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Right! After all the preparation and planning you now need to get on and deliver – it’s time to execute the project. To ensure this is undertaken as efficiently as possible, a range of activities can and should be undertaken.
Project Execution Tips: Tell Them Clearly what You Expect - Instruct Them...
The planning phase should have considered the specific phases, activities and milestones within the project. Alongside these factors people should have been identified to undertake specific tasks. Likewise, the resources needed to get the job done need to be thought about. Depending on the size of the project, a useful idea is to deploy some method of tasking. Here each phase or activity is clearly defined in sufficient detail, so individuals can go away and undertake the work.
There may be some standard processes for different technical activities. For example, a project for product development may broadly follow the design, development, prototype, test and manufacture process. It’s worth doing some preliminary research to ensure you are using best practice processes, which steer you efficiently to your goal. Tasks may also include decisions about outsourcing versus internal work.
Tasking may take the form of instruction sheets, job cards, or IT equivalents, where detailed instructions are listed and agreed. These give guidance to employees undertaking the work, as well as provide details such milestones, quality requirements, references to standards and communication expectations to stakeholders.
Engineering Project Execution Tips: Don't try and Do it All Yourself...You Can't!
Delegate activities to the project team, matching what needs to be completed to the skills available to you. Assigning the tasks should make best use of the strengths of the team. Communication between team members should be encouraged both informally, but also with some formal mechanism such as meetings, minutes, progress reports etc.
Engineering Project Execution Tips: Reviews aren't a 'nice to have' they're crucial...
Progress against planned activities can be checked with the task instruction sheet as the basis. Frequent meetings (weekly or fortnightly?) can be used to review and report on progress to date. For shorter, more urgent projects, daily meetings are common. These serve the double purpose of providing update reviews, as well as setting clear instructions looking forward.
The project manager can gather the team and ask questions about key stages, milestones, money spent, activities with suppliers etc. Meetings can be used to scrutinise technical decision making, quality, timeliness and costs. Just as importantly the meetings provide a useful opportunity to share ideas, solve problems, provide advice (based on experience), as well as offer guidance and instructions. The atmosphere of the meetings should be sufficiently informal so team members feel they can talk opening and discuss problems, with a view to resolving them. Avoid blame and negativity.
Meeting regularly will provide an opportunity to highlight problems and issues early, before they have a significant impact on the project. The experience of colleagues may provide solutions that can be applied quickly. Recommendations and ideas can be suggested, as can sources of research from the web, industry or academia.
Problem solving techniques should be considered, with an emphasis on creative solutions. Always consider how problems may impact other stages on the project plan and what the implications may be. Do you now need to inform other stakeholders?
Finally, as a last resort consider using any contingency you should have included in the planning – both time and resources. Group meetings can be augmented with 1-2-1 meetings if sensitive or personal issues, particularly related to performance, need to be addressed.
Engineering Project Execution Tips: Break the Project Down into Manageable Chunks...
During regular review meetings focus on the project milestones. These are points within projects where the output is a defined deliverable – something tangible, like drawings, a report, prototype parts, an assembly or a review gate within a project. Milestones break projects up into manageable chunks. They focus attention, enabling progress to be measured and communicated to others.
Milestones often take place at review gates, which exist between separate stages of the project. Reviews may focus on technical issues, costs, time or quality. Alternatively, all or a combination of these may be considered. Review gates may generate additional tasks to solve problems or reduce risks. During planning, the end of each distinct project phase may provide the natural place for review gates. On the other hand they may be placed before critical decision or activity points.
Consider developing check sheets with questions specific to the project, to use during milestone reviews.
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