One of my customers had a ship’s bell in their lobby to ring whenever they got a new project; a very neat idea. Sales departments are great about celebrations and getting new orders is good for every organization. Shipments pay the bills and the salaries, however, and I never ran across an organization that rang a bell for the truck finally leaving with an invoice.
Very few organizations close out projects well. “As built” is invariably different from “as designed” and this causes confusion long after the team moves on to the next adventure. I got a call recently about discrepancies in tooth count on a machine shipped 20 years ago; someone in manufacturing did an “on-the-fly” revision because a unique hob had broken and management wanted “that thing” gone for the year end numbers to be met. The original device soldiered on until last month and everyone was shocked when the process line’s speed was slightly off.
I completely understand that resources are tight and people are busy with the next emergency. Frankly, we also want the scars to heal before we go back to tie up the loose ends in the documentation and archive the files. Before you know it, important lessons learned are forgotten. People get new responsibilities or leave the organization; and those loose ends never get taken care of.
We had an engineer leave the company with all the files on several projects. A few years later, he designed very similar equipment for a customer. Then the customer found himself suffering the same “teething” problems we had spent years working through. Problems that soured the relationship and left the door open for the ex-employee to get a couple of projects. He had left us before the design flaws were “fixed” and simply assumed his original “as designed” device would work great with a few size adjustments.
Prompt and efficient project close out would have saved lots of grief for everyone. We do not teach this lesson in engineering school. I do not think it is on the Business Administration curriculum either. We certainly do not publish technical papers on the topic in Gear Technology either. Perhaps engineering departments need a ship’s bell to call the team into a wrap-up pizza party so the “lessons learned” are actually recorded in the company “recipe book.”