HOW TO MAKE A SUCCESSFUL PROJECT?
“The one who has no sense of perfection, is satisfied with peaceful mediocrity” as painter Paul Cézanne once said. That sentence can easily be moved into business reality. Recent changes, continuous improvement and operational excellence is giving power to growth, better profitability and making the business environment more efficient and pleasant for everyone.
That is why in 2013, ABB, a global leader in power and automation technologies, launched the project, ‘Operational Excellence in Project Management (OPEX PM)’. The project lasted 1.5 years, its results and achievements exceeded everybody’s expectations, as Miroslaw Miroslawski, Project Sponsor and CFO of ABB in Poland said: “During months of work we conducted a far-reaching standardization of Project Manager function strengthening its position in the organization. ”It is also seen in our business results, said Agnieszka Skalska, Project Manager of OPEX PM. Finally, the customer satisfaction score(NPS) increased more than 23 p.p. and the amount of Customer Complaints (CCRP) decreased by approximately 54 p.p. The Managing Director of ABB in Poland, Pawel Lojszczyk summarized the project justification in a perfect way: “The best promotion to the customer is a well executed project”.
The OPEX PM project received ABB’s CEO Excellence Award in 2014 and in 2015. It was also given an award by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and gained the title “Project of The Year”. Both awards confirm that OPEX PM project team have made significant contributions to Operational Excellence by implementing recognizable improvements to the business and that the project was executed in accordance with global trends in project management.
OPEX PM was a cross functional project conducted in a strong matrix organization. ABB in Poland has approx. 4200 employees and is organized into four Divisions which in turn, are made up of specific business units focused on particular industries and product categories. Elements such as cultural complexity, wide project scope and the necessity of the involvement of many individuals from all organization levels created a lot of challenges in the implementation phase. The direct project team involved 35 people and another 130 project stakeholders. The project was divided into six main themes:
In each of them we identified all the activities that needed to be accomplished and was preceded by the irreproachable root course analysis. ABB distinguished four groups of Project Managers, but during the project we focused only on Business Project Managers who lead, manage or contribute to ABB customer projects.
What did we do differently?
There are a limited amount of global project management standards so it is impossible to figure out a completely new attitude for conducting projects by keeping the methodology simple and easy to apply on a daily basis. So we haven’t reinvented the wheel but we implemented project management standards in a very innovative way that added real value to the company and its customers. The following 3 elements we always kept in our minds: people, processes and value added. We combined the PMI standard with the ‘real-life’ experience of our people during eight two-days workshops. We gathered around one table, people who are involved in project execution or have something in common: project managers, sales, SCM, logistics, service specialists, financial controllers engineers, sales technical support, order handling and quality managers from all BU’s and we were discussed every activity, responsibilities, tools, triggers and expected outputs. The workshops also had a hidden goal – building awareness of project management and making the people owners of that solution. Finally, we spent 128 hours together on workshops, we elaborated 10 products which helped to implement the final solution, we created 51 process maps with tailored process, taking into account the nature of the BU’s/Divisions work, we described and agreed on 723 activities with RACI and nominated 7 process owners (Local Division PM Champion) which will help to implement the process within their units and we did it all without involving any external consultants. All our findings were summarized in a 10-page procedure which is quite good compared to other available standards. Having one common project management standard is a good start but it is not enough to ensure that people will start using it. That is why since the very beginning of the project we built peoples accountability around the project results to show how to overcome the obstacles, excuses and biases that keep them from getting the results they want. We applied the “OZ Principle” and that helped us to ‘see’ the reality and face organizational challenges. Then to take ownership of everything that we learnt about ourselves and accept it (‘own it’). Such reflection lead us to look for organizational improvements (‘solve it’) and encourage others to follow and support the project’s result. (‘do it’). Another key contributor to the project success was the fact that we linked technical project management with a pinch of leadership and a structured process for leading the people-side of change (change management). Prosci studies showed that projects using effective change management processes and tools had a much higher probability of achieving their objectives, finishing on time and staying on budget. What we fully confirmed and what OPEX PM project is proving. We ran the change management programme to help the employees go through the transition process, move to new job functions and decrease their resistance to change. To sustain the change, we created two new roles in the organization: Local Division PM Champion and OPEX PM Leader who were responsible for keeping the project results in the organization.
How does the project support organization in building market advantages?
Implementing ABB customer projects on-time, on-budget and within the expected quality, are key elements that have a significant impact on building competitive advantages of ABB. Thanks to the OPEX PM project, the company gained an image of a reliable and credible business partner. The level of customer satisfaction increased significantly and is reflected in the NPS, but also in renewing orders or in receiving new contracts from new customers. The company has become „more perfect” inside and can be seen in the lowering costs of operations and the ability to lead more projects in parallel. We have learned how to plan and manage risks, which eliminates most of the issues before they appear. We are using global standards and practices of Project Management to be in the lead. Employees are more satisfied with their tasks because they have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Regardless of the BU’s that are implementing the project, we are presenting the same values to our customers and the imperative „One of ABB” is visible outside the Company. To sum up, the successful implementation of the OPEX PM project in ABB, improved operating efficiency, positively influenced the trust of our customers and most importantly –the Project Management mindset has appeared in the organizational DNA permanently.
Why was the OPEX PM project such a success?
Firstly, the project management was linked with change management. Secondly we created an open atmosphere for communication and provided frequent bottom-up and top-down communication. The next very important thing was commitment and a highly motivated and engaged team. All organizational levels including the Board supported the project and promoted the project’s decisions. Finally, The project had an active and visible Project Sponsor. “Although the project is finished, the most difficult part is in front of us – to maintain implemented changes and ensure that people will not return to their old working habits” – Agnieszka Skalska said.
-Aleksander Sosnowski, Country IS Manager, Country Quality & Operational Excellence Manager, Country Sustainability Controller
-Agnieszka Skalska, Local OPEX PMO Leader & Chief OPEX Project Manager
-Paweł Łojszczyk, Prezes Zarządu ABB Sp. z o.o. oraz Dyrektor Krajowy ABB