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The Real World

It's hard to argue about improvement. Motherhood, apple pie, the Packers, Badgers and continuous improvement — all pretty much universal truths — not apt to cause a fight after a few beers. Everyone seeks to improve. Not many of us choose to do things worse the next time. Einstein's theory of “human nature” (my term) hit the nail on the head when he defined insanity as doing the same things over and over again but expecting different results. Most of us aren't insane. We change. We get better. We've come a long way.

My last series explored some of the common techniques used to improve continuously. We discussed Deming and Total Quality Management (TQM), Goldratt's Theory of Constraints (TOC), the Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT), 6 Sigma, the Software Engineering Institute's Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and the Project Management Institute Maturity Model (OPM3). Certainly not the only paths to continuous improvement, but ones many organizations consider and eventually use.

The series provoked some excellent comments, some questions, some clarifications and even some corrections. More than anything, you were interested in the real world. You asked what are real organizations doing to maximize project performance? What's been done? What's planned? What worked? What didn't? Who has used 6-Sigma, TOC or CMM? Have they measured their results? Has performance improved? Are projects more predictable? Are results produced faster? Or cheaper?

CIO Insight recently published the results of a survey that studied project management. Less than two thirds of the CIOs responding said their companies have the discipline to manage projects well. Over a third of all projects finished above budget and even fewer finished on schedule or eventually delivered the promised ROI. The Standish Group reported that nearly half of all application development projects cost 70 percent more than originally budgeted. Their research also showed that 53 percent of IT projects cost 189 percent of their original estimates. Does that surprise you? Probably not! What we want to know is what are organizations doing to change? The essence of continuous improvement is reinforcing success and remedying failure. Who's doing what?

This series will continue the theme of continuous project improvement by interviewing organizations to determine what they do to maximize project performance. Where are they in the journey? Where do they see themselves on the maturity continuum scale? Does process excellence contribute to performance success? Have they used one of the popular improvement models? What was the event that caused them to start their continuous improvement initiatives? Was it the all too common “project from hell”? What were the lessons they learned? If they had to do it over again, what would they do differently? What plans do they have for the future?
Are you in an organization that would be willing to share your experience? I'm looking for success stories. I'm looking for hits, but also strikeouts. I'm looking for lessons learned. I'm especially looking for organizations that have used one of the techniques mentioned and have measured the results. If you would be willing to spend an hour or so discussing your improvement initiatives, please contact me by e-mail or phone. I'm expecting the series to be helpful in many ways. Look for my first article in a few weeks. It examines a major health care provider in the Madison area. Read on...

Michael J. Weymier, PMP, is founder of PM Maturity and a columnist with the Wisconsin Technology Network. He works with organizations to maximize their project performance through organizational and process excellence. Mike can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 920-488-2061.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

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