Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Three Tactics to Keep Project Activities Moving

electronic personal kanban

Regardless of the Project Management system, activities sometimes sit in the queue or in-process for extended periods of time. A few keys to keeping tasks moving to accelerate accomplishment are:

  • Break up larger activities into smaller subtasks. For example: break “resolve content management system issue” into “investigate CMS issue”, “identify possible fix”, “apply fix”, “verify the problem is resolved”.
  • Make the system more visible. The advantage of whiteboard systems is they are in line of sight more than electronic systems that are multiple clicks away. What gets watched often gets improved. The down side of physical systems, is they may not be portable and visible from other locations or by other people at a distance.
  • Collaborate with or solicit help from other people with more expertise or knowledge about the subject matter. Often technical people feel they are responsible for resolving issues themselves. Don’t be an Answer-Man Super Hero.

Lean Project Management is a comprehensive methodology based on Lean principles to minimize Work in Process (WIP) while maximizing valuable project completion.

There are a variety of tools that can help facilitate a Lean Project Management process. You can use spreadsheets, databases, Personal Kanban white boards, or any of the commercial or open source software based systems. Recently I have been experimenting with flow.io because of its simplicity. Cautionary note: Lean Project Management is about much more than a tool or software product.

No Lean system or process is perfect right out of the box. It is important to start simple and jump in and start learning your way to a system that meets your needs and the needs of your stakeholders.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Using Lighting Systems to Guide Standard Work

Several years ago I was working with a supplier to help them reduce the rate of defects to their customer. One of the specific defects was the parts packed on the pallet out of sequence. Their customer assembles products on a line where each product on the line is a different part number. The supplier’s objective was to pack the subassemblies on pallets in a sequence synchronized with the order their customer was building their product.

To make matters worse, each of the supplier’s customers worked in a different sequenced order when taking the components out of the pallets. Some customers took the subassemblies off the pallet in a counter-clockwise direction, others clockwise, or in a z-pattern. This made it too easy for the supplier line workers to accidentally pack the parts out of sequence. One misplaced part could cause a lot of expensive downtime to investigate and resolve.

I proposed a process at the supplier’s packing station that projected light into the correct position in the pallet to place the next subassembly (based each customer’s specifications) in the correct sequence order. It was a system similar to the one in the video - but they weren’t making mixed drinks.