Welcome to Week 7 and happy 4th of

Welcome to Week 7 and happy 4th of July. It’s our Independence Day celebration and that means two things. Firstly it should mean that we take time to reflect on our country’s past, our present and our future. We are in an interesting period of history right now. Around the world we can see that democracy is actually receding. Take a look at Turkey for example. Turkey was a modern democracy seeking entrance into the European Union. It’s now moving firmly in the opposite direction of a dictatorship. They are not alone. The Economist Intelligence Unit which is associated with the Economist Magazine – one of the best and most balanced news magazines available – has actually downgraded the US to a “flawed” democracy because trust in our government has degraded so much. Whether you like our current elected officials or not you have to admit that trust has seriously eroded. It’s important to think about global politics and put things into perspective and ask yourself what you can do to make the world a better place.

But as interesting as that is, it’s off topic for our class. Back to class, the second thing July 4th means is vacations. I certainly understand if you are traveling this summer and may need an extension. Please prioritize the team work and be sure you get that completed on time but for your individual work if you need more time don’t hesitate to contact me. Remember though, the work stacks up so be sure you’re not falling behind.

Moving on, this week we leave spreadsheets and the Balanced Scorecard and we start with Project Management. That may sound a little strange but the reason we structure this class in this way is because when you are making and implementing decisions in organizations you’ll need to start with your finances. Can you afford to make the changes you are thinking about? Or do you need to raise money either from an investment or perhaps a donation? Then think about how the plans fit into your long-term operations. That’s where the Balanced Scorecard fits in. Here you’re evaluating what’s happened over the last year and what you would like to see happen in the next year from multiple perspectives. Then if you still think the changes are a good idea then you launch a project. Then once the project is completed you go back into normal operations.

For instance, I am the president of a charity in Midcoast Maine. We decided that major renovations to our building were required. First we looked at our financial position and asked ourselves whether we could afford the renovation and also whether we had enough cash for contingency if something went wrong. We then looked at how the proposed renovation would fit in with our day-to-day operations and whether it would make things easier or harder. We didn’t use a Balanced Scorecard but we did examine the proposal from many different perspectives and viewpoints. Now, we’re raising the money needed and we’ll launch a project in October (after tourist season is over) and the for four weeks the building will be torn apart and we’ll have to meet elsewhere. Then after the project is completed we’ll get used to working in the new environment and we’ll be back into normal operations – where continuous process improvement takes over.

That’s a simple example but you get the idea. A project is meant to be a temporary endeavor where something new and unique is designed and built. Then it’s tested and the users are trained. Then you cut back into normal operations. During the project resources are dedicated to the project. This is kay because it means that people, hardware, software, money, office space and more are allocated to the project instead of people doing it in their spare time, for instance.

Also, you can think of a project like this: if you are making a major change you need to launch a project. If you are making a minor change then you’re in normal operations management. Let’s look at a different example for a moment to drive this point home. A while ago, a friend of mine was overseeing work on an assembly line. They were making shingles. One day, the marketing folks go together with the research and development folks and decided they should be making solar shingles. So my colleague launched a project to develop a brand new assembly line to make solar shingles. After the assembly line was designed they built a test unit and brought in workers to test it out. They made updates and then when it was working properly they declared success, ended the project and then the assembly line became part of their normal operations. Then continuous process improvement took over.

You’ll have a chance to talk about that at length this week in your Discussion Activity. The timing is perfect because it’s a holiday week and DA’s don’t generally take nearly as long as regular assignment. Do however, look ahead because next week’s assignment is a little longer. That’s a great assignment because it is about as real life as you can get and it walks through all of the phases and knowledge areas of a project – for better and worse. You’ll see what I mean next week.

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