Now you might say this is coming from someone that has lived and breathed project management over the last decade. That is true. You might even say that crazy is going around a bit too many these days. Nonetheless, let’s think about it.
My good friend Wikipedia suggested that Operational planning is the process of linking strategic goals and objectives to tactical goals and objectives. It describes milestones, conditions for success and explains how, or what portion of, a strategic plan will be put into operation during a given operational period, in the case of commercial application, a fiscal year or another given budgetary term.
If we think project management – it is commonly known as the discipline of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals. You then have all your different knowledge areas:
Project integration management.
This area coordinates and applies the work of all of the processes so that they integrate all flow in a coordinated and smooth manner.
It consists of:
- Develop Project Charter
- Develop Project Management Plan
- Direct and Manage Project Execution
- Monitor and Control Project Work
- Perform Integrated Change Control
- Close Project or Phase
If you are using project management techniques to operationalize your business you can include the following:
In an IT-context you can run your system implementation as a project. Why not include the maintenance/SLA work afterwards to have a total picture of work done for a specific client?
In a mining context productivity is always a focal point and investment is normally directed toward expanding production capacity. Why not capture your daily diaries in an electronic format which feeds into the project management system? If your operations are integrated, why not share costs, research and development across the board?
Project scope management.
Project scope management is vital because it ensures that the project includes all the work that is required to complete the project successfully. Any additional work that was not included in the original scope statement can be seen as scope creep.
Operations: You sometimes need to reign in excited employees that can easily take set daily operational work to the next level – they are better known as cowboys. The scope of day-to-day activities can be managed by running operational projects and controlling the work on your project management system.
Project time management.
This is concerned with the resources, activities, duration and scheduling so that the project manager can control the timely completion of the project.
If you think operations, let’s list what is normally included:
- Capacity Planning
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to be?
- How do we get there?
- How do we measure our progress?
Schedules can be setup for repetitive type of work to budget and ensure work is delivered on time. If you’re using a scheduling tool, it will be so much easier than using old fashioned spread sheets. Not only will resources be notified of tasks assigned to them, they will have a platform to potentially see what work other people are working on. They will also be informed enough to plan their daily activities.
If we look a bit wider – a resource manager in a banking environment should be able to know exactly who’s doing what when. The same goes for pretty much any other type of environment.
Project cost management.
Project cost management consists of estimating, budgeting, and controlling costs to ensure that the work can be completed within the approved project budget.
The above can be said for operations as well. If you schedule all operational work in your project management system, each resource should have a rate associated to their skill. This, together with any fixed costs that needs to be incurred on any type of operational project, should roll up to the company budget for the financial year. Schedule in the purchase of a new server, replacement of aircons in a server room etc and match it up to the ops budget.
Project quality management.
This knowledge area covers the planning of quality, and the performing of both quality assurance and quality control. If you’re writing a piece of software it will go through all the different types of software testing to ensure the right quality is met.
Normal operational quality management can pose questions like:
- Is your equipment maintenance policies correct?
- Is your quality control done too late during the production process?
- In your restaurant are all food cooked at the correct temperature?
- Do you regularly conduct air quality assessments on your mining operations?
- Was your product produced correctly?
From an operational perspective you can go a bit further:
- Are processes performing effectively?
- What criteria should be met?
- Are the criteria being met?
- Are you training your resources to cross-function?
Does your quality management system aim to bind the work and material resources of your organization in the most effective way to achieve the objectives of the organization?
Project human resource management.
The project manager must be a good leader and be able to motivate and influence the team to be successful. In addition this knowledge area focuses on the team management tools as well as the interpersonal skills. On a project you will develop you resource plan, acquire the team and then develop and manage them.
Again, operational management works quite the same. If there is a job opening, you will develop the job description for the type of resource you need. You then need to acquire the skill in the market. Once you have appointed a suitable candidate you need to ensure their skills are developed and they need to be managed by the team lead/manager.
If you’re using a project management system that can show you the workload/demand on resources as well as the actuals worked it will put the power back in management’s hands.
Project communications management.
This knowledge area focuses on keeping the stakeholders appropriately informed throughout the life cycle of a project. It includes the processes that ensure timely and appropriate generation, gathering, circulation, storage, recovery, and the ultimate disposition of project information.
Again, the similarities are striking.
During your normal operations you need to also give feedback to staff, executive management, the board of directors and most importantly clients. You need to ensure that you have the right management information at hand to provide all types of feedback and not base it on thumb sucked stats. Daily stand up team meetings are great for ensuring communication flows and are a good platform for discussing and resolving hampering factors. This can be built up to include management to align regularly (even just for 15 min per day).
Project risk management.
Project risk management is the identification, assessment, and ranking of risks followed by the methods resources are applied to decrease, monitor, and control the probability and/or impact of events that might occur.
The term Operational Risk Management is defined as a continual cyclic process which includes risk assessment, risk decision making, and implementation of risk controls, which results in acceptance, mitigation, or avoidance of risk.
There is no real difference between project and operational risk management in my mind. So why not use the same system you use for project risk identification and run it for your business?
Project procurement management.
This PMBOK knowledge area is used to obtain goods, services or scope from outside the organization. It might or might not be handled on the basis of formal procurement activities.
If you are operating a manufacturing plant you surely need to first plan what needs to be procured, conduct and administer and lastly close the procurement loop. This might sound like a repetitive process that doesn’t need to be tracked, but how else do you ensure that everything is happening? How can you improve on your procurement if you do not know how long it takes from beginning to end?
Bringing it all together
If you consider all of the information mentioned, is there any reason why your life of mine cannot be scheduled as a project? Why can all work happening on your manufacturing plant not be scheduled as small iterative projects rolling up to achieve the strategic goals set out for the company?
The search continues for technologies and processes that raise productivity while at the same time ensuring costs and risks are managed…… I am saying – why not use your project management tools and techniques to do just that?