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  • Writer's pictureEmile Stadman

Managing pilot projects - Tips & Tricks - how to improve results and further reduce pitfalls

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

How can we manage our pilot projects better and improve the outcomes? In this topic I like to introduce a list of 'tips and tricks' how to set-up the right process and I will show you some example pitfalls what could happen if the pilot was not managed correctly. Maybe you will recognize some of these topics described in this blog.

Don't hesitate to add some feedback! Enjoy reading,

Emile Stadman

Subjects that will be discussed below:

Back to basics - What is a pilot?

1.0 Creation Process

2.0 Managing the actual pilot

3.0 Reviewing the pilot

Back to basics - What is a pilot?

A Pilot is used to evaluate different solutions, the implementation and the impact of the solution. Normally it is performed on a small scale and is responding on the business and customer needs.

What are the key benefits?

With a pilot you can gradually introduce an improved solution, mitigate risks of failures and unforeseen complications, creates an increased buy-in, ability to create a more detailed implementation plan and manage your costs and benefits better.

1.0 Creation process

1.1 Creating and evaluating ideas - Tips & Tricks

  • It is key to facilitate the right process and (physical) environment were every opinion is important and new ideas are generated

  • It is recommended using a team based approach, existing out of different stakeholders (including end-users) from diverse backgrounds and positions

  • Focus on being less pro-active in resolving problems. Take 3 steps back instead, 're-think' if you need the problem at all. How would the solution be, if there are no problems

  • 'Thinking outside the box' is outdated, maybe focus on new ways of approaching the problem and restructure your thinking

  • Focus on generating hybrid solutions, combining the best characteristics from different potential solutions

  • Instead of giving 'orders', facilitate and coach suppliers / specialists to work actively together as a team in finding innovative win-win solutions

  • Focus on creativity, create an atmosphere of low supervision and delegate responsibilities to all group members

  • Implement a robust process to make decisions, use evaluation methods & techniques such as decision matrixes and create buy-in from your organisation & stakeholders

  • improvement ideas can be generated through root causes, best practices, ideas from different projects, focus on project goals, brainstorming sessions, performance targets, benchmark ideas and discoveries. Of course using standard tools such as: Ishikawa diagrams , Poka Yoke, FMEA, 5S, SMED etc.

  • Reduce or eliminate low pay-off solutions and screen against important criteria

  • Focus on the VoC, Voice of the Customer

1.2 Sample pitfalls during creating and evaluating ideas

  • Identified the wrong root-causes, resulting in wrong solutions and using the wrong tools to manage

  • Limited timeline given by senior management (can also be positive)

  • Fear of generating innovative new solutions, fear of change or the fear to disagree

  • Missing knowledge, or a lack of diversity & creativity in your team, generating one-sided solutions

  • Decisions based on the person who talks the loudest, special privileges within a team or decisions only made by management

  • Voting based on to 'shiny' / to perfect presentations without presenting critical (financial) pitfalls

  • 'You ask, we serve', creating one sided money wasting concepts, due to the fact that the company was not involved in the development of the concept

  • Focus on cheapest and quickest solutions, rather than the long term strategy

  • Focus on the end result (getting the project done), but not having a the right insight (knowledge) or having a milestone based strategy (key next steps) in place

  • When the KPI strategy still had to be developed after launching the pilot, creating unclear concepts

  • Departments unaware they were researching the same topics, instead of combining knowledge & budget, spending less and being more innovative (centralized instead of decentralized project approach?)

  • When you are to sure about the concept and you don't feel ashamed about it

2.0 Managing the actual pilot

2.1 Managing the pilot - Tips & Tricks

  • Create a realistic scenario and an milestone based implementation plan

  • Manage expectations and perceptions towards stakeholders and customers

Check if an stakeholder analysis (positions, influencing strategy) and a communication plan could be helpful as it creates increased buy-in, avoids pitfalls, better solutions, understanding when to involve others

  • Keep all stakeholders involved in the decision-making

  • Be critical and honest about the outcomes, celebrate small victories

  • Focus on reliable baseline for performance data and analysis, this also means that the pilot should continue long enough and use statistical tools to control, evaluate overall process and performance

  • Continuous improve the concept of the pilot if it shows any weakness

  • Make sure the concept is flexible enough to cover future upgrades

  • Focus on managing solutions, rather than selling the pilot

  • Having lack of results, doesn't mean that the pilot was a failure

2.2 Sample pitfalls during the pilot

  • When the pilot does not measure the right / necessary data or when there is no well-defined strategy in place to collect the right data

  • Unaware that you are overlooking what is actually happening and manipulating the outcome, because of your willingness to succeed

  • When the financial forecast was to over optimistic and did not had enough buffer or an 'worst case' scenario in place

  • When additional non-normal management attention is required

  • When highly skilled staff is necessary, instead of normal staff or when the users are not trained enough

  • The pilot is launched, but the changes has not been communicated enough, so there is no willingness to use and people resist, ending in a lack of performance

  • When the pilot is running to short or when there are no changes made in the process

  • The materials used are over expensive or to shiny, less flexible to test and use

  • When the concept is inflexible for change (for instance: new technology)

  • When the pilot location does not represent a realistic scenario, this means a waste of time and effort

  • When the focus of the concept design was managed as a 'one off' project, with no long term strategy in place

  • When the idea of the pilot is already outdated when launched, due to internal delays or due to new innovations

3.0 Reviewing the pilot

  • Keep communication honest and transparent

  • Focus on lessons learned and best practices

  • Did the pilot created the anticipated results and was the pilot effective enough?

  • Can or should the pilot be implemented, do we need to continue or should we re-pilot?

  • What kind of modifications can be added to the solution?

I hope this will give you some new insights! I like to thank you for reading my blog, don't hesitate to like or to get connected! With kind regards, Emile Stadman

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