Executive Briefings

Five Keys to Better Project Implementations

It's often been said that "no one sets out to make a bad movie." But each year, even some of the world's most talented filmmakers succeed in doing just that. In much the same way, no one aims to pull off a less-than-perfect logistics start-up or transition; yet such "failures" happen all the time, even to companies with the best of supply chains and noblest of project management intentions.

The question is why?  What differentiates a successful logistics project from one that's beset by an inordinate number of delays, misunderstandings, mistakes or added expenses?   And how can your company ensure that its logistics projects have their best shot at being the former rather than the latter?

The answer is that having a formal project management approach alone is not enough to inspire success - unless that approach is backed up by a host of best supporting practices like the following.

Hire The Right 'Director'

At last count, there were numerous certified project managers working today - and many more who were working towards earning this designation. Although such certification is always a plus, it's no guarantee that someone is an ideal fit to manage your particular project.  Just as certain filmmakers are better at working in some genres than others, all project managers are not equally well-suited to manage all kinds of projects (even if they insist that they are).

More often than not, your best bet is to choose a manager who has experience in the field where he or she will be managing a project.  Thus, your company's logistics projects will typically fare better if your managers of choice have spent several years working in warehousing or transportation rather than coming straight from business school or the IT field.

For optimal results, a project manager also should have ample experience managing projects of similar complexity to the one he or she will be managing, especially if said project is on the more complicated end of the spectrum.

Give Your Director Producing Credit

Since 2003, nearly half of the movies that have won Best Picture Academy Awards have been produced or co-produced by their directors - a phenomenon that suggests that these professionals' early involvement had a decidedly positive effect on the films' overall quality.

Companies wondering when to engage their project managers should take note. By choosing and involving your project manager before the sales and procurement phase of a project - instead of later down the line - you'll be endowing these individuals with one of the most useful tools of all:  the ability to help map out and communicate a realistic scope for their projects and identify many of the big-picture needs while there's still time to manage expectations and lobby for every financial and human resource those projects will require.

Make Realistic Casting Decisions

In an ideal world, the key members your company's project teams would be the equivalent of an A-list star - the best and brightest in his or her respective area of expertise.  In the real world, such stars may already have a queue of commitments a mile long - and a professional's availability to work on a project needs to be weighed almost as carefully as his or her ability.

For example, although it may be true that no one draws up and negotiates a distribution center lease better than Amy, her superior skills won't be a complete asset if most of her time has already been committed to several other highly demanding projects.

By the same virtue, while Dev in IT may indeed be the go-to guy for all things systems related, you might be better off going with someone else for that portion of your project if Dev has firm plans to take his once-every-few-years extended visit back to his native country during a critical phase of the project.

Too often, companies fail to fully think this bandwidth issue through when building project teams and they wind up paying the price in terms of missed deadlines, dropped balls or less-than-excellent execution.

Don't Script Too Rigidly

You may not realize it.  But some of the most memorable sounds or lines in films (like Tarzan's trademark cry, Casablanca's "Here's Looking At You Kid," and Taxi Driver's "You talkin'to me?") weren't in the original screenplays.  Instead, they were improvised by cast members - which gives them something in common with most well-executed projects.

Although every project manager worth his or her salt will indeed have an overarching vision for how things like construction, staffing, training and engineering should play out, the best ones leave considerable room for individual team members' insights and interpretations.  They rightfully assume that if the team members truly have been as well-chosen as they should be, those team members - rather than they - are the ones who can best map out and oversee their particular project elements' time-lines, budgets and designs.

In fact, truly experienced project managers will tell you that they do a lot less talking in terms of actually telling people what to do and a lot more listening in terms of letting team members specify what they'll need in terms of time, money, people and systems to get their part of a job done.

Leave Counter-productive Attitudes and Practices on the Cutting Room Floor

As the "deleted scenes" sections on many films' DVD versions attest, most movies wind up being better and stronger because someone was wise enough to edit out extraneous scenes.

In a similar vein, your logistics projects will wind up going more seamlessly if your company can avoid success-limiting mindsets.  These mindsets include:

• Making too many assumptions.  Just because you may have executed dozens of projects using the same basic team, that doesn't mean your project managers should ever skip the step of checking in with key team members each time they're drawing up a new project's budget, time-line and other parameters.  You never know what might have changed unless you take the time to ask.

•  Believing it's all about systems.  Because we live in a technology-driven world, it's easy to assume that systems usually solve most start-up problems or that they're more important than the rest of a supply chain equation.  Although systems are indeed a very important component of virtually every supply chain project the truth is they're merely an enabler for excellent operational practices and more productive work, not a substitute.  A badly designed warehouse layout will still be badly designed even after you've thrown a better WMS system into the mix.  And a DC's inventory accuracy issue will continue to plague that DC even after a better application has been brought in - unless you take the time to address the staffing, training and workflow issues that also may be contributing to it.

•  Being able to acknowledge failure. We live in a society that doesn't always like to admit defeat. However, projects that don't go well have much to teach us as individuals and companies - including takeaways that we can use to execute far more successful projects down the line.  So if in spite of taking all of the right project management steps, you still wind up achieving the supply chain equivalent of a box office dud, don't despair.  Instead, make time to do a thorough "lessons learned" analysis with your team - acknowledging what went well in addition to what didn't go well.  Then use those hard-earned insights to make your next effort that much better and stronger.

Source: APL Logistics

Keywords: Business Strategy Alignment, Quality & Metrics, HR & Labor Management, Supply Chain Analysis & Consulting, Global Supply Chain Management, Business Intelligence & Analytics, Asset Management, Technology, Project Implementation Strategy, Failed Projects

The question is why?  What differentiates a successful logistics project from one that's beset by an inordinate number of delays, misunderstandings, mistakes or added expenses?   And how can your company ensure that its logistics projects have their best shot at being the former rather than the latter?

The answer is that having a formal project management approach alone is not enough to inspire success - unless that approach is backed up by a host of best supporting practices like the following.

Hire The Right 'Director'

At last count, there were numerous certified project managers working today - and many more who were working towards earning this designation. Although such certification is always a plus, it's no guarantee that someone is an ideal fit to manage your particular project.  Just as certain filmmakers are better at working in some genres than others, all project managers are not equally well-suited to manage all kinds of projects (even if they insist that they are).

More often than not, your best bet is to choose a manager who has experience in the field where he or she will be managing a project.  Thus, your company's logistics projects will typically fare better if your managers of choice have spent several years working in warehousing or transportation rather than coming straight from business school or the IT field.

For optimal results, a project manager also should have ample experience managing projects of similar complexity to the one he or she will be managing, especially if said project is on the more complicated end of the spectrum.

Give Your Director Producing Credit

Since 2003, nearly half of the movies that have won Best Picture Academy Awards have been produced or co-produced by their directors - a phenomenon that suggests that these professionals' early involvement had a decidedly positive effect on the films' overall quality.

Companies wondering when to engage their project managers should take note. By choosing and involving your project manager before the sales and procurement phase of a project - instead of later down the line - you'll be endowing these individuals with one of the most useful tools of all:  the ability to help map out and communicate a realistic scope for their projects and identify many of the big-picture needs while there's still time to manage expectations and lobby for every financial and human resource those projects will require.

Make Realistic Casting Decisions

In an ideal world, the key members your company's project teams would be the equivalent of an A-list star - the best and brightest in his or her respective area of expertise.  In the real world, such stars may already have a queue of commitments a mile long - and a professional's availability to work on a project needs to be weighed almost as carefully as his or her ability.

For example, although it may be true that no one draws up and negotiates a distribution center lease better than Amy, her superior skills won't be a complete asset if most of her time has already been committed to several other highly demanding projects.

By the same virtue, while Dev in IT may indeed be the go-to guy for all things systems related, you might be better off going with someone else for that portion of your project if Dev has firm plans to take his once-every-few-years extended visit back to his native country during a critical phase of the project.

Too often, companies fail to fully think this bandwidth issue through when building project teams and they wind up paying the price in terms of missed deadlines, dropped balls or less-than-excellent execution.

Don't Script Too Rigidly

You may not realize it.  But some of the most memorable sounds or lines in films (like Tarzan's trademark cry, Casablanca's "Here's Looking At You Kid," and Taxi Driver's "You talkin'to me?") weren't in the original screenplays.  Instead, they were improvised by cast members - which gives them something in common with most well-executed projects.

Although every project manager worth his or her salt will indeed have an overarching vision for how things like construction, staffing, training and engineering should play out, the best ones leave considerable room for individual team members' insights and interpretations.  They rightfully assume that if the team members truly have been as well-chosen as they should be, those team members - rather than they - are the ones who can best map out and oversee their particular project elements' time-lines, budgets and designs.

In fact, truly experienced project managers will tell you that they do a lot less talking in terms of actually telling people what to do and a lot more listening in terms of letting team members specify what they'll need in terms of time, money, people and systems to get their part of a job done.

Leave Counter-productive Attitudes and Practices on the Cutting Room Floor

As the "deleted scenes" sections on many films' DVD versions attest, most movies wind up being better and stronger because someone was wise enough to edit out extraneous scenes.

In a similar vein, your logistics projects will wind up going more seamlessly if your company can avoid success-limiting mindsets.  These mindsets include:

• Making too many assumptions.  Just because you may have executed dozens of projects using the same basic team, that doesn't mean your project managers should ever skip the step of checking in with key team members each time they're drawing up a new project's budget, time-line and other parameters.  You never know what might have changed unless you take the time to ask.

•  Believing it's all about systems.  Because we live in a technology-driven world, it's easy to assume that systems usually solve most start-up problems or that they're more important than the rest of a supply chain equation.  Although systems are indeed a very important component of virtually every supply chain project the truth is they're merely an enabler for excellent operational practices and more productive work, not a substitute.  A badly designed warehouse layout will still be badly designed even after you've thrown a better WMS system into the mix.  And a DC's inventory accuracy issue will continue to plague that DC even after a better application has been brought in - unless you take the time to address the staffing, training and workflow issues that also may be contributing to it.

•  Being able to acknowledge failure. We live in a society that doesn't always like to admit defeat. However, projects that don't go well have much to teach us as individuals and companies - including takeaways that we can use to execute far more successful projects down the line.  So if in spite of taking all of the right project management steps, you still wind up achieving the supply chain equivalent of a box office dud, don't despair.  Instead, make time to do a thorough "lessons learned" analysis with your team - acknowledging what went well in addition to what didn't go well.  Then use those hard-earned insights to make your next effort that much better and stronger.

Source: APL Logistics

Keywords: Business Strategy Alignment, Quality & Metrics, HR & Labor Management, Supply Chain Analysis & Consulting, Global Supply Chain Management, Business Intelligence & Analytics, Asset Management, Technology, Project Implementation Strategy, Failed Projects