Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Myth of Lessons Learned

We’ve all been there. We are starting a project, we are working on a project, we are about to finish a project and we know, we just know someone has done something like this before. So what do we do? Well, all good companies have a “Lessons Learned Knowledge Base,” a store of historical information and lessons learned about both the outcomes of previous project decisions and previous project performance.  So says the Project Management Institute.  But wait, you can’t seem to find yours. People say we did something like that a few years back.  So why is it so hard to find out what happened?

It’s so hard because most companies do not have an easy way to find lessons learned if they keep them at all.  Do you know where to find them in your company? If so, you are one of the lucky ones.  If not, join the crowd.  Of course we are all responsible.  This is not just a Program Management or Quality responsibility, although they deserve much of the credit or blame. When you finished your last project there were actions and decisions that worked well and others, not so well.  Where did you record these actions so others could benefit from your experience? And can others find these results?

In most companies / organizations, small, medium and especially large, Lessons Learned are a Myth.  Do something about it. In both the short and long run, using tools and techniques to make decisions that have been proven to work before makes money; making the same mistakes over again doesn’t.

Monday, February 8, 2016

In any given ocean project from concept to completion there are usually around a 100 major steps.   Somewhere within these  steps will be the design, manufacture, termination and maintenance of the cable that is to be used in an undersea environment.   Cables could develop into becoming the weak link of an ocean system based on a number of factors and require attention.  To get the cable you need that assures your ocean system functions properly, and can be built in the scheduled time and stays within budget, the following steps are basic but very essential:
  •      Know what you need
  •      Communicate your needs to the cable supplier
  •      Manage the procurement cycle; do not strictly depend on the supplier

The first step in getting the cable you need is to get a firm grip on the cable and performance requirements.   Focus first on the key requirements of working tension, power demand, communications needed, and size and weight constraints.  More often important requirements are forgotten rather than done improperly so developing a check list of cable requirements is a useful way to check that potential requirements are covered.

Once your requirements are in place they must be communicated to the cable supplier.   This is the job of the cable specification.  Cable specifications should be clear, complete, and concise.  As much as possible the requirements should be performance based rather than a specific design to allow the cable supplier the most freedom to meet your performance needs.   However, interfaces are one area where details are essential.

The final step in getting the cable you need is to manage your cable supplier during manufacture and test of the cable.   Make a plan.   The amount of effort expended in the plan depends on the complexity of the cable and how crucial it is to the project.  Maintain clear communications by establishing single points of contact and understanding the Quality Control system of your supplier.  Have regular meetings to keep current on program status.  Non-compliance issues must be addressed early which can only happen with good communication.  Have a thorough test program.  Testing of cable systems is a key to averting problems later in system operation.

Following a disciplined Program Quality approach of knowing your requirements, writing a good specification, and monitoring your supplier can prevent cable problems from occurring in your ocean system.