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This report discusses a project that was undertaken at the author’s workplace with their participation. It aimed to improve the performance of an underperforming department, which the team resolved to do through the elimination of inefficiencies. With that said, the project was constrained by a low budget, which limited the scope of available changes and led the team to concentrate on smaller opportunities over large structural ones. The project concluded upon resolving ten of the thirteen issues identified, but it was later found that it did not achieve its stated objectives. The reasons for this failure were overly optimistic management expectations, which set high goals with a low budget, and misaligned team objectives. It focused on cost and number of improvements over their effects, resulting in situational and underwhelming changes. As such, the report recommends a shift in perspective, focusing on the impact of initiatives and their cost-effectiveness as opposed to the number of adjustments made. Communicating with management better to ensure that unrealistic goals are not set, whether through the reduction of excessive expectations or the supply of additional funding, is also a beneficial strategy. Future teams will take these findings into consideration while using the un-implemented improvement suggestions the group generated.
Effective Post-Project Review Procedures
The purpose of the post-project review (PPR) is to determine which aspects of the project performed at or above expectations and which failed to do so. Having done so, members of the project team can analyze the reasons for the shortcomings and develop strategies to avoid them in the future, either by refining the processes currently in place or by avoiding projects which exhibit problematic characteristics. They can be conducted for both successful projects and failed ones, and the latter are likely to yield more useful results than the former. To obtain an adequate understanding of the situation surrounding the initiative and obtain valuable results, every aspect of the project has to be analyzed. To that end, fair, transparent, and effective procedures should be followed in the review.
A post-project review has to be well-organized to produce results and knowledge that will spread throughout the company and improve its future performance. Oakes (2016) identifies three principal stages that have to be present in the process: planning, running the event, and disseminating the result. In the first step, the project team makes decisions on how the event will be taking place. Options include regular smaller reviews or larger multiple-day events that focus on evaluating the project in detail. The participants also have to be determined and briefed, schedules need to be settled, the venue has to be secured, and other initiatives take place, as well. After the planning is complete, the meetings can commence at the chosen time, and the review proceeds into the running stage.
At this point, the actual review takes place, and the participants discuss various project topics in a structured manner. Westfall (2016) recommends that at least one member of each team involved in the project takes part in it, though, if possible, it would be best to enable each participant to have an opportunity to voice their opinion. Boyle (2017) adds a note about the facilitator who controls the flow of the meeting, advising that it should be someone who was not involved in the project to avoid bias. Through discussion, the project members will come to conclusions regarding the factors that influenced the success or failure of the event. They will then proceed to add this knowledge to the organization’s base, enabling it to be used in future endeavors.
With that said, if the participants only file reports about the lessons that they have learned from the initiative, there is a substantial chance that these findings will be ignored later on. One measure that can be taken in the dissemination phase to combat this issue is to monitor the usage of the recommendations in future projects and record the benefits that they have produced. Another is to use mentoring and review teams to actively promote the advice in other projects, ensuring that team members are aware of their existence and will use them if necessary. Ultimately, the results of the review should become embedded in the organization’s standard practice if they prove to be effective.
The author has recently participated in a project that aimed to reorganize their department to reduce its costs while maintaining productivity. It aimed to do so by reducing waste, finding inefficiencies, and replacing them with superior, more straightforward and less expensive measures. With that said, due to the limited resources available to the project, the scale of the possible changes was also not high. Rather than replacing outdated procedures with more modern, technologically advanced and effective ones, the participants would have to find inexpensive improvements while leaving the broader overhaul for later consideration. After the project concluded, the author began gathering data about it from a variety of sources. To that end, they obtained details about the project, interviewed some of the participants and the people affected by it, and reviewed documents produced in its course.
To obtain an overview of the project, the author investigated its findings about the inefficiencies that were discovered and the measures that were taken to address them. They found a total of 13 issues that were deemed to potentially have a significant adverse influence on performance. The project team developed and implemented solutions for ten of these, while the other three remained unaddressed. Potential future options were proposed for them, as well as some of the items that were changed, but they could not be implemented due to resource constraints. The initiatives that were put into practice were projected to have an effect that would satisfy the requirements. As such, the project concluded on schedule, and the review could begin to verify that the results were adequate.
To obtain context that could not be found in official documentation, the author interviewed some project members as well as department workers, both ones who were affected by the changes and those who were not. The former responded to the project mostly positively, though they expressed frustration about the budget constraints. With that said, they also noted that there were some solutions to issues that may have yielded improved results but were overlooked due to communication issues. The workers who were affected by the changes claimed that their jobs had become more comfortable due to the reduction of unnecessary work. With that said, most of the department workers interviewed claimed that there were still substantial amounts of waste that the project failed to recognize or address.
To obtain an accurate picture of the project’s performance, the author has reviewed its operating and financial documents before and after the project. They sought to compare the results of the two periods and check whether the expected improvement would manifest. To avoid confounding anticipated growth over time and that associated with the project, they also obtained documents from prior periods and averaged the changes in the relevant numbers. They found that, while there was some improvement associated with the project, it was not enough to meet the requirements set at its beginning. As such, they compiled the information they obtained throughout the review and conducted a meeting to consider them. As a result of the meeting, the team was able to produce recommendations, which will be developed later on.
Overall, while the project has achieved positive results, it has underperformed compared to the plan. The measures used to estimate worker efficiency showed an increase of approximately 10%, while the project was aiming for a 15% figure. Moreover, the improvements were inconsistent and differed based on the type of work being done and the employees involved. This result was likely caused by the nature of the changes, which were small in scale and did not affect all employees or situations. Similarly, while a 5% improvement over the old figure was expected in the plan, the real growth was closer to 3% once organic growth was accounted for. This result was found to be a combination of overly optimistic estimates and underperformance due to missed opportunities.
The estimation for the project was not focused on factual findings, but rather on management expectations. It found the department to underperform compared to the other parts of the company and set improvement goals for it to become closer to the average. As a result, the project team was given goals, expressed in figures, and freedom to achieve them within the given budgetary constraints, which were somewhat tight. It had to plan with these notions in mind, frequently focusing on cost control more than efficiency improvements. As such, the planning prioritized changes that would not be costly to implement rather than ones that would generate the most benefit for the cost. The team came to the conclusion that these considerations led it to miss substantial opportunities.
The benefits of the project extend beyond the improvements shown in the operational and financial indicators. The team was able to identify substantial future improvement opportunities and report them to the management. As such, these ideas can be used in future endeavors to design superior initiatives from the beginning. With that said, as these suggestions are not the stated purpose of the project, they do not necessarily contribute to its success when compared to the plan. Ultimately, given the stated objectives of the project, it did not achieve its stated goals in terms of benefiting the organization. As such, the project should be considered a failure, as it has failed to meet its objectives. The reasons for this failure were both unrealistic management expectations and a lack of coordination and communication within the team.
The most important knowledge that will be retained from this project consists of the improvement opportunities that were identified by the team but not put into practice. Identifying these gaps has taken substantial time and effort, repeating which would be highly counterproductive to the project. Future project teams will be able to base their work on these ideas and devote their time to productive endeavors other than seeking improvement opportunities, such as evaluating the potential effects of each change. As a result, they will produce more substantial improvements and help the department reach a state where it can perform comparably to or better than the other sections of the company.
The other item that warrants attention is the consideration of the possible results of an initiative. The project team has consistently overestimated the effect of its improvements on the department performance while underestimating the costs. Future groups will have to devote additional attention to the estimation of different initiatives. Moreover, they will need to consider more expensive options despite the budget constraints. The prioritization of cost over performance or the relationship between the two was one of the contributing factors of the project’s failure. Hence, future projects will have to take that knowledge into account and attempt to focus on the quality of the improvements that they are able to create rather than their quantity.
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Lastly, the communication aspect of the initiative warrants consideration because of the effects it had, damaging the project. It set unrealistic goals, given the scope and budget of the project, contributing to its overall failure. If the team had communicated with management and expressed the problems inherent in the task, this problem could possibly have been avoided. As such, future teams will have to work with leadership and other stakeholders during the planning phase, communicating vital information regarding the viability of the project and helping set achievable goals. To that end, effective vertical communication channels will have to be established organization-wise, enabling the discussions to take place without excessive difficulty.
Despite the expectations of the project members, the improvement initiative was ultimately a failure. It failed to deliver the results expected from the planning, either operational or financial. The issue was caused by a combination of overly optimistic management expectations, particularly considering the budget constraints imposed on them, and the misaligned priorities of the project team. It focused on implementing a large number of small, inexpensive changes over a smaller number of high-impact ones. As a result, the improvements were situational and not substantial enough to create the desired effects. With that said, the project was also able to deliver recommendations to future teams based on the ideas that it was not able to implement.
Project proposals and planning have to take place with the involvement of all of the stakeholders, including management and the people who are affected. In doing so, the team should be able to formulate realistic objectives and choose initiatives that deliver the best results for the cost and are received well by the department. Moreover, teams should devote more attention to evaluating the potential effects of their initiatives before committing to them and moving on to the implementation phase. Various factors, notably cost-effectiveness, have to be considered before a plan of action that will deliver the desired results can be approved. By following these recommendations, the organization can ensure that its projects do not result in failures that are similar to that of the author’s project.
Boyle, G. (2017). Design project management. Taylor & Francis.
Oakes, G. (2016). Project reviews, assurance and governance. Taylor & Francis.
Westfall, L. (2016). The certified software quality engineer handbook (2nd ed.). ASQ Quality Press.