Monday, December 01, 2008

The Top Five Obstacles to Predictable Project Execution

Are there some well known obstacles in your NPD work flow that consistently hinder project execution and you would like them resolved and put behind you? Of course you do, just like the majority of organizations in this business. In fact, if you were to create a list of your top five obstacles they are likely to be similar to every other organizations top five items. Why are they still there today, continuing to disrupt your project execution? Only you can honestly answer that question.

Do you believe your NPD organization is unique in the top five issues that are keeping project execution in a state of unpredictability? You may be surprised to find that your organization is not dissimilar to many others, when looking at project execution bottlenecks. I find it truly fascinating that the top five are so common across organizational, company and international boundaries. We are all dealing with very similar project challenges and for the most part tolerating them as a routine part of our business. The ongoing acceptance aspect is what I find most troubling. There are a few exceptions where organizations are actively whittling back the top five, however it is not the norm, often smothered under a guise of resource availability.

Requirements Closure
Completing a product definition that has a depth of detail, in the time frame necessary, so as to prevent rework of any design activity due to a lack of requirements information. That's the objective, one that needs focused emphasis to remove this as a common source of impact to a project.

Project Planning
This is the activity that will lead to reaching commitment, one that your NPD team believes in and will be able to hit. The problem is it's not happening and the reasons tend to be generalized into a few different bins. Root cause for failing to meet planned commitments must be understood and addressed, whatever or wherever the source may be.

Individual Objectives
On this one each team member may not always know what is expected of them, to the level of detail that will prevent them from reworking already completed activities. Team members may be guessing or making assumptions about deliverables. This type of uncertainty is commonly due to information lacking in the area's of how, what or where. Not a good situation where being predictable is an objective.

Scope Control
A lack of product scope control leads to confusion on requirements. The team often does not know what changes should be made and which ones should be left behind. The engineering team typically will assume if a feature is being discussed, it is a requirement, without regard to schedule or cost impact implications. This one quietly steals away your team's productivity, often without a trace.

Project Leadership Skills
This item involves a deficit in the skills necessary to recognize and effectively deal with the other four items in this list of top five. This is bright technical talent leading a project without the proper skills to manage project details such as requirements closure, detailed planning, establishing detailed individual objectives or managing scope change.

Note: I will be posting a follow up to this post in mid-December on the subject of resolving these top five obstacles.

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