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Project Management Series - Managing the Successful Shop Project


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A project, by the very definition of the term, is all about parts. Parts considered, parts acquired, parts assembled, parts finished. In a job shop or on a manufacturing floor, a project usually involves another aspect-people. In a shop project, people work as a team to compete a task that, ultimately, is greater than the sum of its parts. The questions to consider, however, are how often do shop projects end up as unsuccessful, and why? With so many people contributing to the cause, it should be a matter of fact that projects would succeed merely by virtue of having so much oversight.

This is not always the case; indeed, shop project success is probably more infrequent that you would think. Of course, most project failures are unnecessary and avoidable. Common to nearly all such failures is the absence of good planning, preparation, and communication among team members. Assuming material resources and financials are already in place, to avoid missteps and achieve success in shop project efforts there are a few simple management tools that can help.

Surprisingly, in many shop project failures it is clear that many team members are on separate pages about the ultimate goals, specifications, and even products of the project. Like a theatrical production without a script, improvisation during performance is mistake-laden, often lacking a clear sense of direction. To ensure a successful outcome for any shop project, basic communication is absolutely necessary so that team members know what's going on. Again, this notion begins at the management level and travels down to the team. If the manager doesn't have a clearly defined idea about what the project parameters are, don't expect the shop floor personnel to create them on their own.

This mandate for communication also applies to on-going communication within the team itself. Management must facilitate this, and constructive and critical insights regarding project improvement should be highly encouraged. In other words, all team members should feel free to question ambiguous or otherwise unclear process and procedure-before mistakes are made in production. Once mistakes are made due to a reluctant communication environment within the team, needless waste is introduced into the project with profit margins and quality of outcome chipped away.

Providing an open atmosphere for the critical insights of team personnel also requires a large degree of positive reinforcement of the project efforts. The notion that the project is developed and implemented as a team effort means that the more tightly members are bonded to the team, the more likely they are to see themselves as members of a larger body-that the personal failure of one in the project task has a broader negative effect upon the group and its efforts to succeed in the project. These are the basics of group dynamic communication.

Finally, near the completion of the project, be sure to inspect the product and measure it against the specifications laid out in the approved plans. While this should surely be an on-going quality assessment, nearing the end of the project completion-before external eyes see it-plenty of time should be used to ensure that the thing has been done right. With time enough before promised delivery dates, most production errors can still be fixed before clients or the in-house managers who ordered the project in the first place make a final review.

Planning, preparation, communication. With these basic management tools in mind, you will achieve more frequent success in undertaking not only simple shop projects, but the most complex as well. Remember the management mantra: It is always the team that works in harmony that makes the best music.

Dusty Alexander is the President of Global Shop Solutions. Global Shop Solutions is the largest privately held ERP software company in the United States.

Copyright 2007 - Global Shop Solutions. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Reprint Rights: You may reprint this article as long as you leave all of the links active, do not edit the article in any way, and give the author name credit.


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