Is Process Improvement Your Next Jump?

This morning I read a blog post written by Dr. Harold Kerzner, the grand-guru of project management. His article compares three similarities between project management and Agile. I was inspired to share my thoughts about these similarities and share what I believe to be the next step as we become better in both project management and Agile.

To credit Dr. Kerzner, his three similarities are 1) increasing executive understanding in the values from both project management and Agile processes, 2) increasing trust in project leaders to make good business decisions, and 3) the use of flexible methodologies or frameworks where managers can pick and choose the best set of methods and tools.

It's refreshing to hear many executives now understand project process values, trusting their managers, and fostering frameworks. We’re now at a good base level.

Foundation launch pad

I believe project managers and Agile/Scrum leads can now leap towards the next level. This new level is really an old concept we can finally pull from the shelves and dust off.

It's called process improvement or “continuous” process improvement. A big buzz three to four decades ago and then forgotten for the next fad. Some of you younger than me may know it as Six Sigma or Lean Management. Heck, it's really not a fad. It's just good common business sense. Look at successful companies, such as Toyota, who has built a culture of continuous improvement

Historically, it has been challenging to promote continuous process improvement for projects (traditional or Agile) because of the lack of executive support, trust, and good methodologies. Today, for those of us succeeding in these three factors, now is the time to jump off the ledge and dive into building a project culture of process improvement. The reason is simple. We are sick and tired of failing projects! We want better project results that are not only on time and on budget, but also done the right way with high quality results.

Jump off 

It's time to revisit continuous process improvement and start a conversation with your executives, team members, and stakeholders. I assume no one will try to dissuade you away from this topic, especially if you can prove you are ready. No one can argue with the basic necessities of making things better all the time. 

Continuous improvement can cover different approaches, such as:

  • Gathering lessons learned from issues and risks
  • Incorporating changes from lessons learned into your project frameworks
  • Engaging team members to come up with new ideas and become innovators
  • Incorporating changes from the new ideas into your project frameworks
  • Flipping your process upside-down with new eyes and doing it differently

All of the five items above should be done in real time, not once a year or at the end of each big project. The last item stems from a yellow flag posted in a Forbes article that warns continuous improvement can harm the organization's health if staying on the same course without considering drastic change when needed. I agree with the Forbes author that it's important to include different ways of tossing around, flipping, and banging on your processes to see if they should be improved, eliminated, or disrupted. His point is to balance incremental change with drastic change as needed. This can motivate and challenge team members who are tired of business as usual.

In summary, some of us now have executives who are more knowledgeable and trusting when it comes to project managers and Agile leaders, and we have flexible methodologies and frameworks at hand. Now is the time to fly off with process improvement, which is critical to scale your success, especially as projects become more complex.

Written by Paul Dandurand, CEO of PieMatrix

Photo by Jarin Bontrager

Paul DandurandComment