W&WP March 2000


Aim Your Projects at the Target





Do you ever get the feeling that no matter how hard you work or how many changes you make that you don't seem to make a lot of progress toward meeting established goals? Do you find that just trying to keep up with the work at hand prevents you from being able to impact the really important things? Try as you might, you never seem to hit the target.


Whether you have a highly structured Continuous Improvement Program in place or just a basic suggestion box system, someone should be responsible for studying the feasibility of each suggestion for improving manufacturing productivity and to prioritize each idea with others that have already been received but not yet implemented. There are many ways to conduct a feasibility study, but in each case the challenge remains: How do you stay consistently focused or aimed at your target?


Assembling a feasibility study group, such as a project management team or a department team, to evaluate ideas is one way to start the process. The study group can assess the merits of each proposal and quantify the potential benefits. Another method is to have your engineering department do a thorough technical, operational and economic feasibility study. The engineers' study will tell you not only how viable the project is but also how long it will take to recoup the cost of the project.


No matter what system you use to qualify and prioritize projects in your organization it must be done in a way that maximizes the benefits of the change proposals submitted to the company for consideration. This cannot happen unless you set criteria that you want your projects to accomplish. If you don't set measurable goals, you will be caught in the familiar "Shoot-Aim-Ready" syndrome. You must define the target -- what you want to accomplish -- first and foremost. Then, all the darts you throw should be aimed at the bull's-eye of that target.


To determine which darts have the highest likelihood of hitting the bull's-eye, you must choose a screening method which will comparatively judge the projects (darts) for their maximum ability to help you accomplish your goals.


Project Evaluation

Over the years I have used an evaluation form like the one here to help clients quickly determine the relative impact that complex projects can have on company goals prior to doing a more detailed feasibility study if deemed necessary.


This form serves two purposes: It defines the criteria for each project and it evaluates how close to the bull's-eye each project is going to hit! (Note: Simple projects requiring very little time or resources should be delegated to the lowest level appropriate in your organization and do not require this detailed evaluation.)


Define the Target

The evaluation form has room for 12 generic project measurement criteria always posed in the form of a question and structured to help define your strategic goals for improvement. Each of these questions should be answered in a resounding "YES" to make a project desirable. The questions I have posed here (I suggest a maximum of 15) are just examples. Once you develop your list of questions, though, you should stick to it for all of your projects.


Once you have developed your list, each question should be weighted as to how important it is in your overall quest for Continuous Improvement. If the question relates to an area that is essential, it is weighted with a "4." If it is important -- weight it with a "3." If it is just useful, give it a "2" and so on.


The column to the right of the questions is blank when you create the form and will contain the rating or your answer to each question. If the answer to a given question is a resounding "Yes," then you will give it a "4." If it is a partial "yes," give it a "3," "2" or "1," depending on its degree of importance. If the answer is "No," then give it a big zero.


You may want to document your source of each rating. Thus there is a column to fill in the source of information used to arrive at the rating, including opinion, discussions with others or an analysis by the engineering department.


The last three columns in the Excel spreadsheet are formatted to calculate the score of each question and to give the deviation from the maximum score possible. Max Score is the Weight X 4 or the maximum score possible. Actual Score is the Weight X Actual Rating. Finally, A-M is the difference between the Actual rating and the Maximum rating possible.


The column marked A-M will identify the strong points of the project as well as the weak ones. Put another way, it tells you if this project is on target. If a question has a zero in the last column it means that it does not deviate from that desired benefit of the project.


On the other hand, if A-M is -16, you have a project worthless in one essential area that you have chosen to judge the merits of a project. The lower the negative number, the more attractive the project is in that area.


Define the Bull's-Eye

Finally, at the bottom of the form is a summary of the total maximum score, (which is the center of the bull's-eye), the total actual score and the percentage comparison of the actual score to the maximum score. This percentage is a summary of all of the criteria which you have used to judge the merit of this project, and it tells you how close to the bull's-eye you are going to get! Dead center is 100%.


The projects with the total highest scores should be put at the top of the list of priorities for implementation. Our simple example shows that extending the packing line is a strong project and is 82% of being "dead center" -- definitely on the target and probably within the bull's-eye!


If you choose your questions carefully as you create your own form, you can use it throughout your organization -- and you should. Another important benefit of using the form is that creating it forces you to define the goals of your Continuous Improvement Program as you formulate your questions.


Although you may have hundreds of ideas, implement only those that will have the most impact on your company so you will not question down the road why you missed your target. Don't overlook the simple projects that will not consume your resources while keeping your people interested in the improvement process.


Note: If you would like a free copy of this Excel form to help you determine if your projects are on target, visit www.Dossenbach.com and request one. We will e-mail you one already formatted.



Problem Solving, an Example


Tetragon Cabinets has been experiencing carton printing on the finish of many of its cabinet tops. Upon investigation, the company determined that the drying time on the finishing line has become inadequate as operating speeds have been increased.


After considering several options, the department's project team, based on the results of the accompanying project evaluation form, has recommended that cooling fans be added to the packing line to provide additional drying capacity. The project team bases this on tests that show that adding the fans will correct the problem, while eliminating a bottleneck. In addition, the project team says its idea will eliminate added labor for extra handling and repair of damaged goods. Plus, the cost of processing returns for repair will also be eliminated.


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