Point 1 – Commitment starting at the top to continuous improvement as an approach to life
Deming’s first point is a crucial one. To make continuous improvement a priority, there must be commitment from the top. Most firms will likely establish a Project Management Office to support continuous improvement activities. This office should have minimal control over training and methodology. The PMO should have systems in place to ensure that best practices and lessons learnt are collected and implemented. They must be actively incorporated into the process.
This point must be fully embraced. It should include a strategic basis in the PMO or a separate portfolio management group. Don J. Wessels is a PMP who does a great job of laying out a vision for a truly strategic focus of projects in the 2007 ISSIG Review Volume XI No. 1. The article is entitled “The Strategic Role in Project Management?” It is a fascinating read. He refers to the PMI’s Standard for Portfolio Management and says, “While project management has traditionally focused on doing work right, program management has focused on doing work right. Portfolio management is about?doing the right job. It’s like economics: allocative efficiency versus productivity efficiency. I was struck by the fact that most project management is tactical and not based on strategic principles as I read this article. Deming’s first point must be embraced. It requires looking at the whole system from a perspective of continuous improvement.
In large companies like mine, different groups may have their own version of a PMO. Although this may not be ideal, it allows groups that are focused on a particular subject to tailor their approaches. This is fine as long as the person or group responsible for projects has made a commitment to continuous improvement and is committed to ensuring projects align with organizational goals. Too often alignment is at the departmental level, which can be detrimental to the entire organization. It is important to have a long-term thinking process. The leader of the project group must be able to resist the temptation to let the improvement strategy get out of control.