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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Project planning for the Start up Company

Some lessons learned from the front lines of entrepreneurship

I have led a lot programs in my time, plant construction, process improvement, budgeting, recruitment, Production capacity ramp, outsourcing...etc and the one thing that I have learned above all others is to keep the key milestones in a simple project plan format, it is cool for the techies to be using MS Project etc, but the only thing as a leader that you want to know about is the key milestones and are they red or green. I have been bogged down in the details of where we get the PTFE piping and who is going to weld it, or where are we going to get the black boxes for moving the widgets around the room etc...these things are all well and good and some things can be sexy, like the new piece of equipment that shows you how the edge of the PLC waveguide looks at the level of molecular adhesion....but does it really matter to the top line milestones, No, your company needs a product/ service to go out the door on a certain time at a certain cost, and that is where your focus should be

But does it stop there ?

Now I know that there will be folks out there that have been bitten in the bum by assuming something was thought about in the early planning stages of a project and you find out that it wasn't, or a small detail falls through the crack like the black boxes for the widgets, so you will be saying but I need to know the detail so I know it is getting done correctly, if that is you stand up and slap your face, wake up, you PAY other folks to do that planning for you, unless you are the T-E-A-M in the team then OK you do :) but for most folk they have hired competent people they can trust to do there jobs and to plan correctly. I still hear some folks saying but folk make mistakes so I need to check in detail what they are doing, if that's you then add to your job title: MICRO MANAGER/RESOURCE WASTER, that is not what you have to do here are the key things you have to do:

Define the project and scope

  • What it is you want to accomplish
  • When you want to accomplish the program by
  • Ball park figures in costs to be incurred
  • Level of priority the project is ( if you have 10 No 1 priority project none will get done on time)
  • Define the method of reporting back the progress
  • Define the correct period between standard reviews (I.e give enough time for progress to be made)
  • Identify a project leader

Behind this you need to supply the tools for the folks to manage there part of the program, now this can be Prince 2 or PDMA training , or it can be simple excel charting, personally if you are building a nuclear submarine then Prince 2 will work, if you are developing your first or second widget then probably excel or if you are a techie MS Project will do, the key is to keep it easy to update and present from, you do not want your Project leader spending a lot off time preparing presentations or updating MS project, you want him to be managing your project. I agree that there may be a need for some formal training as a company grows, but do not let it slow the organization down.

So to close for today, KISS in all your planning, and as a leader look at the key milestones and have confidence in the process you have in place and the people you have hired to deliver.

I would be interested in your own idea's...



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