Amid these unprecedented economic times, there has never been a more critical period for corporations to effectively plan, manage and close out their projects.
"The Project Success Method: A Proven Approach for Achieving Superior Project Performance in as Little as 5 Days" by Clinton M. Padgett breaks down a unique methodology that allows companies to consistently manage their projects on time, per spec and within budget. According to Padgett, the Project Success Method offers readers a proven, fire-tested methodology that can be learned within five days. Here Padgett talks with Manufacturing.net about his book and the Project Success Method.
How is the Project Success Method different from other project management methodologies?
Padgett: The Project Success Method is a more practical approach to projects as opposed to certifications where you must complete module after module or discuss theory and the details of how it works. I compare it to learning to drive a car: do you need a lesson on how a combustion engine and hydraulic brakes work, or do you simply need to know how to start the car and what the gas pedal does? So rather than take you through all this theory and ‘how it works’, we instead focus on what you have to know and what you need to be successful in managing your projects.
It is also generic enough that it’ll work across any kind of project -- anything as simple as planning a wedding to as complicated as developing a new manufacturing application that is will take 30,000 piece parts and 18 to 24 months to complete. It really doesn’t matter the type of project or product -- the techniques are generic enough, but provide the structure we all need in order to be successful in the project. In the real world, projects are fluid and malleable and need to be adjusted on a regular basis to apply to what’s going on today.
The method is also quick to execute -- it can be learned in 2 days as opposed to months of online courses. You take what you learned in the book and put together a pretty good plan in 3 days, so in 5 days your team is fully on board and understands what has to be done, who does what and when it must be completed.
How can reading your book help improve project management skills?
Padgett: The Project Success Method is a practical, proven approach. The book is a compilation of best practices from 26 years of working on projects all over the world and in various industries. The techniques taught in the book can be used in any industry, whether it is manufacturing, marketing, IT or special events.
The best practices in this book help you define your project up front, determine who is going to do what and when, build a project plan around it, ensure customer approval and adhere to the plan throughout the life of the project.
Who should read this book?
Padgett: Besides project managers, it’s important for executives to understand the techniques that their teams are going to be using so they know what kind of questions to ask, and what kind of reports to expect to see and to help project managers overcome roadblocks along the way. It’s also helps team members understand how they fit in to the overall project plan and what’s going to be asked of them on a regular basis.
What skill sets should a project manager have?
Padgett: A project manager needs leadership skills to direct team members as well as technical skills to operate project management software. Project managers also need to fully understand the critical path method that’s been around for a long time and seems to work really well.
What one lesson would you want readers to learn from the book?
Padgett: There’s a chapter in the book, Shifting the Worry Curve, where we talk about human nature and procrastination. It is typical when you have a large project, you tend to put it off for quite a while as you focus on other projects you’re currently working on and people tend to procrastinate. Shifting the worry curve is so important because it basically says “even though this project is a year away and has a year-long deadline for the project, I probably have things I should be doing next week in order to be successful with this project.”
Unfortunately, people have a tendency to procrastinate and assume we can get something done faster than we really. Because we procrastinate we started too late and then we’re behind in the planning stages of the project -- that’s where cost goes up and quality goes down. So one of the key lessons is to force yourself to plan earlier in the process so that that panic is avoided at the end of the project.
For manufacturers struggling in the recession, how can a successful project management methodology help them?
Padgett: If I were leading a company that is treading water, I would want to make sure that money is spent in proper places and we certainly wouldn’t be able to afford having projects fail and then have to re-do them. It’s better to do it right the first time than re-do it where it would cost twice as much.
You also need to avoid what we call the ‘panic’ phase of the project. Once you get into that phase, the only option left is for the project to be completed in an unreasonable amount of time or becomes the most expensive option. And when you reach that phase the attitude becomes “I don’t care what it costs, just get it done.” That’s when everyone starts working overtime, packages are sent overnight, you start paying expedite fees, and rush shipment of materials. So you can really get behind and the panic phase causes costs to go through the roof and also quality drops as well.
Do you think poor project management can cause a company to fail?
Padgett: I wouldn’t necessarily say that project management or lack of project management skills can cause a company to fail, but given the economy you better be doing your projects right, on time and on budget and without quality issues, and also make sure you’re doing the right projects. Sometimes the most successful project is the one that you realize you shouldn’t do. If you recognize during the planning stages that the project can’t be done in a timely fashion or will cost too much, then perhaps you shouldn’t be involved with the project. So good project management skills and a good planning process will help you be more successful in an environment where the economy is tight.
Do you have any other advice for manufacturers that can help them improve their project management?
Padgett: Manufacturers that use six sigma or kaizen need to realize that those processes all need some sort of formal implementation on the back end to execute whatever you decide to do as part of your lean manufacturing initiative. You need someone to execute those projects. Some companies incorrectly assume that if you’re doing six sigma you’re doing project management and that’s not true. You’re going to find issues and try to resolve those issues but you need someone to handle those projects after you identify the problem. Project management should be considered added on as an implementation piece on the back end of six sigma and other lean processes.
Clinton M. Padgett, President and CEO of Atlanta-based consultancy Project Success, Inc. has provided consulting, training and account management to clients in a wide range of industries. For more information visit www.projectsuccess.com