Project Management

FMEAs have to be as Innovative as the Innovation 0

In the Google Community, The Next 7 Tools, I started a discussion on FMEA thinking it will be tool that will re-surface in popularity. It has been used quite extensively in manufacturing but I think it can be pushed into the fields of service and software.  It will need some refinement more towards Innovation and Design Thinking Concepts.Risk Management

FMEA: Failure Mode & Effects Analysis

Innovation, Lean Startup, Design Thinking and Disruptive Innovation are very much becoming ingrained as one of the ways we must conduct business. All of us claim to be Agile and Innovative. So it must be true, it is in every company’s mission and vision statement. Or, maybe we should call it their value proposition or their “Why”.

However, Risk Management is on everyone’s mind, even when managing your career path. When companies make choices they often take the path of least risk. I can relate this easily to HR Managers. Seldom do they hire the best person for the job, they normally hire the safest person. It goes back to that old saying that ‘No One Ever got fired for buying an IBM.”

When you view how decisions are being made, they are often involve committees or a better way of saying might be with many participants input. In this scenario, seldom will be risk be managed correctly. The safest choice even from the most innovative companies is likely to be chosen.

New technologies bring about new failures. Therefore the advancement of FMEA’s have to be as innovative as the innovations. Assessing risk then has to take on a multidisciplinary approach to address these challenges.

The traditional FMEA is a systematic approach that:

  • Prioritize risks associated with specific causes of failures.
  • Identifies the ways a process can fail to meet critical customer requirements.
  • Evaluate strengths and weaknesses of existing practices to prevent identified failures.
  • Evaluate strengths and weaknesses of existing practices managing identified failures.
  • Identify ways of eliminating or reducing the specific failures
  • Document a plan to prevent the failures

In simple terms, it allows you to anticipate problems so you can take steps to reduce the risks. It is just not about product. There are several types of FMEA to include, product, process, application and service.

What about a non-traditional FMEA approach that?

  • Prioritize risks associated with scenario-based causes of failures.
  • Identifies the ways a process will add complexity to a customer use.
  • Evaluate competencies of existing practices to carry out likely scenarios.
  • Evaluate competencies of existing practices to manage un-likely scenarios.
  • Identify ways of adjusting to the different outcomes.
  • Document a plan to deliver support to customer when un-likely scenarios occur.

Should FMEAs be restructured? Or, is there an alternative tool?

How Sur-Seal Became a Visual Organization 1

Mick Wilz, co-owner of Sur-Seal Corporation, began his own journey to personal and business excellence about five years ago by actively seeking a variety of tools to meet his needs and the needs of the business. He says, “My interest is to take tribal knowledge and make it visual and accessible to everyone.” Mick is the Director of Enterprise Excellence and Co-Owner of Sur-Seal Corporation. Mick Wilz

We talked about Mick’s journey in part one of the podcast. In the 2nd part of the podcast next week, I have Bob Petruska, author of Gemba Walks for Service Excellence: The Step-by-Step Guide for Identifying Service Delighters. talk about as a consultant how he might apply what he has learned from Mick to other organizations. Bob is phenomenal at leading change and his take on Mick’s journey was remarkable.

You can find both these guys on the same day and at the same place at the upcoming ASQ Charlotte Conference on April 8th, 2014. It will be held at the Harris Conference Center. Not that I am biased, but Bob and Mick’s track is called Keep Your Organization’s Chain Straight.


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OCD: Organize, Create and Discipline 0

Justin Klosky strives to help people find organizational discipline in their lives. Through his own obsessive Klosky-Colorcompulsive disorder (OCD) Klosky created the O.C.D. Experience.  Klosky and his team bring full-service organization to high-profile clients and businesses across the country.

Organize & Create Discipline: An A-to-Z Guide to an Organized Existence is Justin’s new book and a complete guide to getting and staying organized. The book is carefully arranged into more than 300 A-to-Z categories for everything from laundry to legal documents, shoes, toys, kitchen drawers, medicine cabinets, utility closets, overflowing email inboxes, and dozens of other sources of daily detritus. Klosky’s unique advice yields peace of mind and radically improves productivity.


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How Many Good Ideas are Lost because of a Poor Plan? 0

I feel like we spend a great deal of time re-naming or re-packing different processes and methodologies. Half of our arguments between these methods do little to improve either process. It is a shame because most have a lot to learn from the other. I can hardly think it will change; we have been doing it for centuries. Countries, religions and organizations have splinted apart and depending on if you’re looking at the glass half-empty or half-full; this evolvement could be called growth in some circles and in other circles, well let’s not name it.

In the broad scope of change efforts, there seems to be a new method developed daily. We could argue that it is needed in today’s world because of the ever growing complexity that is somehow being solved or attempting to be solved by big data. You would think big data would minimize complexity, but that is another blog post in itself.

Change is difficult. I always wonder why we complicate the process with untested processes. Why not use a process that works, so that your failure to change will be the result of the change not the process. Do I make sense? I learned this message in project management, and I apologize because I no longer remember where I heard this, but it went something like this, “How many good ideas are lost because of a poor plan”. I tried to Google it, but Obama Care was the first 80 million results. No kidding, try it.

The secret to having a chance in your change effort is to start with a plan that works. Lean, of course, in its most basic sense is nothing more than a change management system. Even as an avid follower of Lean, I still rely on another change formula that is well structured and has stood the test of time. It is very project-centered, well-scripted and flexible enough to be used in a variety of ways. It is John Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Change introduced in Leading Change. I wrote about how I use it in the blog post The Missing Link in Continuous Improvement SALES (Not What You Think).

As I have taken the time the last several years to spend more time with this method, I have become much more reliant upon in my everyday work. I use over and over again to assist companies internally and even more so externally in developing product platforms. I have included a shortened version of the mind map that I use and is not even a bad way of setting up a Trello board for a change effort. Let me know your thoughts?

Kotters 8 Step Change ProcessPDF Download of Mind Map

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Project Management: Competing for Someone’s Time 0

Bob Lewis, president of IT Catalysts and author of Bare Bones Project Management: What you can’t not do and Bare Bones Change Management: What you shouldn’t not do was part of a discussion with me on project and change management. An excerpt from the discussion is below. 

Joe:  People think that to manage a project that they can go to the cloud, or they can use software, and if they follow the procedure, that’s managing a project. Does your book, “Bare Bones” help me out somewhat with that? 

Related Transcript and Podcast: Similarities of Change and Project Management

Bob:  Actually, that’s a great question. Two things: Years and years ago, when I was actually employed and had to work for a living, I was invited to attend a meeting where we were presented with the company’s new project management standard. I listened to the whole thing, and it wasn’t that it was bad. It’s that it wasn’t project management; it was project administration. It was all about the tools for keeping track, and it kept track just as well as the project was on?track, or if it was off the rails. The standard worked just fine for administering.

Well, if you’re managing a project day-to-day, one of the reasons you have weekly status meetings, instead of weekly status updates, is in a meeting, anybody had who didn’t get their task done has to face the rest of the team and say, “I didn’t get the job done this week.” That creates peer pressure, because that’s an awful thing to have to say in public, so people will work really hard to not have that experience twice.

The other thing you asked about doing it in the cloud, I guess I’ll do a little plug for some friends of mine. I got a call not long after “Bare Bones” came out from a company called Team Dynamics. That’s what Team Dynamics does, project management solutions in the cloud. They had a client that was interested in their solution, but only if they could encapsulate the “Bare Bones” technique in their software.

So they contacted me, “Would that be OK?” I’m thinking, “Would that be OK? Very nice people, by the way, but they’ll be the first ones to tell you; they provide a solution for keeping track, having a great project plan, being able to update it, showing Gantt charts and all the rest of it. That’s very nice, but project management is an intensely human activity.

All of the keeping track in the world won’t get you beyond the team member who’s not performing. It wouldn’t get you beyond two team members who could perform separately, but they just can’t work together. It won’t get you past this point in the emotional development of a project team that I call “the pit of ultimate despair,” when you’ve been working hard, and you see no progress, and everybody is completely losing motivation and momentum.

None of that is going to be helped by the software. There’re baby-sittings involved here.

Related Transcript and Podcast: Similarities of Change and Project Management

Joe:  One of the things you point out is that project management is very little about the project; it’s more relationship management.

Bob:  A lot of it is. Inside the team, between team members, between the team and everybody outside, that’s a big, big piece of it. Let me tell you, two of the other biggest pieces, I figure, if you’re writing a project everybody understands what it’s for, very important, everybody knows what they’re supposed to be working on every day and when it’s due, something really basic like that. If a project manager knows how to handle the situation when somebody doesn’t get their task done. Which isn’t saying, “Oh, that’s OK, we’ll extend the schedule,” but sometimes it is, because sometimes the reason they didn’t get their task done is quite legitimate. You can’t just ask them to work harder, and more hours, and pick it up. It is knowing what to do each time based on the specifics of that situation.

If you can do those basic things, your projects will get done, probably. Well, there’s one missing piece, which is knowing how to say, “We’re done now.”

Related Transcript and Podcast: Similarities of Change and Project Management

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Does a Change Edict Work? 0

Joe:  David, you are saying that for change management that it’s not like we just throw everything away. We are keeping some of it and making an evolutionary change rather than an edict that this is what we’re going to do now.

I asked that question of David Anderson, a thought leader in managing effective technology development. David leads a consulting, training and publishing business at  David J, Anderson & Associates. David may be best known for his book, Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business. His answer is below.

Related Transcription and Podcast: Evolutionary Change thru Kanban

David Anderson: Very much. Certainly, my own approach is to say, “Let’s start with what you do now, and let’s assume that it’s not all broken and that there are a lot of babies in there with some bathwater, and we don’t want to throw everything away. We don’t want too big of an impact.” I’ll often talk about the J curve during a change initiative, where capabilities are impaired for some period of time. Performance goes down while you start to implement the change with the hope of creating greater capability and improved performance longer term.

If the bottom of that J is too deep or coming out of it takes too long, the senior executives simply run out of patience, and that’s when change initiatives get canceled. And often the change agent gets fired or benched within the organization, moved sideways, given a quiet desk in the corner. They keep their title and their pay grade, but they’re not given any real, meaningful work for the next nine months to one year.

I’m looking to avoid those things. But at the same time, I recognize that my own experience with change management on a larger scale is limited, that I haven’t had the opportunity in my career to be the CIO of a major IT department or the IT department of a major company, and my focus has mostly been on software product development and software maintenance and related services, not the wider IT organization.

I also recognize that the promise of evolutionary change, while we have plenty of case studies now from many parts of the world emerge at the conferences that we run, it’s often just a step too far for a lot of senior managers, that we’re asking them to make a leap of faith, and they’re not ready for it yet. So using less?scary language, “change management,” that’s something we feel they understand. They may well appreciate that their organization’s not good at it.

I feel that’s the area that needs addressing. So the focus is on asking people to consider developing a change?management capability in the same way that you would develop a testing capability or a database?administration capability or a user?interface?design capability. Only once you have a strong change?management capability would you undertake very large?scale change initiatives that you should scale the size of the change you’re willing to take on with your current capability.

For sure, if we said that, about anything else, testing, user-interface design, database administration, enterprise architecture, it seems so obvious. You wouldn’t try to do really large-scale enterprise architecture if you had no skill in it. But it is remarkable how many organizations take on very large?scale change initiatives despite no track record of having done it in the past and no demonstrable skills in managing change.

With that in mind, I’ve partnered with a really very well?known former CIO, Bob Lewis, of IT Catalysts in Minneapolis. Bob’s been well known for his “IT Survivor” book and his columns in various magazines over what must amount to a couple of decades. I believe that he’s written seven or eight books now.

A very recent one is called “Bare Bones Change Management,” where he lays out his framework for managing change in IT organizations, based on his experience of being a CIO and having to lead these kinds of initiatives and having to build up a change?management capability in order to be successful.

I think the combination of my evolutionary approach with Bob’s structured framework and his CIO-level experience is really a strong combination, and together we’ve created a package that will enable us to teach organizations to create effective change-management capabilities.

Then they can go ahead and pick whatever methods and techniques they want to adopt, and hopefully install those methods, techniques, and practices successfully rather than getting into the bottom of a J curve and panicking.

Related Transcription and Podcast: Evolutionary Change thru Kanban

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Interview Questions and Answers on Project Management, Part 2 0

In the a blog post early this week, Interview Questions and Answers on Project Management, I listed several questions that I have been asked on project management. I thought I would finish up the week with the rest of questions from the interview. Hope you enjoy! 

What part of this project most appeals to you? I enjoy working with businesses that have a business model and scaling them. I can add value to this project. I have worked with several consulting companies, mostly in the Quality fields. I understand training and the nuances of having successful practices.  Please review my website,, and I believe you will see my interest.

What challenging part of this job are you most experienced in? I have experience in combining core business strengths into a brand strategy. I recommend reviewing my eBook on this page,

Why do you think you are a good fit for this particular project? I have started and scaled several small businesses in my career and add a degree of practical experience that few can match. You may find a few smarter, and you will find a few with large company experience. However, you will find few with as diverse of a background in a small business as myself. I have started a company with 2 -file cabinets and took it to 5 million in three years. Took another company from 3 million to 12 million. I have worked with consultants, e-commerce platforms and opened up a retail store which my wife which we ran for 7 years. A lot of people can tell you what and how to do it. I believe that you need to "do it" and adjust to what you learn.

Do you have any project management experience? I am highly proficient in building workflows, information products and project plans.  My project management experience stems from website construction, newsletter delivery to Design and Operate management of multimillion dollar asphalt plants. I know how to construct, manage and complete projects. I have owned and managed companies from a distance and started companies with less than a file cabinet. I am a hands-on, walk the floor type person and enjoy understanding processes, people and what makes it all tick. I feel just as comfortable on the shop floor as I do a boardroom. I enjoy collaboration, teamwork and gain satisfaction on achieving mutual buy-in on projects and problems. 

I have built project plans in the creative environment and experienced with Microsoft Project, Scrum, Kanban, Agile and many other project methodologies and packages. I have training in Lean and Six Sigma that enhances my ability to understand, coordinate and improve workflows and project plans

Which part of this project do you think will take the most time? In convincing someone, the strategy is to listen to the marketplace versus pushing content to the market place. When organizations reach out for marketing assistance they are really looking for sales and conversions. So, focusing on this first is important but very tactical in nature. If sound strategies have been already developed and we can expand on improving them, we are fine. However, if the strategies have not worked, new ones will be needed, and as a result, new tactics. It boils down to what is the current state?  

Do you have suggestions to make this project run successfully? I use a project board that assists in making the project very transparent. Also, I recommend that each of us visit the board and comment daily or have a brief conversation daily. When looking at project I view it this way:

  1. Daily Meeting: Tactical (What roadblocks do I have?)
  2. Weekly Meeting Tactical (What resources do I need and will I have so we can prioritize the work based on what can be done versus what I would like to do)
  3. Monthly Meeting Strategic: Here is where we align and adjust strategy as needed. (At the beginning, we will need to be more strategic, but I encourage even startups to focus more on doing and learning rather than creating.)

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