Lessons from a Simple Audacious Project
My previous post Why Do Programmes Fail? generated a lot of traffic. It proved to be a highly emotive subject with some great comments trying to answer the question. The answers ranged from:
- failure to agree the scope
- failure to engage stakeholders
- optimistic and ultimately dishonest reporting
- inexperience of the programme manager
- changes of personnel
So lets change the situation and look at an example of a simple tangible project where the dynamics are much simpler:
- Short defined timescale
- Clear and unambiguous specification
- Fixed team members with subject matter experts
- Success criteria very obvious
The example I am going to use is a bunch of guys at a model flying club meeting in Denmark. These guys normally build radio controlled aircraft of the type and size most of us will have seen but a group of them conceive a really audacious task over a few beers. The task is clearly stated.
They are going to build a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 from scratch over their weekend meeting.
- The DC-10 is built from an A4 plan showing front, side and top elevations
- The aircraft is to be 1/10 full size
- It is to be powered by a single turbine model jet engine
- Control surfaces to be operated by radio control using standard model servos
- The total all up weight must be less than 25kg for legal compliance
- The model must look like a DC-10
- It must be capable of flight
- It has to be completed and flown at the meeting
Now I want you to spend 22 minutes of your time watching this clip from Sept 3rd 2011. The screen goes blank for a few seconds a couple of times during the video but please stick with it.
Now that you have watched it!
Most of you watching will have smiled when the DC-10 took off! I bet that many of you would have even applauded when the DC-10 landed and in some way, even as an observer, you felt part of this team, perhaps you even felt you would love to have been part of the team. You felt inspired.
We see from this example that:
- Clear roles are essential, the engine expert, the people working on the fuselage, the guy flying the plane
- A sense of humour helps to oil the wheels when people are working together
- They had a clear objective, make a 1/10 scale DC-10
- Success criteria was obvious and tangible, the DC-10 needed to fly and to seal it land undamaged
- Most people watching would say at times it looked like the real thing in flight
- They had an engaged audience, they applauded and cheered
- They celebrated success with photographs and champagne
Since the team are from Denmark many of you will not understand the dialogue but you will feel the enthusiasm, the delight and celebration because this is infectious and universal. Think about how different the video would be without the sound!
8 Simple Steps for Project Success
- Make the objective clear and unambiguous, use simple high level statements that people can get their heads around
- Make the criteria for success clear, obvious and compelling
- Get the right people on the team, people with the right skills and a ‘can do’ attitude, make it ‘One Team’
- Make sure you have a good plan with all of the resources to hand or available
- Make sure that you do everything you can to make the team bond as friends with a common purpose
- To really engage your people make the whole project lifecycle fun with open communication
- Be prepared for changes along the way to counter the inevitable unknowns at the outset (adding weight to the nose)
- Celebrate success, capture the moment and feel good about it
Thanks and congratulations to Kasper Holger, Keld Hanson and the DC-10 team at MFK Falken!