Thursday, June 16, 2011

A New Manufacturing Product

As I look over the portfolio or projects I've managed... wearing my business / information technologies hats... I often think about my favorite project plan... one that taught me how little some people know about project management.... and why it can be perceived as such a foreign concept. I've thought about writing a book about this project... it's that interesting.

Let me paint a picture for you... it's a small... rapidly growing manufacturing company. I believe this portion of the company's revenues were in the 20-30 million dollar range. It was part of a much larger organization.

Around the table... with fictitious names... of course.
  1. Brian Beiswenger - SR. IT Manager
  2. Joe Unger - Director of Engineering
  3. Ken Long - VP of Marketing
  4. Bart Humphrey - CEO
  5. Sally Bair - Director of Manufacturing
  6. Amanda Smith - Customer Relationship Manager
  7. Molly Krebs - Website Designer & Marketing
  8. Sam Johnson - Corporate Controller
  9. Alex Strong - Systems Analyst

I started to discuss placing everything in a project plan... and the CEO immediately said... our last project was a failure... we've committed to deliver this project in three months. We're incapable of managing a project. I suggested we put together a project plan... and since my background includes many successful projects, I was volunteered to lead the discussion.

Joe Unger - Director of Engineering - wouldn't commit to any deadlines... If I have three months, everyone can work at the same time... but I won't be done until three months... and I'm not sharing any information or committing to provide anything for IT, Marketing, or Manufacturing until the three months is up... and we're ready to make our first window. If you need the information, I suggest you find it your own way.

Ken Long - VP of Marketing - wanted to know why it couldn't be done quicker... and why Joe didn't want to share the knowledge... if Joe delivered... everyone else would be blamed if they couldn't make the deadline.

Bart Humphrey - CEO - Bart only wanted this to be a success... why don't you guys work together? Of course... it was politics.

Sally Bair - Director of Manufacturing - Sally wanted to know what to order, how long it would take, how much inventory to carry, and how much of the manufacturing capacity to allocate, which equipment needed ordered or retooled, and when this needed complete. She needed to know as soon as possible. She needed to plan her factory floor layout for the new project.

Amanda Smith - Customer Relationship Manager - Amanda wanted to share preview information and prototypes with the customers to help create demand. She'd like to have them as soon as possible so they could be transitioned to the new product.

Molly Krebs - Website Designer & Marketing - Molly needed to have the engineering information to create the website, and to design the marketing brochures, and service diagrams for the new line of products. Joe was normally less than cooperative with providing this information... it was knowledge he preferred everyone needed to ask him directly.

Sam Johnson - Corporate Controller - Sam wanted to know if we'd make money on the products, and how much inventory we needed to order and carry. Nobody seemed to care about how much this was going to cost... .isn't this the real measure of new product success?

Alex Strong - Systems Analyst - Alex had been there for a while. He recognized the politics occurring during the conversations... everyone wanted to hedge their schedules, and not cooperate. Nobody wanted to be the cause for failure.

Needless to say, this was a difficult project. As we designed out the schedule... it was clear there were hidden agendas. Once everyone understood the role of a project schedule, and was willing to commit to delivery of results to their peers through negotiation... and well-timed arm-twisting by the CEO, we created a schedule that could be successful. By holding the participants accountable and defining the critical path, the schedule creation and execution was successful.

Politics are not productive. I've not seen anyone show me a case where they've improved efficiency, or eliminated waste. They are the contrary. People who are good at politics use this often for self-serving motives to improve their position and importance within the organization.

I'll provide more details on this project in the upcoming posts.