Planning, Avoiding Rework, and Getting 40% Savings in Projects

By Carol A Long

On my travels I spotted a hotel advertising “lounge food”. That obviously means something to them. For me, it is something to label as “jargon”. Do they mean nibbles to eat relaxing on a sofa? Or would it be sandwiches, cup cakes and cream teas? Are they recreating historic banquets lounging in Romanesque opulence? Is this a reflection of the modern habit of eating in front of the TV rather than at a dining table?

As project managers our use of jargon can cause issues we could avoid: “stakeholder management” is a defined process which doesn’t mean the same to some. The need for precision in language is more important in defining the measures by which you know something is complete – project or product.

What does commissioned, usable or handover mean? How do you define acceptable performance or customer satisfaction? By carefully defining the detailed qualities and aspects of what you are delivering, and how you will measure that and when. This is work that often gets forgotten in the “just get on with it” cultures of some organizations.

It is worth remembering that the Olympic development projects used a 2:4:1 approach. Two years planning and defining, four years of delivery and a year of testing. Late delivery or failure would have been catastrophic for the organizations involved, so planning was seen as vital. I know from the discussions with some of the project managers that the planning and defining was not all done first but very little was started without being fully defined (including handover and legacy). There was also very little waste or rework.

By comparison, I have worked with a number of organizations that use a ratio of 1:6:3 (and they are not the worst). Their lack of planning means they do at least 50% rework, have to spend considerably more on testing to make sure the errors don’t get out and retesting after rework. Defining what you are doing, how you test it, and ensuring that the measures you’ll use are worth the investment all mean about a 40% saving on the overall cost of the project.

© 2012 Carol A Long, All Rights Reserved

Carol A Long is Principal Consultant of Three Triangles Performance Ltd ( based in England providing programme and project management consulting and interim management. Carol specialises in the corporate governance aspects of project management, improving project management practices in organisations, and turnarounds of challenged business critical change and transformation programmes. She has written parts of the international project management standards for professional bodies in USA and Europe. Before founding 3Triangles in 2006, Carol had 21 years experience with multinational organisations in software development, quality improvement and management, and coaching project and programme managers.

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