In the management of work, there is a strong desire to know when initiatives will result in the attainment of goals/objectives. A good question becomes “How do we know when a set of goals/objectives has been met under different work scenarios?”
I use a mix of three mainline work management approaches with my clients (CPM, BPM and ACM). Reading these backwards, you get A, B, C which looks auspicious.
Goal attainment on projects planned and monitored using Critical Path Method (CPM) requires little attention because of the inherent focus on predicting arrival times at project milestones. Analysts start tracking “float” from day one and management has no problem relating to summary level reports that show plan, actual and projected-to-completion dates for project activities. Management knows that if float starts to erode during the 1st 20 percent of the timeline it becomes increasingly more difficult to avoid being late at project milestones.
In discrete manufacturing where Business Process Management (BPM) process maps are characterized by multiple decision points and where branching can only be determined at the time these steps become current along a process instance, it becomes next to impossible to predict arrival times at process end points. But, goals usually are clear (e.g. build a prototype, test it, ship it).
In the world of office/services where a high percentage of the work is unstructured, Adaptive Case Management (ACM) is the preferred “methodology” but, in the absence of pre-defined logic connections between pre-defined steps, tasks or interventions, the only methodology, really, involves intuitive interventions such as opening a case, adding material to the case, performing whatever work is required to reach objectives and then closing the case.
The big question with ACM becomes “When do we close the Case”?
In healthcare, deciding what interventions a particular patient needs is difficult, but when to close is easy – we close (i.e. discharge) when the problem(s) have been sorted.
The appropriate time to close a case for a new product release initiative that involves research and development could be when the product team run out of funding, when a particular level of functionality has been reached, when it becomes evident that the product “will not fly”, or when the product team has been leapfrogged.
One way to “predict” case closure in an ACM environment is to assign relative values to objectives/sub-objectives and track ‘Earned Value”. The EV model does not have to be complex. If there are five interlinked ‘deliverables’, a simple matrix with five weighted rows and five state columns (not started/started/in progress/essentially complete/complete) with calculated summary data points 0,10,25,50,75,90, 100 may be sufficient. If the case involves final assembly of five otherwise unrelated deliverables, you can use the same model, set the weighting to 1.0, and report 0,20,40,60,80,100.
Bottom line, whatever non-subjective/subjective approach to predicting project/case closure you use, the information should post each time anyone opens the project/case.