Getting our arms around the work – The Work Breakdown structure

In a previous blog Key stages in the project portfolio delivery performance improvement journey we talked about a typical portfolio management improvement path and the four stages in the journey necessary to improve overall delivery reliability.

The path to delivery excellence

In this article I want to talk about gaining control and illustrate this with our experience from some work we did recently for a large US company and their strategic, mission critical program.

This company had well defined management processes within an organization geared towards delivery but their overall delivery track record was poor. Large amounts of money were being spent, huge numbers of resources were being consumed but limited results in the form of completed work or benefits were being achieved. In fact they were hamstrung by process. Everyone was focusing on this process but there was no view of the big picture, the overall consolidated view of all projects, their scope and deliverables and certainly no view of the benefits expected. Nothing about the overall program was documented and everyone attended meetings and had their own notes but there was no official scope of work defined for the program or for each project, a common problem in our experience.

We gathered all the project information we could by interviewing key program staff and all the project documentation we could and developed a work breakdown structure. Initially it was rough but after a few reviews and some refinement by the program leadership team and it was accepted as the scope of work for the program, the first time it had ever been documented for all to see and all it took was a few days work!  

This paved the way, very quickly, for laying down the governance framework for the program, a process which removed layers of bureaucracy and ineffective controls and freed up the teams to focus on planning their work.  The lines of communication were opened and the project managers and their teams immediately benefited by having issues resolved and in some cases projects were cancelled or consolidated into more meaningful work packages saving time and effort and optimizing the use of resources.

Some work was done on changing general behaviors to prevent falling back into the habits of the past. Project managers got used to discussing issues and these discussions were documented and all decisions made available to all the teams for planning purposes so that duplication and inaccuracies were eliminated. The program was back on track.

This was the first step in the process of getting the program under control. In my next article I will talk about the planning process and the so-called work stream brief and how this kick-started more effective planning and set the foundation for successful delivery.

John Hall

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: