Organise Design Carefully

When doing a project that requires design, you should plan the time required for design carefully and allow adequate time for the design to be completed.

You should also write a design brief describing what you expect the designers to deliver and get them to agree on a schedule and cost for this (even for an internal design department).

Make sure you also account for design review (by the senior designer), drafting, engineering review of the drafting, redrafting of changes and corrections, and final review and issue.

It is important to allow for all these things and get the design leader to agree on time allowances for this.

You may find that if a design leader has agreed to a brief (including expected delivery times) and signed it then they will be more likely to work on your designs instead of other departments or projects designs (who don’t have a clear agreement).

It is not enough to send the design lead a list of target dates or descriptions, you need to set it all out in a clear document and get them to agree to (and preferably sign) this.

Note that final design review and signoff can be a big bottle neck if there is only one designer authorised to do this.

Increase Efficiency In the Office

In an office dedicated to your project, seek ways to improve efficiency, and don’t allow “green” or “efficiency” measures to actually decrease efficiency.

For example, I have seen many offices that have removed all the rubbish bins and recycling bins from the office areas. Staff are told to use the bins in the kitchen or “designated areas” this makes it necessary for staff to walk away from their desk to dispose of rubbish or to store it in the desk until they have time. This can create messy desks, safety hazards, and force people to waste time taking rubbish and recycling to bins, it also means people recycle less because it is too much hassle. This is especially difficult for visitors to the office (short-term or contract staff) who don’t know where the bins are.

It is also worth finding all the tasks in the office that waste people’s time and find ways to improve them.

For example:

  • Rubbish bin locations
  • Clearly label sections in stationery cabinets so people can find what they need quickly. Requiring people to sign out stationery is a time waster. It is better to have a sheet for requesting special items and an admin person to check what needs restocking regularly.
  • Easy to find/access user manuals for desk phones (for call forwarding etc).
  • Make lists of shortcuts for common software available
    • Windows, Word, Excel etc
    • It is amazing how many people click-through multiple menus to copy and paste instead of using ctrl c, ctrl v etc

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and Records

It is important to keep a good record of the things you do to meet your stated goals.

E.g. Goal to improve safety – keep a record of all the safety issues you have raised in meetings.

Keeping these records helps prove to project stakeholders that you are actively working towards achieving the project KPI’s and it also provides evidence in performance reviews of you.

Make Project Policies, Procedures, and Forms Easy to Find

For projects to run efficiently the team members need to be able to find and use policies, procedures and particularly forms easily and without having to spend time looking for them or asking others for them.

The project management office should make all these documents very easy to find on the corporate intranet, with searchable tags, keywords, etc and a list of all those documents (with links to the documents) easily accessible.

It is no use having to use a search function that lists every mention of that word to be able to find a form.

Start Meetings On time

Starting meetings on time and finishing on time creates in the team a sense of organisation and planning.

If meetings constantly start late, people will turn up later and later. This will waste time but will also create a sense that the organiser/PM doesn’t have control of the project or doesn’t care about it.

Starting on time helps:

  • Build team commitment
  • Promotes organisation
  • Saves time
  • Creates a sense of purpose
  • Helps deliver the project on schedule.

Control of Documents

Keep good control of formal documents.

When writing a set of documents, plans, etc, make sure that final production is coordinated by one person, or that the file storage is controlled so as to avoid any confusion.

If not then one manager may look at the document, change it, and get an admin person to reformat it, while another manager does the same process elsewhere.

It may be better for each set of documents to have one person as the “controller” that all changes go through.

A document “check in” system in a document control system can help alleviate this problem but a single person in control as well as this can ensure the documents integrity.

Although the “PM” may be named as the only person who can authorise changes, these changes should only be done through one person.

An example of this problem is when a project director asks for a copy to review, makes changes and then gets an admin person to input the changes, format, and issue again. The files may end up stored in the wrong place, or on a different system (particularly if working in multiple non networked offices).

A checkout system will reduce this risk but not eliminate it completely.

It is very easy for errors, page numbering, nomenclature etc to alter between versions, or updates to tables or charts that need to be inserted could get changed independently.

A good revisioning record system helps. Once a document is issued as final, any revisions should detail what has been changed and record kept with the revised document.

Get IT Systems Right When Out of the Office

It is important to get the setup of all the IT systems correct early in a project.

For example. If you have a team placed in a client office to do a project, they need to have good printing, internet, network drive access etc. Yet many projects in a client office are not given access to printing or similar and so must constantly email files to an administrator to print. This wastes a lot of time.

From personal experience, I have found that a combination of these restrictions to access can slow my work down by 50% or more.

Building Approvals

Make sure you specify in contracts and specifications that contractors are responsible for obtaining all relevant building and plumbing approvals for their work.

Put that in writing but also verbally remind them in your startup meeting. Specify that they cannot start work on the site until they receive these approvals.

Get them to send you copies of their approvals.

You don’t want to end up in the situation where a contractor assumed the approvals already exist and then having to delay the completion of the project while waiting for the approvals when they apply late.