What is working and what isn’t?
Projects are late, and programs are chronically late and over budget. In addition, despite heavy investments in inventory, there are still parts shortages everywhere, which is unfortunate. There will be increasing pressure for productivity improvements in terms of new programs, especially in the areas of maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) and supply chain operations.
If there are no changes to the way aircraft design, manufacturing, and MRO is managed, there simply won’t be enough capacity to do everything and some important initiatives will drop. Necessary advances also will not happen; innovative features for new aircraft won’t even make it off the drawing board.
What changes do you recommend?
It’s actually quite straightforward: Synchronize schedules in real time. Most people think that projects fail because of poor planning or lack of discipline. This is not true! Planning practices and processes have been perfected for almost 100 years, since Henry Gantt invented Gantt Charts in the 1910s.
The problem starts after the plan is created. During execution, ground conditions change but schedules in the plan remain static. Naturally, people start ignoring the now obsolete schedules, and pretty soon everyone gets out of synch and execution becomes chaotic. The only way out is to keep schedules synchronized with reality, in real time, even as ground conditions change.
We can see the value of real-time synchronization in a simple analogy: You want to go from point A to point B. Before GPS, you would print static driving instructions. If you made a wrong turn or if a road was blocked, those instructions would immediately become obsolete and you would start improvising. GPS is able to adjust the driving instructions in real time and still let you know your best route, even as ground conditions change. That’s the power of real-time synchronization in projects. It keeps the plan valid at all times, and so everyone is kept synchronized.
Most people assume the reasons for poor project performance are out of their control. While external difficulties exist, it is important to know that there is room for internal process improvements, especially around real-time synchronization in project execution.
How urgent is the need for project management in mil-aero programs?
Projects are not easy. There are always going to be challenges and difficulties from external sources, but there is enough room for internal performance improvement, despite all the objective challenges. We can make our projects run much faster.
We still face an enemy and need to make sure that key projects are completed on time and on budget on the military side. With budgets decreasing, it will become more challenging for the military to achieve all its missions. Given the budgetary conditions and the rapidly changing geopolitical landscape, I urge the industry to take project execution improvements on a war footing.
NAME: Sridharan Chandrasekaran
TITLE: VP, Strategic Services
ROLE: Synchronizing project execution, improving project performance