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WBS Types

WBS Types (#5 in the series How to Plan and Organize a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

Even though the term “Work Breakdown Structure” has been used as a label for all project scope hierarchical diagrams, there are, in practice, many types other than “deliverable” oriented structures.

Verb-oriented WBS: a task-oriented WBS defines the deliverable of project work in terms of the actions that must be done to produce the deliverable. The first word in a given WBS element usually is a verb, such as, design, develop, optimize, transfer, test, etc.

Noun-oriented WBS: a deliverable-oriented WBS defines project work in terms of the components (physical or functional) that make up the deliverable. In this case, the first word in a given WBS element is a noun, such as, Module A, Subsystem A, Automobile Engine, Antenna, etc. Since the nouns are usually parts of a product, this WBS type is sometimes called a “Product Breakdown Structure (PBS). Read the Complete Article

Systems Thinking in Project Management

Systems Thinking in Project Management
By Michael D. Taylor

Most project managers tend to think only conventionally when managing projects. This means that they begin from a given project goal, plan the project to meet the goal, then execute the plan in order to meet the project goal. Little thought is given to strategic thinking or systems thinking. As a result, many projects are may be deemed “successful” but are actually ineffective. In addition to thinking conventionally project managers must also think strategically in order to manage projects that are truly successful. The cross-functional flow diagram at the end of this article suggests one way that strategic thinking can be applied when managing projects today.

What Is Strategic Thinking?

Strategic thinking begins not with just “what?” but “how?” Conventional thinking addresses the “what” aspects. What needs to be achieved in order to meet the project goals? Strategic thinking looks at how the goal is established, and how it will affect the customer, the corporation, the competitors, and the co-workers. Read the Complete Article

The Subcontract Statement of Work

The Subcontract Statement of Work
By Michael D. Taylor

If something is not in the subcontract it will not be accomplished. For this reason every effort must be made to avoid the assumption that a contract is carte blanche. The scope of work that a PMT (Procurement Management Team) expects of a subcontractor must be clearly stated in a Subcontract Statement of Work (SSOW).

  • Scope Definition. The SSOW defines all work (scope) to be accomplished by the subcontractor within the terms of the negotiated contract. If work is later issued to the subcontractor, and it is not in the SSOW, the PMT can expect to receive a billing for additional funds from the subcontractor. This can cause significant cost overruns if the directed change is not pre-approved by the project manager. Such changes to the scope of the subcontract must, therefore, be submitted to the project Change Control Board before a contract change is issued.
Read the Complete Article

How to Develop a Procurement Management Plan for Outsourced Projects

How to Develop a Procurement Management Plan for Outsourced Projects
By Michael D. Taylor

Since those who are assigned to a Procurement Management Team are often nonplused with their role, it is incumbent upon the project manager to facilitate the development of a comprehensive procurement management plan. The plan is to be directed to the PMT, not to the outsourced organizations, and its purpose is to ensure that the PMT understands how it will operate within the project environment, how it will establish subcontracts, and how it will manage and monitor the subcontractors. This plan should include the following aspects:

  • Procurement goals
  • Team roles (RAM)
  • Competitive vs. sole-source rationale
  • List of potential bidders
  • Subcontractor selection method
  • Procurement risk management plan
  • Subcontractor monitoring and control methods

Procurement goals. The specific goals of the eventual subcontract will define not only the objectives of the subcontract around the constraints of time, cost, and scope, but it should include their relative priorities. Read the Complete Article

How to Compress Project Schedules

How to Compress Project Schedules
By Michael D. Taylor

There are times when the project schedule duration must be shortened (compressed) either to meet market opportunity dates, to meet the desires of key stakeholders, or when the project completion date slips. In these cases the project manager must find ways to reduce the amount of time it will take to complete all remaining activities, especially those on the critical path.

Three such schedule compression techniques can be employed under these conditions, all of which are to be applied to the critical path activities. These are: 1) optimizing activity lead-lag times, 2) fast-tracking, and 3) crashing. It must be pointed out that if the critical path is compressed enough, other paths may become the actual critical path, and must then be compressed.

How to Optimize Activity Lead-lag Times

Optimizing lead-lag times along the critical path is one of the best ways to reduce the project’s duration. Read the Complete Article

Key Stakeholder Responsibility Allocation Matrix (RAM)

Key Stakeholder Responsibility Allocation Matrix (RAM)
By Michael D. Taylor

Projects are done with groups of people. Groups lacking clearly defined leadership, however, typically fail to complete assigned activities because responsibility is ambiguous at best. Project teams as a whole generally do not feel responsible for their actions. Individuals, on the other hand do. Hence, to complete projects, responsibility for tasks must be specifically delegated to individuals. This is the purpose of the Responsibility Allocation Matrix. It establishes individual project responsibility on a task-by-task basis among the team members.

The Responsibility Allocation Matrix is a project management tool, a simple tool with only one purpose–It identifies who is to do what.
The Responsibility Allocation Matrix does not show when or how much – this information is provided in other tools. Instead, the Responsibility Allocation Matrix answers the question: “Who needs to do what to deliver the end-of-phase or end-of-project results?”

A simplified RAM is shown below:

Responsibility Project Manager Sponsor Functional Managers Customer Project Team Leaders
Meet project goals 1 2,4 2,4 2 2,4
Issue project charter 2 1 2 2 4
Provide skilled personnel 4 1 2
Define product requirements 2 3 2 1
Develop the project plan 1 3 2 3 2,4
Provide funding to project 1
Control changes to project plan 1 3 3,4 3 2,4

Legend: 1=Primary responsibility 2= Provides inputs 3=Approval authority 4= Overall support

Two other RAMs will be developed later; one between the project managers and the team leaders, and the other will be at the team level. Read the Complete Article

Project Communication Plan

Project Communication Plan
By Michael D. Taylor

Before a new project is authorized there needs to be a plan for disseminating project information between all who are involved. This is especially needed between the assigned project manager and the key stakeholders to whom the project manager reports. Below is a simplified example of what the communication plan may entail.

Stakeholder Information Needed Frequency Medium
Sponsor High-level cost, schedule, quality, performance, major problems and planned solutions Monthly Meeting and brief summary report
Customer/Marketing High-level cost, schedule, quality, performance, major problems and planned solutions Monthly Meeting and brief summary report
Functional Managers Major problems and planned solutions, personnel performance Bi-weekly E-mail
Finance Project cost reports Monthly E-mail
Project Manager Weekly status reports from team leaders Weekly E-mail and weekly status meetings

MICHAEL D. TAYLOR, M.S. in systems management, B.S. in electrical engineering, has more than 30 years of project, outsourcing, and engineering experience. Read the Complete Article

How to Control Changes to The Project

How to Control Changes to The Project (#5 in the series How to Control a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

Changes to the project management plan are inevitable. Rarely does a project manager finish a project with the same project management plan established at the Final Planning Review. If a project manager does not have a formal process for reviewing, evaluating, and approving any such changes the resulting impact will be uncontrolled scope creep.

Why Control Changes?

Uncontrolled changes will create confusion, and confusion will erode commitment to the project. Product quality, overall morale and general loss of interest will most likely take place when a project manager cannot control changes to the project management plan. The project manager’s upward spiral in career advancement may also be dampened when key stakeholders see ineptness in managing project changes. If changes are not managed properly the project manager will experience unacceptable schedule slips, significant cost overruns, and reduced product quality. Read the Complete Article

How to Recover from Unacceptable Variances Arising from the Project Plan

How to Recover from Unacceptable Variances Arising from the Project Plan (#4 in the series How to Control a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

When an unacceptable variance from the project management plan arises the project manager needs to ensure that a corrective action plan is established. Even though the primary responsibility for the plan falls on the individual who “owns” the variance, the project manager needs to provide support as a solution facilitator.

Avoiding cost growth and schedule completion delays is paramount which means that any resources needed for correction are within the approved scope of the project. Every effort should be made to first develop “soft” recovery plans that do not require additional costs to the project. If that is not possible, then “hard” recovery plans, that do require additional costs or extensions to the project completion date, should be considered. Obviously, prevention of large variances is superior to experiencing these kinds of project impacts. Read the Complete Article

Post Control – Project Control Techniques

Post Control – Project Control Techniques (#3 in the series How to Control a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

Having a project management plan will not always ensure having effective project control. Without a control process the project manager will often resort to an improper use of institutional authority to embarrass, or intimidate a project member whose performance is unsatisfactory. As a result the project member will learn to prevent disclosure of any problems. This then creates another problem in that the project manager is not being made fully aware of deviations from the project plan. Taylor’s Law1 states that “the earlier a problem is disclosed, the easier it is to manage.” When project problems are hidden from the project manager they often grow to the point where they become untenable.

Meredith and Mantel offer three methods of control, these are:

Post control methods are used after the fact. Read the Complete Article

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