April 23, 2014

More evidence of performance does not mean there is more performance

3D Pie Chart
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I have been on troubled teams who are often commanded to produce reams of data and documentation for their every move to date, forecast every move going forward, and track every movement against that plan in leghty detail. Once all this documentation is in place, the project appears to be much more organized and coordianted, however, overall performance rarely improves.

The moral: Documentation isn’t the solution to a performance problem. [Read more]

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Project problems can’t be solved with an operational focus

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Very often, projects are assessed by using metrics that are not about identifying unique & temproary activities. Rather, persistent, on-going measures such as average weekly costs or hours worked or material dollars spent are used to determine if a project is running as it should.

Unfortunately, these sort of measurements are more attuned to understanding operations because they establish linear costs over time. Project have peaks and valleys, spikes and low points, periods of tremendous activity and periods when they have very little at all.
[Read more]

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Why your PMP prep doesn’t feel like reality (and why it shouldn’t)

A Break in Reality
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I feel lucky to have the benefit of my time spent trying to understand the Lean paradigm because it is offering so much insight into what the PMI framework is trying to do. It is establishing a standard. It is offering a methodology for managing projects against which all other management styles, and outcomes, can be measured. In a way, it depicts the ideal – if all projects, everywhere, operated in the way the PMI describes, then all projects would deliver on time, within budget, and with inputs from all stakeholders at every level of the organization – including customers.

Is that reality? No. Of course not. [Read more]

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Just say NO to manually adjusting data and reports – 4 reasons why

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We have all heard the phrase; “you can’t manage it, if you can’t measure it”. I also believe that “you can’t manage, it if you are always adjusting it”.

When you work in a culture that is very numbers driven or reliant, there will always be pressure to adjust your data or reporting to account for outliers, one-offs, process errors etc. This is a very slippery slope. You can not eat a single potato chip and you can not make only one adjustment.

When data and reports are “clean”, i.e. with no manual adjustments, the data is objective and we treat all parties/divisions consistently and fairly. When we add in manual adjustments, we immediately convert objective data into “suspect, subjective data with inconsistencies. I am very uncomfortable making critical business decisions using inconsistent, manually manipulated data (and you be should too).

Here are 4 reasons why you should not create an adjustment culture in your organization: [Read more]

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Metrics are Scary and Should be Avoided at All Costs (Not)

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Metrics are such an important element of continuous improvement. Wait…Metrics might be the most important element of continuous improvement. Why? Because continuous improvement by definition is the measurement of improvement — and if you aren’t measuring, how will the organization know how far it has come or where it needs to go?

Most organizations struggle mightily with the topic of metrics and sometimes it’s surprising just how much. I think it happens for a number of reasons. [Read more]

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Project Management & Measurement gamed

Measurement
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Project management tends to be all about outcome metrics. Tracking costs vs. plan, Earned Value, Cost and Schedule Performance Indices, consumed slack – all are about what happened. Granted, there’s an effort inherent to those practices that says the future can be predicted by understanding the past, however, that approach also seems to indicate that errors are acceptable. Especially if we read a bunch of charts and graphs and variance analyses to tell us that we had a problem some number of days, or weeks, ago.

Somehow, that doesn’t seem good enough. [Read more]

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Position Yourself for Performance Transformation through a Fact-based Plan

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By the time we meet most organizations, they want to get going with their transformation immediately. They often want to rush to implementation without a roadmap, resulting in the classic gotcha of “activity vs. action.” However, without clear direction, activity often swamps out action and fritters away resources fast. Few then remain to make a positive difference, and no lasting benefits accrue. To be effective, organizations need an implementation approach that predictably advances what their enterprise should be doing. [Read more]

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You are at the mercy of your analysts (and you don’t even know it)

Analysis
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Anyone who has worked for any amount of time doing staff-level analytic work invariably knows that, when reports are presented, people will glance over the numbers looking for anomalies but never bother to understand the computation leading to what is in that report. Any attempt to explain the methodology results in blank stares, glassy eyes and, in many cases, utter disdain for wasting time explaining the math.

Unfortunately, what matters more than the number is the methodology. Information can be excluded and massaged. It can be changed to put a positive spin on the situation. As such, acting on information you don’t fully understand can lead to a disaster. [Read more]

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Management Improvement Blog Carnival #159

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March 2012 marks the 2-year anniversary of My Flexible Pencil. Although I’m certain he was unaware of that, I am still honored that John Hunter of the Curious Cat Management Improvement blog is helping me to celebrate this milestone, by asking me to host the Management Improvement Blog Carnival #159.

The Carnival, begun by in 2006, is published 3 times a month and serves to provide a selection of links to posts on a number of blogs. The carnival covers management improvement: Deming, lean manufacturing, six sigma, innovation, customer focus, leadership, systems thinking, continuous improvement, respect for people… [Read more]

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Analysts – Go beyond the metrics

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If your analysis stops only at what activities took place, without an understanding of how people, organizations and people within organizations work, you will never correct the underlying problem. You have to look at the behavioral elements. [Read more]

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