Project Management by Henry Ford

Imagine the situation as Henry Ford was planning production of the Model T : over 5,000 parts; multiple manufacturing vendors; skilled to semi-skilled production processes; and growing demand.

He addressed part of the production process by determining an optimal assembly sequence and moving the vehicle along to workstations which have the required parts, tools, and trained workers to do the next step in the process.

Contrast Ford’s approach to the projects today: many parts or inputs; multiple vendors or suppliers; wide range of skills needed to deliver results – all still apply; and – a twist that Ford did not have to consider – multiple collaborating organizations, locations, time zones, and perhaps languages. The assembly line won’t work here. As technology, communications, software, and economic conditions changed, managing projects has evolved in complexity and offered tools.

What has remained virtually unchanged is the need for rapid updates about significant elements of the project – about progress on the schedule, needed or excess resources, identified conflicts or barriers, and project against budget analysis. The changing reality is there are less resources available to process this information and less time available for operations resources to report it.

In this New Normal tools are being developed and refined to respond to the changes: meetings are being replaced by asynchronous communications; reports are changing to email, text message updates and video documentation; needed information is being targeted only to those who need it or want it instead of blanketing everyone (did you hear the one about a new president of the board who decreed all emails will be sent to all board members; killed all communication).

Are we getting better than Henry Ford?

What do you see?

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