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Project Management Blog

 We have all been on projects where an understanding different stakeholder groups becomes a ‘touchy-feely’ process.  You have a gut feel for their tolerance for change, commitment, ability to influence and what they view as important.  Most of the time we are wrong but if we had some real data for these areas, then we could establish effective communications and begin to understand what challenges faced us during our project time line.

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Tuesday, 21 August 2007 06:14

Project Planning:

Every year thousands of projects are completed over budget, out of scope and past deadline.  Still, with each passing year, project managers continue to rush into projects without due diligence in defining the project and creating a plan for project execution.  By lightly addressing these critical components they are, in essence, failing their projects before any work has even commenced.  So how can project managers efficiently execute a project plan while at the same time meeting the deadlines and expectations of senior management?

 

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Saturday, 16 June 2007 09:46

Deming's 5th Point in Project Management

Continuous Improvement

This is one of my favorite points from Dr. Deming. I see so many mistakes that are made again and again, and lessons learned that are either completely undocumented or filed away after a project, never to be seen again.

Do all of the other project managers in the firm get exposure to lessons learned from other projects? Usually not, in my experience. Surely, individual project managers and sponsors learn from their projects, but organizational learning and continuous improvement require a formal process for the documentation, analysis, and incorporation of lessons learned into a common methodology.

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Wednesday, 11 April 2007 19:58

Are You A Master?

In the April 2007 edition of PM Network, there is an article titled "Master Plan: IT executives need to develop an eye for project managers" that I would like to comment on.

The article is mostly based off a study done by Gartner Inc., in Stamford CT, USA. One sad but true statistic stated that 20-30% of IT executives "have a 'dismissive attitude' toward project management". Those are the same execs that suffer "from poor quality, late delivery and unrealistic project costs." I can related to this information from my personal experience, and would venture a guess that when you move into executives in operational areas, the dismissive attitude towards proper project management increases. The majority of IT execs seem to have seen the light and made the realization that there really is value to be delivered by well run projects by individuals who have the right skills to do so in a formal manner. 
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Thursday, 22 March 2007 10:02

The Success Conundrum

I hope that since you are reading this, you are a project management proponent and interested in “spreading the word” so to speak.  Many of us find ourselves a lone voice in the wilderness singing the praises of project management, yet unable to make any headway. 

Why is this so and what can be done about it? How do we get those obstinate so-and-sos to listen? 

In one way we are our own worst enemy.  Our consistent success and brilliant performance is often interpreted by others as an inherent talent.  In other words, we are seen as good at project management in the same way that musicians are seen as good musicians – it’s a talent thing.   Now, not taking away from anyone’s talent, our personal attributes are not the only cause of our success – you know that or you would not be reading this.  The first hurdle then is to demonstrate that skill AND talent make good project managers, that you can learn this and be good – never as good as those of us who are truly talented, but – hey - not everyone can be the best... just us J This means that success alone can not demonstrate the benefits of project management – let me say that differently – the prevailing mindset in a capability-maturity ignorant world is that people alone create success.  

I’m not saying that a great process can overcome incompetence, it can’t.  Nor am I suggesting that you credit your achievements solely to a great methodology (you worked hard!) – so what do you do? There are a lot of actions you can take, but since I’m a PMO guy, I’ll start there.  In the case of building a PM culture, a PMO can succeed where individual achievements fall short.  A PMO is an organizational entity, and as such does not suffer from the success conundrum. 

When a PMO succeeds, the prevailing opinion will be “they must be doing something right.”  This process-oriented point of view is an opening into organizational consciousness.  If you don’t have a PMO, consider creating a community of practice around project management.  Meet with other PMs and share ideas and practices.  Publish these on the company’s intranet (if you have one).  Send emails on PM topics or print articles and pass them around. 

I’ve really had some good luck with sharing short articles and ideas via email.  In fact I just sent another one using Josh Nankivel’s article on Theory of Constraints.  The cartoon is great, and fun communications never hurts!   So that’s my first two cents, PMOs and other PM-based organizations are a great way to demonstrate and communicate the benefits of our profession, get together with your peers and spread the word.

 

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I'm a Theory of Constraints (TOC) enthusiast. So what exactly is TOC? Here's a short, short summary. In short, it's a method of identifying and strengthening the weakest link (constraint) in any process, in an iterative approach to ongoing improvement. There are also tools that go along with it to help identify assumptions and constraints, etc. TOC was developed by Eli Goldratt. The Avraham Y. Goldratt Institute is the organization that maintains the TOC body of knowledge.

Published in Blogs
Saturday, 27 January 2007 17:06

Risk Planning & Analysis

Risk analysis is a technique to identify and assess factors that may jeopardize the success of a project or achieving a goal. This technique also helps define preventive measures to reduce the probability of these factors from occurring and identify countermeasures to successfully deal with these constraints when they develop.

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Thursday, 25 January 2007 20:56

Cost Performance Measurements

Earned Value - Earned value management is a project management technique for estimating how a project is doing in terms of its budget and schedule. It compares the work finished so far with the estimates made in the beginning of the project. This gives a measure of how far the project is from completion. Through EV the project manager can get an estimate on how much resources the project will have used at completion. “Earned Value Analysis” is an industry standard way to measure a project’s progress, forecast its completion date and final cost and provide schedule and budget variances along the way. By integrating three measurements, it provides consistent, numerical indicators with which you can evaluate and compare projects.

Published in Blogs
Thursday, 25 January 2007 16:51

Constraints & Assumptions

Constraints are factors that may limit the project management team’s options, whereas assumptions are factors that for planning purposes may be considered to be true, real, or certain. Understand the differences between constraints and assumptions, and be able to recognize examples of both. 

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Thursday, 25 January 2007 15:18

Organizational Structure

Projects, of course, are not operated in a vacuum. They are parts, or subsystems, of much bigger organizations with much larger goals. Each project has or uses elements such as processes, participants, policies, procedures, and requirements, some of which are dependent upon and interact with related elements in the larger business system. By taking a systematic approach, the project manager can see how all the elements interact, and assess the impact on the individual project. Project managers must recognize the role of the project as a component within an organization. The role of the project, as a component, is to support the business model of the organization as a whole-not to necessarily replace it. Organizations are categorized into one of five models:


Functional
This traditional structure groups people by specialization (for example, marketing, contracting, accounting, and so on). The project manager has no formal authority over project resources and must rely on the informal power structure and his or her own interpersonal skills to obtain resource commitments from functional managers. Conflicts tend to develop over the relative priorities of various projects competing for limited resources.

Weak Matrix
The matrix organization maintains vertical functional lines of authority while establishing a relatively permanent horizontal structure containing the managers for various projects. The project managers interact with all functional units supporting their projects. In a weak matrix, the balance of power leans toward the functional manager rather than the project manager. That is, workers’ administrative relationships, physical proximity, and relative time expenditures favor the functional manager.

Balanced Matrix
A balanced matrix structure has many of the same attributes as a weak matrix, but the project manager has more time and power regarding the project. A balanced matrix still has time accountability issues for all the project team members since their functional managers will want reports on their time within the project. In a balanced matrix the project manager has a full-time role as a project manager with a reasonable level of authority and has a primarily part-time project team

Strong Matrix
The strong matrix is the same as the weak matrix except that the balance of power favors the project manager rather than the functional manager. The project manager has medium to high formal authority.

Projectized
In a projectized organization, a separate, vertical structure is established for each project.  Personnel are assigned to particular projects on a full-time basis. The project manager has total authority over the project, subject only to the time, cost, and performance constraints specified in the project targets.

These are the functional organizations; project expeditor, which is little more than a functionary who helps support the concept of project management but not really the practice; the project coordinator is a step up from that. Then a weak matrix is where you actually have the project manager getting resources from the functional organizations; a strong matrix is where the balance of power is shifted to the project manager. The way you tell whether or not that balance of power has shifted is where the money and the reporting come from. If all money and reports are generated by the project and are respected as being from the project, then it is a strong matrix. If the functional organizations are seen as generating revenue for the organization rather than the project organizations, then it is a weak matrix. And finally, PMI’s ideal structure: the projectized organization, a place where the project has its own reporting structure within the organization.


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