Have you encountered a project that didn’t turn out the way stakeholders thought it would? Or maybe you discovered that different groups—project team members, leadership staff, sponsors, and end users—each expected different things. Why does this happen? And what can you and your team do to avoid it?
Project managers sometimes discover there are multiple versions of the truth existing within their team. One sub-group thinks it’s on track—in reality, they’re working from a schedule that’s out of date. Another department is late on several key activities, but they haven’t updated the master plan so no one else is aware of the delays that will soon affect their own scheduling. Or an outside vendor has almost completed a custom piece of equipment. Unfortunately, they don’t realize the specifications have since changed.
Finding a neutral party in a project can be extraordinarily difficult. Every project stakeholder has their own list of wants, needs, and worries. The team is focused on getting everything done on time, end users want to know they haven’t been forgotten, department managers are concerned about meeting productivity goals and avoiding work disruptions, and the leadership group is keen to leverage the project’s end results to move their own strategic plans forward. Complicating matters is that these many voices don’t just represent their own competing priorities—any time stakeholders feel they have something to lose or gain, they may not put the project’s (and the organization’s) best interests first.
Face it, there’s always the possibility that your project will encounter a problem. A key vendor may be late in delivering a key piece of equipment, or your craft labor supplier may get tied up on another job, setting your activity timeline back unexpectedly. Achieving success in spite of the challenges isn’t so much about what sort of difficulties your team encounters—it’s about how you deal with those problems. Your response will either enable you to overcome the situation and continue driving the project to a timely completion, or it will cause you to fall behind, cut back on quality, or increase expenditures as you scramble to stay on track.
Most project teams have a standard repertoire of projects they execute on a regular basis. With a few variations here and there, your routine may consistent mostly of developing new software or retooling manufacturing processes. But companies occasionally encounter firsts—bringing their debut product to market, for example, or adding a function they haven’t supported before.
One hallmark of nearly every project team is constant activity. Everyone is engaged and occupied with their tasks. They’re adjusting their workloads to ensure nothing falls behind and they maintain proactive communications across the various cross-functional sub-teams to move the project forward. But while these day-to-day efforts are an important component in success, PMs must be careful that they don’t confuse effort with the real bread and butter of project management: results.
Planning and executing a facility shutdown project is a complex effort. A wide range of tasks must be carefully sequenced to ensure operations continue as long as necessary, and the rest of the organization should be shielded as much as possible from any of the closures negative downstream effects.
With numerous stakeholders to support and ambitious corporate goals to achieve, project teams sometimes fall into the trap of over-committing themselves as they try to make everyone happy. Some agree to aggressive schedules in hopes they can shave time off along the way. Others begin projects with a too-lean budget expecting they will somehow keep expenditures below normal levels. In each case, the team usually ends up looking bad in the end, as the project’s target completion date encounters delays and requests for additional funds pile up.
Is your organization launching a new facility? Whether it represents an expansion of existing operations, a relocation from a previous site, or an entirely new function for the company, there are a number of risks around material procurement that must be identified and properly addressed before your facility startup project can deliver the expected results.
The need to develop new processes should be an expected part of any facility startup project. Depending on the type of site that’s being launched, the organization may not have established protocols that address any number of functions—inventory management or materials receiving, for example. Or it’s possible that formal processes do exist within the company, but that they aren’t comprehensive enough to encompass all the activities that will occur in the new facility.