Want to get a tighter grip on projects? Escape the planning mismatch!

Photo: Marco van Middelkoop/Aerophoto-Schiphol

On 4 June 2018, a diverse group of supply chain professionals gathered at the Shell Pernis refinery in the Netherlands for an inspiration session called ‘Grip on projects’. Although the participants came from a wide variety of companies, including machine builders, maintenance companies and grid operators, it quickly became clear that they all face the same challenge: to complete more projects on time at lower costs and with less hassle.

After a short introduction on behalf of Shell Pernis, the attendees heard fascinating presentations from Gert-Jan Vos (Manager Planning at Flowserve Corporation) followed by Andre de Rooij (Organization Development at Shell Europe), both of whom shared their personal experiences of successfully tightening their grip on projects.

Although there were differences between the two gentlemen’s approaches and chosen solutions, there was also a clear similarity: both Flowserve and Shell have moved away from classic milestone planning in combination with decision-making based on local efficiency and reliability. Having both worked with that methodology for years, the two organizations concluded – independently of one another – that their approach was actually the cause of overruns, high costs and stress, rather than the solution. Instead, both organizations have now opted for workload management based on current uniform priorities and volume data-driven capacity management. During the session, both organizations chose to visualize this in a so-called ‘fever chart’ which made a particularly good impression on the professionals in the audience.

In the conclusion presented by Alex Tjalsma (partner/consultant at Involvation), he explained that the new project approach had enabled both organizations to avoid the so-called ‘planning mismatch’: a commonplace and familiar situation in which decisions have to be made early on, despite a lack of reliable information, thus creating a recipe for misalignment and disappointment. Although this is actually the inevitable consequence of the model the organization chooses to work with, it is often unfairly blamed on employee behavior and the organizational culture. The Flowserve and Shell cases illustrate that it is possible to escape this mismatch if you wish. The key is to address the main cause rather than the symptoms – which is actually not that difficult, but just requires a different approach.

Based on the positive feedback received afterwards, it seems that all participants left feeling inspired and motivated to do things differently themselves. If you are looking for new inspiration yourself and would like to receive an invitation to attend a future session, please let us know.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler
Albert Einstein