easy part. Eliminating it can be a lot more difficult, particularly when groups outside the Project Team are involved in any way.
The good news (you knew there would be good news, right?) is that the payoff from removing waste is worth every bit of the effort the process requires. Your team will be able to maximize everything it has at its disposal in support of successfully executing projects, and they’ll be better able to work around any efficiencies other collaborators—either internal or external—may bring with them. Another benefit of going through the exercise of eliminating waste the first time is that the process is often easier the next time around, with everyone understanding the steps that are needed and being less hampered if setbacks happen.
Specific waste-cutting measures vary by organization and will be highly dependent upon the type of waste the Project Team identifies, the resources available to eliminate that waste, how deeply committed the leadership team is to doing away with waste, and where the process falls in the team’s priority list. But much of the basic approach is valid no matter how, when, or where waste occurs.
Identify a lead person for the process. Because there are often many components involved in cutting waste, it makes sense to designate one individual to facilitate discussions, activities, and progress reviews that will need to come later. Each team member will likely be responsible for their own areas, but close coordination may be helpful for those instances where waste occurs in the transition between responsibilities.
Solicit comments and concerns. Everyone involved in changing the status quo should have an opportunity to weigh in, including only team members and stakeholders whose job activities will be impacted. Encourage people to provide candid feedback on where waste exists and how to eliminate it. Future project success will ride on your team’s ability to streamline operations. Document questions that require a follow up or areas that should be further scrutinized before changes are made. This is a good time to remind team members that the objective is to improve the Project Team’s efficiency, not place blame for existing wasteful practices.
Agree on what constitutes waste. It’s nearly impossible to eliminate wasteful practices if some team members believe current practices are sufficient. To ensure the entire Project Team is working toward the same set of objectives, clearly define those activities you hope to improve. It may be necessary to gather new measurements or other data for the team to review, either for an element that hadn’t been tracked before or to better understand if the most recent data differs from historical benchmarks.
Get leadership support. Particularly where process changes will impact other groups, the commitment of the executive team to eliminating waste may be crucial to success. Change is often difficult, so be sure all key stakeholders are on board.
Establish a review point. Thinking you’ve eliminated waste may not always jive with actual improvements to efficiency, and it’s vital that Project Teams step back to evaluate how well their approach is working in the real world. Objectives may have shifted due to outside influences or other factors, and staying on track while juggling competing priorities can be difficult.