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Balancing Project Completion & Continuous Improvement

Typical project or program management wisdom dictates that a project or program needs to be completed to be successful, however this is in discord with most businesses growth strategies using continuous improvement or growth strategies.  This type of discord can lead to project delays or failures as the company or organization moves away from finishing a project.  Also, projects focused on closure can stymie growth strategies if they aren’t couched in the context of wider improvement.

The Case for Project Completion

Projects that complete on time and on budget with the required level of quality are often the standard with which project sponsors and managers look to attain or are ultimately judged.  This includes both Agile and Waterfall methodologies where:

  • Agile projects complete through finishing the timebox and budget while ensuring sprints have necessary quality
  • Waterfall projects complete when the build is completed and, in the case of SaaS technology, the solution is deployed and live.

The completion of a project or program of work also means that future projects can be started, resources can be redeployed, and KPIs can be measured.  With no ending, there would be no way to measure success.

The Case for Continuous Improvement

Businesses are often in a position where a finished project is only the first step towards a best-in-class solution, and they view their business as one of a strategic path towards continually improving and refining.

Often software companies, for instance, look at improving a customer’s purchased solution through customer success or support.  In fact, many solutions like Salesforce include inbuilt tracking which allows useful discussions to take place on how an organization can take advantage of improvements or advances in the solution (be they seasonal releases or tracking of user adoption).  Also, the way a solution like Salesforce updates and innovates, customers and clients who stand still, are often losing out on great benefits.

Typical methodological approaches to continuous improvement focus on the cyclical nature of development and change.  There is a focus on what can be achieved in the future and how to grasp it.

Finding Balance and a Case for Synergy

Although I feel that it is immensely important to finish what is started, a look to the future can, potentially, provide greater benefits.  To achieve this, you need project managers (PM) who have a “completer-finisher” mentality but also possess the flexibility to view the project within the larger context of improvement and success.  This PM will shape the project(s) with a view towards both end goals and ensure the team is also focused on those outcomes.  Teams that focus on both aspects of project closure and fostering a culture of continuous improvement will have the best chance to find success while ensuring future progress.

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Marc Pulverman

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