Saturday, February 6, 2010

Don't Overlook the 'Lowest Common Denominator'

From a professional blog co-authored by Judge Wyld.
A Judge Wyld post.

Issue: No Project Manager wants to be tripped up by the basics. No Project Manager wants to be shamed by having a project fail due to lack of attention to the basics. Cost growth and schedule loss are involved in recovering from avoidable blunders.

Solution: Every team needs a person capable of examining the 'basics' across the project. Recruit this person as the designated 'Lowest Common Denominator' (LCD) in addition to their usual team role. Their responsibility is to point out the flaws in the basics.

The lowest common denominator (LCD) is a math term for the lowest integer that is divisible into each of two integers being compared. Boring.

However, LCD as applied to the 'human dimension' is the smallest element of human perspective common to a group of people. A bit more exciting.

For Project Management, LCD items can be basic understandings of schedule flow, cost efficiency, effective communication, realistic work scope expectations, product suitability, and customer/stakeholder satisfaction. Project teams need to move forward without being bogged down with complications concerning the LCD items but must have the basics correct so that overall quality can be maintained.

Here are skills needed to be a designated LCD:
1. Role Player. Capable of viewing the project as an uninformed outsider of any category; upper management, other department head, other professional peer, non-industry stakeholder, and of course, customer.
2. Outspoken. Not hesitant to point out potential flaws in big groups, no matter how small the item appears to be.
3. Experienced. Knowledgeable of processes, best practices, and lessons learned and passionate about quality.

Here are actions the project manager must do to create a supportive environment for the LCD:
A. Assure the LCD that their role playing is key to the quality of the products.
B. Inform team members that the LCD will be playing a role and the comments may seem elementary but are welcomed and essential.
C. Assure the LCD that the depth of their other skills is valued and that 'LCD' is a role that is respected as well.

Final Point: Some people are self-appointed LCDs who seem to be undercutting your attempts to focus on more important aspects of the project. Consider them an ally to achieve higher quality and project success. Approach them to define their role more formally. They will be on your side and you may avoid the shame of failing on the basics.


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