Project Management to the Rescue: A Company's Success Brought in Numerous New Projects, but It Lacked a Process to Effectively Complete and Deliver Them

By Balakian, Wes | Talent Development, March 2017 | Go to article overview

Project Management to the Rescue: A Company's Success Brought in Numerous New Projects, but It Lacked a Process to Effectively Complete and Deliver Them


Balakian, Wes, Talent Development


A large oil and gas manufacturing company in Houston has been doing a great job at beating the competition and growing at a pace that is unheard of in the current economy. Despite gas prices dropping, oil and gas rig counts falling, and layoffs occurring daily at its competitors, this company was growing at 15-20 percent a year and hiring, not laying off, people. The company's success is attributed to delivering consistent high quality. Its customers come back time after time because they know the work will get done correctly and with the best quality in the business.

However, as the saying goes, "What got you here is not going to get you there." The organization realized it fell short when it came to strategy, process, and project management. Although doing many things well, it was not prepared to grow, to innovate, or to leverage new technology.

The problem was that the company had no control of project management best practices; had little strategic planning in place or practiced; and, although it had good work processes on the manufacturing floor, the operational aspect was in need of some project management training and application. It was in need of a process to complete and deliver projects.

For example, the company needed to update one of the processes it used to prepare its tubes for an injection process. On the surface that sounds easy until you add in all of the complexities and other details that I won't go into here. The problem involved a 1.5-year project to implement a new piece of equipment that would increase overall production capabilities by more than 40 percent. Indeed, this was a huge change and project.

The organization had a constant struggle with scope, time, and cost. Quality is the number one objective and core value of the organization, while the other sides of the project management triangle (see figure below) always were jeopardized, compromised, and underrecognized. This began causing conflict among the different departments and led to a lot of chaos and heroics to get work accomplished.

This is where I came in. I spent the first few weeks on-site analyzing the operating procedures that were in place, which was followed by completing an assessment in the form of individual interviews of management, middle management, operations, and manufacturing personnel. All of the questions were designed to draw out the "understanding or lack of' for a project management process within the company.

When an organization begins to focus too much in one area, there tends to be other aspects of the operation that suffer. Just like in project management, when one side of the project management triangle changes, the other two are affected. For example, when scope changes, then cost goes up or down and the schedule is reduced or increased.

The company realized that from past experience it was easy to accumulate a large number of projects that all seemingly need to be completed. To apply good project management techniques, one of the first steps is to organize and prioritize projects. After becoming almost paralyzed with too many projects and no time to complete them, the company completed a "project purge,' which culled the project list from more than 90 to 15 or so.

Next, the organization needed a way to prioritize and strategically align projects to the organization's objectives. What it also realized is that just hiring a project manager would not help them understand how to prevent this from happening again, from always having a tremendous amount of scope creep and not aligning the projects to strategy.

The plan

Rather than the company hiring a project manager right away, my team and I recommended a different approach: work on some internal processes, implement coaching and mentoring of the entire team, figure out why there isn't alignment, and fix some of the root causes. Then it could bring in a seasoned project manager who could take the new system and manage it. …

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