Engineering project management: Avoid thrashing

Automation System Integration Blog defines and explains how to avoid thrashing when managing an engineering project. Heed this advice and see the diagram example from Anthony Baker. Add your advice below.

10/07/2013


Diagram shows a root cause analysis/mind map of thrashing; sideways orientation on the web page allows for maximum size. Realizing how thrashing happens is the first step to avoidance. Courtesy: Callisto Integration, Control Engineering Automation SystemEngineering project management requires careful quantifying of scope, attention to scope creep, and expectation management, as explained in recent posts. To tie this off there is one other topic that is worth noting: Thrashing. It’s a lot like it sounds. Like a fish out of water, flopping around while you are trying to hold it down, thrashing can also happen in system integration when your scope is so out of control that nobody seems to know what to do next. Unfortunately, like the fish, there are not a lot of great options at this point. The trick is to not get caught.

The picture at bottom is a root cause analysis/mind map of thrashing. (Sorry for the sideways post, but that allows the maximum size.) Realizing how this happens is the first step to using the tools to mitigate the risk of project thrashing. As a reference example:

It’s the final days of development, the team gets to the FAT (factory acceptance test), and the operator (whom nobody has ever met before) says, “There is NO way this will work. The process just doesn’t work that way.” What happened?

Follow the branches in the tree.

1) Why? The requirements exist, but the team (as a whole) does not understand them.

2) The operator knew what needed to be done, but the development team, or client contact, did not.

3) Why? Requirements exist but have not been communicated.

4) The example is a classic case of “nobody asked the operator.” It is a communication breakdown.

5) Planning (see the green flag in the diagram): If the team had planned earlier to bring in the operator, this could have been avoided. A well-circulated functional design specification (FDS) or a project road map that included “ask the operators” would have avoided this.

And so on.

Think through the last two or three times you have experienced thrashing in your projects. Was it a late design change that nobody understood? Perhaps the requirements you agreed to were not supported by the technology, and you had to adjust. Maybe a team member changed groups (internally or externally). Get out the map and take a look. It will probably show you how it happened, and what you might do to avoid it in the future/get back on track.

Engineering interaction: Have additional project management advice? Use the comment box at the bottom to add to the list based on your experiences.

- The Automation System Integration Blog aggregates expert advice from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration. This blog provides integration advice in plant-floor controls, manufacturing execution systems (MES), and manufacturing consulting, from the factory floor through to the enterprise. Andrew Barker, P.Eng., Callisto Integration, compiled the advice. www.callistointegration.com

See other Automation System Integration Blog postings linked below.

Diagram shows a root cause analysis/mind map of thrashing; sideways orientation on the web page allows for maximum size. Realizing how thrashing happens is the first step to avoidance. Courtesy: Callisto Integration, Control Engineering Automation System

Diagram shows a root cause analysis/mind map of thrashing; sideways orientation on the web page allows for maximum size. Realizing how thrashing happens is the first step to avoidance. Courtesy: Callisto Integration, Control Engineering Automation System



No comments
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
2014 Product of the Year finalists: Vote now; Boiler systems; Indirect cooling; Integrating lighting, HVAC
High-performance buildings; Building envelope and integration; Electrical, HVAC system integration; Smoke control systems; Using BAS for M&V
Pressure piping systems: Designing with ASME; Lab ventilation; Lighting controls; Reduce energy use with VFDs
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Consulting-Specifying Engineer case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Protecting standby generators for mission critical facilities; Selecting energy-efficient transformers; Integrating power monitoring systems; Mitigating harmonics in electrical systems
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software
Integrating BAS, electrical systems; Electrical system flexibility; Hospital electrical distribution; Electrical system grounding
As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness...
Amara Rozgus is chief editor and content manager of Consulting-Specifier Engineer magazine.
IEEE power industry experts bring their combined experience in the electrical power industry...
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT is an Engineering Specification Writer at ARCOM MasterSpec.