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How To Launch A Successful Engineering Project

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Having the right operations in place is crucial if you want to launch an engineering project successfully. By employing the best team for your project and implementing business functions that work for your organization, you will be able to build a robust foundation to work off of, resulting in better communication within your team and a superior outcome.

But how do you start building this strong foundation? And how can you identify the changes you need to make to improve the overall outcome of the project?

In this blog, I share eight steps that you should take to ensure that your organization is fully optimized for your next project launch.

1. Find the Right People
When forming a team for the project, you will want to onboard personalities that work well together and add value to the project.
Seasoned employees with both engineering and leadership knowledge will be able to help set-up processes that work best for the project, while providing the drive your team needs to stay motivated and invested in your venture.
Look for people with an entrepreneurial mindset or perhaps event SMEs who can manage customers and work with you to either scale up or down when necessary. As a consequence, you will gain the flexibility to manage change, as well as offering you the opportunity to learn and try new techniques and processes.

2. Build Flexible Processes
The more rigid a process is, the more likely it is to break – processes must adapt in order to keep up with rapid changes, new opportunities and any potential problems. To quote Tony Robbins, “Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”

Assess what processes you already have in place to help manage the project. Can they be scaled up for significant opportunities? Can they be scaled down to fit smaller tasks?
Answering these questions will help you to identify any restrictions that could delay the progression of the project and hinder the performance of your team.
Automation is also vital for building flexible and agile solutions. According to McKinsey, “45 per cent of work activities could be automated using already demonstrated technology”. Doing so will give a project manager the opportunity to collect vital data while also freeing up necessary resources (including time and budgets), allowing both you and your team to focus on the essential tasks at hand.

3. Implement Adequate Checks
Are risks being regularly and proactively identified and arrested within projects? If your answer to this question is no, it’s time to make the relevant changes needed to deal with these problems.
In the life cycle of any project, no matter what sector you are in, there will always be unexpected problems and questions that you will have to acknowledge and deal with. However, small bugs are much easier to deal with if they are arrested before they become a bigger problem.

A simple way of recording these checks is to keep a log to file any recurring issues – this will help you identify problem areas that should be dealt with before they develop into more severe problems. This process should be supported by reviewing the changes made to solve these problems. Take a look at your current process for managing issues. Have you put steps in place to monitor any resolutions that could be made during a project? Will this process successfully identify what affect any decisions will have on the project? Make sure to have these additional checks put in place before launch to help prevent miscommunication and ensure that the problems have been completely resolved.

4. Change Management & Communication
There are lots of moving parts in a developing project, and each cog needs as much attention as the other. Every branch of the project will have its own goals, presenting multiple grow fronts that should be carefully monitored before, during, and after a project.

Consequently, communication is key – miscommunications can quickly build up and have a negative impact on the progress of the whole project, encouraging the development of problematic situations.
To combat the issue and to ensure that your project stays on track, you must implement effective change management, recording changes and progress as the project unfolds. Your method for dealing with change should include a platform dedicated to the support of communication across multiple branches within a project. This will help you to stay up to date with progress, collect vital data that can be used to analyse progress, and provide a framework for the rest of the team, keeping you all on the same path.

5. Reporting Goals and Expectations
Your team must be rowing in the same direction and speed if you want to work towards and achieve your set goals.
A reporting system using the correct KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) allows you to analyse the data relevant to the project and the progress of the main course of the project. With the right KPIs in place, you will be able to see if any areas are not meeting targets or goals and whether anyone is going off course or going too slow or too fast.

When deciding on the which KPIs will suit your engineering project, keep in mind the planned value of the project (PV), the actual cost (AC), as well return on investment (ROI), cost variance (CV) and the cost of managing processes. Although these could be considered rudimentary metrics (most of these are used daily by most businesses), they are fundamental to the performance of your project and will help you collect the data needed to steer you towards success!

6. Reviews
The more aware you are of your team’s performance, the less likely you are to be caught off guard. As a leader of an engineering project, you should be reviewing the performance of employees and the progress of the project on a regular basis and be confident about implementing reviews and evaluating decisions.

Before starting the project, make sure that you have allocated slots or milestones to assess progress and analyse the data that you have collected from your KPIs and other analytics.
If you have any recurring problems or dip in performance, sit down with your team to discuss why this is happening, as well as what can be done to stop this from reoccurring.

7. Get External Assistance Early
When planning an engineering project, you may find that there are gaps in your team’s knowledge and resources. The engineering industry is continuously evolving (especially with the integration of innovative technology in the workplace), and outsourcing is becoming an increasingly common scenario.
By working together, we can achieve better results and make the most of new opportunities, but to successfully integrate external help into the primary process of your work, you need to start looking for help before the project begins.

Introduce your coach or other entrepreneurs early to give them time to share their knowledge, helping you to successfully shape the foundation of the project before moving forward. The planning stage is an essential time for learning and re-evaluating how everything is going to work, not only to accommodate for new members, but to include the knowledge and apply it to the project to improve results.

8. Capacity and Goals
What is the overall goal of the project and do you have the ability to fulfil this goal?
Although this may seem a simple question, many project managers forget its importance. This can prove a fatal mistake as it is a vital step in understanding what you are working towards and what changes you will have to make in order to get there. If you are yet to answer this question, start by establishing your SMART goals.

You should be specific about what you want to achieve and why before introducing the KPIs you have chosen to measure overall performance. You will then be able to assign tasks to relevant people in your team, distributing relevant resources and knowledge to help establish a starting point. Finally, a time frame (whether that be a week, a month, or two years), will give you a finishing line to work towards. After establishing your goals, give yourself five minutes to re-evaluate your plans.

Within this frame work that you have created, will you be able to deliver what you have promised according to the restraints that you or another manager has set? Can your capacity be extended or stripped back as you head toward your goals? If your answer is yes, you have successfully established a strong foundation for your project. If not, go back through these stages until you build a frame work that can support your project.

Written by
Shivendra Kumar
Shivendra Kumar is a highly regarded leader, known for delivering organizational transformation through innovation and process improvement. With a unique approach and inspirational leadership style that creates a culture of change in businesses, he develops organisational capability needed for both short and long term results. His blogs cover topics related to business improvement, metrics and innovation.