Measures of Control

Several recent experiences force me to the same conclusion: Organizations that place many controls on their processes do so because their processes are flawed in the first place. Let me give you an example.

A process mapping exercise with a service provider revealed the following:

  • 37.3% of the steps in the process add value to the end product/customer
  • 21.9% of the steps add no value to the process (“wastes”)
  • 40.8% of the steps add no value, but appear to be required for some business or regulatory purpose (“necessary wastes”)

The striking thing about this process is that the majority of the tasks (i.e., 40.8%) are business non-value adding (BNVA)—existing solely to manage the process. The problem with BNVA tasks is that they inhibit workflow in any organization and should be minimized. In efficient organizations, typically less than one percent of process tasks are BNVA. These BNVAs are necessary to comply with legislation.

But organizations heavy with BNVA tasks not only include necessary tasks for regulatory purposes, they also impose upon themselves BNVA steps because they do not trust their processes or systems. To overcome this lack of confidence, more controls are added to the processes or systems in an effort to make them more efficient. This exacerbates the problem.

Where BNVA tasks are truly necessary, they cannot be eliminated, but it is good practice to reduce their cycle time by simplifying the process. In essence, BNVAs are part of the cost of doing business—customers don’t see the BNVAs, but they do pose a time and cost on the business. For example, completing forms for regulators or inspectors in relation to products developed and shipped or services provided.

To enhance business process, organizations should focus on eliminating the non-value adding steps (wastes) and enhancing the value adding steps (activities for which the customer is willing to pay). The best way to do this is by measuring your process, since you can only improve that which is measured—i.e., let data/evidence be your guide.

Realistically, no organization can expect to be 100% productive all of the time, but baseline data will provide you with the means to measure your continuous improvement implementation. Continuously improving your processes will not only help you to decrease control steps (BNVA) and eliminate non-value adding steps (wastes), but it will also provide more value adding work that the customer is willing to pay for and accept.

Only through a continuous improvement approach will your company be able to assure productivity gains in the long term. Not only that, a continuous improvement program will help free up time in your day, so you can focus on more creative and strategic objectives to help you and your organization be even more productive and profitable.

Preventing Projects from Going Sideways

Your project is humming along when, without warning, the scope expands. In the consulting world, this may or may not be a good thing. Within organizations, however, scope creep can be a real problem—usually hurting the bottom line.

The secret to controlling scope creep is to control it from day one of the project. This means ensuring that you thoroughly understand the project’s deliverables and carefully tracking that all efforts go into only those deliverables. As soon as you notice work being done outside of the scope, stop the project. Examine why things are off track and work on re-focusing the project.

To help you successfully control your project’s scope, follow these five rules.

  1. Understand the project. Before writing the project charter, make sure you understand (really understand) the project’s deliverables. Ask for and make sure you get all the information you need to understand the project.
  2. Build a Gantt chart complete with time and resources. Understanding the tasks involved in the project is critical to writing the project charter. This includes anticipated timelines and resources for each task. A Gantt chart can be a powerful tool for visualizing the project’s work requirements at a glance.
  3. Write the project charter. With Gantt chart in hand, you can now write the project charter. The charter should include relevant information that both you and the team can use to manage the project. This includes: definition of the project scope (what is and is not included in the project – be specific), project assumptions, project objectives and deliverables, project organizational scope, project timeframe, project team and other stakeholders, risk management strategies, project communication plan, and a project change management plan.
  4. Work on the project based on the approved project charter.
  5. Manage project changes using the strategies outlined in the project charter.

A final word: Expect that there will be scope creep. Sometimes projects evolve into bigger undertakings as they progress. This is not a problem as long as you manage the change effectively. Refer to your project charter for appropriate change management measures. This includes obtaining necessary approvals and adjusting your timelines and resources before continuing with the project.

By keeping everyone informed about project progress on a regular (usually monthly) basis, potential changes or problems can be caught early and the project adjusted, accordingly.

Here’s to your project’s success!