What difference does it make if you request when a team can complete a project rather than telling them when it has to be done? After all, the difference seems pretty semantic. We have been helping teams shift from a task focus to deliverable requests and commits as an ongoing practice for complex project teams since the mid-90’s. Back then, we were able to document in detail the quantitative and qualitative changes when organizations made this shift, because we were developing this approach while embedded at Intel Corporation. Since then we have rarely had that luxury of taking so many measures over multiple projects or product generations.
So we were pleased when we had the opportunity recently to get the results from 11 projects done in a single IT department in a Fortune 500 company over about a 1-year period. This was a global Compliance IT department where projects included participants from several geographies. It was what we would call a fairly traditional organization where projects were scoped well in advance (some call it T-shirt sizing) and then resources assigned as the projects came within a window of their preset deadlines.
The PMs for all of these projects participated in our 2-day workshop on Commitment Based Project Management (CBPM). It is important that all team members are enrolled in any methodological change, particularly in situations where teams are constantly shuffled. The PMs were coached to enroll their teams in commitment-based practices (e.g. only give strong commits, provide early warning to those impacted immediately if you determine a commit may be missed, etc.). Each PM agreed to include his or her team in planning (at least by teleconference), to use a provided technique to map out deliverables and handoffs, and to facilitate requests and commits between team members. PMs were trained to shift the weekly review conversations to determining if committed deliverables were done and if upcoming deliverables were still strongly committed. They also had training on what to do if breakdowns occurred to keep the team focused on their commitment and out of the blame game.
Results were presented to us by each participating PM as part of the requirements for CBPM Certification. Each PM used the CBPM toolset to present to us their team’s results and what they learned from operating from requests and commitments for the first time. Of these 11 PM’s, 8 met the certification requirements, the other 3 were given feedback about how to complete certification. Out of all the hundreds of combined project deliverables between team members on these 8 projects, tracked on PAC Charts like the one above, 89.4 % were delivered on time. All 8 of the projects were completed on time or were on schedule at the time of report. Two of the project finished early, and multiple projects reported zero defects.
One of the PMs also received an individual company award for her project for “…coordinating several large project teams and timely and accurate execution of several hundred tasks”. She delivered the overall program on time and free of defects. We consider these results substantive (vs semantic). What are you doing to help your teams take ownership for on-time delivery?