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Plan Projects like Albert Einstein!

Plan Projects like Albert Einstein!
By Ray W. Frohnhoefer

As we’ve learned from projects like healthcare.gov, Agile isn’t always the best method to follow for software development. If we look at its strengths and weaknesses, Agile is not especially well-suited in its pure form for projects with fixed deadlines and fixed scope. It also exhibits limitations in complex projects which require strong integration testing. So there are other methodologies and techniques which can be used standalone or combined with Agile when trying to meet project criteria. Let’s take a look at one that is not restricted to the software world, but can be used in virtually any industry.

Albert Einstein said that if he had an hour to solve a problem, he would spend 55 minutes understanding the problem and 5 minutes solving it. Suppose we applied that type of ratio to project planning and execution? Some might label it “Extreme Planning”. Read the Complete Article

The Importance of Confidence and Estimates

The Importance of Confidence and Estimates
By Ray W. Frohnhoefer

As a project leader, it’s critically important to be earnest – have an intense conviction and confidence in the plan. Staying calm and confident is reassuring to the team, sponsor, and stakeholders alike. The team will take their cues from you, follow your lead, and rise to meet any challenges or setbacks in a positive way. Whether you are looking at the Inc. list, the Forbes list, or anyone’s list of leadership traits, confidence is usually on the short list of important leadership traits (or a part of the description of another trait).

So given its importance, how can you build this confidence in the plan? It comes from having a solid, believable plan that stakeholders, including you and the project team, buy into. And how do you get that solid, believable plan stakeholders will buy into? It comes from having solid steps and estimates for completing the project. Read the Complete Article

8 Tips for Handling Difficult Emotions

8 Tips for Handling Difficult Emotions
By Ray W. Frohnhoefer

Back in April, we looked at 10 necessary skills for handling conflicts that occur during the course of a normal project. This article expands on one of those skills in particular – handling difficult emotions. And to further clarify, this is not directly about handling your emotions (though you need to do that as well!). As the Project Manager, you should remain calm and in control at all times. This is specifically about managing the emotions of others that are in conflict.

When conflict gets out of control and the two people or parties in conflict cannot resolve the situation without help, emotions can often set up a barrier to solving the issue at hand. You need to break down this barrier and defuse strong emotions in order to get on a solid path to resolution.

One important step is to gain an understanding of the parties in conflict. Read the Complete Article

10 Necessary Skills to Resolve Project Conflicts

10 Necessary Skills to Resolve Project Conflicts
By Ray W. Frohnhoefer

Ever have your project conflicts get far out of hand? Needless to say, conflicts are a normal part of life. Often they stem from interpersonal issues. There are many other sources, though, including disagreements on requirements, design, work assignments, technical disagreements, and more. With appropriate management, conflicts can be healthy for organizations, promoting change and innovation.

I think it goes without saying that conflicts are always best resolved at the lowest level of the organization or project team. Normally that would be the two people in conflict. But sometimes it’s possible they cannot resolve the issue themselves and as Project Managers, we need to step in. Here are the 10 necessary skills all Project Managers should have to be able to successfully resolve conflicts and harness the benefits:

  1. Provide the right Emotional Temperature: Maintain a positive attitude and choose postures that radiate positive energy.
Read the Complete Article

Transition and Succession Planning for Project Managers

Transition and Succession Planning for Project Managers
By Ray W. Frohnhoefer

You arrive at work on Monday morning and find that your key software engineer did not show up. You subsequently learn that he was arrested over the weekend for tax evasion for the past 8 years. The week is tense and you hope you will get your key engineer back – after all, he should be able to make bail and get out of jail.

So he makes bail and returns for a week. The following Monday he’s gone again. This time you learn he fled to another country seeking asylum and abandoning his wife and children to avoid prosecution. Looks like the key engineer won’t ever be available again! Your other engineers tell you he single handedly designed 60%+ of the system and they don’t really know what or how he did it. It’s going to take them months to figure it out. Read the Complete Article

Validating PMI Board Participation

Validating PMI Board Participation
By Ray W. Frohnhoefer

Back around 2003, before PMI had an online registry of PMI credential holders, a recruiter contacted me as a local Board member to help them determine how to validate that someone was actually a PMI credential holder. Turns out they sent an “alleged” PMP® on an interview and the individual didn’t even know what PMP® stood for. Turns out it was almost as easy at the time — a quick call to PMI Customer Care was all that was required. A brief consultation and further embarrassment was avoided.

What impressed me at the time was that someone actually thought the value of the credential was so high they would risk lying on a resume and a job interview. But a recession was in progress and the rate of unemployment was high. But today, unemployment is even higher, and so sadly are the claims. Read the Complete Article

RACI and RACI-VS

RACI and RACI-VS
By Ray W. Frohnhoefer

Managing the expectations of a Project Team can often be more difficult than managing those of external stakeholders. Teams “form, storm, norm, and perform”, but short projects and critical tasks can be impacted by unwanted behaviors, especially if the team members don’t know what’s expected of them. RACI and RACI-VS are forms of a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) which can help focus the team on their roles and responsibilities while aiding the project manager in thinking through the Human Resources plan.

The PMBOK® Guide includes the Responsibility Assignment Matrix in the Human Resources plan. It is designed to show the connections between the work packages of the WBS and the project team. Multiples levels of RAM may be presented. A high level RAM may show connections between high level packages (such as project phases or summary tasks) and sub teams or generic resources. Ultimately the RAM connects each task to specific, named team members. Read the Complete Article

The Relationship Between Project and Product Management

The Relationship Between Project and Product Management
By Ray W. Frohnhoefer

I’ve started exploring the relationship of project and product management, particularly as they may relate to smaller companies. Each seems to have their separate body of literature, but there are some close ties.

Let’s start by looking at the PMBOK® Guide, Fourth edition definition of project. Note that “product” appears as part of that definition. This leads us to believe that to create a product, we should have a formal project:

“A project is a temporary endeavor to create a unique product, service, or result…Temporary does not necessarily mean short in duration. Temporary does not generally apply to the product, service, or result created by the project; most projects are undertaken to create a lasting outcome.”

Project managers know that projects have life cycles. Products have life cycles as well. The product life cycle usually starts with an organization such as Sales and Marketing or Engineering developing a product idea. Read the Complete Article

Practical Budgeting for Project Managers – Part II

Practical Budgeting for Project Managers – Part II (#2 in the series Practical Budgeting for Project Managers)
By Ray W. Frohnhoefer

As you start to plan your budget, you should review previous budgets for similar work if they are available. You will need to form the budget based on historical experience and performance, plus your current WBS and estimates. When the schedule is created, you will need to look at resource availability. The most difficult part of the process will be to think through all costs.

Basic Project Costs

  • Human resource costs. Here you want to use the fully burdened rate for all project team members. This includes salaries and wages, bonuses, and other benefits. For co-workers who are salaried employees, this information is usually treated as confidential, but your finance department may be willing to provide a composite rate representative of groups of employees or job classifications. Human resources costs, even for contractors, never have sales taxes involved.
Read the Complete Article

Reviews in Project Management are Required

Reviews in Project Management are Required
By Ray W. Frohnhoefer

I’ve noticed a growing trend in a counter-productive behavior — skipping a review and rushing into execution. The usual excuse is “it slows things down”. The price you pay, however, is you may build the wrong thing and really slow things down. Many years ago I worked for a computer manufacturer. They aggressively decided to build a new system in parallel with developing the operating system — this wasn’t the norm in those days. The lack of an appropriate review let a major showstopping issue through — while the programmers were numbering the bits in one direction, the hardware designers were going in the other. This wasn’t uncovered for months, and many more months were wasted reviewing the code and correcting it after the damage was done. In the end, another manufacturer cornered the market and the system never went into manufacturing. Read the Complete Article

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