Point 10 – Deming in Project Management

No Slogans or Disingenuous Pep Talks

SlogansThis point consists of two elements as I see it. (1) Walk the talk, and (2) hold systems accountable.

Walk the Talk

Slogans are phony. The word slogan has a connotation of something that is not real. It sounds like an advertisement, and not something you can really trust in. In a project management organization, it is much better to have published guidelines and a vision that defines your philosophy and practice. Train your project managers and teams on the methodology. Then, let them execute within that framework, and put a system in place so that the practitioners can revise the process and make it better.

Additionally, if you say you are going to deliver the product by a specified date, budget, and quality, then do it. Consistently. Estimating a launch and then consistently missing the deadline is a sure way to make upper management believe you are full of it. Sometimes this goes with Point #9; the project manager points the finger at the stakeholders and says “well, it wouldn’t be so late if they wouldn’t have changed their requirements.” It’s your job to fully understand the requirements early on, so step up to that responsibility and stop the finger pointing. If you took the effort to better understand what they wanted, perhaps you could have provided more reasonable estimates. No excuses.
Hold Systems Accountable

If you do not have a common and well-defined company methodology for project management, you must be expecting every project manager to be perfect. The lessons learned from other projects and project managers must be transmitted through osmosis or psychically, I suppose. That project manager “should have known” how to do proper risk planning. If you lecture the project managers, they should automatically be motivate to do a better job right? After all, it was their fault for not being omnipotent in the first place, right?
A better approach might be to have a set of guidelines, tools, and techniques within well defined processes so that a project manager does not have to also be a mind reader. If projects are constantly failing at your organization, it is not because you have a set of lousy project managers (more than likely), it’s because you have no system in place to manage projects.

(Back to Deming’s 14 Points)

References and Resources

Managing for Quality and Performance Excellence
Deming and Goldratt
Out of the Crisis
The Deming Management Method
The New Economics
Four Days with Dr. Deming
Deming Route to Quality and Productivity
Deming The Way We Knew Him

About the author


JoshNankivel Josh Nankivel is a Project Planning & Controls Control Account Manager and contractor for the ground system of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, a joint project between the USGS and NASA. His academic background includes a BS in Project Management, summa cum laude.  He can be found writing and contributing in many places within the project management community, and his primary project management website is located at pmstudent.com.

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