One-Point Lessons: A knowledge transfer driven Lean project management technique
Projects are knowledge-intensive entities and the knowledge bandwidth of teams affects their ability to solve problems and deal with emerging challenges during project delivery. Such dynamics require ongoing learning and augmentation of knowledge bandwidth. However, time-bound project environments are not ideally suited to introducing and managing long term learning and training programs to improve that knowledge bandwidth.
Additionally, the unforeseen emergence of risks and issues means that it is not always possible – for whatever reason (humanly or due to lack of intent / competence / skills) – to train people in advance to handle these issues. Therefore, it seems reasonable to identify and integrate techniques into project management that can fit into the project environment and its constraints. One potential technique that could fit the bill is called a One-Point Lesson.
A One-point lesson is a need-based on-demand quick-fire training session or problem-containment workshop for project team members. It addresses day-to-day emerging issues and risks for which team members need to understand how to contain the problem or take a corrective action. It offers information or advice to help team members effectively deal with these emerging situations.
The One-point lesson is fundamentally based on ISO/TS (Technical Specification) and lean production concept of Andon which refers to “a system to notify management, maintenance, and other workers of a quality or process problem” (Wikipedia, 2017).
The idea behind One-point lesson is to provide to-the-point immediate knowledge to the team with minimum disruption to project schedule, work and resources in order to minimize or contain emerging risk(s) and handle issues effectively.
For guidance on the use of the One-point Lesson technique, we explain some of the key ‘how-to-use’ elements of the technique below.
How to use it?
- Document an issue and/or a risk that has been identified and which requires immediate knowledge transfer and learning.
- Assess whether it fits the bill for use of a One-point Lesson session.
- Decide who should (or should not) attend and who should facilitate the session.
- Determine how long the session should be and when and where it should take place (consider immediacy and the size of knowledge transfer involved).
- Announce and inform about session being held using various channels including face-to-face, social media. The key learning points / outcomes of the session can also be circulated using social media, where necessary.
- Identify and plan key knowledge transfer points for the session.
- Make these available as handouts if necessary. Where possible, the key points be used as inputs for process improvements (Kaizen) and future longer duration training sessions (towards building knowledgeable organization).
- Deliver and document the session.
- Seek feedback on attendees’ experience of One-point Lesson sessions at the end of project.
What should be considered?
- One-point Lesson is not a substitute, replacement or a solution for project management training sessions (frequent or infrequent) that are otherwise needed for upskilling the level of competencies of project staff.
- The One-point Lesson technique is not a training cost-cutting measure.
- One-point Lesson sessions are organized on an on-demand need-basis and may only happen when there is an issue, or there is a problem at hand which requires quick learning and knowledge transfer at a wider scale to deal with specific emerging issues and risks.
- The need for a One-point Lesson can be identified at any level of the team hierarchy, but requires the assessment and support of project leadership before organizing the actual session.
- The One-point Lesson should be brief and focused, and should involve all those need to know or learn.
- One-point Lessons are not team-bonding, feel-good or ongoing communication enhancement sessions. However, they are effective communication channels for knowledge transfer.
- One-point Lesson sessions are not meant for developing project strategies or updating project staff on strategic issues (if any), but are rather an operational or tactical work session.
- Frequency: It might typically be daily or weekly, depending on the need.
- Preferred Time: Although timing is flexible, immediately after lunch provides a good opportunity for people in two ways: (1) attending the lesson in afternoon will help in understanding and reflecting upon the problem that may have happened during morning or previous afternoon, and (2) people can try to use what they have learnt in the One-point Lesson session – later in the afternoon – to contain the problem, risk or issue. When used in shift-change scenario, the session should be held at the beginning of each shift.
- Duration: Short, between 10 minutes and an hour. However, it is highly recommended to have short focused sessions embedded with visual management tools.
- As leader, the Project Manager, process owner or other group leader in the team who can identify the need for quick knowledge transfer to deal with an issue or a risk.
- Should be attended by everyone who needs to know or have an involvement in the tasks, process users—both upstream and downstream of task dependencies.
- To transfer knowledge and impart learning on a single-point.
- To contain a problem through a corrective action.
- To deal with emerging situations.
- To handle issues in timely manner and prevent issues from spreading further.
- To minimise or contain risks.
- To serve as an emergency response with the aim to increase the awareness and focus the attention to prevent an outbreak of the issue.
- To build knowledge of team members by providing them learning from the direct experience (learning organization) of others in team. Later on, the problem addressed in One-point Lesson can be made part of further rounds of specific and planned monthly trainings for all the current team members and the training for the newcomers.
- To promote a better understanding of happenings at the task level for management to take appropriate corrective actions before problems go out of control. One-point Lesson is a sort of warning signal to exercise care about a potential problem.
- At the project work location (preferably).
- Off-site only if the knowledge transfer cannot take place at the project work location due to project constraints. However, given the brief, frequent nature and objectives these serve, organizing One-point Lesson sessions offsite is not practical and not recommended.
Possible project scenarios that require One-point Lesson sessions?
Some possible scenarios are listed below for illustration purposes. This is by no mean an exhaustive list of scenarios, as project environments vary drastically based on the context.
- The client has raised a change request for functional design changes in the end product; these changes have been assessed to be implementable within the project constraints of time and costs.
- Quality requirements and testing procedures have been changed to meet new regulations or sponsor requirements.
- A product design risk, although identified earlier, has now become an issue and needs to be handled to avoid its impact on quality, time and cost.
Agility and ‘leanness’ in project work are very much the way of the future. One-point Lesson seems to have the potential to support the transition from traditional to future project management. It has the potential to be useful in dealing with complexities and emerging difficulties in projects. Hence it needs to be seriously considered for use in projects of the future.
Special thanks to post-write-up contributions by Davide Bruschi and inputs by Roger Tagg.
Wikipedia (2017), Andon (manufacturing), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andon_(manufacturing)