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Posts Tagged ‘project management’

Cut Waste, Not Costs

Monday, March 15th, 2010

As I read more and more about the Toyota debacle I’m struck by an apparently myopic management drive to cut costs.  In the case of Toyota it appears that cost cutting extended into quality cutting.  A company once known for superb quality had methodically reduced that aspect of their output.  This isn’t just conjecture; it seems that people inside the company had been aware of a decline in quality due to a focus on reducing costs.1 Is there a general lesson to consider?

I believe the failure is one of misplaced focus. The focus when Toyota began cutting costs was to remove waste.  That waste could be found throughout their manufacturing processes.  Wasted materials, productivity, tooling, and equipment were all identified as Toyota’s management and workers struck out on a journey to reduce waste and improve productivity.  They ushered in a set of practices that others would soon adopt.

Head back to the 1950′s and you’ll find Taiichi Ohno2 hard at work addressing myriad manufacturing shortcomings at Toyota.  Mr. Ohno is really the father of lean manufacturing and just-in-time inventory management.  He didn’t name them as such.  He was just trying to remove waste from the entire manufacturing process.  By the late 1990′s these concepts had become standard operating procedure at many firms.

It makes sense that a business would focus on reducing waste.  Although it may require effort to remove waste without reducing productivity, overall one would expect a leaner process to have an overall efficiency gain.  It would also seem that quality does not benefit from waste.  After many years of experience with these principles, companies have found that an approach of using only the resources that are needed when they are needed provides a sound basis for their operations.  So what happened at Toyota?  They apparently went beyond cutting waste.


Why Do So Many Information Systems Implementations Fail and What Can Be Done to Improve Our Success Rate?

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

Information Systems (IS) implementations normally fail due to a lack of ownership, planning and execution by the organization.  The software and hardware tend to do what they are supposed to do.  Their features and limitations are typically known, at least if we take the time to investigate.  However, it is the organizational issues among and between business units and teams that actually require most of the effort when running an IS project.

The root causes of IS project failures include weak scoping, lack of executive management ownership, poor project management, lack of scope controls, improper infrastructure and inappropriate technology choices.

Weak scope leads to a project whose requirements are too broad to be met by any single system.  Similarly the team will be too broad with differing opinions as to the ultimate purpose of the project and therefore application.  After all, if the team members are each interpreting the goal(s) of the project in different ways it will be difficult, and time consuming, to arrive at consensus on each aspect of the project.

Lack of executive management ownership leaves the project team without an effective sponsor.  Having such a sponsor helps mitigate the various issues that will arise as the project team seeks to design and implement a new system.  Maintaining focus on the business goals of the system along with championing the system and breaking down barriers between groups are major functions for the executive owner.

Project management is key to delivering on any sort of solution, technology or otherwise.  Knowing the team roles, responsibilities, timelines and dependencies allows for issues to be identified proactively and resolved in a timely manner.  Exit strategies must be defined that rely on understanding the current project risks.  Without effective project management the actual status of the project remains hidden.