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Continuous Performance Improvement (CPI) Featured

   Speaking with other colleagues about their experience with their new PM software deployments, they all agree that most business units deploy PM software in hopes of improving project performance. They find that most software deployments don’t address continuous incremental performance improvements, which means any new processes being supported must be deployed at once. 

Most Software Vendors don't have the time to do the slow deployment needed to address adoption.

Yes, I know that quick little snippet we tell each other when we’re trying to look brilliant, “The definition of insanity is to continue doing the same things and expecting different results.”“Well, here I am after our Monday morning meetings, telling myself I just got to do something different. Our Business Unit is going to deploy a new software application to support our projects. I’m in charge of it; and what makes me think it’s going to be successful, because my Manager told me so?”

   While trying to figure out how I’d handle our deployment, I found this CPI course (Continuous Performance Improvement) on the pmNERDS’ website. After speaking with them, I became quite excited.  I hoped this course would help us make the PM Software deployment more successful.

   The CPI Course provides rich reading material for process training, skills mentoring, and performance coaching when conducting our CPI Initiative. The Lessons within the course provides step-by-step screenshots to help us.

   I wondered how we could get all this done with our current resource and time constraints. I saw that the course includes a set of Kick-Starts, which deliver a full CPI implementation and it only takes about 30 minutes to deploy. This could save us days of work in our deployment. In the past, working with a consultant for two weeks full-time, we didn’t get as much deployed!

   The Kick Start provides; a Portfolio to manage and analyze process improvement projects, time, spend and risk, Programs to align business strategy, Reports, Dashboards, Project templates of Improvement stages, User profile templates, Job roles for the CPI Initiative, and Agile team support during the improvement stages. It includes the CPI Performance Measure Framework, with over 500 best practices, 1000+ Improvement Records, and two Custom Forms to collect performance data. The course also provides Excel and Word worksheets that we can use to accomplish task goals and objectives. I know we won’t use all these things at once, but I understand that once we purchase the CPI Course, we can use the course materials repeatedly, with no time limit. This is encouraging.  It gives us a chance to have continuous incremental improvement.

   I wasn’t sure how I could do this all myself, but the CPI Initiative uses a CORE Performance Team to provide continuous support, and then a full Performance Team of subject matter experts and others to help increase effectiveness and adoption. Following these CPI methods, I believe we can do more than just deploy new PM software; we can continuously improve performance and adoption.

   The CPI Course is divided into sections of an improvement cycle, so to better explain what the CPI Course is, I’ve outlined each section the way it is presented in the course. I just can’t believe we haven’t been doing this all the time, what were we thinking?

Introduction to CPI

   The objective of each CPI Initiative is to support a continuous incremental process improvement capability. This leads us to process efficiencies, better project results, and a continuous increased competitive advantage gained through these projects.

   For us to initiate the desired change, we need to get our teams on board with the change. I’ve read somewhere, “When people don’t own the change, they exhibit behavior that maximizes personal power instead of taking a company-wide view.” There may be only a few improvements we need to make, but our people tend to slip back to old ways as soon as an initiative is complete.

“I thought I’d done all the right things for our change initiative, but the returns didn’t even cover 1/10 of the effort’s cost and people weren’t changing”

   At a local PMI meeting, I shared my concerns of poor adoption with a CEO of a major pharmaceutical manufacturer. He shared with me that he was wondering what had gone wrong after eight months of intensive efforts to improve their project quality and reduce production cycle time. He said the company had spent more than $1.6 million on external consultants and allocated five full-time internal people who had developed detailed process maps, used tools to diagnose problems, and conducted tool training from the vendor with additional process improvement from consultants.

   The returns to date had unfortunately not even covered one-tenth of the effort's cost. He thought he'd done all the right things, having one-on-one conversations with his VPs, publishing progress in the company newsletter, and putting posters around the plant that extolled the virtues of doing things "right the first time." He'd even conducted several all-employee Town Hall Meetings and explained the program to people, taking adequate time for questions and answers afterward. He thought he'd even addressed that pesky "people part" of change that organizations so often forget, and still his effort had fallen flat.  At least I wasn’t the only one thinking about these things.

   The CPI course material claims that the CORE team should step back and debrief their results after each phase of an improvement cycle; “identify what didn't match their intended objectives and ask these questions:

  • Why was there no energy for change beyond the change proposers?
  • Why didn't people "get it”? this change was, ultimately for the good of everyone
  • Is conflict a natural state of being when people with different needs and views get together? If so, is there a way to harness it and move forward in a productive fashion?
  • What could be done to create ownership of the problems and the solutions among all people involved?

   The main issue with implementing change is that by merely getting people together in a room does not ensure they'll be productive or change. We need to conduct sessions in which people explore each other's assumptions, expand common ground, shape a desired future, and jointly take ownership of the solutions to the issues at hand. This will help us to be on common ground and give us a better chance of success.” Well, it makes sense to me.

   There are five stages of a CPI Initiative. These stages are addressed in the CPI Course Sections. We have the stages of the CPI initiatives to guide us on HOW we should conduct the initiative, but how does including the Performance Measure Framework improve the success of our initiative?

   In my studies on this topic, I find it hard to pick up a book on enterprise governance or performance without reading about the importance of management frameworks. This is because they work!

   The CPI Performance Measure Framework included in the course visually depicts the interdependencies between-measures. The framework helps us identify the relationships between measures; it makes it easier for us to make the proper trade-off decisions, and the most optimal decisions. It is highly flexible and lets us add our own practices into the framework as well.  

   During each cycle, our Performance Team will analyze performance data, prepare, select, plan and deploy best-practices identified within the Performance Measure Framework. This framework helps us make data driven decisions to support rapid incremental performance improvements, conduct trend analysis and recognize successes. 

Prepare for the CPI Initiative

   During the CPI Initiative, we only prepare for the Initiative once. So, it makes sense to spend a little more time here to better prepare. How do we know when we’re ready to move on? I suspect it’s when there’s a commitment to, and capability for, continuous improvement.

   The training course indicates that prior to an improvement cycle, it’s important that we have policies and procedures defined, and best-practices actively being improved upon. Members of our organization will be in various performance readiness states. Our Performance Team must slowly bring everyone together in each stage of the CPI Initiative. This helps lower resistance to change.

   When preparing for our improvements we’ll need to consider these factors:

  • The enterprise environment factors that surround or influence our Organization's business success.
  • Selecting the initiatives that use these four steps in the process- prioritized improvement areas, decision-making techniques, grouping practices for the initiative, and portfolio management.
  • Develop a change management plan, which involves the management of our organizational change activities related to the CPI initiative and desired business results. This is used to gather information about our organizational environment, its training style, leadership style, agility, desire to change, and ability to change. 

   I believe the Communication Plan is the cornerstone of effective Integrated PM, a CPI Initiative, and cycle assessments. We haven’t done a very good job in the past on communicating our initiatives, but I feel this CPI course will help us do a better job just by the way it is structured. 

Prepare Improvement Cycle

   Once we have prepared for the initiative, we’re ready to begin the four stages in an improvement cycle.  During the first stage of the cycle, a gap analysis is conducted. The gap analysis reveals practices that we need to improve, and becomes a baseline for improvements. 

Why do we need to prepare for an Improvement Cycle?

   The same reason the farmer prepares the soil before any new planting. When you think about it, why would anyone expect a seedling or your new practice to grow on a rock? The better prepared the environment is, the better the practice will flourish.

   For us to be prepared for an improvement cycle, we will need to complete these objectives in the 'Prepare Cycle' project plan that are provided by the course:

  • The Business Case: Our core Performance Team should recognize that the business case is a living document, and information in the business case will become more available as this cycle continues.

  • Specialized Views: The custom views within the CPI course are made to support our different roles, and made available to the right role with the use of User Layout Templates.

  • The Risk Log: Is used as a check-list to help our Performance Team look for potential improvement risks. Each stage of the improvement cycle has its own Project Plan and Risk Log.

  • Submitting and Managing Issues: As issues occur during the execution of the 'Prepare Cycle' Stage, the issues are documented on the Project Plan and Tasks.

  • Document Management: Documents can be collected and put within an approval process as our Team gathers information.

  • Agile Team Management: To manage issues during this improvement stage, a 'CPI Tech Team' is used to resolve any issues that we identified.

   These tasks will help us overcome the 'access to new knowledge' and 'understanding the newly defined practice' adoption hurdles as explained in the course background reading.

   Throughout the improvement process, our Performance Team will adjust and leverage every opportunity to pace our change at an acceptable rate for us.  We don’t want to go too fast and leave people behind, if we do that it could cause dissention and discord. This could put me and the Performance Team in a bad light.

   We’re ready to conduct the assessment, but what type of people should I select to be on our Performance Team?  The course also covers this. I’ll need to identify what types of personalities and people we’ll need that can: Promote, Analyze, Produce, Implement, Plan, Facilitator, Protect, Strategize, Conceptualize, Explore, Design, Envision, Foresee, Discover and Harmonize our CPI Initiative’s goals and objectives. These could be Executives, Directors, Supervisors, Developers, Managers, etc.… I’ll need to find people that will help us all be successful.

Propose Practices

   Now, that the Performance Team, and practices have been selected and prepared, we’re ready to go to the second stage of the cycle, ‘Propose Practices’. The course also provides project plan templates for this as well. This is where we compare practices and gain a better understanding and build buy-in for the selected practices within the Performance Measurement Framework.  The Improvement stage helps us with conflict resolution, change impact analysis and gathering feedback.

   It is during this stage that the team creates special process diagrams called “EFBD”, Enhanced Function Block Diagram. These EFBDs are used to compare the different practices. I myself have never used an EFBD, so this section should be interesting, at least there are examples.

   We are supposed to simulate using these practices following the EFBDs including the process decision rules, information flow, and job roles. I didn’t know to do process improvement you had to be an actor, like I said “interesting.” You know I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out. Role playing is supposed to help us identify issues and train the team before we deploy it.

Plan Improvements

   There are processes and documents that our Performance Team will need to create and follow when planning for improvements. These documents and processes will help us maintain consensus and consistency for implementing our improvements which we can really use. I appreciate the templates that this course provides.

   For each practice in the cycle, the Performance Team needs to create a document containing these three main sections:

  • Policies: the policies section documents the identified practice's governance system.
  • Guidelines: The guidelines identified here are tips and tricks that practitioners have found to make the practice easier, faster to complete, and/or at less cost.
  • Constraints: The constraints place limitations on how we go about completing the practice. These documents are attached to the “Best-Practice” task in the performance measure framework, and is used as the single source of truth for documenting our practices, and capturing any discussion on task updates. This will radically change the way we do things now, and we can’t do this too soon.

   When planning for improvements a Business Case is used. In the CPI course it gives us three processes to use for building the Business Case; An Efficient Frontier using Cost vs. Benefit, The FAROUT Method for alignment, and Estimated Commercial Value (EVC).  I have created a Business Case for other initiatives, but haven’t use an efficient frontier, or the FAROUT method. The business case described here is almost completely generated by reports in a dashboard- all from Kick Starts provided by the CPI course.

   Another great idea to enhance adoption and communicate the intent of the CPI Initiative and improvement cycle, is the strategy diagram that the project plan has you build with your Performance Team.  Their strategy diagram provides people with clear and concise documentation to communicate to your stakeholders. It is supposed to provide reference and guidance for all parties, and to ensure that we’re developing the correct capabilities. Luckily the CPI Course will show us how to create this diagram.

   We’re now ready to construct a role based training plan from our EFBDs. As you see this all unfolding in the course you can’t help being motivated. Each stage builds upon the next in a series of progressive elaboration. In the training diagram we build, each Job Role is listed in columns, and then each function block is placed under the Job Role column it belongs to. A path shows the execution order. The result is a diagram illustrating the Role Based Training requirements for each specific Job Role.

   Role-Based Training Diagram

   They suggest that after designing your training plan there are still some questions we should address about the training plan.

  • How will training  be conducted within the Business Unit?
  • Will there be skills mentoring and performance coaching? 
  • What will the training activities include; Role-playing, Lectures, Discovery?
  • How will the training be distributed, in training  rooms, through written material, over the web-through eLearning?

   It seems to me that this is a more effective way for designing training courses, and certainly a better way of communicating training requirements to our training department. Our communication and adoption plans should help us message and position the training.

Implement Improvements

   When we have completed Stages 0-3 of the CPI Initiative, we are able to implement the Initiative’s improvements and execute our improvement plans to obtain better business results. This is stage 4, in the cycle. I’ve been told that we could spend up to 90% of our total efforts in this CPI Stage. Our Performance Team will need to balance the level-of-effort and complexity when executing our improvement initiatives.

   As a team, there will be four areas we will focus on according to the course material when implementing the practice improvements:

  • Improvement Roadmap:  This roadmap will define our timing and focus of the Best Practice improvement initiatives. Our Performance Team will refine the improvement roadmap schedule, based on collected feedback.
  • Communicate Relentlessly: We will need to communicate continuously, using tools to motivate employees. Communication helps us over­come resistance to the initiative, prepare people for change, and give employees a personal stake in the process.
  • Address Reactions to Change: In my experience, most people eventually adapt and are reconciled to change, but not before passing through various psychological stages. As leaders and Team Members, we should keep our cool in dealing with others, respond non-defensively, be willing to take risks, be open and candid, and have everyone participate actively in the change process.
  • Measure Results: As we have all heard “you can’t change what you don’t measure.”  The measure results process addresses the overall status, progress monitoring and measuring associated with improvement objectives. Our Performance Team will collect and consolidate data for the respective initiatives, and constantly monitor and report benefits to stakeholders, who adjust to ensure a successful outcome.

   As our team continues to implement improvement initiatives, monitor and control the work, we may decide to conduct another cycle to gauge the performance and adoption of practices that contribute to our improvement objectives.

pmNERDS Can Help

   Since the CPI course is a self-contained blended eLearning course, your team can deploy the CPI course on your own.  If needed, pmNERDS offers consultants to help you with your CPI initiatives.

   pmNERDS consultants can play a unique role in driving successful changes in your organization. Not only do they support the specific solution development, expertise and project management support, but they can be key players in the change management activities. pmNERDS consultants can serve in an advisory capacity, including:

  • Bringing a specialized management consulting expertise to improve the performance of your Business Unit.
  • Working within your corporate structure to resolve business issues and implement solutions in our effectiveness and development, strategic planning or process improvement.
  • Serving as a change agent, coach, educator or facilitator within your BU.
  • Supporting internal clients within a shared service type organization, such as Human Resources, Training & Development, Information Technology, Finance, Quality Management, Health, Safety & Environmental Services, Competitive/Business Intelligence and Planning, etc.

   pmNERDS consultants have been doing continuous improvement initiatives, process training and change adoption for over 20 years and are also certified Implementation Consultants.

Who Should Use This Course?

   This CPI Course is best used by anyone who has deployed or is going to deploy , however, this course would be valuable to any organization regardless of which PM tools they use. The CPI Course is priced per Business Unit and is available with or without pmNERDS consultants (at additional cost). Once purchased your business unit (regardless of how big) can use this course for an unlimited time, referring to it each time you need to train new team members, document discussions, add additional material, or to refresh forgotten concepts. These capabilities will further protect your investment in project improvement initiatives. 

Last modified onMonday, 16 October 2017 11:09

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