How to Complete Your Projects 50% Faster

by Cornelius Fichtner

Cornelius Fichtner interviews Douglas Knutzen | PMWorld 360 MagazineIn this podcast, Cornelius Fichtner interviews Douglas Knutzen about how to complete your projects 50% faster. They discuss techniques (that can be applied to almost any type of project) that helped to meet these challenges and got the products successfully to market in record time.

In the podcast, they also discuss how to leverage scheduling, execution, and team techniques to significantly increase speed on your projects and (almost more importantly) how to lead project teams in high-pressure situations.

This interview with Douglas Knutzen was recorded at the inspirational Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Conference 2018 in Los Angeles, California.


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Source: Project Management Podcast

Podcast Transcript: How to Complete Your Projects 50% Faster

Podcast Introduction

Douglas Knutzen: Hi, This is Doug Knutzen from Plexus Corporation. In this episode of The Project Management Podcast™, we will lever the scheduling, execution and team techniques to significantly increase speed on future projects.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to The Project Management Podcast™ at I am Cornelius Fichtner.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner: We are coming to you live from the inspirational 2018 PMI Global Conference in Los Angeles. And I’m currently sitting here in Room 411A together with Doug Knutzen. Hello, Doug! Good afternoon!

Douglas Knutzen: Good afternoon, Cornelius. Thanks for having me.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah! So the audience has just left. This is a beautiful, beautiful venue that they have given you. How was the presentation?

Douglas Knutzen: It was really fun; it is a wonderful venue. I was really happy to be in the theater. The audience was great. I think we had about 200 people or so and I think it was well received. I think it went very well.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah, I came in at the tail end and lots of questions. Lots of questions came.

Douglas Knutzen: Yeah, there were a lot of questions, very insightful questions.

Cornelius Fichtner: Always a good sign.

Douglas Knutzen: Yeah, I think so.

Cornelius Fichtner: In the opening, I said: “We’re coming to you live from the inspirational 2018 PMI Global Conference.” You chose the adjective ‘inspirational’. Why is it inspirational?

Douglas Knutzen: I think for two reasons. I think the two keynoters that we had this week particularly the gentlemen from the NFL, I’m sorry I can’t pronounce his last name.

Cornelius Fichtner: Neither can I, yup!

Douglas Knutzen: Who’s the magician, and had a great inspirational story there. He was just nothing short of fantastic and I think today’s speaker about the five generations and working through that, I thought he was very inspirational too.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah, I saw myself in those slides definitely.

Douglas Knutzen: Yeah and they both did tremendously well.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah. Your presentation is called “Taking Your projects to Breathtaking Speed.” How did this presentation develop? Why are you talking on this topic?

Douglas Knutzen: Yeah, that’s a great question. Overtime, there were two projects that went really well that were both under significant duress and both went really, really quickly, really crazy speeds and they had to do that because of the duress they were under. And when I went back and looked at it, they were from two different companies and I thought there must be some correlations here. It’s like doing a lessons learned if you will. There must be some correlations that allow us to kind of see what were the correlations between these two projects and that’s what led to sort of the development of this specific talk.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah, you said those two projects were under duress. What are some other more general reasons why we project managers are asked to go to breathtaking speed and take things to the next level.

Douglas Knutzen: Well obviously if you look at Triple Constraint, we are often looking at we’ve got a tight budget. We’re got to conserve or we’ve got schedule which we have to get down in a big hurry, right? Those are things that we’re often faced with as project managers and that’s often why we end up having to go fast, right? Or we have a customer need that’s specific and very demanding.

Cornelius Fichtner: What was the specific duress that your projects were under?

Douglas Knutzen: So each of them was different. Project number one, which was a neurology device. There was an interim CEO that came in and said the team has to do this in approximately half the time or you’re going to be fired. And that is something that truly did happen and created a lot of duress for the team so that would have been number one.

For project number two, the duress really was our customer came to us and said: ‘Hey, you’ve got competitors that will do this in 32 weeks. We need you to do it in less than that.’ In 31 weeks for a medical device is a very crazy timeline. And so it was a challenge. We felt that we could achieve that and we went on and did it. But it was driven by customer requirements.

Cornelius Fichtner: My wife used to work in medical devices so I do understand how there are externally-driven dates like the FDA that could just take you months just waiting for them to turn around.

So in the end you found six correlations between the two projects and we’re going to talk about four today. So let me just go quickly through them so our listeners know what they are: Number one was Planning, planning, planning. Number two, Rockstar teams. Number three, Organizational alignment. Number four, Earned value management, Number five, Probabilistic decision making and number six, Taking care of the details.

Now they say correlation is not causation, right, so that fact that these two projects have these six correlations is not necessarily the reason why you were successful and going so fast. Do you feel that no, no, no in this case, correlation is causation. These are not just the correlations but also the causes, the reasons why we were able to pull this off.

Douglas Knutzen: That’s a really good question. I think when you look at it, the correlation is really about these were the things that are in common, the correlations between the two projects that were reasons why they were successful. Certainly not the only reasons because projects are complex, but they were some of the reasons why they weren’t.

Cornelius Fichtner: So the first one we want to talk about is number one, Planning, planning, planning. How long did the planning phase take in these two projects? And by the way, just so you know folks, this is a question that one of the attendees asked him at the end and I figured, that’s a good question. Better ask that one as well.

Douglas Knutzen: It was a very good question. I would say for both projects, we spent at least two weeks on planning doing nothing but planning for each of the projects to ensure that we knew the full scope and make sure that we knew the breadth of all the tasks that we had to do before we could start doing the compression. Because when we pointed out in the talk, getting the full project plan laid out and then from there once we knew all the tasks, we could start to compress smartly with probability.

Cornelius Fichtner: Often when you’re asked to go really fast, there is a tendency to skip planning and go to production. How did you avoid making that mistake?

Douglas Knutzen: Yeah, that happens all the time. I think it was a conscious effort by both teams to say to the management team: ‘Hey! We need to plan this.’ It’s sort of like the faster you want to go, the better the plan has to be. We’ve got to get a good plan so we know what we’re facing. So we know what resources we’re going to need and what it will take to really do it. Without a good plan, you’re kind of operating in the dark and stuff.

Cornelius Fichtner: Were there any specific approaches that you took during planning in order to make this work?


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