Sunday, 28 March 2010 00:00

Is Process The Problem?

Rate this item
(0 votes)

Check list picture

For years, project failure rates have been ridiculous. Various groups have published statistics showing troubled or failing project rates range from forty to eighty percent. People have asked time and again the primary reason for project failure and I repeat the same list so many have already stated—poor management, inadequate understanding of the goals, miserable communication, the list continues. However, I have discovered one problem common to every project I have recovered that I think is core to many of these generic observations.

The Bane of Checklist Mentality

The problem is checklist mentality. Do not get me wrong, I like checklists and processes. I what have hundreds of them. They are great tools to ensure repetitive, especially monotonous, tasks are completed accurately. What I am talking about, though, is when they are used as a management style. It shows up quickly in an audit. Managers bring me lists of tasks that has been completed, showing they have monitored the project—charter signed off, check; change management process in place, check; risk register done, check; ad infinitum. It is someone else's fault the project is running poorly. Yet, when asked about the contents or their appropriateness, the answer is "We need to have those, it is part of our methodology." I ask the question again. The problem is that the people managing the project (project managers, PMOs, steering committees, and other management) do not know. They are simply fulfilling a requirement—ticking off the checklist.

Checklist managers think that by following a process they can bypass knowing the details. If this were true, managing could be reduced to a software application. To be effective, managers need to understand what their team is producing. That requires diving at least two layers down into the group and doing spot-checks throughout the team. These people will tell you when process is being followed for process sake.

Proper Reliance on Process

With the industrial revolution, came the need for process. The move to high volume manufacturing, created the need for unskilled laborers to repetitively build products with consistent quality. Processes made this possible. From there, processes have been applied to service work and guide most of a business' daily tasks. However, as work moves away from being repetitive, processes become less applicable.

For projects, process is only moderately applicable. By definition, projects have produce a unique process, service, or result. The fact that projects creates a unique entities means they cannot be fully proceduralized. Unfortunately, too many people treat them as if they can.

When Problem Occurs, Processes Break Down

We are so impressed by processes' success that we apply them everywhere. The value of processes are that they provide a strict method of doing a set of tasks in order to remove the variation, thought, and imagination in performing the them. Sales order intake, inventory picking, time tracking, hundreds of undertakings throughout the day have processes that we do not even think about. Processes simplify our lives, so we learn to trust and rely on them.

When we encounter an anomaly, though, we usually find the problem too late. No process is complete enough to identify all the error conditions. The sales order clerk using a process that assumes rolls, when the customer intended feet, is too often found when the complaint is registered and a RMA is request for two hundred rolls of wire. Any number of people in the order process could have questioned the quantity and the problem averted. The solution is to add more layers of process, instead of improving communication or having people think about how the order relates to the customer.

Numbing Through Process

Process allows us to succeed, but also numbs us. It eliminates the need to think and ask questions. In some case, with checklist managers, questions even bring reprimand. The organization's culture changes to such a degree that process actually hinders the project. People think following a process will solve all problems and apply them in the wrong situation. It makes there life easier, until there is a new problem and people rely on the process when they should have thought about what they were doing.

Mom's Ham Recipe

There is a story that runs around my family that Mom always cut the small end of the ham off prior to cooking it. She claimed the ham would fail to meet the old family flavor. One year, when visiting her family, my Dad queried about removing the small of the ham. Grandma replied, matter of factly, "I have to cut off some part or the lid won't fit on pan." Mom was right, no one likes dry ham, but her pan was much larger, she did not need to do that.

My Mom had become a checklist list manager, not questioning her process. On multimillion-dollar projects this blind adherence to process can be catastrophic and, I will attest, is the primary cause of failure.

Read 7416 times

Related items

  • People vs Process Track Session/Keynote Example

    If you want educational keynote many of our presentations can be keynotes or track sessions. In the example below, the presentation People or Process: Which Impacts Project Success More? is given as a track session.  

    Example People vs Process keynote as a track session

    This session was given at the PMI Sioux Empire Professions Development Day help in Sioux Falls SD on September 9, 2014.

  • Transform Your Project Leadership: For Professionals Leading Projects or Company Initiatives

    Todd Williams contributed Chapter 7, "Leaders Listen." You can buy it on Amazon.

    More coming soon!

  • Filling Execution Gaps: How Executives and Project Managers Turn Corporate Strategy into Successful Projects
    What Filling Execution Gaps Covers

    Filling Execution Gaps

    by Todd C. Williams
    ISBN: 978-1-5015-0640-6
    De G Press (DeGruyter), September 2017

    Project alignment, executive sponsorship, change management, governance, leadership, and common understanding. These six business issues are topics of daily discussions between executives, middle management, and project managers; they are the pivotal problems plaguing transformational leadership. Any one of these six, when improperly addressed, will hex a project's chances for success. And, they do—daily—destroying the ability companies to turn vision into value.

    Check it out on Amazon or the Filling Execution Gaps website

    Without the foundation of a common understanding of goals and core concepts, such as value being critical to success, communication stops and projects fail.

    Without change management, users fail to adopt project deliverables, value is lost, and projects fail.

    Without maintaining alignment between corporate goals and projects, projects miss their value targets and projects fail.

    Without an engaged executive sponsor, scope increases, goals drift, chaos reigns, value is lost, and projects fail.

    Without enough governance, critical connections are not made, steps are ignored, value is overlooked, and projects fail.

    Too much governance slows progress, companies cannot respond to business pressures, value drowns in bureaucracy, and projects fail.

    Without strong leadership defining the vision and value, goals are not set, essential relationships do not form, teams do not develop, essential decisions are not made, and projects fail.

  • Filling Execution Gaps: Building Success-Focused Organizations

    Executives define vision, strategy, and goals to advance the business. Projects enable companies to meet those goals. Between strategy and projects, there is a lot of work to be done—work that lays the foundation for project and operational success. Through experience and research, six common gaps exist in organizations that inhibit project success—an absence of common understanding, disengaged executive sponsors, misalignment with goals, poor change management, ineffective governance, and lackluster leadership.

  • Get Recognized as a Leader: Four Core Leadership Actions

    Leaders make decisions. This requires a core set of actions to gather the best information, hear out the concerns of others, and making a decision that everyone will follow—even if there is not unanimous agreement with the decision. Although there are hundreds of actions leaders must take, there are four core actions that all great leaders do—listening, dialog and discussion, selling a vision, and eliminating blame. This session will discuss those actions in a roundtable format that we call a "What Would You Do?" session. In these sessions, the presenter acts as a moderator spending 10 to 15 minutes per topic working with the audience talking about what the action is, how to best do it, and hearing from the group on how they have carried out the action. This brings significant audience interaction, involvement, and broader education. 

Leave a comment

Filling Execution Gaps

Available Worldwide

Filling Exectution Gaps cover

Filling Execution Gaps is available worldwide. Below are some options.

 

PG DirectLogo
Limited Time Price $20.99
Amazon logo
Book or Kindle
Flag of the United States Canadian Flag Flag of the United Kingdom Irish Flag Deutsche Flagge
Drapeau Français Bandiera Italiana PRC flag
Japanese flag
Bandera de España
Flag of India
Bandera de México
Bandeira do Brasil
Flag of Australia
Vlag van Nederland
DeG Press Logo
Barnes and Noble Logo
Books a Million Logo
Booktopia Logo
Worldwide: Many other
book sellers worldwide.

Rescue The Problem Project

Internationally acclaimed

Image of RPP

For a signed and personalized copy in the US visit the our eCommerce website.

Amazon logo
Buy it in the United States Buy it in Canada Buy it in the United Kingdom
Buy it in Ireland Buy it in Germany Buy it in France
Buy it in Italy Buy it in the PRC
Buy it in Japan
Book sellers worldwide.

Upcoming Events

Other's References

More Info on Project Recovery

Tell me More!

Please send me more information
on fixing a failing project.

Sitemap