Be careful how you define "waste"
Michael Krigsman has a nice summary of an academic article he found about project management, Six lessons for intelligent project management:
Traditional approaches can isolate project goals from business outcomes. The solution is bringing project managers closer to those working in lines of business.
Be sure to jump ahead to page 2 for details around the six lessons. Here they are in brief:
- Having staff wait for work is better than having work wait for staff.
- Multitasking is more prevalent and more harmful than anyone thinks.
- Eliminate “apple polishing.”
- Don’t overdefine the tasks.
- Be aggressive about business improvement.
- Provide a holistic view for all team members.
I love these. I've touched upon all of these over the years in this blog, and these are certainly elements of discussion with clients in project organizations.
I particularly like the wording of #1. The belief that "idle" people is an evil to be eliminated means that organizations jam more and more work into the system - generating item number 2: multitasking. And with so much work in the system, people have no idea what is important or what should be worked on next: they just have a long list of things to be done and work on the things that they enjoy (or that are associated with the current yelling project manager). This means that all those other tasks associated with all the projects that have been jammed into the system just sit there, waiting for someone to pay attention. Project-based organizations don't succeed by having lots of projects running. They succeed by finishing projects that their customers want.
Idleness is not always a waste in project environments (or manufacturing environments). The waste happens when valuable work sits idle, waiting for people. Be careful how you define these things. Be careful what you look for.
[Photo: "No Idling" by Rob Friesel]
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