Regardless of the size of a business, project management should be an important part to conducting business. Project management can be used to convey the process for managing the technical project or handling customers. Ideally, as a business owner, you should have a plan in place that you follow when developing your project plans.
Many small business owners have chosen to use the Deming cycle. The Deming cycle is a four-part problem-solving process that project managers use to monitor the continued progress of a project. It is considered a simple way of planning, executing and controlling the project outcomes while at the same time increasing your awareness of perfecting your processes. The four simple steps for Deming’s cycle are:
- Plan: Identify the focus for your project plan. Create the objectives and goals that you want to accomplish as part of your project plan.
- Do: Put into action the project plan that you have created.
- Check: Make sure to track and evaluate how things are going and compare the compiled results against your objectives and goals. Then develop a report about the outcome.
- Act: Activate any changes that you deem necessary for improving the outcome. In this step, is review everything that you have done so far and then make changes according to what will help you improve the project plan so that you have a better outcome the next time around.
So, the question might be, how can you integrate project management into a small business? My answer would be very easy because business owners daily manage projects and may not even know it. Integrating the Deming cycle into your small business is a straight-forward process. In this installment regarding small business project management, I will cover a scenario that steps through the Deming process of Plan-Do-Check-Act
Scenario: Business owner needs to develop process for handling client support request
Phase 1: Plan – establish your objectives
- Analyze steps to be put in place to handle client support request promptly.
- Ask questions to determine key objectives.
- What am I trying to accomplish with my support request system?
- How will I determine if the system is an improvement?
- What changes do I need to make in my current status for the system?
Phase 2: Do – take action to implement your processes
- Determine the key factors that would affect the process. An example could be – is the request time sensitive and if so is there a process in place to escalate it.
- Create a step-through process plan for handling regular client request from the beginning (when a request is received) to the end (once a request is completed).
- Analyze your process and determine the support request tools needed. (phone-only, website-only or a combination of the two).
- Determine if parts of your support request system need to be outsourced to ensure smooth handling of your client requests. Or do you need to staff someone to handle your support request?
Phase 3: Check – monitor or watch how your plan progresses against your objectives and generate a report about the results
- Make sure to keep an ongoing tracking system in place to monitor the success/failure of your progress.
Phase 4: Act – Assess and make improvements if necessary in weak areas of your processes
- Generate tracking reports that show the progress of your client support system.
- Determine weak areas where you might need improvement and take action.
- Repeat the process for PDCA as an ongoing plan to ensure quality control (that it is flowing smoothly) of your client support system.
So as a small business owner, project management processes such as Deming’s PDCA can be very useful when determining how to run your business. Do you have other scenarios that you would like to see analyzed? Please feel free to suggest your ideas or comments. Would love to hear them!