Productivity can be one of the main drivers for determining project performance. Our definition of productivity is how fast we can complete the work on a project. You can imagine as productivity is impacted, the speed at which work is completed can be slowed causing schedule delays on even the best-planned projects.
All process improvement efforts target improvements in the areas of productivity and/or quality.
Productivity problems can manifest in several ways. At the top of projects, they appear as schedule delays. They can also be seen in the following symptoms and scenarios:
- Delivery delays, not only to the customer, but also to teams/departments internal to the project
- The above delivery delays can cause idle teams and workers who are waiting for information/materials to be able to start their work, or simply haven’t received word that they can start
- Teams working very hard, but not producing the expected result, or producing it late
- Quality issues (i.e. mistakes, errors) that create rework can also result in delays because the work needs to be redone
To learn why some of these symptoms occur, let’s look upstream at some of the drivers of productivity. The diagram below shows a list of drivers or causes that can influence productivity.
Delivery delays, and teams overworking, can be caused by almost any driver, or combination of drivers, listed in the above diagram. But some common causes include:
- Changes to scope and specification – when specs and/or the size of the project changes midstream, workers and teams need time to adjust
- Complexity – technical tasks and complex processes slow work down and invite people to make errors
- Upstream errors – some errors can be passed-down from one team to another, and sometimes errors can hide and not be discovered until later stages of the project
- Hand-offs – having to hand work off to other teams/departments can introduce down-time or gaps in the work
- Communication issues – lacking a system to notify downstream teams as to when work is coming their way can cause surprises
- Staff turnover – both attrition and hiring can dilute overall productivity because you’re losing experienced workers and gaining inexperienced workers, and new workers need to be trained by experienced workers who are scheduled to work tasks, and now need to take time to train
- Searching – for materials and/or information needed to complete a task is time that could have been spent working and keeping tasks on-schedule
Quality issues, which will be the focus of another blog, can be caused by any of the drivers listed in the quality sections of the above diagram.
Process improvement is specifically aimed at alleviating the causes of productivity problems, and thereby increasing schedule performance on projects.