Project Decelerators – Lack of Quality


One of the issues that comes up when teams split the work is that, sometimes (grin), what is delivered to another team member or to the end customer is not what was intended. We are familiar with the processes to ensure that the customer gets what they want (or at least what they signed off on…may not be the same thing. Big grin). But what about among team members? How do we make sure that what I mean by “widget A” is what you mean by “widget A”.

The problem can be both in either under or over delivering of expectations. Maybe our coding team doesn’t need the final, signed off spec before they design the module. Maybe a firm draft is sufficient. But, if we don’t check with them or have prior experience, we may wait for the approved spec before giving it to them.

Commitment-Based Project Management (CBPM) relies on suppliers (those who create deliverables) and customers (those who use those deliverables) talk and agree on what the expectations are. To make sure that this discussion takes place, if there’s a disagreement between the supplier and the customer on the “doneness” of an item, the customer wins. This encourages the supplier to talk with the customer but it may not encourage the customer to talk with the supplier, so be alert for that.

The spreadsheet tracks suppliers and customers for each deliverable. As a project manager I get out of the way when someone complains about a supplier not delivering. I had an individual who in a team meeting said “So and So has not delivered on his commitment!” I looked at the spreadsheet, noticed that So and So did not have a commit date and said “well, of course they haven’t. He hasn’t committed yet! Did you talk with him before this meeting?” When the answer was no, my response was to indicate that while I don’t mind having these discussions in a team meeting, on average we would waste 3.5 days (half a week) if we waited for the once-a-week session. Also, I indicated that it was my expectation that customers would be proactive and communicate with the suppliers rather than coming to me. It took that individual a moment to grasp that what I was saying was that it was her responsibility to make sure she got what she needed. I would monitor and facilitate but I would not solve her issue.

This empowering of the various team members is extremely powerful. It allows the team members to take responsibility. It allows the PM to focus on the overall project rather than micromanaging the effort. There’s plenty for the PM to do without having to play parent when there are disputes.

A related empowering technique in CBPM is that items are done or not done. 90% is not done. 99.999% is not done. If the customer disagrees, it is not done. It takes the PM out of the micromanaging of all the details.

So, give it a try! Get the team members to agree on what the deliverables will consist of and to take ownership of their work and their needs.


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