A project methodology for service management (Project Lite)

I once suggested to an IT Manager to use project management methodologies for service management activities. It was met with derision and the comment that I was being too theoretical. However, far from being theoretical or inappropriate the ITIL process methodology suggests that these activities be approached as projects using a methodology like PRINCE. Basic project management, can within reason, be applied to anything. I can only assume that the alternative method that the IT manager was suggesting was that well know fighter pilot methodology called "fly by the seat of your pants." In most cases the result is obvious, "crash and burn." The methods of approaching large projects are well documented so I will not discuss those in detail. However, some of these projects are a few days and short in nature so for these I will suggest something termed as Project Lite. Project Lite has 10 distinct steps as described below. David Allen, a productivity guru, frequently asserts that anything that takes more than two steps and two minutes to accomplish is a project. David Ruiz, director of IT at DIC Entertainment Corp, states that nine out of 10 times taking the extra time to create a plan will save you time and money. Thus Project Lite is something that should be used often!

  1. The first place to start is the visionary statement. On 25 May, 1961 President Kennedy called for a mission to send man to the moon by the end of the decade. This was a visionary statement and any project even a Lite one needs it. The JFK needs a goal, what will make it successful, what the requirements are from people, products, processes and partners, what are the concerns (e.g. urgency and safety) and finally what is the budget and bottom line.
  2. The second step is the lessons learned. The Battle of Iwo Jima was fought between February and March 1945, during World War II. The battle was marked by some of the fiercest fighting of the campaign and resulted in an After Action Review. This review resulted in the Marines changing the strategy in which they approached subsequent battles. In essence this is the lessons learnt phase. The experience gained in previous actions, tasks and endeavours must not be lost and needs to be applied. It would be a total lack of due diligence to do otherwise.
  3. The third step is obtaining the correct tools (software/hardware). Amundsen was the first person to reach both the North and South poles. Amundsen's expedition benefited from good equipment, appropriate clothing, concentrating on the primary goal, an understanding of dogs and their handling, and the effective use of skis. He pioneered an entirely new route to the Pole and successfully returned. In Amundsen's own words: "I may say that this is the greatest factor, the way in which the expedition is equipped, the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order, luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck." This step needs to look at the correct tools and hardware needed and then the steps that need to be taken for it to be used to it's full potential.
  4. The fourth step is training/testing. Flight simulators are used extensively in training flight crew but are also used in such engineering activities as : development and testing of flight hardware and software, development and testing of aircraft systems. For electrical, hydraulic and flight control systems, full-size engineering rigs sometimes called "Iron Birds" are used during the development of the aircraft and its systems. In the context of Project Lite, this is the testing and training of all the tools and processes that will be used. This is the part that usually covers, the plan and plan again part of a project.
  5. The fifth step is budgeting. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (British Cabinet minister responsible for all economic and financial matters) traditionally carries his Budget speech to the House of Commons in a particular red briefcase. The Chancellor's red briefcase is identical to the briefcases used by all other government ministers (known as ministerial boxes or "red boxes") to transport their official papers but is better known because the Chancellor traditionally displays the briefcase, containing the Budget speech, to the press in the morning before delivering the speech. The front door of Number 11 Downing Street will always be associated with the countless Budget Day photo calls when the Chancellor holds up the red Budget box containing his speech before he makes his way to the House of Commons. When working on a project, even a small one, it is important to place a high level of importance on the financial aspects as this can often lead to an unnecessary and disproportionate time being allocated to debating the financial merits of the endeavour. This step is the crucial step of making certain that the budget is created, assessed and approved.
  6. The sixth step is managing the schedule. Mission Control Centre (MCC) is a unit that manages aerospace flights. MCC is often part of an aerospace agency. There are several such agencies in the world, the three biggest ones being: NASA, FKA and ESA. The main task of these units is to manage space missions. A staff of flight controllers and other support personnel monitor all aspects of the mission using telemetry. In the United States, the Mission Control Centre is associated with manned space flight. A separate organization called the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and control room manages unmanned space probes. The crucial component in terms of this step in Project Lite is the management of the schedule. In most endeavours this is the only part that is done mostly because it is the only thing for which the many of the commercial project packages cater. An important thing to remember is that this is only a guide and should "shit happen", there needs to be flexibility and alternatives in the schedule.
  7. The seventh step is checklists. A checklist is used to compensate for the weaknesses of human memory to help ensure consistency and completeness in carrying out a task. The pilot's checklist was first used and developed in 1934 when a serious accident hampered the adoption into the armed forces of a new aircraft (the predecessor to the famous Flying Fortress). The pilots sat down and put their heads together. What was needed was some way of making sure that everything was done; that nothing was overlooked. What resulted was a pilot's checklist. Actually, four checklists were developed - takeoff, flight, before landing, and after landing. The new aircraft was not "too much airplane for one man to fly", it was simply too complex for any one man's memory. These checklists for the pilot and co-pilot made sure that nothing was forgotten. When running projects it is important to document and record dependencies. Often these are too many for a single individual to remember and thus lists capture those critical requirements that would otherwise have slipped through the cracks.
  8. The eight step is prioritization. Churchill was a master of prioritization. He understood well that you might need to loose a few battles, too win the war. During the Battle of Britain, the Royal Air Force's (RAF) Fighter Command was on the verge of being wiped out, when bombs were accidentally dropped on London. The retaliatory bomb strikes on Berlin, resulted in the Germans changing their tactics to bombing British cities. This provided a sufficient enough gap for the RAF to recover and eventually regain supremacy over the skies of Britain. In most projects, the stakeholders need to prioritize between cost, scope and scheduling. The priority of each determines the path a project takes.
  9. The ninth step is risk assessment. The meerkat is a small mammal. It inhabits all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa. The clan (a group of meerkats) can grow to be up to 20 members at a time, or more and are very sensitive about their territories. They are one of the most risk aware animals in existence. One or more meerkats stand sentry (lookout) while others are foraging or playing, to warn them of approaching dangers. When a predator is spotted, the meerkat performing as sentry gives a warning bark, and other members of the gang will run and hide in one of the many bolt holes they have spread across their territory. The sentry meerkat is the first to reappear from the burrow and search for predators, constantly barking to keep the others underground. If there is no threat, the sentry meerkat stops signalling and the others feel safe to emerge. Projects need to take account of the risks. One of the best practice methodologies to do this is CRAMM. This risk management process is based on the Confidentiality, Impact and Availability (CIA) framework. The methodology uses impact, vulnerability and counter measures to create an accurate risk assessment.
  10. The tenth and final step is the doing. Projects are nine steps planning and one step doing.  CADAC, is a blue gas cylinder which has been in many South African homes for more then 59 years. It is a brand which has became part of the South African lifestyle. The skottel is a part of every cricket or rugby game and is a part of South African culture as much would be braais, biltong and boerewors. The skottel is the epitome of "cooking on gas." "Cooking on gas" is a phase of related to when things are being actioned and working well. This is the doing part of the project, the business end.
That wraps up Project Lite. And finally, to all the project methodology critics who inspired this blog, buy a donkey. (Baiedankie = thanks)!

Read an article about this topic on LinkedIn's Pulse here.

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