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Effective Project Management

Tidy Partner, Edward Fyvie, shares his ‘Top Tips' for running a successful project. By using a good system that all stakeholders involved can easily adhere to. Edward talks about some features of our Tidy software which will help to track items and materials for different business projects and keep control of costs.

Effective project management is something that most regard as one of the ‘dark arts', because so many companies, large and small, lose money on projects needlessly, and sometimes spectacularly.

See this article about 10 Construction Projects That Broke The Bank for big losers, old and new.

Dr W. Edwards Deming, regarded as the father of modern quality, created the concept of the PDCA Deming Wheel, in any process you need to, Plan -> Do -> Check -> Act (to correct deviations from plan). Repeat at short intervals until the process is finished. In everyday life we do this unconsciously. Before driving to work we Plan to arrive at work, we Do drive the car, we unconsciously Check the road, car dashboard and other traffic, and we Act to correct deviations from a safe path and speed.

With slower, longer-term processes such as an intense and detailed project, we need to do the same thing. How?

Complementing the PDCA principle is the Lean House concept. A lean organisation has four pillars supporting profitable growth: Safety, Quality, Delivery and Cost (SQDC). While executing PDCA, SQDC must be measured and published at each regular repeat of the cycle. Without these measures, the project will fall off a cliff. The four pillars must rest on a foundation of stability and standardisation. If not, a project can be doomed by the cross-eyed discus thrower principle ‘They seldom hit their targets, but they sure keep the crowd amused and on their toes!'

Note, cost is only a consequence of the first three. A project usually can't be cost managed to profit. If any one of Safety, Quality and Delivery is substandard, cost suffers. Poor safety affects quality and delivery. Poor quality downgrades delivery performance. Conversely, a consistent delivery performance where safety and quality are performing well and consistently, will result in meeting the customer promise and ‘word of mouth' marketing of your business.

Project management tools are also necessary. Conventional scheduling management tools such as Gantt charts are useful, however, a methodology known as Critical Chain Project Management CCPM (not critical path) is perhaps more useful. Normally, tasks are all individually padded with time safety buffers. These time pads are invisible, difficult to manage and are wasted. Critical chain reduces all task time estimates to a reasonable minimum and adds one buffer or safety pool task at the end of each critical chain of tasks. The buffer task makes it much easier to manage, and correct time overruns.

Project surveys have indicated CCPM-managed projects consistently finish on or ahead of schedule, compared with two-thirds of conventionally managed projects that finish late.

Add a safety pool task to the Tidy task list.


Planning is a major key to success. Without it, as a cynical wit put it “Without planning, failure comes as a complete surprise and is not preceded by stress and worry”. Although it's counter-intuitive, if more time and focus is put into the project at the beginning, the overall project will be smoother, faster, and more profitable. Don't shortcut this stage.

  • Do use the Tidy Quote facility to best estimate time and material costs. Another well quoted maxim of projects is ‘Most of the money is lost at the quotation stage'. Avoid this with good cost estimates.
  • Use Tidy's custom templates to automate 80% to 90% of the quote, download it to Word and fine-tune the quote to suit special circumstances.


When the project is won, hold a kick-off meeting.

  • Convert the Tidy Quote to a project. Fine-tune plan details
  • Map the project using CCPM.
  • Explain and publish the project plan
  • Does everyone on the project team know and understand what they must do and when?
  • Are there any risks or unintended consequences we haven't thought of?
  • Do we have the right kind and quantity of labour, available at the right time?
  • Will we have a smooth flow of material items at the right time?
  • Are our subcontractors and suppliers in the communication loop?
  • What is our customer communication plan?
  • Start work!
  • Do enter time and material consumption into Tidy daily! Don't leave everything for accounts to sweep the debris up once a month. Everyone has probably forgotten this detail by then! Tidy data entry should be a field operator responsibility, not an accounts task.


  • Daily - have short stand-up meetings.
  • Present - all people that can help to correct deviations, for example, purchasing, sales, QA.
  • Agenda - Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • Are there any deviations?
  • If so, what is to be done, who is going to do it and by when?
  • Publish SQDC results and progress on boards. Visual management is very effective.
  • Use Tidy dashboards, project and material reports to visualise progress and deviations.


  • Act to correct deviations flagged in effective project team meetings
  • Responsible people are delegated to correct specific deviations and pull the project back on track. Typically, these might be labour and material shortages, quality problems, site access, site conditions and any of the other myriad surprises that can bedevil project execution.
  • Keep the customer informed. No surprises!

Repeat PDCA again and again.

Once the project is finished, (or even after each stage if it's a long project) hold a post-analysis meeting.

  • What did we do well?
  • What didn't we anticipate?
  • What could we have done better?
  • What did we learn?
  • What changes will we lock into our practices and policies for future projects?
  • Celebrate and recognise individual achievements!

Edward Fyvie is principal of 5e Management Services and provides consulting services to SME businesses in five main areas: Customers, Effective Strategy, Innovation, Productivity and Sales, M&A Advisory, Board Advisory, Effective technology, analysis and business planning. You can contact Edward here

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Published Date:

November 30, 2022

Read Time:

6 minutes


Team Tidy