Adopting a New Style of Project Management and Initiation


If you search for “Why do projects fail?” you will find all sorts of reasons for their demise but running throughout the results is a ‘lack of communication’, a ‘lack of detailed planning’ and ‘scope creep’. Each of these has the ability to bring any project to the point of failure in a very short space of time. To combat this Havering Sixth Form College (HSFC) has altered its project management process in an effort to prevent this.

Like many establishments HSFC had experienced projects which failed to achieve the intended result due to poor preparation and implementation. Projects would be poorly defined with no one person really understanding what the final outcome of the project was (due to a lack of communication) to be.

Projects would often drift aimlessly due to a lack of planning or continue beyond their anticipated completion date due to poor management (and a lack of detailed planning). Even worse the requirements of the project would often be changed without any due process (resulting in project creep). In order to combat this the College has developed a methodology with clearly defined steps, prescribed documentation and a series of systematic reviews to ensure that each project is managed with the aim of being completed on time, on budget and is as required.


To support this process the College introduced the role of Director of Continuous Improvement and adapted an approach to Continuous Improvement based on the ‘Deming Cycle’. Deming describes the cycle as an iterative process consisting of four-parts Plan, Do, Check and Act (PDCA). This process has been used to support ‘Total Quality Management’ and has been used with great success within the production process of Toyota.

Early efforts to embrace these principles often appeared quite primitive. In order to visualise the progress of each projects, a ‘Kanban’ board approach was adopted. Initially this contained four columns Waiting, Definition, Production and Evaluation. Which loosely mapped to the four stages of the Deming Cycle. With the exception of Waiting, each section was further subdivided into three further columns, To Do, In Progress and Done. Sticky Notes were used to monitor projects but these would often get knocked off or dry out and fall off and had to be repositioned when this occurred.

Kanban board

This early image of the ‘board’ shows a number of projects at the ‘Waiting’ stage. At this stage the project is nothing more than an idea such as Increase Storage Infrastructure capacity or Asset Management. During this stage an initial exploration of the idea is explored to ascertain if it is viable and what budget the project might require. To support this process budget remains unallocated from a central ‘pot’ until the project has passed the next stage of Definition.

Graham Francis, Director of Continuous Improvement, Havering Sixth Form College.

In the next Blog we will explore what takes place during the Definition stage and what documentation has been developed to support this.