Fotolia_74247116_XS-300x200.jpgWhy is everyone searching for the latest and greatest technology and fad when common sense will drive bottom line business results? It seems that it is an exciting conversation piece to talk about potentially intriguing technology or concepts such as agile, and so we all get caught up in it. However, when I look across the hundreds of projects implemented by my clients, the key to success boils down to uncommon common sense.

For example, one of my large manufacturing clients is running multiple projects simultaneously. They have been using lean techniques and bringing in consultants who are gurus in utilizing the latest technologies and processes. Of course, none of this is “bad” as results will occur; however, it doesn’t have the same impact as utilizing uncommon common sense.

In one area, there is an overload of work on specific machines which they can see by looking at the visual signals on the plant floor. If you go to the production board, you can see immediately which items and machines are overloaded because they are highlighted and obviously overflowing. After sifting through loads of system data to review the problem through the best and brightest analytical formulas, it was determined that a select few products were best to move to a new production area for focus on improving output.

Not surprisingly, output increased for those items! However, the items were moved to machines which were already overloaded and overflowing, and so although output increased, the already overloaded items were deprioritized for the select few products and past due temporarily increased. Uncommon common sense would say to review the production board which clearly showed this problem or ask the planner to avoid this significant roadblock on the path to success. It seems obvious in hindsight yet wasn’t obvious to the team in the situation – a perfect example of why common sense is not common!

If we can leverage uncommon common sense, it is likely we’ll surpass our competition. Thus, what do we need to do in order to utilize uncommon common sense? 1) Go back to basics. 2) Ask your team. 3) Think before leaping.

1. Go back to the basics: A common theme for those clients who consistently perform at a higher level than the rest is a respect for the basics. Do you value the basics? If you don’t show it, your team will never focus on them. You get what you value and measure.

In project management, the basics include understanding the objectives of your project (which can sometimes come in the form of a project charter), developing a project plan with cross-functional teams as appropriate, soliciting feedback and being willing to address potential roadblocks, and managing the critical path. It is far from complex; however, it is rarely executed. Make sure you do not divert from the basics.

2. Ask your team: There is nothing more important than involving your project team in the complete process. Make sure they understand the value. Asking the right questions will lead them to this conclusion. Ask for input. Never ask and then beat a project team member up for alerting you to problems and roadblocks. It is almost as bad to ask and ignore. Make sure you request input, value the input and get back to them with whether it will be incorporated and why or why not. Simple common sense courtesy goes a long way to encouraging million dollar ideas which can be easily lost in the shuffle.

3. Think before leaping: One of the keys to success in leveraging uncommon common sense is to take a step back from the daily grind. Remember what is to be accomplished. Think about the options for getting there. Identify the most direct path to success. As Occam’s razor says, the simplest path is often the best one. The bottom line is to think before leaping.

Certainly uncommon common sense will also tell you to not do this alone. Bring your best and brightest together, provide the vision and involve them in the process. Make each person accountable for holding the other team members accountable for thinking of the simplest path to achievable the result before pursuing any path. It will seem radical at first; however, if you stick to it, results will follow.

In today’s new normal business environment, project results are of paramount importance as growth and profitability is cornerstone to success. Why not try uncommon common sense to not only simplify your project team’s lives but also to guarantee success. It boils down to becoming ultra-clear on the objectives, taking the step back and setting aside the appropriate time to determine how to simplify the project plan and path forward to only what is essential to success. Rapid progress and an acceleration of results will be your reward.

Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

Hidden Opportunities for Process Improvement

Communications Rule!