Thursday, May 21, 2009

Finding Root Cause of Project Performance Barriers

How often do you ask yourself the question - “What could we do to improve the execution of our new product development efforts?” From my experience in working with teams this question is certainly on the minds of management and is usually considered in the context of the ability of a team in meeting project commitments. Most everyone has a quick response to a question such as this and they are usually high level and off the cuff, making an implementation plan difficult. The problem and solution is often identified as just out of reach, in another organizational tower.

When this question is posed to a project manager the solution is with the engineering teams. When asked of the design engineering teams the solution is with marketing, product engineering or the customer. Product engineering identifies the solution as being primarily in design, marketing or project management. This may be overstated, however I am certain you see a hint of this reality within your organization.

My point is that the first response to a problem tends to be the easy one, the one that actually does not lead to any solution; it purely provides an answer. Finding real solutions to improve project execution will require a deep dive to uncover root causes. Consider it an expedition to find what is not known, leaving behind all your preconceived notions about where projects roadblocks may be.

Finding root cause of project execution barriers requires excellent listening skills and an ability to ask the right questions. Talk to each team member and ask them one simple question – “What do you need to maximize your contribution to projects?” Now listen and make sure you understand the answer and the reasons for that answer. You will find that the major barriers to ideal project execution are due to a lack in servicing the requirements of the individual. The team member is the most important ingredient of a projects success, one we tend to ignore with a vigilant focus on the metrics of “the project”.

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