Efficient project management can turn almost any project into a successful undertaking with the properly assigned tasks, allocated resources, and met deadlines. With a limited application in the past in such spheres as construction and manufacturing, in the 21st century, project management has largely expanded the scale of its application to dozens of other industries.
Indeed, some of the project management methodologies have their roots on the manufacturing floor. This is the case of Lean project management that will be discussed below and some other methodologies. So, if there are commonly used and recognized techniques, why is not every project considered successful?
What Is Considered a Successful Project?
In project management, there are strict notions that are subject to every sphere, manufacturing is not an exception. These are four constraints: scope, time, quality, and budget. A project is considered successful when it achieves its goals within the constraints. A project manager should be careful and find the right balance: the change in at least one constraint will influence the whole project.
However, the manufacturing sphere pays more attention to two of them: time and quality. Manufacturers strive to produce products of the highest quality within the shortest amount of time as this can give a competitive advantage. In addition, time and quality determine the overall failure or success of a manufacturing project. Otherwise, competitors will take the lead.
Typical Project Management Mistakes to Avoid
Each project is unique. Nevertheless, even campaigns from different spheres face the same problems that include but not limited to:
- Poor communication.
- Lack of trust.
- Ambiguous goals and roles.
- Badly created project plan.
- Long-lasting project phases instead of clearly defined small ones.
- Lack of proper resource management.
- No PM tool used.
Moreover, there are some pain points typical of the manufacturing industry:
- Abundance of contractors what makes it difficult to monitor the project progress.
- Timeline forecasting or lack of a visually appealing timeline.
- Lack of proper clients’ expectation management.
- Scope creep control.
The sound project management can mitigate these general and industry related pain points. As a result, manufacturers will be able to produce products of higher quality within shortest time periods and at a lower cost.
In this context, some practices can make project management more successful. Here are five of them.
How to Make Project Management More Successful
No. 1 - Adhere to a working methodology
A proven technique helps to build management processes and keep them structured and systematized. The manufacturing sphere can benefit from most of the recognized methodologies such as Agile, Kanban or Lean project management.
Lean project management has its origin in Japan on the manufacturing floor. While lots of enterprises were struggling with the outcomes of the energy crisis, Toyota showed good results thanks to the self-developed Lean approach that later became a wide-scale philosophy: through reducing the time and ensuring quality, maximize value and minimize waste.
In the Lean methodology, it is critical to reduce all kinds of wastes that do not add any value to the manufacturing process. Fewer wastes in the process lead to more qualitative output. As a result, projects have chances on a successful accomplishment.
No. 2 - Choose the right project management tool
This is one of the most vital issues. Powerful software allows creating a sound project plan from the very beginning where all the tasks, phases, dates, and dependencies will be visualized. Tools give possibilities to schedule all the operational processes: the production even of a single manufacturing unit is the result of many resources and tasks put together. They, in their turn, need to be managed properly and in a timely manner.
This is not an easy task to choose the software that perfectly meets requirements. It takes time on research. Nevertheless, after the methodology is chosen, the circle of potential tools gets tighter. Most of them are based on a few approaches: Gantt charts, a Kanban board, and some others.
A robust project management software helps to:
- Thoroughly build project plans.
- Break projects into small clear phases with distinct deadlines.
- Track the progress and control the processes.
- Define roles and resources and manage them.
- Organize communication and collaboration.
- Manage risks.
- Measure success.
- Obtain the space where all the project related information is kept.
No. 3 - Define milestones
Milestones are important phases or stages in a project. In other words, it is a signal that does not have the duration. An approached milestone indicates that the project is developing in the right direction as it was planned and scheduled. As manufacturing projects usually last for months, milestones should be paid serious attention to.
Project managers can use milestones to mark:
- The start or the end of an important phase, stage or event.
- Deadline of tasks.
- Moments that can influence the manufacturing process: a new decision, an occurred change, etc.
- Other points that need to be paid attention to.
In case a project manager has chosen a project management tool based on Gantt charts, he or she will deal with milestones regularly, as they are one of the main components of these charts. Tools based on Kanban do not offer such features.
No. 4 - Cope with changes
In the context of the Lean approach that eliminates wastes and consequently unexpected changes, this point may be not actual. As for other approaches, this is one of the most critical issues. Remember that if the change occurs in one variable, the other variables will be impacted.
A project manager in the manufacturing industry should stick to a repetitive process of change management. If followed on a regular basis, it can prevent a project from scope creep and significant problems.
It is better to cope with changes following the next steps:
- Get information about a change.
- Evaluate it.
- Determine what it takes to fix the situation.
- Cope with the change.
- If needed, prepare recommendations and communicate with stakeholders about the change.
No. 5 - Work with the right team
Despite automation of many manufacturing processes, projects still do involve team participants. Successful project managers know what their team members can do best. It helps them to properly allocate resources and assign tasks to the right people. Otherwise, tasks assigned to the wrong resource lead to missed deadlines or a complete failure to complete a task.
Proposed practices work for the majority of projects. At the same time, each project is unique what can require different approaches to make project management more successful. Only through experience and practice, a manager is able to define what will work best for the current and future campaigns.
Andrew Stepanov is a communication manager and content lead at GanttPRO.