Organizational Vital Signs II – Two Steps to Control your Work In Progress (WIP)

As consultants we have the opportunity to see, examine and work with a variety of different organizations. When I’m first learning about an organization there are a few ‘vital signs’ I look for to get a quick assessment of the shop’s health and maturity.

The first, which was covered in our last post, is the cohesiveness and effectiveness of the leadership team.

Once such a team is in place, one of the first tasks of such a leadership team is to understand and gain control over Work in Progress (WIP).

This might seem obvious, but in my experience it is not. It is very rare, even in IT organizations that have a formally organized Project Management Office (PMO), for management to have any real clear idea of the project and operational work the various parts of the shop have committed to.

If the management team does not have that clear idea, it is very difficult to manage effectively? The very basis of management is the efficient and effective allocation of resources. If you, as a manager, don’t know how your resources are allocated, how can you make good decisions about what projects to pursue in the future?

There can certainly be a chicken and egg objection at this point. One might point out that the reason an ITSM program is adopted is, in part, to gain control over the operational commitments required to maintain the current IT environment.

That is a fair point, but before committing to any project – management should at least have a rough order of magnitude of the amount of staff and resources that are committed to just keeping the proverbial lights on. If they don’t, it is inevitable that they will increase the stress on staff by over-committing to project work.

A good first step, and one that we look for, is to have a single, common project approval procedure. There should be no shadow projects, all projects should appear on the common list of approved projects.

A good second step, one that we also look for, is that each of the approved projects has an up to date resource management plan. These plans can be used to gain a comprehensive insight into the collective commitment made to Work-In-Progress.

These first two steps to gaining control over project WIP do not require a formal Project Management Office (PMO), but it does require a cohesive leadership team committed to establishing a common set of processes.

Once this has been established, and you have gained and understanding of your WIP, you are in very good shape to consider adopting a formal management framework, such as ITIL.

If you need help gaining control of your WIP, or if you are all set with that step and ready to talk about moving forward with ITSM, let us know. We’d love to discuss your next steps.