OEE’ (OEE Prime): A new metric for manufacturing

Originally I wrote this white paper to be consumed in 5 different chunks.  However, having finally finished my thoughts on the topic (for now), I felt compelled to simply get it out there.  I hope to hear ideas, both constructive and destructive (why not?) to see how this idea is received and whether or not you feel that it would be a valuable tool in your profession.

Click on the link below and let me know what you think!

OEE’ Whitepaper


Project Management Gone Awry


One of the nice things about being American is that the government always gives us an opportunity to learn from their mistakes.  It doesn’t matter your political views, government is messed up.

So with the latest fiasco with Obamacare (or the Affordable Care Act, if you prefer…but Obamacare is so much easier to say) we can see how the website rollout was a poorly managed project.  Let’s do some inferring and see why.

A project is really about syncing three things: Scope, Quality, Time.  Let’s look at how these things are interconnected and how we can make sure we observe some basic understanding of what to do.

The scope must not have been well defined for the website since the major issue was that too many people were trying to log on at once.  This should have been projected as a risk during the definition portion of the project and a mitigation strategy designed.  Now, I am not a web designer or network engineer, so please forgive the errors I may state and feel free to correct me if you have knowledge in these areas.

The system should have been designed to manage the peaks of the users.  The traffic should have been projected and then doubled.  I know that some of the States had their own systems and that needed to be factored in as well.  But there are mathematicians that can help with the statistics.  There are design criteria for the servers and workflow processes.  Some users could have been given a “sorry” message rather than having their information lost when applying for healthcare.

Obviously, the timeline was not reasonable since the website clearly wasn’t ready.  This should have been a pushback to the White House.  Another option would be to cut back the scope or quality of the site, but since that was probably not a good option, they should have delayed the start.

In the political environment, you have to pay attention to what is promised to the people.  The web site designers should have been regularly communicating with the President (their Sponsor) who in turn is communicating to the people (the Stakeholders).  The President and system designers should have been on the same page with timing, capability, and expectations so that everyone understood what was going to happen.  If it would have been stated that the site could only handle so many users, it would have been better received when there were issues and the corrections could have happened immediately.


  • Clearly understand your objectives and create a comprehensive scope.
  • Listen to your Sponsor.
  • Predict the needs of the users.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.

As with Leadership, Project Management boils down to communication.  Communication of expectations, progress, and reality.  We all want an optimist to lead, but reality has to be part of what is communicated.  People can tell the difference between hope and reality if you give them the information to distinguish between the two.

Finding Your Way



We all need a map (yes fellas, even you).  Maps are tools to navigate in areas that are unfamiliar.  They hold immense amounts of information in very simple forms.  Maps help us to remember where we have been and how to get to where we are going. 

We navigate in unfamiliar media every day.   The trick is to know how to make a map when there isn’t one around.  Below are some basic ideas on how to make a map of a project, a development plan, or a strategy.  Let me know your thoughts.

  1. Start with an idea.  Vague is okay when starting the process.  You may not know where you will end up, but have an idea of the outcome.
  2. Lay down the rough lines.  Outlining is useful and so is creating nested topics.  If working a project, think about significant milestones that have to happen to reach the end.
  3. Start to fill in the detail.  This step is progressive and iterative.  Once you start filling in details you will have to refine other parts of your map and revise.  This leads to more detail.
  4. Think of different ways to deliver information.  Maps use symbols, lines, numbers, legends, etc.  Think of how you might incorporate the same into your map.  Using different colors or thicker lines to demonstrate impact or size is a simple way to add information (large cities have a different symbol and are usually in bold type on a map).
  5. Proofread.  Have someone else try to navigate using your map.  That is the ultimate test.  Can he get from here to there?  This is useful for strategies, procedures, presentations.
  6. Make it easy to read.  You don’t want people to have to stare at your map for days before they know how to use it.  But don’t forget that people need to be trained on how to read maps.  You didn’t know how to use a map before you were taught and you probably haven’t seen a map like the picture above unless you are a pilot.

Maps can be graphical, linear, or simply post-it notes on a wall with string.  It’s about organizing the information and making it available to others.  These are skills any leader or project manager must have to be successful.

How have you used maps in your life?

Why to Say “No” to a Customer


image from: http://balancejoyanddelicias.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/saying-no/

It can be tempting to do what your client asks of you even when you know it will be wrong or it will not work.  After all, “she is the customer and the customer is always right.”  Below are a few reasons why you should be willing to tell your client no and even to be willing to walk away from the job.

You Have Professional Integrity

You are partnering with a client because they need your expertise.  They should be hiring you because they are not in the position to do the job themselves.  This should put you in a position of knowing the pros and cons of the job.  Take the time to walk through it with your client (after all you may have missed something) and be willing to explain yourself several times.  If it gets to a point that you are being pushed into something you don’t like, for whatever reason, be willing to walk away.

They Will Respect You

No one respects a pushover.  No one respects pushy people either.  You have to be ready to temper your customer service with professional resolve and vice versa.  A soft approach is the best way to take a hard line.

You Have Their Best Interests In Mind

If you are willing to do whatever they ask, they don’t need you.  You become a second pair of hands and that it not fun.  What you want to be is a trusted partner, and that means you contribute knowledge and expertise.  Letting the client know that you want them to be successful is how you can make sure you never put yourself in a position to be blamed for your project failing.

If you are tactful and professional you can make sure that you only work on the projects that will make a difference for your clients.  This is what will make you stand out and give you a great reputation.  If you are in a position where you have a direct boss within an organization there will be times that you have to do what you may not think is best.  But don’t be afraid to speak your mind and get your ideas on the table.

How can you say “no” to clients and customers?

Eliminating Vanishing Points


The vanishing point is the distance where the sky meets the sea.  It is also the point where vertical planes appear to merge.  To me, a vanishing point does not represent disappearance, rather, it represents infinity.  I know that things keep going and if I can’t see the end it makes me think it goes on forever.

This can be a problem with a project.  If you don’t see the end it most definitely can go on forever.  Here are some tried and true tips on how to make sure you can see the end of your projects.

Define the Ending

If you can describe the ending to a point where you can envision it then you will know what it looks like when you reach it.  Many projects fail because the ending is ambiguous.

Develop Your “Will-dos”

In your scope, spell out what you will accomplish with this project.  If you have itemized deliverables and you can check them off you will know you are done with the project when there is nothing else to check.

Develop Your “Won’t-dos”

Just as importantly (and more importantly in many cases) you need a list of things you won’t do as part of your project.  You will typically get pushback on this, but it is worth it.  Now you can’t be led astray and steered away from your real objectives.

Set a Finish Date

If we don’t give ourselves deadlines we give ourselves excuses.  Most people procrastinate (I’m just as guilty as the next guy) when we don’t have a deadline.  Finish dates are key to providing that needed pressure to get the job done.

Get Sign-offs

If you think you are done and you have hit your objectives, get the key stakeholders to put in writing that they agree with you.  It is your contract with them that the project is done and that the end is nigh.

These are just some quick pointers that have worked for countless project managers.  Keep in mind that these tips also work with Leadership and setting expectations and goals for teams.  Look over them again and you will see how this is similar to goal-setting and Performance Improvement Plans.

What are some other ways to define the end?

How could these pointers have helped with your past projects?

Can You See the Storm Coming?


Meteorologists have the best job in the world; they can be wrong 100% of the time and still be employed.  But if we miss the big storms we can be left exposed to the elements.  What we often forget is that the storms can be brewing from within our own back yards.

Beware the Calm Before the Storm
If the birds aren’t chirping watch out!  If there is no noise going on there is probably a problem brewing.  There should always be constructive conflict happening.  That means you will hear a little bit of heat in a discussion, and that isn’t all bad.  If the air is too calm, people are sheltering you from what is really going on and that can be a sign of bad things on the horizon.

Where there is Thunder there is Lightning
Too big of blow-ups are the other extreme.  If people are exploding with emotion that means they are having a hard time coping with the stress of work.  That stress can come from many different things.  This is not something to sweep under the rug.  If you hear of a blow-up then someone is having a rough go of it and it needs to be addressed.  A Leader will make sure that the underlying issue (the lightning) is found and dealt with appropriately.

Reaching Steady-State
Small storms are a good thing.  We need some rain and weather is always about nature trying to reach a steady-state.  Introduce a few storms every once in a while to make sure that you are always making improvements.

Remember, we can’t always control the weather.  Not every day will be sunshine and a warm breeze.  Be prepared and understand that storms will come.

What are some other signs of storms?

How can Leaders better control their weather?