Rationale behind this Project Management Methodology


A lot of people like to start projects rather than planning them with the theory that time spent planning delays the start and hence, the finish of a project. While the former is true, does proper planning really delay the end of a project? And it’s the end that really matters isn’t it? That is when most companies finally get the payback for their investment. Whether it is a New Product Development project that finally makes sales, a Process Improvement project that finally starts saving money, a Customer Order project that satisfies an influential customer, a Facilities project that opens up a new production line ora Regulatory project that allows us to continue selling our product, we get the payoff when the project completes, not when it starts.

Think of it in simpler terms: If your job is to visit one of your customers on Chicago’s South Side, you could fly into O’Hare and start driving south hoping to spot the customer or you could look them up on a map or plug them into your GPS before starting out. A few minutes of planning saves hours of fruitless searching. Projects are no different, just bigger.

There are many types of project planning methodologies but the methodology taught and executed by Bruce Fieggen for the last 30 years has saved hundreds of clients millions of hours of effort and hundreds of millions of dollars. It relies on two important aspects of successful projects: Accurate Progressive Elaboration of the completed project and Commitments made during planning and lived up to during execution.

Progressive Elaboration: Complex projects seem overwhelming to those on the inside but Bruce Fieggen specializes in gathering the full team to envision the end of the project and what the project hands over to the production group. Then this is broken down into Deliverables (the tangible results of the project effort that one can see, touch or click on). These deliverables are further broken down into Activities which are given owners who in turn commit to the duration and predecessors. These Activities are linked together in a full Schedule that indicates, from the bottom up, when the project will be complete.

Commitments: Commitments made in front of others are more lasting than those made one-on-one or not at all. That’s why marriages, religious coming of age ceremonies, inductions into office, etc. are always performed in public. People are making a commitment in front of their peers that we expect them to live up to. The same philosophy works in project management. Team Members need to commit to the ownership and duration and cost of multiple activities. Just handing them a completed schedule with their names on activities does not equate to commitment. We need them to say in front of the entire team that they will do this. That is why having the entire team present at a project planning session is so valuable. And that is why these commitments are made voluntary. Rather than assigning activities, we ask who will do this and look for people to volunteer. This is a powerful tool when it comes time to complete this activity because they remember volunteering in front of the entire team. It takes a few minutes to get people into the mode of volunteering and requires a bit of peer pressure at first but teams never fail to commit to every activity on each project.

The Team Building that occurs when people spend all day seeing the complexities of a project and watching each other commit to multiple activities and working together to craft a schedule that meets the customer needs is invaluable. It is certainly worth the investment of two days of time away from executing the project and the costs of flying them into a central location, putting them up in a hotel room and feeding them. Bruce has rarely seen this cost exceed 2% of the overall project budget and always sees the payoff in larger than 2% of budget and time saved.

Bruce has run over 300 project planning sessions over the thirty years he has been using this methodology and has received nothing but praise from his clients for the clarity this gained them in the project’s complexities, the commitment the team members give in completing their activities on time and budget and, most importantly, the success in meeting timelines and budgets of projects.