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Perfect the Project
Three steps to help ensure your project’s success
by Lourdes Estrada-Salinero
A passion for making significant improvements is what brings most quality practitioners to the field. Quality practitioners are dedicated to solving problems, and they love performing analysis. They enjoy using tools to identify the root causes of problems that may be plaguing an organization, and they live for that moment when the data allows them to determine a key finding that others may have missed.
At times, however, quality practitioners forget that the steps taken prior to starting the core work can be the most important to the success of the project. Before you jump in to root cause identification, process streamlining, data collection and analysis, make sure you’ve followed these steps:
Talk to the primary customer
Every project has a primary customer, whether it is an everyday consumer or the leader of an organization. For the project to be successful, the customer must be on board with your approach, from beginning to end. If the customer is less than enthusiastic about your approach, or cannot clearly articulate their desired outcome: stop, ask questions and take the time to understand.
There will be times when it may not be obvious who the customer is. People in organizations have great intentions and ideas, but may not have the full picture in mind or the authority to take actions. When approached about initiating a project, take time to ask:
- Who owns the process?
- Is there a sponsor for the project?
- Is this project a priority to the process owner?
- Who are the key stakeholders?
Gaining a deep understanding of ownership may take some time, but it will always pay off later.
Develop a charter
After you and the project owner are fully aligned, take the time to create a charter. Charters do not need to be many pages long. Keep it simple, but identify the problem you are solving or the improvements you want to make, and be sure to include everything within the scope of the project.
Also include a timeline that lists the key milestones and deliverables expected by the owner. The charter should be formally approved by the owner and other key stakeholders, if applicable.
Make the team
Having an oversight structure or steering committee is crucial. This should be a team comprised of middle or senior managers with the authority to approve, expedite, fund and resource the project.
They may assign delegates to serve on the committee, but be sure that the senior-level representatives have given their blessing; this will avoid rework later. The steering committee reviews the project at pre-set milestones identified in the charter, or at any time when new risks are identified or additional resources are needed.
It also is important that the project is backed by a team of subject matter experts (SME). Assembling an effective SME team ensures you are not missing critical pieces of information that may require you to backtrack later.
Assuring that you have the right group of people will require spending time with the steering committee. If the SME team becomes too large, you risk slowing down the process. Work with the steering committee from the beginning to balance the right size and skills.
Make your entire project team feel involved, celebrate successes and have fun! Finding improvements is exciting and rewarding.
Lourdes Estrada-Salinero is a senior partner at OSI Enterprises in Placerville, CA. She has her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Miami in Florida and is certified by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers as a statistical applications expert. Salinero is an ASQ member.