Todd Ham and Dan Lorenzo from Emerson’s Life Sciences Industry center presented a workshop entitled, Large Project Execution. The focus is on sharing best practices for successfully executing large projects.
They define a large project as 10 or more engineers with more that 5000 engineering hours. The project schedule is typically measured in years and tends to have high visibility with upper management.
Far and away the most important aspect to success is the team leadership. Team leaders should possess technical expertise, managerial competence, and the ability to attend to problems early. Many different styles of leader can be successful, but setting upfront expectations is critical. Dan cites a balanced leader that is knowledgeable, but non ego driven, is willing to make and stand behind tough decisions, knows when to defer to the team, and provides an environment for the team to explore new ideas. This leadership style gives the project its best chance of success.
The next important step is to create a common message to breakdown the project complexities, to provide a clear, cross-functional set of objectives, and to help everyone understand their roles in achieving these objectives. Todd made it clear this is not “rah-rah” motivational sayings on wall posters, but rather a clear vision such as a world-class biotech facility.
The makeup of the team is very important. Most teams have a mix of experience and inexperience and personalities. It’s important the leadership be engaged, reinforce the common message and direction, and deal with people issues head-on and early. Build a team with a balance of skills and personality.
Project indicators that things are going well include new ideas being suggested, measured progress being made, and people on the project generally seem happy. On the flip side, indicators that things are not going well include people acting differently in the presence of team leadership, the leadership being unaware of major issues, and people hoarding information and knowledge. It boils down to reinforcing practices that are yielding good results.
Finally measure and monitor what makes sense for the project. Items that are measured will get better. Too many metrics can do more harm than good and not move the project forward toward the intended objectives.