All posts by Mark Woeppel

Here’s the thing: If you’re not achieving the results you want in your projects, your biggest opportunity for recovery is not re-planning, but more effective execution that addresses the real reasons projects are late.

Visualizing your projects solves the root cause of poor execution.

Through visualization, you will know where  each piece of your project stands, allowing your team to focus; improving communication, prioritizing the work more effectively, reducing task durations and improving productivity. By visualizing the work, the things that are most important can be identified by objective observation, not subjective politics. No longer will priorities be set by whoever complains the loudest, but by facts that everyone can see.

On May1, I’ll be releasing my newest book, Visual Project Management: Simplifying Project Execution to Deliver On Time and On Budget. In it, I explain in depth a systematic process to transform your project execution process.

Since it won’t be available for a few weeks, I have a gift to give you a sneak peek at the content. You can download my eBook, Visualizing Projects, for kindle for less than $2.

In Visualizing Projects, you’ll learn practical steps towards improving your results:

  • A step by step process to create a visual project board
  • Why project meetings suck and how to make them productive
  • How to use a visual project board to successfully build collaboration
  • How to create and communicate a priority system that everyone can see and agree on
  • What to do to improve your team’s productivity
  • How to use measurements to get better team performance

So don’t wait! If you’re interested in improving your projects with Visual Project Management, follow the link below today to download your copy of Visualizing Projects and learn how you can improve your project execution today!

Kindle copy from

Kindle copy from

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Pinnacle Strategies Results Delivered Fast Logo with No White Space

Do these statements sound familiar?

“We had no shared common understanding of how we should complete projects”

“Really what it was, [there] was no process per se, it was every step of the process that needed to happen, really was happening concurrently.”

“We’re all applying little Band-Aids on it, and all of the sudden, you’re just left with one ball of Band-Aids and no one wanted to own it anymore.”

“In a situation like that you can imagine that morale gets stretched pretty thin.”

These are the comments from one of our customers about their project delivery process.

The reason project teams struggle to deliver is not because they don’t want to, but because of the structure they live in. They don’t communicate well, don’t share the same work priorities or have the same goals, and simply can’t see what needs to be done.

Making your projects visible is key building that collaborative team and moving your projects forward.

In my new book, Visual Project Management, Simplifying Project Execution to Deliver On Time and On Budget, I explain in detail the Viewpoint Visual Project Management methodology. In this video case study, you’ll hear from the team at Datu Health how they used it to transform their software development process.

At the end, they’re saying this:

 “The idea that you need to slow down to speed up, that you need to focus on a single thing at a single time, is extremely powerful”

“We can slowly see the team getting confident, gaining happiness, job satisfaction, feeling less burnt out.”

“The future’s pretty awesome. It’s everything you want”

Watch the video below to see how they did it, or read the text case study here

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“What’s the status of the work? Are we moving forward? Are my team members working on right things?”

“We’re DOOMED!”

If you’re like most project managers, these questions are familiar. In fact, they probably sound like the questions going through your head every night when you’re trying to fall asleep; the ones without answers.

You’re not alone. In fact, a staggering 39% of IT projects with budgets over $10 million fail. They’re not just delayed, overrun or overdue… they fail. Other research shows that at least 30% of all projects are late.

Project execution can and should be a methodical, repeatable, reliable process characterized by productive teams, clear expectations and attainable completion dates, NOT a cloud of gloom and despair. ViewPoint and the Project Execution Maturity Model take most of the risk out of project execution, making projects a rewarding experience, not something to dread.

In my upcoming book, Visual Project Management: Simplifying Project Execution to Deliver On Time and On Budget, I explain the processes of Basic Collaboration as the foundation for successful project delivery. Just achieving this, the most basic level of execution maturity increases productivity in very short order.

In this video case study, you’ll hear, in their words, how in less than 6 months BP and WorleyParsons were able to increase engineering productivity by 12%, decrease project durations by 28%, quintupling their investment in ViewPoint.

Visual Project Management: Simplifying Project Execution to Deliver On Time and On Budget is available for pre-order on your kindle at

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Project Management is a notoriously difficult world to navigate. Often, it’s characterized by delays, poor communication, overrun costs, missed deadlines and incomplete work. In fact, studies have proven that at least 30% of all projects are finished late or off schedule. To put it simply, the project world can be a dark and scary place for the untrained and unprepared manager.

Luckily, there’s a wealth of information available online, for free, that project managers can turn to when their project needs a quick pick me up. I’ve compiled a list of the most influential project management blogs for 2015. These blogs run the gamut from the way computerization affects project management, to the benefits of incorporating Taoist philosophies to achieve better results in projects, and at least one of them is sure to be just the thing to give your project the boost it needs.

The Business Impact of IT

Who writes it? Andrew McAfee @amcafee

What’s it about? Andrew focuses on the big picture ideas on how IT affects the way that companies function, from overall performance and organizational structure, to communication and competition. His work involves the role technology has on society, the workforce and the economy as a whole.
Where can I find it?
Why should I read? If you’re interested in the way computerization and technology can transform your project management, this is the blog for you. McAfee discusses the impact of IT on businesses as a whole, on a wide scale, by combining relevant, timely examples and data to drive his points home.


Deep Fried Brain: PM Certification Exam Prep Blog

Who writes it? Harwinder Singh  @deepfriedbrain

What’s it about? Harwinder created this blog as a resource for project managers to use when acquiring their PM certifications. It’s a great resource to utilize when training or studying for your tests.

Where can I find it?

Why should I read? Definitely check this blog out if you’re enrolled in a course, scheduled for a test or training to become a PMP, BUT it’s also an excellence refresher for those project managers who aren’t taking a course at the moment. The blog is a great place to come to be reminded of best practices and solutions in between continuing education ventures.

How to Manage a Camel

Who writes it? Arras People, a UK Based firm for recruiting project management talent  @ArrasPeople

What’s it about? This is about the career of project management.

Where can I find it?

Why should I read? Check this blog out if you’re looking to find career tips, marketplace information, and a wide variety of tips and hacks to make your job easier and maybe boost your career.

Fear No Project

Who writes it? Bruce McGraw  @FearNoProject

What’s it about? In this blog, Bruce shares his thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on some of the broader issues affecting project managers.

Where can I find it?

Why should I read? Bruce’s blog is full of musings on project management and issues in the project space, from managing people, to leveraging technology, to general best practices and issues project managers face on a day to day basis. This is an excellent resource for current information about improving organizational performance, and events affecting the project world.


Guerrilla Project Management

Who writes it? Samad Aidane  @samadaidane

What’s it about? The most effective project management strategies and techniques for leaders in the Project Management, Organizational Change Management, Psychology, Social Science, and Neuroscience spaces.

Where can I find it?

Why should I read? This blog covers everything from management techniques, to best practices, to case studies to risk management and leadership. You won’t just find your traditional tips and tricks here, but proven and tested methods and stories from the field. With a slogan like “Liberating project management from the tyranny of conventional wisdom,” would you expect anything less?


A Girl’s Guide to Project Management

Who writes it? Elizabeth Harrin  @pm4girls

What’s it about? Elizabeth started this blog in 2007 to provide a female perspective in the male dominated project world. In the blog, she provides news, insights, opinions and coverage of the project management space to help project managers communicate better.

Where can I find it?

Why should I read? Elizabeth updates her blog regularly, and is always on top of current events, changes in the field, and best practices to make you a better, more effective project manager. Whatever your sex, this blog is a must read to get a fresh prospective on your projects. She provides tips, tricks and techniques for improvement along the way. Fun, too!


Herding Cats

Who writes it? Glen Alleman @galleman

What’s it about? Glen’s blog aims to combine various project management methodologies and discusses how to create a project management practice that performs and executes better, increasing the probability of success.

Where can I find it?

Why should I read? If you’re someone seriously interested in a scientific approach to managing projects, this is a blog to read. Glen brings a scientific and mathematical mind to both the problems and the solutions. He writes on everything from organizational project management maturity, to decision analysis and estimating the strategic, mathematical probability for success.


The Lazy Project Manager

Who writes it? Peter Taylor  @thelazypm

What’s it about? Though not necessarily a blog, it’s about adopting a new mentality when it comes to project management. Instead of focusing on unimportant tasks that don’t propel your projects toward completion, this author encourages you to refine your focus to the important, task accelerating matters that really make a difference.

Where can I find it?

Why should I read? If you want to minimize the amount of meaningless work, and start to focus your efforts on the essential tasks that bring about success, definitely visit this site and subscribe to the mailing list.


Leading Answers

Who writes it? Mike Griffiths

What’s it about? Mike’s blog focuses on Leadership and Agile Project Management Ideals, as well as his personal observations and insights into the project management world

Where can I find it?

Why should I read? This blog is the place to go for challenging, interesting and engaging content on project management. Mark is excellent at taking his experience and finding the golden nuggets that are applicable to his readers. His writing style is funny, entertaining, smart and thoughtful. You’ll find lots of good information on Agile project management techniques here, as well as Mike’s thoughts on team building, risk, management and execution.


Wrike Project Management Blog

Who owns it? Wrike, A workflow management and collaboration software product  @wrike

What’s it about? This blog is all about improving team productivity. How to increase productivity to maximize profitability, and realistic solutions to the problems you face every day as a project manager.

Where can I find it?

Why should I read? This blog is a great resource for project managers. Full of more than just blog posts on insights and best practices from the project management community, you’ll find templates and checklists to help you implement what you’ve read, so you can start making the changes that drive results in your projects. And, you might end up buying their product, too!


Quantum Leap

Who writes it? Shim Marom  @shim_marom

What’s it about? This blog is all about discussing the most current and pressing topics in the project management, especially Agile. He also writes about management best practices in general; topics such as HR and leadership.

Where can I find it?

Why should I read? In Shim’s blog, you’ll find more than information and tips on general project management best practices. He attempts to take a more unorthodox perspective, drawing inspiration from other industries and specialties such as math and science, art and philosophy, to provide a more rounded view of the industry. The result is a truly fresh and unique look at project management that is beneficial to anyone looking for a project pick-me-up. Concise and thoughtful.


Stepping into PM

Who writes it? Soma Bhattacharya  @Soma_b

What’s it about? This blog is about Soma’s project management journey, and the agile project transformation method.

Where can I find it?

Why should I read? Soma’s blog is very much a journal of experiences, as opposed to a blog about best practices and tips. It’s very honest, and written from a place of “this is what I did, here is why it worked” OR sometimes, “here is the way I did it, this is why it failed…” If you’re looking for something a little more personal, but still chock full of insight, advice and interviews with industry leaders, her blog is great.


Zen PM

Who writes it? Bob Tarne  @btarne

What’s it about? This blog aims to look at project management from a unique angle, including ideals and thinking that can be repurposed to gain a fresh perspective on project management.

Where can I find it?

Why should I read? Much like Soma’s blog, Stepping into PM, this blog is written as Bob’s personal journal. He writes thoughtfully and insightfully about his observations and experiences in the project management space, and is great at sharing his knowledge, and allowing readers to learn with him from his experiences. This blog is a great place to go to gain a fresh perspective.


The Tao of Project Management

Who writes it? John Carrol

What’s it about? This blog is about how project management theories can be mapped into Taoist philosophy

Where can I find it?

Why should I read? This blog originally began by providing a very Zen perspective, tying success in project management to greater Tao philosophies. It has since evolved into an informal journal with tips to success and advice on risk management, planning and execution, but its core is the same, so you’re interested in taking a more philosophic approach to your project management, this is a good blog to study.

That wraps up my list of the top project management blogs for 2015. Which of these are your favorites? Leave me a comment letting me know your thoughts, or if there’s any good blogs I may have missed, and feel free to share this list with other who will find it useful and interesting!


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Last week, I shared an overview on the Improved Coordination level of the Viewpoint Project Execution Maturity model, which focuses on achieving reliable delivery and improving communication among remote teams. If you missed it, you can read that post here.

If collaboration in one location seems challenging, then collaboration among far-flung teams in different offices—or different time zones or continents—probably feels impossible. Different locations cultivate different work cultures and loyalties, which naturally impede alignment and synchronization, and the potential for miscommunication increases with every additional mile separating team members.

With remote teams, you have all of the same challenges you had in your local team before you achieved Basic Collaboration:

  • Work is done out of sequence.
  • Resources are unavailable when needed.
  • Work priorities are incorrect, and team members don’t know what those priorities are.
  • Resource overloads in remote locations will go unnoticed.
  • The risk involving those teams is difficult to see and understand.

All of these have the same effect: slowing the project and increasing its duration.

To close the gaps among team members, managers must conduct collaborative meetings across distances to share information, expectations, updates, and responsibilities in a timely (and therefore relevant) way. However, we’re not just going to have a get-together. Effective communication and synchronization across distances—Remote Collaboration, the first element of the Improved Coordination layer of the Viewpoint Project Execution Maturity Model, pictured below—demands a different and higher communication discipline.

new maturity model graphic

Since time shifting and distance are unalterable conditions, your team must be purposeful in two dimensions: frequency and content. The collaboration process must explicitly identify what value-added information (the information that causes forward progress) must be communicated and how frequently communication must take place.

To ensure that your team’s communication is relevant, you must be clear on the content of your communication (what information is critical?), and focused on the issues (what problems need to be solved?) that will make a real difference (what action is needed?) to the project results.

To create meaningful collaboration, you must consider how you’ll be sharing the project status or your Visual Project Board (VPB). Whatever you do—whether it’s video, duplicate boards, or a software version of your VPB—it must allow all of your team members to easily contribute, distribute, and share the most important information in an orderly format that visualizes tasks, timings, and responsibilities to be completed; in short, a shared, clear vision of the project (functional alignment!).

For Remote Collaboration to be effective, you’ll need a slightly revised set of collaboration and meeting rules to foster the appropriate behaviors in all participants. As Collaborative Execution, these meetings require a facilitator, but with remote collaboration, you’ll need one at both ends. Ideally you should have everyone standing up in front of a board, with no muting, so side discussions don’t take place. The facilitators should make an effort to foster interactions among all participants while focusing on issue identification, pressing for accountability, and addressing all other facets of Collaborative Execution.

With a shared vision of the situation, your collaboration with remote teams will be more effective. When you can accommodate on-the-fly contributions and insights, your time together will encourage innovative problem solving and accountability that reinforces team action. Instead of preparing defenses, your entire team will work quickly and collaboratively to tackle problems together and move forward.

The Remote Collaboration process replicates the basic collaboration strategies beyond geographic or organizational boundaries so that the remote teams are fully in sync with the local teams. In short, the remote teams:

  • Have a common view of the work status, issues, and work plans
  • Make decisions that reflect global organizational goals
  • Understand the relationships between current project status and achieving project, portfolio and organizational goals

As a result, the remote teams get the benefits of Basic Collaboration:

  • Increased employee engagement
  • Improved situational awareness
  • Identification and elimination of bottlenecks
  • Increased productivity
  • Reduced project durations
  • Quick response to problems
  • Increased accountability for results
  • Reduced inter-functional conflict

Remote Collaboration brings the entire team to the same level of execution maturity, so the organization can turn its attention away from fighting fires, to improving the project delivery process –further increasing productivity and achieving consistent on time delivery.

Next week, we’ll be discussing the second element of Improved Coordination, Managing Bottlenecks, so subscribe to my blog today to receive the updates straight to your inbox, or download our webinar, Getting Your Distributed Team to See the Big Picture – How to Successfully Manage Distributed Teams to learn more about how to manage and improve the collaboration in your remote teams.

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Who says achieving delivery dates are not important? There is a school of thought in the project community, that for some projects, dates are impossible. You can’t put a clock on the creative process. Bull.

Every project has a date, and to ignore it is to deny reality. If you’re building software, you still have a release date. Doing the “best you can” is not what your investors or management team will accept. If you’re building an office building, you have to meet the customer expectations for occupancy. People are depending you to HIT THE DATE. So you must move your team beyond achieving quality and speed to reliability meeting your commitments. Move from basic execution maturity to a place where your process output is repeatable. Reliable.

The second tier of the Viewpoint Project Execution Maturity Model is Improved Coordination. In a nutshell, the core objective for this tier is achieving reliable delivery. A secondary objective is to integrate remote teams into the collaborative execution process.

Improved Coordination moves teams beyond local execution competence, as established through Basic Collaboration, and extends to remote teams and outside stakeholders. The emphasis continues to be on flow and productivity, but for local and remote teams, there are new objectives: delivery reliability and a further increase in productivity. To accomplish these objectives, there is additional management scope: a more sophisticated priority management system, the active management of critical capacity elements, and automation of priority management processes.

Think of Improved Coordination as adding a supercharger to your execution process after accomplishing Basic Collaboration. The time and tasks under management shift from the present (work in progress) to near future (up and coming work). You’ll be working more on prevention, less on reaction. The new processes continue to hack away at the additional causes of multitasking and directly addresses process variation through a simplified schedule risk management process and using a systematic approach to managing critical resources.

Improved Coordination happens by implementing 5 key processes:

  • Remote Collaboration: Establishing productive teams regardless of distance by accommodating both a practical tool set for sharing information, and a productive mindset of shared goals
  • Bottleneck Management: Systematically increasing the rate of task completions to reduce schedule durations
  • Schedule Risk: Preempt problems by identifying and mitigating schedule risk before the project delivery date is affected
  • Delivery Promising: Consistently providing accurate estimates for project durations and deliveries
  • Date Management: Maintaining delivery date integrity across your IT systems

These five elements work together to improve coordination and collaboration among teams, despite distance, and ensure on-time delivery and reduced project duration. Teams who are experts in Improved Coordination experience:

  • Successful collaboration despite distance
  • Better understanding of your project and portfolio’s level of schedule risk
  • Teams that proactively “attack” obstacles before the delivery date is affected
  • Significant increase in productivity
  • Shortened project durations
  • Consistent on-time delivery performance

Over the next month, I’ll be continuing our series on why projects succeed or fail by providing an in depth look at each of the 5 elements necessary to achieve maturity in Improved Coordination.

Subscribe to our blog today to receive the updates straight to your inbox to learn about the entire Viewpoint Project Execution Maturity Model and discover what really makes a difference to the success of your projects.

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In kindergarten, we learned some simple skills: how to work together, how to share, how to communicate with others, how to be kind and make friends. They were basic social skills that would help us in the long run to get what we want out of life and out of our work.

As we grew older, maybe we got involved in sports or group activities. We were taught an easy mantra: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work.

At some point once we entered the real world however, we lost sight of these simple ideals. We quit articulating the things we need, we quit working together to achieve our goals… we stopped communicating all together. And yet somehow we’re surprised that our projects are running weeks to months to years behind schedule, and we can’t get anything done on time.  And it’s not fun anymore.

Successful projects stem from basic concepts similar to the ones you learned as a child. These help improve productivity and reduce project duration. Together, they comprise the Basic Collaboration level of the Viewpoint Project Execution Maturity Model, pictured below.



Basic Collaboration is pivotal to successful projects. It is the simplest level, but it creates the foundation for all the others to build upon, and is instrumental to boosting on time delivery, task velocity and productivity as a whole by killing the biggest threat to project success: multitasking.

I’ve written about each of the four elements involved individually, but here’s a refresher, and next week, we’ll move on to the middle level of the model, Improved Coordination.

Collaborative Execution

For projects to be truly successfully executed, informed collaboration is essential. Both managers and team members must be able to see past the limits of their individual tasks, to the overall direction of the project. They need a map. The roles, reporting and accountability must be crystal clear (Who’s going to drive?), so that everyone knows what needs to get done today, instead of driving through the rear view mirror. Collaborative Execution makes tasks in the team’s work visible to everyone involved, allowing the team to be truly informed so they can collaborate.

Functional Alignment

Everyone comes to a project with objectives from their individual function. Functional alignment takes people out of their organizational silos and puts them on the project. Each member of the team acts in the best interest of the project as a whole, instead of their individual silo’s objective, eliminating conflict between departments or teams, and accelerating decision making and action. They need to know the right behavior. Functional alignment happens when every single person involved in the project is focused on the project’s overarching goals, rather than their own silo’s objectives.

Priority Control

Managing priorities is essential to eliminate multitasking and achieving Basic Collaboration. By collaborating more effectively and aligning functional goals, you can easily create a priority system that is transparent and simple.  Through a simple priority system, teams can ensure that people work on the right tasks at the right time and most importantly, everyone’s working on the most important priority to advance the project.

Control WIP

A very important aspect to reduce project duration is to eliminate the task wait time in the workflow. Establishing control over work in progress is the final building block of Basic Collaboration. Managers must establish criteria to control tasks to ensure that nothing is started that cannot be finished. By controlling the amount of work in the queue, teams simplify the task of project management. They can have clear criteria for work release, have clear methods for managing work, and have established targets for total system work in progress.

These four elements work together to lay the building blocks for ultimate project success to reduce project duration, deliver on time, and boost productivity.

Learn how one of our clients recently implemented the Basic Collaboration level of the Viewpoint Project Execution Maturity Model and increased their productivity by 360% and on-time delivery by 20%. Download the case here.

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In my previous post about checking your assumptions, I talked about the rules and requirements about your process.  The supply chain is no different.  After all, rules are made, boundary conditions established around how you deal with your suppliers.  Therefore, you should also look at your supply chain policies to find possibilities to increase output – examining your rules and assumptions regarding materials and suppliers.   By the way, we’re still finding extra capacity you already have. So your investment in this is zero.  If you’re internally constrained (something I should write about later), finding that excess capacity means more sales, more productivity, more profit.  Your ROI will be, let’s see… infinite.

The goal is to change the rules that are affecting your ability to make MORE.  In my last post, I wrote about challenging the assumptions.  The supply chain or supplier strategy is a great place to start.

What about the material specification itself?  Most material specifications are established by a default rule of thumb established to minimize risk of failure.  The result is a conservative specification that will cover a wide swath of situations.  I seldom see material specifications done to maximize throughput.

What’s available to challenge?  Everything.  Dimensions, tolerances, material specifications, storage requirements, quality checks, etc.  Another place to look is deeper into the supply chain.  What about your suppliers’ suppliers?  What you challenge will be determined by what gives you the most productivity.

When we worked with a boom manufacturer, we found that the output of a particular type of boom was constrained (at all suppliers) by a worldwide scarcity of a key component.  This scarcity was about three links earlier in the supply chain.  We looked for a substitution.  Working with the engineering and supply chain teams at the supplier and the customer, we found another material, which was significantly cheaper, allowing them to purchase three times the amount of the new material for the same price as the old material.  With all the materials in full supply, the boom manufacturer was able to boost output tenfold!

Not only are the technical specifications open to challenge.  Your supplier management rules are open to question, too. Just like the engineers create conservative rules to minimize technical risk, it is common practice to make policies to minimize commercial risk.

Some common things we look at are: batching policies, supplier qualification, supplier selection (sole source is my favorite), price breaks on quantities, delivery frequencies, and more.  Often supplier selection is based on mostly on price, without consideration to supply risk.

When we worked with one supplier, we questioned a long established rule of restricting their purchases from any one supplier to no more than half the supplier’s total output.  This limitation was restricting their output as they were lacking the supplies to produce more.  This easy fix untapped the potential to quickly and dramatically increase supplies, and in turn the factory’s output.

Finding extra capacity is not rocket science, but it does require an eye on the process and a willingness to challenge what you’ve done in the past – sometimes an uncomfortable activity.  I enjoy it, though.  Eli Goldratt, my friend and mentor, said famously, “Sacred cows make excellent steaks”.  I agree.

Read how we sacrificed those sacred cows in the materials and supply chain and in turn, achieved great results in lesson 5 in our eBook, Achieving Top Performance Under the Worst Conditions: 7 Lessons Learned from a Disaster. 

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To increase output, whether in a disaster or in everyday pressures, you must challenge your assumptions to find solutions.  Usually, the solution is not obvious (otherwise, it would have been implemented, right?), so you have to dig deeper.  Challenging assumptions helps us see where we can change the process.  There is still more to get out of your process.  Oh yes – it’s still free.

When our consultants find something blocking the process, we use a simple technique to find the hidden assumption(s).  We’re not challenging every assumption, just the ones that create situations that block us from where we’re going.  It does involve asking the question, “Why?”.  Sometimes we ask it 5 times.  But asking “why?” just tells us the “reasons”, not always the assumptions.

A couple of words about assumptions – we’re all familiar with the word game played when someone says “assume” (for those that aren’t aware of that, when you make an assumption, it makes an ass|u|me), but that’s not what I’m talking about here (although I do agree with that statement).  I think of assumptions as a person’s basic understandings of how things work.  This is useful for thinking in terms of cause and effect.  For example, the cause, “I kick you in the shins” will likely result in an effect like, “you will be angry”.  Not very hard, but the assumptions I make in this situation could be, “you don’t like being kicked in the shins” or “your feelings will be hurt by an attack on your person” (actually, this latter statement has another assumption, “when people’s feelings are hurt, they react with anger”.  Each of our processes has causes to create effects.  Sometimes, we don’t like the effects, so, if we want to change them, we should dig into the assumptions around these cause and effect relationships.

In a process, assumptions take the form of management rules (Why are we doing that?  We’ve always done it that way!), understanding of technical process (we have to put a 15 degree radius to allow for a subsequent step), quality requirements (inspection steps), or product specification requirements (dimensions or features).  These are baseline parameters of how the process functions and its boundary conditions.  Most of these are important and needed.  However, over time, these rules and requirements can become like barnacles on our process, no longer needed and slowing down the process.

Our goal is to find the assumptions that are erroneous.  An erroneous assumption is the rule, requirement, or boundary condition that is no longer required. (Why are we doing that?  I don’t know! We’ve always done it that way!).  The only way to find those assumptions is to zero in on the blockages and ask why certain requirements (the ones that are slowing you down) are necessary.

The process we use to find and challenge assumptions is to simply ask why and identify the assumptions that are no longer valid or could be made invalid.  Meaning, not every assumption is a fixed thing.  We can change things around.  Some are not valid in every situation – do we need to take this step for every product or just for specific customers?  Do those policies still apply in this situation?  Can I get the policy changed?  Can I find a different way to satisfy the requirement other than the one in place?

Take, for example, Pinnacle Strategies’ work during the Gulf Oil spill.  When we were working with boom manufacturers, our consultants went to several boom manufacturers to find more capacity.  The companies usually had rigorous specifications from their customers, as the quality requirements were support usage for many years.  However, we wanted as much boom as possible, in as short of time as possible, for a short burst of intensive work.  The companies were building heavy duty products designed to meet a wide variety of situations.  The boom that was needed was for a specific environment, with specific requirements, for a short period of time.  Some features could be left out, thus reducing the time to manufacture and thus releasing extra capacity to make more.

This is our experience over and over.  There is ALWAYS more capacity than you think.  You just have to do a little digging and challenge your assumptions.

Read more about how we achieved great results by challenging the assumptions in lesson 4 in our eBook, Achieving Top Performance Under the Worst Conditions: 7 Lessons Learned from a Disaster.

As always if, you have questions or comments please feel free to contact me by emailing me.

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The more contractors or departments involved in a project, the more chances for variation and, often, more confusion.  There is always the opportunity for misalignment and miscommunication.   The larger the organization, the more opportunity for missing cues on priorities and direction.  For the process owner, the challenge is to align a team to drive progress towards the goal.  For the team member, there is the question of identifying the actions that will drive progress of the entire system; the problem of managing and aligning performance at the global level and local level.  To put it more simply, how does the actor at the local level know which actions to take to drive the system towards the global objective?  How does the process owner know if his team is doing the right things to move progress towards the goal?

In a more practical sense, if I’m a leader of an organization, how do I know my team is doing the right things?  If I’m a team member, how do I know what actions to take?

Every organization is formed for a purpose.  In order to achieve its purpose and goals, organizations develop around sub-organizations (functions) and processes that accomplish them.  These sub-organizations then have their own purpose and goals, for example; accounts payable’s goal is to ensure the bills get paid.  Presumably, each of these sub-organizations is in alignment with overall goals and objectives of the global organization.

As the organization becomes more complex, it becomes more challenging to maintain this alignment, so the organization establishes performance management systems to maintain alignment of purpose and activity among the constituent (local) organizations.  These systems are often referred to colloquially as “the measurement system” or “the metrics”.  Managers seek the relevant measurements to make decisions and drive appropriate behavior in the enterprise; whether to correct a course of action, direct a new course, or even stop.

The performance management system is the formal and informal process of measuring and responding to the organizational process to achieve its goal(s).   It creates and applies uniform standards, quantifying and managing process performance.

Here are a few things to think about.

Establish the standards.  Create a common benchmark of performance.  This can take the form of a database of work to be done, a common set of objectives, or even an agreed upon set of goals. If you don’t know what the objective is, anything will be acceptable.  So be purposeful and deliberate about determining your direction.  Essentially, the standard are the “why” of what is to be performed.

Know the process.  The process is the “what” of your process – the details that determine your progress towards success.  If you have never mapped the process or supply chain, now is the time to do it!   It’s essential to know the behaviors required and the results of those behaviors – you can’t measure what you can’t quantify.

Create decision gates. Now that you have the process mapped and can clearly articulate the steps towards the goal, you can identify where decisions need to be made.  Quantify the decision process – who can make what decisions and when escalation is required.

Identify the constraint. Now that the process is mapped and all steps are clear, you can see where the bottlenecks are and what is holding up the process or supply chain from moving faster – you can focus on the areas that are most critical.

During the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP built the largest civilian maritime fleet ever seen (over 14,000 vessels). In the haste of containing the spill, keeping detailed records were not a priority.  Equipment was rented and used with no documentation and boats were commissioned to clean oil with no record of their model or serial number.  This lack of communication and documentation became a big problem when it was time to decontaminate the cleanup vessels.  We employed these lessons to drive the process and completed a task in less than six months that was originally estimated to take years. These lessons worked in the worst conditions, imagine how they could help you now.

Read how we achieved great results by applying uniformed standards in lesson 6 in our eBook, Achieving Top Performance Under the Worst Conditions: 7 Lessons Learned from a Disaster.

Also, have a look at some of our thought leadership on performance management here.

As always if, you have questions or comments please feel free to contact me by emailing me.

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