Point 1 – Deming in Project Management

Commitment from the Top to Continuous Improvement as a Way of Life

Deming’s first point is an important one. There needs to be commitment from the top to make continuous improvement a earthpriority. To do it right, most firms would probably implement a Project Management Office from which continuous improvement activities can be based, one that has dominion over methodology and training at a minimum. The PMO should implement systems to ensure best practices and lessons learned are gathered and implemented. Sharing them will not be enough; they must actively be incorporated into the methodology.

Fully embracing this point should also include a strategic basis within the PMO, or even a separate portfolio project management group. Don J. Wessels, PMP does a great job of laying out the vision of a truly strategic focus on projects in the 2007 ISSIG Review, Volume XI No. 1. The article is titled “The Strategic Role of Project Management” and is a wonderfully insightful read. In this work, he references the PMI’s Standard for Portfolio Management by saying, “While project management and program management have traditionally focused on “doing work right,” portfolio management is concerned with “doing the right work.” It is like allocative efficiency versus productive efficiency in economics. As I read this article and thought about the concepts more and more, I realized it is very true that much of project management today is very tactical and without strategic basis. Embracing Deming’s first point requires viewing continuous improvement from the perspective of the whole system.

In a large company like the one that I work for, various groups have their own versions of a PMO. While this may not be optimal, it does allow for groups with a specific subject area focus to tailor their approaches. This is fine, as long as the group or individual overseeing projects has made a long-term commitment to continuous improvement, and they are committed to ensuring projects are in alignment with organizational goals. So often, the alignment comes at a departmental level at best, and can actually be detrimental when looking at the whole organization. A long-term thought process is required. The leader of the project group must have the ability to not let fire fighting overpower the improvement strategy.

(Back to Deming’s 14 Points)

References and Resources

Managing for Quality and Performance Excellence
Deming and Goldratt
Out of the Crisis
The Deming Management Method
The New Economics
Four Days with Dr. Deming
Deming Route to Quality and Productivity
Deming The Way We Knew Him

About the author

JoshNankivel Josh Nankivel is a Project Planning & Controls Control Account Manager and contractor for the ground system of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, a joint project between the USGS and NASA. His academic background includes a BS in Project Management, summa cum laude.  He can be found writing and contributing in many places within the project management community, and his primary project management website is located at pmstudent.com.


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