Project Take Off and Landings

The way that we plan the initiation of our projects, as well as the way we intend to complete them can make a huge difference to their performance. For many improvement projects there needs to be a flurry of activity at the start and the end in order for the project to be delivered effectively.

Many projects start slowly. They don't really gather pace until people have figured out what they are doing, usually several weeks into a project. This lost time means that the back end of a project is then pressurised. Corners are often cut and either the project misses the mark, or it overruns due to the need to make up lost time.

This 'take off' and 'landing' of project isn't dissimilar to how aeroplanes behave. To take off and gain altitude they accelerate hard. Once they have reached altitude they cruise, before planning their descent. Depending on how the aircraft is designed they may also power up the engines to use their thrust reverser to slow the plane down upon landing. In summary they increase their activity to take off, they cruise for the middle part and then they are engaged in focused activity again to help with landing. Translated to projects this means that we need to spend more detailed time with the first part of the project after it is launched. The project can cruise for a pre-determined duration in the middle (when everything is on track) and then detailed attention can be paid once again to ensure that the project closes out properly.

Checklists are a great tool to help with both the take off and landing parts of a project. A little bit more time invested at the start of a project can make a massive difference to how a project winds up at the end. They may take a little bit of time to prepare, and may seem a little boring to use, but they are a really effective business tool that's for sure.

Many improvement projects fade away rather than close down, so a proper 'landing' for a project is vital. If you're struggling with projects working properly then perhaps it is time to take a leaf out of an aeroplane's book.

Giles Johnston
...optimising MRP systems and re-engineering business processes