Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Dodging the pandemic

If you're a PM running a project during the pandemic, you probably have one or more of these problems:
  • Supply chain issues: stuff is out of stock; stuff is not available on time; stuff costs more
  • Velocity and throughput issues: Throughput is slower to achieve; there's more overhead and NVA (non-value added)
  • Communication errors: Remote work is really work with restricted bandwidth; nothing really replaces the high-bandwidth of in-person person-to-person communications, formal and informal. Restrictions introduce timing errors; misunderstandings; information gaps
  • Matrix assignments: to keep people off overhead, they are assigned piecemeal to multiple projects. But this introduces commitment conflicts and start-stop inefficiencies
  • Innovation MIA(*): Most innovation is a beneficiary of a lot of informal collaboration that somehow surfaces a neat thing to do. Such may go MIA with remote working

So, what is to be done in such an environment as described above?

  • First, bring on the slack! You need to buffer every budget ... cost or schedule ... with slack (white space) that allows for the project to absorb small shocks in supply chain, velocity blips, resource conflicts, etc. Such a strategy is the essence of being "anti-fragile"
  • Second, be aware of -- and react to -- constraints (bottlenecks) that may move about ... here and then there ... as external circumstances change. You may need to be at the top of  your game applying the "theory of constraints" (**). 
  • Bring in redundancy and work-arounds to keep things moving. You may need back-up supply chain options, prototypes, and ability to work with reduced scope by applying redundant capabilities (instead of 10 blades in the rack, maybe you can work with just 6 that are essential)
  • Add excess bandwidth to facilitate increased informality and opportunity for interaction.

Bottom line: Make everyone in your chain aware of the lean-in you are doing so that there is confidence and support for your PMO.


(*) MIA: missing in action
(**) Read about Elihu Goldratt's "Theory of Constraints" on Wikipedia or elsewhere

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