How to Integrate Process Improvement into Your Project
A team is like a machined product; multiple moving parts coming together to produce something extraordinary. Project managers in this case function like product managers: However to continuously improve the product, the product manager must make deliberate improvements to the project’s processes. Here’s how process improvement can be done:
1. Establish a baseline
Before we can get the team workflow performing up to standard, we have to establish what “standard” means in the first place.
- Conduct a thorough review of your deliverables, along with any Service Level Agreements (SLAs), quotas, and quality standards that you have to meet.
- Meet with your team members one by one to clarify each person’s accountabilities, objectives, and performance standards.
- Review project budgets, risks, and mitigation plans. If you don’t have such information, get averages and examples from previous projects.
- Also compile a list of any key metrics that you measure internally, from work hours spent on a project to response time for requests. If you don’t have any but would like to set that up, now is the time to propose it to your team. Make sure those metrics are objective and quantifiable.
2. Decide what your team should deliver
Don’t let your team’s efforts wander. An unfocused team is slow to perform and results in haphazard product. Try employing one of these effective prioritization tactics:
- BRASS Framework. BRASS is a product backlog framework that scores features based on several criteria like ease of development and relevance to customer. The product manager goes down the entire list of features in the backlog, and every team member gives his score. These scores are then averaged out and used to determine the next sprint’s priorities.
- Grouping by theme. The danger of a shotgun approach to project assignments is that you always miss the related secondary items. Try grouping by theme instead to minimize the chance of anything falling by the wayside.
3. Improve the processes
Once you define what constitutes success, it’s time to restructure your team around these new process improvement requirements. Every time you work on a project, pay attention to the following areas and look for ways to improve them:
- Bottlenecks and throughput. Is your team constantly missing deadlines? Does work pile up and get stuck? Find what is causing this slowdown by reviewing the problems that occur during a project and why and when they happen. If you can’t remove the bottleneck, at least attenuate it by delivering work in smaller batches or using other Lean Management practices.
- Team focus and alignment. It’s easy to get distracted by competing responsibilities or assignments, or to go in a direction you think is important but doesn’t match what the rest of the team is doing. Try applying critical chain project management, which accounts for constraints in the plan and applies realistic expectations to team assignments..
- Work effort vs desired goal. Maximize your team’s efforts by ensuring they work on the most critical items first. Lean Management’s practice of emphasizing dependencies over deadlines keeps everyone on the team moving towards the goal instead of getting hung up on individual contributions.
4. Conduct a project post mortem
Project post-mortems are vital to any effective process improvement, because they help you discover what went well and what didn’t. Conduct one at the closure of every major project.
When conducting a project post-mortem, be honest and realistic about any problems that occurred. Focus on the event and its effects. Also pay attention to team members trying to smooth over their mistakes. True improvement can only come if everyone owns up to their shortcomings.
Document this information and analyze what changes can be made to your process. Some ideas may be more viable to implement than others. Prioritize the changes that will have the most impact, followed by those that are easiest to implement. If you happen to have an idea that matches both conditions, win-win!
You’re not just the team’s project manager. You’re the engineer in charge of repairs and maintenance. So make sure that you’re approaching the problem with a clear eye and a mind towards creating an efficient and repeatable process. That way, your team will run at top performance no matter what happens.
Any questions about process improvement? Tweet us @ unitoio!