In a perfect world, projects are planned with sufficient time given for each task. However, in today’s business market, “faster is better”. With increased competition in the market place, companies are being pressured to bring products and services to market within shorter intervals. This is having a direct effect on Project Managers, their teams, and the methods they use to effectively meet the Triple Constraints.
The Project Management Institute (PMI®) has identified “Crashing” and “Fast Tracking” has two effective ways to manage projects, which need to be implemented with compressed durations. (PMI, 2000 p75) It has been my experience that these methods require skillful Project Management and Leadership skills with a strong focus on communication management to be successful.
The strategies outlined in this paper for managing shorten interval projects are based on the author’s experiences project managing a 35 million dollar technology project for a major financial institution. The customer’s due date allowed for only 1/3 of the estimated time required to deploy the highly complex customized IT solution. In the end, the project successfully met the customer’s requested due date, all quality standards, was under budget, and won awards from both the client and her company for above and beyond expectations on a project.
The “Competitive Advantage” in the Market place
In today’s market place, there is a competitive advantage given to companies and project managers who can deliver goods and services at a rate that matches the needs of the business world. The race to deploy new products and services seems to be speeding up at a staggering rate. Every business, from Software companies to car manufactures, seem to be constantly unveiling their “new and improved” version of the last model. Penetrating the market first with new products can directly effect how much market share is gained. Deploying a product months after your competitor can translate into large numbers in lost revenue. Similarly, whether your project is related to upgrading networks, construction, or implementing policies, the common customer due date is “yesterday”.
As a project manager, helping our clients meet their tight time constraints provides a competitive advantage to both the companies we work for and our clients. It is a win-win combination. Arie de Geus, author of “The Living Company”, stated, “The only sustainable competitive advantage is the ability to learn faster than the competition.” Gues, A. (2005). I believe this also means learning to “do things faster” than the competition. But doing things faster involves more than the element of speed. I believe it involves both strong leadership and disciplined Project Management activities. These skills are necessary to effectively implement the two methods PMI suggests for managing project with compressed durations. These two methods are called Crashing and Fast Tracking (PMI, 2000 p.75).
PMI Definitions of Crashing and Fast Tracking Methods
Methods for Shortening a Project Schedule
As discussed earlier, there are two major strategies PMI identifies as effective ways to reduce a project schedule, Crashing and Fast Tracking (PMI, 2000 p75). I utilized both methods on my project to meet tight time constraints. However, before we look at how these methods were used in my project, first let’s define the methods and provide the positive and negative outputs of the strategies.
Definition of the Crashing Method
PMI defines Crashing as “Taking action to decrease the total project durations after analyzing a number of alternatives to determine how to get the maximum duration compression for the least cost” (PMI, 2000 p.200). An example of Crashing would be to add more resources or provide overtime (PMI, 2000 p75). The positive output from this method can provide a shorter interval for the project. However, it should be noted that crashing a schedule can lead to increased costs (PMI, 2000 p75).
Definition of the Fast Tracking Method
PMI defines Fast Tracking as “Compressing the project schedule by overlapping activities that would normally be done in sequence, such as design and construction” (PMI, 2000 p75). Although this method can result in a shorten project schedule, it should be mentioned that often Fast Tracking can lead to rework and usually increases risk” (PMI, 2000 p75).
Both Crashing and Fast Tracking are two methods used to perform duration compression in a schedule (PMI, 2000 p75). However, there are potential increased costs and other risks that need to be taken into consideration and managed. It is up to the project manager to discuss stakeholder risk tolerance with respect to crunching time frames. It is possible that a customer may not view an additional $50,000 as too high a price to pay for launching a product/service six months ahead of their competitor allowing them to penetrate the market first and gain market share. But simply adding more money to the project is not enough. When implementing these time management strategies, I recommend, based on experience, that you focus on two paths: strong Leadership skills and disciplined project management of activities.
Two Paths to Walk: Management and Leadership
As Peter F. Drucker pointed out “ Management is doing things right, leadership is doing right things” Drucker, P (2005). He effectively points out that there is a difference between Management and Leadership. I believe both skills are needed to successfully implement a time management technique that shortens a project’s schedule. Management of project areas, such as scope, risk, quality, time, and cost are definitely key to successfully bringing a project in on due date. However, it also requires a successful leader to motivate a team to work in a manner which will cause the project to meet is challenging end date. This idea is also supported by Kotter who ” distinguishes between leading and managing while emphasizing the need for both: one without the other is likely to produce poor results” (PMI, 2000 p.24) Subcategories of the Leadership path and Management path are outlined below with more detail provided in the actual presentation then can be provided in this paper due to space restrictions.
- Mission Possible Leadership Vision.
- Motivating your team to believe it can be done!
- Communication strategies.
- Tight Scope Statement;
- Risk Management;
- Change Management;
- Quality Management;
- Stress management.
In the presentation, “Mission Possible: Effectively Managing a Crashed and Fastracked Shorten Interval Project” examples are given of project experiences that co-relate to each of the subcategories below on the Leadership Path and the Project Management Path. For the purposes of this paper, a brief highlight of the topic will be given with further elaboration to be given with examples a the conference presentation.
Behind every good project, a great leader should be found. Lack of leadership vision can have detrimental effects on a project and opportunities could be lost. Consider this statement from the Western Union Internal Memo 1876, “The ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us” (Western Union Internal memo 1876, 2005). The ability to be an innovator and see beyond the challenges and focus on the goal is an attribute that makes a successful Project Manager.
Motivating your team to believe it can be done
Shorten interval projects are riddled with risks and can be difficult to work on. For that matter, the project manager has an important task to motivate the project team. John Woods eloquently pointed out that “You don’t motivate people. You influence what they’re motivated to do.” (Woods, 2005) More information and real life experiences will be elaborated on during the presentation.
It has been my experience that communication is one of the main components that can affect the success a project. To be successful on time crunched projects, I suggest:
- Crashing and Fastracking requires co-ordination;
- Communicate in detail;
- Communicate daily with the internal key team if necessary;
- Secure handoffs from one department to next to save time;
- Communicate to next involved department that the work is coming;
- Secure resources in advance;
- Be proactive ensuring senior management is aware to gain support in advance to reduce escalation.
Past projects have taught me the importance of having strong project management in the areas of Scope, Risk, Change, Time, and Cost Management is key. Below you will find a highlight for each topic with more elaboration given in during the presentation.
Tight Scope Statement
- It is crucial to have a tight Scope Statement signed off by the customer;
- You need to clearly identify what the scope of the project is so you can focus on the tasks, and only the tasks that will produce the requested product;
- Protect yourself from scope creep. Any changes that happen to the scope of the project should follow Change Management to verify if any of the triple constraints are affected by the change in scope.
The occurrence of risks can threaten delivering your project on schedule.
- Make sure you have identified all possible known risks and created a contingency plan should the risk occur.
- Remember unknown unknown risks do occur. In the project highlight in this paper, we encountered a flood, fires and an electrical blackout thought the province during the implementation phase.
- Involve the customer in identifying and building the risk strategies. This will help them to understand the implication and possibilities of the risks. This will also help to manage the customer’s expectations when unplanned events occur.
Projects, which require a compressed schedule, can often require two types of Change Management. One form is the mindset change management and the other form is related to scope changes.
In the case of Fast Tracking, people are going to be asked to complete tasks in a different sequence than they are normally required. This may require strong leadership skills to motivate the project team to work in a manner or order that is different from what they are accustomed.
Mindset Change Management
- From experience, I want to stress that effective and consistent communication is necessary when implementing a time management technique such as Fast Tracking or Crashing.
- The team also needs to clearly understand what the end goal is and why it is important.
- It is necessary to follow strict scope management.
- If the change request affects your ability to bring the project in on the same scheduled date, need to explain the impacts of the change to the customer and negotiate a new date. Otherwise, you are setting your project up for possible failure.
- Does your shorten interval effect the amount of testing time that it takes to complete all the quality checks?
- If so, check if the customer will give your project the needed time it takes to complete the quality tests…I was able to negotiate an additional week.
- Quality checks and testing is often an area this is overlooked with shortening a schedule. Make sure the customer is aware of the risks and clarify the quality standards.
When project managing a highly stressful project, such as one with crunched time frames, you need to take care of yourself. This is a topic you don’t find in most Project Management books. But if the leader is not healthy, it could affect their ability to lead the team and in turn the success of the project.
- Eat healthy foods for energy – diet cannot be coffee and muffins!
- Exercise to relieve stress
- Try to balance sometime for your family and friends.
If you say you don’t have time to take care of yourself, think about this quote:
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo de Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein”. (Brown, 2005)
In conclusion, Crashing and Fast Tracking involves more than adding resources or completing tasks in parallel. These 2 methods of time management require:
- Strong Leadership skills to empower and motivate your team with the vision;
- Respect the team members and understand their stress;
- Communicate well and listen better!
- Follow the PMI process planning to control your scope, manage risk, ensure quality, manage cost and time,
- Take care of yourself during the process!
- Reward the team after the accomplishment!
Time is a precious commodity in both our professional and personal worlds. We are fortunate to have careers that teach how to reach our goals…we just call them milestones and objectives. Life is a series of projects – marriage project, children project, health project, personal finance project, business project etc. To balance all, we need time management skills, as we are all often working with crunched schedule even in our personal lives.
Remember, have a vision, communicate often and in detail, understand your stress and others, manage the task to achieve all goals personal and professional.