By Jay Yates, Manager of Implementation
So, you’ve been asked to complete a large project with impossible time lines and failure is not an option. You can’t do it on your own and be successful. I’ve been there more times than I can count, as I am sure you all have been. Recently, Sales Leadership approached me with a large project that would impact our profitability and help us secure a new customer who is growing in one of our targeted markets.
When challenged with what seemed like the impossible, you need to step back and re-examine the norm.
For me, it’s a balance of what you have done in the past (lessons learned) and finding new approaches to the road blocks. The value of getting the team to work together to achieve a common goal became evident with this specific request.
The prospective customer required our automation to be delivered, installed, and live at the first site in just eight days and at the second location in three weeks. That would have been hard enough, but they also had third and fourth locations, each requiring more hardware and training than the previous location. The fastest we had ever delivered this solution was in 90 days, and that was on a much smaller scale.
First we gathered all internal stakeholders. We started the meeting on a positive note and with a “can do” attitude. What would this project mean to us as a company? If we succeed, what will we gain as a company? We did not lose sight of the risk of failure. As a matter of fact, understanding the risk quickly helped us identify the critical milestones.
Understanding the Challenge and Mitigating the Roadblocks
We quickly knew that we could not manufacture, deliver, install, and write interfaces for the first site within eight days, even if we worked day and night. We also understood that not only would our company have to work together as a team, but the customer played an important role in the team’s success. No matter how well we preformed, if they didn’t deliver at their end, the project would fail.
Our internal team determined that we could complete our work in 14 days. We went back to our customer to see if 14 days would work for them. Then, the entire team (the customer and our own internal team) was challenged to examine every task and to think differently. No matter what the role, we needed everyone’s help to make this work. It required everyone to take on tasks they didn’t normally do and to support each other throughout the process. As an example, our team installed all the hardware needed at the customer’s first location. Normally we would rely on our local vendor to install our hardware prior to our arrival. This change allowed us to shorten our lead time by at least ten days, just one of the many examples of how teamwork helped us achieve our goal.
Don’t stop after the plan has been created – wrap up the loose ends
The finish matters. You and your team can do great work; however, it can all be forgotten if you don’t close the project properly. We did have challenges that we couldn’t have predicted when we started the project. We took an agile approach and refused to be confined to our standard processes. When we encountered a roadblock during the project, we again involved the entire team.
In the end we were able to meet the objectives of both our customer and our company, working as a team.