Projects 4.0: Implementing the demands of Industry 4.0 simply and flexibly
The developments behind Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution, are unstoppable. Of course they are – they are seen as the decisive factor for future business success. Meanwhile, individualized and bespoke solutions are becoming ever more important. Meeting the new challenges head-on in good time means ensures that organizations won’t lose out in the race for innovations.
Industry 4.0 is by no means something that looks after itself. The new demands on organizations can’t be seamlessly integrated into existing structures in a heartbeat. 4.0 really demands a change of approach in all areas of the business. Throw out the old patterns of thinking, make room for a new, future-directed, “digital” structure. Most of the time, organizational realities draw a clear line in the sand here – there might simply be no available resources to dedicate in a goal-driven manner to the innovations of Industry 4.0. However, if you don’t want to drown in the maelstrom of the industrial sea change, you need to step into the new era with Projects 4.0.
4.0 is just one (of many) projects
Making your business fit for Industry 4.0 has to happen alongside existing projects. Thus, it forms part of the multi-project landscape. Important: only when the change is seen as a fully-fledged project, crucial to the future of the organization, can the transition to Industry 4.0 be fully pursued.
Projects 4.0 flow
So that the process of adaption doesn’t stall, well-thought-out processes are necessary. Simple direction that takes notice of any bottlenecks, clear and robust priorities, a focus on optimization at organizational, rather than departmental level, and a clear eye on speed of delivery – this is the three-step process that means projects will flow properly.
1. Lighter workload
Thin distribution of resources, damaging multi-tasking, lack of synchronization and lack of focus: when the workload (WIP, Work in Process) is too heavy, projects end up blocking each other. In order to see significant improvements, organizations should reduce the WIP to a sensible level and also ensure that the reduced WIP level is maintained. To this end, part of the project first needs to be “frozen“, thus speeding up the completion of the non-frozen parts. The frozen projects can then be “defrosted”, one by one and in a controlled manner. However, when the new projects get off to a start, it is important to make sure that the WIP doesn’t jump up once more. For this purpose, projects can be categorized according to their strategic priority in the face of the organization’s finite resources. This improves performance, and all projects – including the “frozen” ones – will be completed sooner.
2. Individual margins of error give way to explicit margins
In project management, margins of error are necessary if a project is going to be at all reliable. If team members are going to be judged according to whether they, as individuals, meet deadlines, then they (and their managers) plan in significant margins of error and make use of them too. The superficial appearance: team members are reliable. However, projects then take up more time in the plan than they actually need to, and still aren’t reliable. In order to optimize results meaningfully, an organization needs to bring in a way of working that primarily makes sure every task that is started is completed as quickly as possible. For this purpose:
- Management needs to convince team members that they are no longer being judged on whether or not they meet individual deadlines, and
- The organization needs to plan the different stages of the project without these margins of error, and set out clearly aggregate margins of error for each project as a whole.
3. Operative priorities: clear, robust, synchronized
Particularly in the world of project management, unexpected things happen. In order to improve significantly, organizations need to provide clear, robust and synchronized priorities for resource allocation and for all management levels (resource, project and senior managers). This means:
- … Resource managers Start off project steps in an order that makes sense for the organization, supply them appropriately with resources and protect employees from the damage that comes from multi-tasking.
- … Project managers devote their attention to preparing project stages that are yet to begin, and support workers whilst project stages are actively completed. They no longer try and interrupt people working on other projects (because this would be counter-productive for them).
- … Senior managers don’t involve themselves directly in the realization of a project, but intervene only when their input can significantly speed things up. If several projects are competing for their attention, they know which one to sort out first, and which can wait.
This way of working prevents, as far as possible, spreading resources too thinly and damaging multi-tasking strategies. Frictional losses are drastically reduces, and a climate of productive collaboration is created.
Reliable, agile and quick
The more important individual and bespoke solutions become in Industry 4.0, the more important becomes the ability to complete projects reliably, quickly and in an agile manner. The reality, however, is a different picture: particularly in (I)T oriented organizations, projects are becoming slower and less reliable – despite the utilization of so-called agile methods. A new, simple but flexible multi-project management is called for: projects that flow!
Projects 4.0 can flow when organizations learn to think in new ways in a lot of areas, and have the courage to take new paths. This means they are armed for the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.
Just a quick self-reference: anyone who would like to learn more about Projects 4.0 should come along to our workshop on 1.2.2016 in Kassel. For information and registration, go to this page.