Ways to avoid going back to the Planning phase after starting the execution phase.
As it was mentioned in the class it is very costly to go back to the planning phase after the execution phase of the project started. One way I learned in my capstone class to avoid going back to the planning phase is to design each step of the project along with its verification test. As a project manager or a team member, What are some of the ways or strategies that you use to avoid going back to the planning phase after staring the execution phase?
Something that many companies will do during the planning phase is to do experimental and characterization testing. They do not require any acceptance criteria or sample size requirements that verification testing needs and can be a good way to see if the product would pass similar testing that will be completed in V&V or if a new test is needed to fully load the product to failure. These tests can aid in pointing out areas of concern prior to a verification test.
Other strategies and ways to avoid going back to the planning phase is to have customer input and proof of concept labs that aid in understanding if the advancement during the engineering phase meshes well with what the customer wants in the product and if any misuse cases may occur. There are many areas that a risk analysis will cover areas of concern, but sometimes its best to learn from those who utilize the tools in their career.
Understanding the requirements and establishing a robust project definition is paramount for the success of the project. Spending more time on the initiation and planning phases is a long time investment and should be encouraged by the PM and high-level executives. Risk planning and taking necessary actions to avoid them could help a lot. The roles and responsibilities have to be clearly established and as you mentioned verification tests have to be discussed as early as possible. Sometimes the regulation mindset makes engineers focus only on minimum control requirements. Good communication and analyzing the situation are very important in avoiding pitfalls in planning.
I think the most ideal solution in this case is to set up phase review meetings after each phase in order to review all documents and make sure that everything looks good with no mistakes that might delays things in the future. Nothing is perfect and mistakes always happen; Sometimes things are not discovered early on in the process and it would be only discovered when there is a failure or when the team realizes that they don't have a certain manufacturing capabilities. Sometimes it is really not controllable. Another solution would be having a mitigation plan for everything; any uncertainty or any tasks that the team is not sure what the results are going to show would be marked as a risk and the team would come up with a mitigation plan, to basically expects the worst. With following this strategy, the team would not need to go back to planning phase since they already planned for the worst and know exactly what they should happen to avoid the set backs.
I've found that I can avoid going back to the planning phase after the execution phase by planning backup plans prior to starting. I work with tissues and cells: I can never just assume that things are going to work out according to plan. Instead, I schedule and plan so that I have options and back-ups.
I also actively verify parts of my project before proceeding to more timely, and expensive steps. Instead of just running with a single concept, I will run smaller experiments that ensure that my hypothesis is supported. If these experiments show otherwise, then it is far easier to return to the planning phase than if I had jumped the gun and started all parts of my project at once.
Personally, I think it is ok to go back to the planning phase after the execution phase IF you've organized your project so that you have wiggle room (both time-wise and financially) to do such. It isn't as much about avoiding returning to the planning phase as it is planning so that, if you have to return to the planning phase, you can minimize loss.
There are several ways that we can do to avoid going back, quick and easy is one is to just change the overall scope of the project to align it with current results, however you might have to find a new job after. But in all seriousness I think the best option would be to check your results after each subtask, task, milestone, step etc with the actually project plan. It is a very diligent task and may require an extra resources or even time, however I think it serves a great deal as it allows for everyone involved in the project especially the PM, to ensure that the project is moving in the correct direction. This will also help the PM catch any mistakes from the beginning instead of finding them out after they become unresolvable.
I agree with designing each step of the project plan with verification steps will avoid going back to the planning phase from execution phase. This provides opportunity to detect the mistakes immediately and can try to rectify that instead of finishing the entire project and then finding the mistake which makes you go back to the planning again. This causes a great loss to the project. Also there should be backup plans defined earlier during the planning phase to make sure the mistakes can be rectified.