How to Practice Continuous Process Improvement as a PM
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes
As a project manager, it can feel risky to try new processes – especially when it comes to development work. No two projects are exactly alike, so it’s hard to come up with some new way of doing things that can translate to future projects. To top it off, there’s way to split test. You can only assume how the project would have gone had you done it the old way.
All that aside, you can’t hope to improve if you let the fear of failure get in the way of trying something different. Sure, your first time out may not work, but you’ll learn something valuable along the way (even if it’s never to try that method again). That being said, some projects are good candidates for process testing, while others are not. Start by establishing some base-line criteria for potential test projects. Here is mine:
- Project deadline is not tight – new processes always take a little longer to work through than older ones because of learning curves. You also want to account for mid-process changes. This is really more a method of discovery than experimentation. A change along the way may be the difference between failure and success. A comfortable timeline is key.
- Client relationship is open – everyone hopes that all of our relationships with clients are open, but some are more willing to let you try something new than others. It’s important to be upfront about new processes that may affect client projects. Get their buy-in first. If a project goes wrong because of an untested process, anyone would feel mistreated if they didn’t know about it. Be prepared to sell the client on the process by pointing out the benefits they’d enjoy in the long term, be it reduced costs or quicker turnaround times. Explain the goals and get them on board. You may also want to let them know that you hope to get some feedback at the end regarding the new process. That way, they’ll be ready to provide you with some valuable information.
- Team buys in to idea – process improvement should be driven by the people that use it. Top-down implementation has its challenges, especially when the goals of the new method are unclear to the team. If the project team buys into the experiment, then it’s much more likely they’ll follow the new procedures and be genuinely interested in its success.
- Clear goals and need for improvement – don’t waste time or take risks if they outweigh the marginal benefits. Sometimes “good enough” really is good enough. Make sure you know exactly what you want to get out of the improved method. This will make it easier to analyze the results in the end.
- Results are trackable – this goes hand-in-hand with having clear goals. In the end, you want to be able to answer the critical questions, “Did we do what we set out to do?” Maybe you did, or maybe you didn’t but can make some improvements. You won’t know if you can’t track the results. You should pair your success criteria with how you plan to measure them. Establish this before the project begins.
Most importantly, never be afraid to try something new. Success is 1 achievement with a lot of screw ups. Failure is giving up or never trying.