Search My Blog & Website

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Cookie Cutter Project

We all come across these straight forward projects, right? The project that was done half a dozen times before, that it almost feels like an operation to the project team. Deploying a new infrastructure at the fifth location of the company, or extending an automated software application service to a new region after three successful deployments elsewhere. Sounds familiar?

Many project teams come across these cookie cutter projects each year, and also many of them end up having a hiccup. NASA shuttle program is one well publicized example. It was not the first few times a mission was launched when it blew up into flames. The program has been very successful for years with dozens of missions. Smaller projects experience the same. Several things project teams need to keep in mind with cookie cutter projects are:

Projects are Projects
A project is still a project, even if done before in a similar context. the fact that a scope of work has been identified by someone as a project means it inherently has some risk, and is deemed by the some in the organization to require closer baby-sitting than a typical operation. On a recent project I was leading for a high tech materials company supply chain, the team viewed the project as a cookie cutter and saw no need for tight toll gates, reviews and checks and balances. After all it was their fifth time to deploy this service for ordering the end product by their business customers. It took extensive coaching and education to explain to the team that if the project came to us, it means that the supply chain service line, as well as the IT PMO have determined it unique enough to be staffed as a project, rather than an operation.

Identical is not Similar
Studying geometry in eight grade was not a total waste for those who did not end up studying engineering. Similar and identical triangles are not the same. Unless a project is identical, to a previous project it should be considered unique and requires progressive analysis. Similar projects will have one-off requirements, or some special handling, or a change that occurred since the latest iteration of the similar project. This is exactly what happened with my project, during the time between the latest deployment at location A and the deployment at location B was five months. A couple of key processes changed across the the supply chain on the other side of the ocean. This change added risk and requirements that location A did not need to deal with. the project team for location B was not aware of this enterprise level change. Similar is not identical.

Humility Pays Back
We all are well aware of Titanic, the vessel that supposedly would survive a crisis in the middle of the water. Watching reconstruction videos of airplane mishaps occurring 40,000 feet high over a vast ocean, and how these failures were resolved has been not only intriguing for me as an engineer and project manager, but also an eye opener. No matter how advanced we human beings become, no matter how many sensors we have on an aircraft, or an Internet of Things (IoT), we will never beat the power of unknowns and unseen, nature and the Creator's will. Humility in dealing with projects' technical scope, technology, science, external factors, human behavior and automated electronic processes that usually run in the background undocumented properly is just good business sense at minimum.

So a cookie cutter project is more than a cookie, its a cake with some custom toppings that could mess up the whole cake if not properly placed.

Enjoy the cake !

No comments: