Many MLG consultancy assignments lead to significant change exercises within our clients which by their nature require first-rate project management in order to achieve the business objectives as soon as possible and within acceptable levels of expenditure. Such change may involve radical re-design of processes (sometimes described as ‘Reengineering’) throughout the organisation, the application of various Lean techniques to eliminate waste, changes to the way in which an existing planning and control system is used or, often, a combination of elements of all. 

Other projects may be aimed at the implementation of a new business system such as SAP, Oracle Manufacturing, or Mfg-Pro. In practice these implementations will usually (and, we believe, most definitely should) also involve the application of elements of Lean and Reengineering to ensure that the introduction of the new system brings about genuine change for the better.

Very often the change comprises a number of distinct projects, perhaps involving the re-location of facilities, the adoption of new processes in some areas, reorganisation and the re-definition of responsibilities. In such cases the term ‘programme’ may be used to represent the combination of the individual ‘projects’.

    Who Should Manage Change Programmes and Projects? 

    Our general recommendation is that project management be undertaken by the client team, for several reasons:

    • Visible commitment - a valued, senior manager being allocated to the task shows everyone in the business that the senior team are determined to see it through and that it is not a ‘flavour of the month’ that may be allowed to drift.
    • Ownership - long-term decisions on the future way of working will inevitably be a part of any such project and if the person responsible for the project is part of the future then there is ongoing ownership of these decisions and their consequences.
    • Cost - we have to recognise that full-time involvement of any external consultant is an expensive aspect of any such project.

    In many cases, of course, the tools being adopted may be outside the experience of people within the company. An external specialist with a proven track record in the field may therefore be the optimum solution. Visible commitment and ownership are, of course, important but the key objective has to be success. The issue of cost is relatively easy to assess – success is a less costly option than failure.

    The Alternatives

    MLG are able to provide programme and project management for most major change initiatives. As described elsewhere on this web site we operate in what we term the ‘consultancy continuum’ providing services ranging from training and education at one end of the scale to interim line management at the other. Our team have the detailed knowledge of all aspects of modern best practice to enable us to provide first-class courses on these subjects while combining this with ‘hands on’ experience of running operations. This provides us with the necessary credibility to manage major change projects within client organisations.

    Another approach is the appointment of an in-house project manager, supported and guided by a consultant acting as coach. In some cases, where a suitable internal candidate can be identified, this may provide the best of all worlds: the project is directed by somebody with experience and expertise, ownership clearly rests within the organisation and one of the team receives the benefit of being coached.

    A third option arises where the change programme comprises a number of parallel initiatives, some of which require particularly skilled levels of project management or expertise in particular techniques. Very often the adoption of new ways of working requires that established corporate practices or politics be challenged and seconding this to an external specialist may well be the optimum solution. An MLG consultant can then take responsibility for particular aspects of a programme while corporate resources manage the other aspects.

The Way Forward

All MLG assignments are undertaken on the basis of an approach agreed with client senior management at the outset which is reviewed regularly throughout the life of the project. 

After an investigation / analysis stage we present findings and recommendations and discuss all aspects of the future programme. One of the fundamental points in this session, after the nature of the change programme, is the project structure, of which project management is a key element. At this point we will start to develop a project plan with timings and costs. We say “start” because although in some cases we can set out the individual tasks and estimate timescales, other projects are not that simple. If we are looking at reengineering processes, for example, it is difficult at the outset to identify all the activities required to deliver the final solution since the final solution has probably not been defined.

We can, if the client wishes, adopt a standard project management methodology such as PRINCE2 although we have concerns that such approaches can often lead to more time spent on bureaucracy and documentation that provides protection from blame in the event of failure. We prefer to focus our efforts on the key tasks of:

  • Defining objectives
  • Translating the objectives into activities and responsibilities
  • Defining risks and establishing mitigations
  • Establishing timescales and cost projections
  • Establishing a communication plan
  • Identifying resource requirements and ensuring that these are available when needed
  • Monitoring progress against time and cost plans, reviewing and re-planning as required
  • Ensuring the necessary level of management involvement and commitment