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How Good Project Management Can Reduce Production Delays

During his education session at OMTEC® 2019, Chris McDade asked audience members to raise a hand if they had experienced project delays. Nearly every hand shot up.

True understanding and execution of project management can minimize delays to market and make the production process more predictable, said McDade, Senior Project Manager at DePuy Synthes Trauma. Better predictability means helping more patients, gaining a competitive edge and better planning of both costs and revenues.

In his session, McDade provided a refresher on the basic skills of project management, focusing on process accuracy and risk assessment.

A Phased Project

Effective project management starts with a good outline of what and when. McDade noted the following phases:

Charter: In the opening phase, the organization assesses the business case, unmet need and value of the project.

Phase One: The company looks at the plans, schedule, scope and feasibility of the project. 

Phase Two: The project is designed and mapped. 

Phase Three: The project is tested and verified.

Phase Four: The company launches the product. Regulatory clearance and marketing are large parts of this phase.

Phase Five: In the closing phase, the team assesses metrics and reviews any lessons they’ve learned, whether positive or negative.

“It’s a way to progress through the project and keep track of the project,” McDade said. “The phasing process is key for project management.”

In the early phases, it’s essential for the team to clearly define the scope of the project, including any assumptions for why they are going in a specific direction.

The team will also need to estimate how long the project will take during the early phases. The best way to estimate is to have first-hand experience, beyond management, with each aspect of the project. McDade compared this to a child learning what “hot” means by touching an oven. You may think that you understand how something works, but you learn best by seeing first-hand how it works.

After figuring out how long each task might take, McDade suggests using a three-point weighted estimation to determine total project time. This works by adding the “optimistic” estimation for a project with the “most likely estimation” and the “pessimistic” estimation, then dividing that number by three. If the project would take one week at its best, two weeks at its most likely result, and four weeks at its worst, the three-point weighted estimation would be 2.33 weeks for the project.

“In that case, you’re hedging a bit,” he said.

While estimating each task would be time-consuming, McDade suggests that teams look at the top 20% of intensive tasks and take their average to use in the three-point weighted estimation. This allows the most accurate estimate without having to account for each piece of the project, which would needlessly add more time.

Assessing Risk

In later phases, teams must continually assess risks. In this case, risks are anything that could throw the team off from a time or cost perspective. McDade suggests weighing the risks and checking in at regular intervals to update and reassess the risks to the project.

“It may seem a little tedious, but as you go through a project, some of your risks will retire and some new risks will come on,” McDade said.

Teams can create a risk register, which quantifies the project’s risk by ranking it, describing it, thinking about its probability and listing a strategy to deal with it. Once the register is complete, teams can build a critical path which lays out all of the items the team will need to complete over the span of the project. The team will be able to see when each task needs to be finished and when each new task is scheduled to start, understanding the risks associated with each task.

“Learning and understanding the process is key, because then you’ll know where you’re more susceptible to issues,” McDade said. “In the end, we should be more predictable so we can get things to market more quickly and help patients.”

Hal Conick is an ORTHOWORLD® Contributing Editor.