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IAQG Support Materials on Project Management Appear Partially Taken from PMI, Don't Address Aerospace
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Christopher Paris
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24 August, 2018 - 10:08 AM
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The IAQG Supply Chain Management Handbook (SCMH) provides a large collection of AS9100 support materials, helping companies to understand the requirements of AS9100 and then guidance on how to implement them. In some cases, the material is very good, such as their take on Human Factors, which actually addresses HF in the manufacturing environment, rather than trying to shove repair station approaches to HF into a manufacturing context. Their support materials for "work transfer" are also excellent.

But their material related to Project Management is woefully lacking, and creeps dangerously close to outright plagiarism. As you may recall, AS9100 revision D clause 8.1 includes a paragraph related to PM, one which was previously a standalone clause under Revision C of that standard. That paragraph reads as follows:

As appropriate to the organization, customer requirements, and products and services, the organization shall plan and manage product and service provision in a structured and controlled manner including scheduled events performed in a planned sequence to meet requirements at acceptable risk, within resource and schedule constraints.

NOTE: This activity is generally referred to as project planning, project management, or program management.

The clause was always problematic, in that it mandated a specific type of management approach ("project management") into organizations that typically are not large enough to warrant it. For Boeing and Lockheed, full-blown PM is a normal part of their business; for the small downstream machine shops selling to them, it's not. Under previous editions, you could exclude the entire clause; by embedding it into clause 8.1, it gets trickier (but not impossible) to exclude.

So now more than ever, the IAQG's SCMH guidance materials are important in this case, but the guidance on project management is ... well, terrible. It consists largely of a single spreadsheet that is supposed to walk you through an entire approach to project management. First, the idea that a spreadsheet can be used to manage something the scale of a Boeing-sized "project" or "program" is laughable. In those companies, they may have a single program that encompasses all of the 777 build activities, and then another program for 787. SpaceX would have a program for launches related to NASA, and those related to the USAF.  Do you really think they use a single Excel file to manage this?

But it's likely not anyone reading this is managing a company the size of either Boeing or SpaceX. In as a result, "dumbing down" the concept of PM into a spreadsheet seems attractive, since it would be easier to do for smaller companies. So that might be where IAQG was going with this, but the resulting materials are then overcomplicated -- despite being put into a single file -- and beyond the reach of most small companies. So there's nowhere this material fits at either end of the spectrum.

Furthermore, the spreadsheet and associated guidance materials make no mention of, you know, aerospace. The material was lifted largely from the Project Management Institute (PMI) which offers certification programs for professionals under its Project Management Professional certificate ("PMP," and those holding it are colloquially referred to as "Pimps.") The PMI stuff is actually very good, and it's one of the only certifications I recommend for folks, but it's not specific to any industry, much less aerospace. The IAQG didn't bother to even consider aerospace when developing the PMI-based support materials for clause 8.1, which is unforgivable. No one goes to the International Aerospace Quality Group for advice on implementing project management in the retail delicatessen industry; we expect the materials to be about aerospace and AS9100!

Some of the tabs in the sheet are just outright laughable. The "Lessons Learned Log" is just a flat table that contradicts other concepts and sheets within the very same document; suddenly, it asks for lessons learned to be categorized as "success" or "problem," contradicting the standard's language on "risk" and "opportunity." So now you've essentially got four effects of uncertainty to manage, instead of two. It adds work, ignoring existing systems and methods which could be used for this already, such as the risk management or corrective action systems.

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In other cases, the tabs are horribly overcomplicated. The Work Breakdown Structure is a mess; now, WBS's are difficult to develop even without a clumsy spreadsheet guiding you, but this one is just an MC Escher painting on acid. It's simply unworkable.

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The guidance provided in the various text comments includes a lot of language apparently lifted, verbatim, from the PMI course materials and other online project management publications. Now, since PMI is helping write definitions of terms used in project management, maybe that's not a concern, but nowhere does IAQG provide an attribution to PMI, and instead presents the material as an original IAQG work. That's troublesome.

The metadata on the Excel file shows one author: Deborah Stubblefield. One such person shows up on LinkedIn as working for Textron Aviation in Wichita, and she lists Project Management as an area of expertise. She didn't respond to my questions on this materials, but that's not indicative of much since LinkedIn's messaging system is throwing errors like mad these days.

The file was then "last modified" by the IAQG's Susan Parsons, who manages the SMCH material in general, and she also did not respond on LinkedIn to my questions about the materials.

So AS9100 users confronted with the confusing "PM" paragraph in 8.1 have little support options. (And, no, I didn't write this article slamming IAQG in order to promote my own option, since I don't have one.) Generally, the IAQG Supply Chain Management Handbook is a trove of incredibly useful materials. In this case, however, IAQG needs to start over. And maybe not do so much CTRL-C/CTRL-V from someone else's handbooks.

You can access the SMCH here; you'll need a login, but its free (although you'll get spammed by SAE.)

 

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