Leveraging Compliance to Succeed

Picture: courtesy of vijilan.com

The Challenge

Complying with company, project and regulatory standards and procedures is often viewed as an onerous set of constraints that are superimposed on the project team’s mission. We’ll show that, by using, i.e. leveraging and integrating, these standards and procedures from the outset, project teams are assured that they are on the best path toward project success. Complying with these procedures helps to drive improved communications, which in turn delivers improved decision-making during the project.


Each company or project procedure defines the specific process steps that are required to complete a work product or deliverable. Each process step, in turn, is a potential point that requires someone to sign-off that the step was completed, and that it meets quality standards. For example, the Project Charter, the first document related to the project, needs the sign-off of the Project Sponsor. Likewise, the Metallurgical Test Report (MTR), that certifies the specifications of the steel in a structure, needs a sign-off by the Quality Control officer. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of such sign-offs are required for large and small deliverables and work products in your project. Knowing when each of these sign-offs is needed and having the right person, with the right role, being made aware of each sign-off is a challenge. You would not want to miss one of these sign-offs, as it would reflect poorly on your company’s ability to comply with requirements, and you may lose the contract, or worse, have a safety incident. You would not want your project delayed for want of an Inspector’s sign-off on a completed pump repair. Clearly, you also need the ‘right’ number of people, each with the ‘right’ skills, to ensure that meeting compliance requirements does not cause a bottleneck and delay the project.


Your teams of skilled specialists are a critical factor managing a program, project, turnaround, shutdown or outage. To help focus the discussion, we’ll assume that you are a Maintenance or Turnaround Manager. Your program or turnaround work scope is defined in 3,000 work orders or 300 of construction work packages (CWPs). Based on similar, previous events, management has pegged the initial, rough, budgeted amount for this program or project as $30,000,000.
Your company’s standard Maintenance Program Procedure or Turnaround Execution Procedure is your guide to getting ready for (i.e. Preparation stages), executing (i.e Execution stage), and completing (i.e. Completion stage) the project.


Project teams today do not have convenient tools to model and track compliance requirements. At best, the process used is a time-consuming, gray area due to being primarily paper-based and spreadsheet-driven. You have ample evidence of this in your projects today, by simply counting the repetitive manual forms and standalone spreadsheets used to re-enter form data. Some form data never even makes it into an electronic area. Transparency of compliance tracking should be a core concern, yet it is relegated to silo-based groups like QA/QC, HSE, Reliability, or Risk Management. These groups should be far more integrated into the project than they currently are, and tools availability is likely the primary cause of this lack of integration. Paper forms, signed off by a number of company and regulatory staff, are the norm. The effort to preserve the all-important ‘paper trail’ leads to the time-consuming storage of multiple copies of these forms, in multiple filing cabinets, by the owner and by each contractor and possibly even subcontractors! Additionally, subsequent analyses of this filing cabinet-based trail are far more time-consuming than they would be if the trail was an electronic one. It is 2018, and we can do better things, instead of just trying to do better.

As for determining the right number of people with the expertise required, staff are assigned to multiple projects using manpower assignment spreadsheets. As these are not well integrated, team members are often effectively overloaded. This leads to intangible adverse effects on the project team such as ‘personnel issues’ that include stress, sleeplessness, excessive overtime demand, distrust of management and team mates and consequent absenteeism.

A consistent and transparent way of determining the need for the skills required, and then ensuring that those needs are met for each project, would go a long way to maintaining a productive and harmonious workplace for your project teams.

The following presents a sustainable approach to solving these problems, that also leads to complete, documented compliance with company, and government, regulations and standards.

We’ll start by reviewing the procedures that your company has already spent quality time developing, at significant cost.

Roles in Project, Company and Regulatory Procedures

Your company’s project procedures outline the stages of the program or turnaround. Stages require the completion of specific deliverables. Deliverables consist of processes. Each process is done and signed-off by a responsible or accountable role. Each of these layers is reviewed with details to illustrate.

Stages and Gates

All required deliverables and documentation work products that are required in a stage must be completed prior to passing through the stage gate to do work in the next stage. Here is an example of a project’s 7 stages (your projects may be different):

‘Lessons learned’ over the years have helped your company’s teams to ensure that these stages, and the deliverables in them, are a sound way of not ‘placing the cart before the horse’, i.e. ensuring that the required work products are completed before moving to the next stage. It would make no sense to buy gaskets for a work order, if that work order has not yet been included in your scope, because it has yet to be risk assessed and screened.


A project stage is complete only when the deliverables required with it are completed and signed off. Only then, can the next stage start. Here, as an example, are the 8 deliverables required for the Preliminary Stage:

Each deliverable is accomplished by completion of one or more process steps, each of which is signed off.


Your procedure also spells out, in detail, the sequence of Process steps required to complete documents (i.e. deliverables), and other work products. Each process step is done by a person who has a certain stated Role, known as the Responsible role. To confirm the quality of the document or work product, the procedure also specifies an Accountable Role who affirms, with a sign-off, compliance with company and regulatory quality standards.

As thousands of such responsible and accountable sign-offs are required for your project, it is logical that you need a consistent means for quantifying and estimating the burden (ex. number of sign-offs and amount of time for each) that these responsible and accountable expectations place on each Role. People also need to be notified when a process step is ready for their attention. To do this well, the process steps need to include logic.

Process Logic

Per the procedure, process steps must also be done in the prescribed sequence. The following diagram illustrates the sequence in which the process steps may be done. In this example, each of the review steps may be done concurrently, following the Procurement Manager’s completion of the ‘Develop Contract Strategy’ step. After each of the stakeholders have signed-off, the project manager, or turnaround event manager in this example, signs-off, confident that everyone who needed to have input has provided that input.

A pleasant side-effect of this logic-driven approach is that the communication paths, between team members, are clearly in view! The logic actually describes these paths of communication! Of course, additional stakeholders may be copied on any communication at any time, at the discretion of a stakeholder.

Once you have all of your Stages, and their deliverables and the process steps for each deliverable included in your process app, you can use this to help you to estimate your indirect manpower needs to help you with your project. But you will first need to have at least a rough idea of the the scope of work for the project.

Work Stages

As shown above, your project has, in this example, 7 stages. The work that is done in your project is defined in work orders (as is the case for turnarounds and maintenance programs) or in work packages (for new construction and infrastructure projects). If your turnaround has 1,000 work orders, your demand for skilled manpower is much less than if your had 3,000 work orders. Each work order has a lifecycle that is defined in 5 stages, as shown in this screen snip:

Just as for the project, each of these work stages have associated deliverables. Likewise, each deliverable has associated processes. And each process has associated responsible and accountable role sign-offs.

The sign-off requirements for each of these processes in each work stage are added to those of the related project stages to produce a count of the total sign-offs for each role in each project stage.

Role Demand

The demand, in sign-off counts, for each role, in each project stage is quickly viewed in a histogram chart similar to the following:

While this is not a perfect predictor of amount of work by each role, as a ‘responsible’ action may require more effort than an ‘accountable’ action, it is a start to get a better handle of the scope of work available, based on procedures and standards compliance, that you have to for your indirect staff roles. These Role demand diagrams will quickly demonstrate, that based on the procedures and standards requirements, we do not need all of the roles assigned at the start of the project. Nor will roles need to be present for the entire duration of the project. We’ll need to have the right roles available for the stage that they are needed. As some work orders are simple, like most preventive maintenance (PM) work orders and require little planning and review time, while others, like ‘Turnaround Heat Exchanger E101’ are far more complex and would require more planning and sign-off time, the ability to ‘weight’ groups of work orders helps to get a better model of your rough order of magnitude (ROM) estimate, of hours and duration for each stage.

Stage Gantt Chart

The Stage Gantt chart shows where each of these stages lands in the next few month, through 2020.

Note that these stages last for multiple quarters, so your indirect manpower requirements may be fine-tuned (lower) based on available time to accomplish the work load. In any case, if you use the solution to track your sign-offs, you will have a built-in, automated Readiness-tracking solution!

Readiness Radar Chart

This readiness radar chart reflects the expected or planned progress and your current progress for each group of roles, ex. Reliability, Inspection, etc. Again, simply sign-off the required process steps in a timely way delivers this readiness picture – there is no need for the current time-consuming spreadsheet of interview-based approaches. This a true transparency, and it costs less to do. And it’s based on simply following your intended procedures.

In Summary . .

As the Maintenance Manager of the Routine Maintenance Program or the Turnaround Manager of a plant turnaround, you manage a group of people numbering from 300 to 2,000 or more. Conservatively, 5 to 10% of this count are the key skilled specialists as your support team who do the (Indirect) work to get the scope ready for the execution stage’s (Direct) work. Following completion of execution, your support team finishes the commissioning documentation and handover to the client, based on the procedures. So the indirect work support team members are the only project staff for 6 of the 7 stages of work, plus they play a prominent part in the 7th, the Execution stage, as well. These people are truly your partners in being successful!

This approach provides you with a measurable expectation for each Role and also provides you with more insight to help your decisions. You could decide that a person needs two Roles – thus filling up their day and also reducing indirect manpower. Or you could decide to add a person to help out an overloaded Role. The data would help in this type of decision. The data also provides documented justification for your request for more help, such as: “The procedures require us to have HS Manager review and sign-off on each of these work packages, and we have 3000 of them in the planning period, which requires 2 FTE (full time equivalents) for this Role”

Your program, project, turnaround, shutdown or outage follows standard Stages – which are also outlined in your procedures. Each stage begins at a certain predefined period before the Execution stage. These stages and the periods have been determined based on experience and lessons learned in previously completed programs, projects, turnarounds, shutdowns or outages.

The Process app defaults these periods and durations in to your current program, project, turnaround, shutdown or outage. You can then tweak these durations and lead times to suit your real situation in the current project or turnaround.

The result is that you now have a realistic map, based on a Gantt chart and a histogram, of the demands or workload for each Role. These expectations can be rolled up to the group or department level and also to the program, project, turnaround, shutdown or outage level to see the amount of attention needed in each of the Stages. Progress is automatically accrued instantly on a sign-off.

You now now have a documented trail to explain your staffing requirements. You need not be concerned about under or over-working a person in your team. You, and your team, can readily see what’s expected of them. There are no surprises. Your own written and approved company’s procedures are the basis for this estimate. If the real world shows a different need, you have the option to use the lessons learned process to modify the procedure, in the basic Process app, to more closely reflect the real world situation, thus benefiting the next turnaround team that is formed based on a new charter.

Benefits of this approach include:
  • Adds value, based on already having the roles and people in your team in the solution, by having the ability to do time management, cost management, progress reporting, etc. The need to move to a spreadsheet or other silo, like a schedule, is greatly reduced.
  • Provides a more effective way to manage your processes, in a single point of truth (SPOT). You could actually maintain your procedures and regulations in the solution. This would be an effective, transparent way to get the buy-in and goodwill of company and 3rd party regulators.
  • Delivers a logical forum for reviewing and absorbing the results of lessons learned analyses.
  • Eliminates guesswork about what the next step is, as the solution can guide as well.
  • Improves quality of your procedures dramatically, due to the rigorous implementation. Soft, unclear statements (like: “It is recognized that as Defect Elimination Teams become embedded, this milestone may become part of their work output.”) will be apparent and can be eliminated. These types of statements abound in procedures today. We’ll help you to root them out, and streamline your procedures.
  • Automates the entire Readiness tracking effort as it is based on real-time sign-offs.

Where do you find this Process app? Contact us at http://www.teamworkgroup.com or email me at cpmonteiro@teamworkgroup.com

We strive to help your team play nice – using transparency and clear, unambiguous communications.