The applause was thundering as the magician completed his performance. Proman A. Jecgert had hired the magician to help celebrate the completion of what would come to be called Phase One. The party included all participants across the organization. The grove in the trees was a perfect setting, and the sun shone brightly. Proman smiled in satisfaction about his meeting with the magician before hand. They tailored the presentation to make it fun and memorable. Issue #105 appeared several times and just would not go away, such as written in big print on a roll of toilet paper as it was unrolled around the functional manager who had to make the final decision. Other key participants were called up as volunteers. The laughter was invigorating.
Proman turned his attention back to the process. Even in the bright sunshine he could sense much more needed to be done. The challenge, of course, would be keeping the momentum going. The hard work, long hours, and intense communications left everyone feeling drained. But more issues needed resolution.
Convening the cross organization council of R&D managers, the topic of recapping Phase One soon shifted to the remaining work. “What we need from you,” said Toni, resuming her role as instigator, “is a new set of priorities. We have to continue working on the issues. We learned much over the past several months that will help us operate in a more streamlined fashion. Your continued support is imperative.” Toni knew that the high feelings were temporal and would soon get redirected to local work if not focused on the broad issues affecting everyone.
The learning process was aided by a full day program retrospective review. Craig captured data about how long it took to resolve each issue and correlated time with whether that issue was of high, medium, or low complexity. Being an analytical expert himself, Craig then categorized complexity of the remaining issues. The data also exposed that, although the mission of the program was to deliver resolutions for 100 issues, that task had grown to 120 issues by the end of the phase. Discovery revealed that certain associated technical issues would also have to be clarified in order to get closure on the main issue. Proman had questioned this “creeping elegance” or “scope creep,” but the technical experts proved the reality that these additional tasks were indeed mandatory. Other review learnings addressed communication issue bottlenecks, having people trained on project management leading study groups, and the escalation process. The estimation and scheduling processes had been helpful but could be improved, now that some history was available.
Proman sensed an opportunity. “I can put together a short training session on project management for leaders of the study groups. That will help us all get calibrated on process steps. With their inputs, I will again create a master schedule, but this time we will add in twenty percent more work. We can use more online technology to post and respond to proposals. I can lead one of the study groups myself.”
When he showed this plan to the sponsor, Proman was questioned, “Why do you show sixty issues? I thought the council authorized work only on the next fifty.”
“We will start with fifty. But experience shows us that the work will expand by twenty percent,” Proman replied. “We are factoring that natural expansion into the program plan. This will help us avoid surprises and be able to meet a committed schedule.”
“I’m not sure about that but okay. Are you confident that you will be able to lead a study group?”
Proman’s answer in the affirmative was unflinching. He had some concerns about understanding the technical jargon but knew that his contribution would be to ensure progress and get results, not to solve the issues himself.
The rollout of Phase Two and the rapid progress over the ensuing weeks went exactly as Proman imagined them. The training, communications plan, reporting, tracking, and discussions were extremely productive. The “known unknowns” indeed surfaced. As in the past, a number of new issues arose that had to be jointly resolved. They were accommodated within the schedule which, this time, was met to the very day.
The code had again been cracked. How can a credible schedule be realized in a high tech environment where many unknowns were present? The answer: train people on a project management process, use as much history as you can and extrapolate into the new environment, have a confident leader, obtain and sustain upper management support for the process and the work, be flexible and constantly innovate. Also celebrate successes and provide continuous feedback. The work environment did not initially function this way, but Proman felt pride and satisfaction in knowing that he took the initiative, with the help of some friends, to apply his skills and knowledge to manage the endeavor as a program.
Perhaps he was ordained this way. Looking at his name, Proman A. Jecgert, wondered if it might be an anagram: .
Randy Englund, UCSC Extension instructor