Do What is Right – Always!

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it.  It is what the client or customer gets out of it.”
Peter Drucker, “Father of Modern Management” (November 1909 – November 2005)

At Slalom we have embraced Mr. Drucker’s quality focus with our key values, which revolve around the simple mandate: Do what is right for the client – Always!  If our customers are not realizing value, then we have not delivered quality.  To be certain though, there are always challenges to quality delivery.  As top consultants, Slalom teams need to be masters of quality delivery, and therefore need to understand the potential for under-delivery.

There are many ways a project can under-deliver.  Initiatives may go “off the rails” temporarily or may never complete successfully.  Projects may extend significantly beyond established budgets and schedules – sometimes with and sometimes without approval.  The project may complete on time and on budget, but may deliver a product that is not what was asked for or which does not return the value expected.

Slalom Consultant Tim Powell

Slalom Consultant Tim Powell is based in Los Angeles. His expertise includes program/project management methodology, software development lifecycles, and process and solution quality.

One of the clearest ways to stay on course for quality delivery is to maintain tight links to one’s customers.  It is easy to pay lip service to a focus on the customer.  However, meeting customer expectations is another thing altogether.  Therefore, we suggest several things to help maintain close linkages and active focus on quality.

First, to borrow a phrase from Stephen Covey, project managers should “begin with the end in mind.”  That end should include satisfied customers.  To ensure that this happens, one should properly identify and incorporate customers into the project’s governance structure.

Another tip is to actively manage with the tools of the trade.  Many are familiar with the aphorism that we must “plan the work and work the plan.”  To translate: having a solid, leveled, and base-lined work plan does little good if it is not continuously used to track work; and if we are to do work, the effort extended must be directed by the plan (and not ad-hoc).   Similarly, creating a  detailed stakeholder analysis at the onset of a project is not assurance for customer engagement and alignment.  The key is to make sure to follow up on the initial stakeholder analysis, and plan for frequent interaction with customers and end-users.

Below are several other key practices that can be used to help ensure a quality outcome in the eyes of your customers.

  • Include customer satisfaction metrics in project manager evaluation criteria – Nothing helps ensure a certain behavior more than the proper set of metrics.  If a goal is to make sure customers are satisfied, a PM will have more incentive to drive that criterion if measured at least partially by customer satisfaction metrics.
  • Use a sound sponsor and stakeholder selection process – It is important on a project of any size to identify the right stakeholders who will participate in the project.  On some large programs, it is not possible to get everyone to participate, therefore, a clear method and process for stakeholder selection is critical.
  • Establish stakeholder goals and expectations – Getting something down on paper does wonders for clarifying what is otherwise assumed.  Leverage a project charter to capture project goals, objectives and details around scope.  Critical success factors can be added to ensure that stakeholder expectations are met.
  • Be Thorough In Your Communication Plan – A solid communications plan should be part of any major project.  A project manager should ensure that all key stakeholders are targeted in communications.  Communications should be clear, frequent, and should seek feedback.  A mechanism for collecting and acting on feedback should also be put in place.
  • Frequently Follow-Up On Stakeholder Goals And Expectations – At a regular interval, review the stakeholder goals and expectations with the affected stakeholders.  Make sure that actionable feedback is incorporated in the your project’s risk or issue logs or project plan.
  • Employ the concept of “Validation” throughout the project – Key quality practices include both Verification and Validation.  Verification answers the question “Did we build it right?” It includes activities like peer reviews and system testing.  Validation answers the question “Did we build the right thing?”  Validation needs to be performed early and often – through requirements walkthroughs, screen and report mock-ups and prototyping.  At every key stage of a project, customers should be prompted to answer the question: “Are we building the right thing?”

While few of us will have the opportunity to impact modern management the way Peter Drucker did, we can continue to leverage his wisdom.  To paraphrase Mr. Drucker, at Slalom we see ourselves as Project Leaders who do the right things, not just as project managers who do things right.  Do the right thing – Always! Focus on your customer.

Authors: Tim Powell and Carl Manello

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About Carl M. Manello
I am Slalom Consulting's Practice Lead for Delivery Effectiveness. I work to support organizations' capability and delivery maturity -- not just IT organizations -- so that their initiatives run more predictably, efficiently and provide the best results.

One Response to Do What is Right – Always!

  1. Tony Troup says:

    Concur with all. Nice work guys.

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