Select Page

Categories

Deliverable-based Project Schedules: Part 1

Deliverable-based Project Schedules: Part 1 (#1 in the series Deliverable-based Project Schedules
By Thomas Cutting

People build many different types of project schedules. There are the massive checklist and the one liner varieties. I’ve seen them with Phases, Activities, Tasks, Sub-Tasks, Sub-sub-tasks and sub-sub-sub-tasks. Some have randomly bolded Milestones and still others fail to communicate anything.

For projects that span more than a couple of months and a handful of individuals, a deliverable-based project plan offers the best way to track and report on it. Over the next several entries we’ll look at:

  1. Definitions
  2. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) – what it is and how to use it
  3. Creating the Schedule
  4. When is enough too much?

Definitions. Since there are 3 words there are obviously 5 definitions that we need to review.

Deliverable – pre-defined, tangible work product. This could be a report, document, web page, server upgrade or any other building block to your overall project. Read the Complete Article

Relationship vs. Task Oriented Management

Relationship vs. Task Oriented Management
By Thomas Cutting

Within project management there are two main types of personalities: Relationship oriented and Task oriented. It is fairly easy to tell the two apart. Aside from having a detailed project schedule, the Task oriented manager has a separate list of things they need to accomplish today and they feel great when all of them are checked off. The Relationship oriented manager’s schedule is really a guideline and they are more likely to have a list of people to call today.

Relationship Oriented managers are great at building a cohesive team. When planning out projects they take in the big picture and appoint people or groups to handle the details. Consensus is a major tool in their arsenal. One of the first artifacts they put together is an org chart and inevitably there is a spreadsheet with contact information posted close at hand. It probably even has birth dates written in. Read the Complete Article

Communication in Project Management – Communicating what Matters

Communication in Project Management – Communicating what Matters
By Thomas Cutting

Several of the brain dump entries center around “Communicating what Matters.” This shouldn’t be a surprise. Some have estimated that 80% of project management is communication. Others claim that 63% of all statistics are made up on the spur of the moment.

The mark of an excellent project manager is communicating the right amount to the right people in the right format at the right time: making it matter.

The Right Amount

We’ve all sat through long winded, slide enhanced meetings that completely fill the4-hour morning time slot and spill over into lunch. If you are like me, you grasped the concept, impact and expectations of the topic within the first 20 minutes, but have to endure the remaining torture. In truth, I probably delivered some of those presentations.

The purpose of any communication is to allow the audience to make informed decisions (#2 on February’s list). Read the Complete Article

Decisions, Outcomes, and the Project Manager

Decisions, Outcomes, and the Project Manager
By Thomas Cutting

I bolted awake at 5:11 this morning…heart pounding, mind racing…to the sound of rain. Living in Southern California, it isn’t a sound I hear all that often, but it is one that strikes fear into my heart. Lest one think that I suffer from Ombrophobia, I actually enjoy a good rain storm. I miss the huge thunderstorms we had growing up south of Buffalo, NY. My true fear of rain rises from the list of my belongings sitting outside that are not intended to get wet.

Today it was the seat from our van, removed a month ago to make traveling easier for my daughter and her sprained ankle. Originally placed in the garage, it was sitting, exposed, on the patio where she had dragged it to sit in the sun.

It was indeed an “Oh [INSERT EXPLETIVE HERE]!” moment. Your mind, body and soul leave their peaceful ignorance and arrive, adrenaline pumping, heart stopping, in total awareness. Read the Complete Article

Watery Lessons in Project Management

Watery Lessons in Project Management
By Thomas Cutting

Me and my daughters were having contests to see who could make it across the pool underwater without surfacing. That hit pretty close to some of the projects I have been on. What I observed was:

Disorientation. Once under water your senses diminish. Your eyesight becomes limited and your ears are muffled. You think you are heading in the right direction but end up arcing away from the target. In the middle of a project your focus can wander from your objectives, flooded by the Olympic sized pool full of meetings, tasks, resources, activities and all the other objects floating around you.

Go back and revisit your project charter. Look at what you promised the business. Are you still on track? Are you delivering what you said you would? Is your critical path backing up? Check your meetings to see if they are killing time or being productive. Read the Complete Article

Communication in Project Management – When to Communicate

Communication in Project Management – When to Communicate
By Thomas Cutting

Rarely do you hear a project sponsor say, “There is way too much communication going on here.” Unfortunately a common complaint is the lack of communication. True, the loudest complainers are often those that opted out of the weekly status meetings and never responded to your emails. You are left wondering when it is appropriate to connect with them.

When to Speak Up

This weekend I was listening to The Tech Guy on a local radio show. Google is piloting a new gmail feature that checks your sobriety before letting you hit the send button. You have a minute to answer math questions correctly to proceed. Evidently too many drunks were waking up in the morning with a hangover and some explaining to do. For the record, late night may not be the best time to send an email. Sleep impaired judgment can make the worst email look like Shakespeare. Read the Complete Article

The PMBOK and the Competing Project Constraints

The PMBOK and the Competing Project Constraints
By Thomas Cutting

Following last article about the project management triangle, one of my project management co-conspirators dropped me a note informing me that the triple constraint is officially dead. The new PMBOK Guide 4th edition has killed it.

In lieu of the binding, restricting, tri-legged barer of logic, PMI has opted for “Competing Project Constraints.” The new PMBOK includes Scope, Quality, Schedule, Budget, Resources and Risk as a representative list of the numerous constraints that a Project Manager faces.

Without reading the text directly I can not make a fully informed decision about the wisdom of creating a multisided polygon constraint. For one thing it doesn’t have quite the same ring as a triangle (I’m sure there’s a bad musical percussion joke in there somewhere). However, here are my initial thoughts.

  1. I whole heartedly agree that Project Managers have more to worry about than Scope, Schedule and Budget.
Read the Complete Article

A Musing on Project Progress: Killing False Confidence

A Musing on Project Progress: Killing False Confidence
By Thomas Cutting

You leave for your flight well ahead of schedule. Traffic is light and you arrive, unhurried, at the airport. Strolling up to the counter you secretly laugh at the frantic people running toward the crowded ticket line or scanning the flickering departure screens in panic. Being the saint that you are, you even let a mother with a screaming child ahead of you in line, silently praying they are not on your flight.

The kiosk attendant signals you forward and you confidently hand him your ticket. Reading his tag you smile and say, “Good morning, William.” He glances at the ticket and looks quizzically at you then rechecks the document before calling over a manager. As she scans the paper you catch William staring at you with a smirk on his face but he quickly turns away.

“Sir,” the manager says, “were you aware that this ticket was for yesterday?” Your sense of confidence is proven false…and your day was going so well. Read the Complete Article

A Gentle Introduction to Project Stakeholders

A Gentle Introduction to Project Stakeholders
By Thomas Cutting

Project success begins by identifying and understanding who your key stakeholders are. If you can’t identify the players and which side they are on, you stand little chance of satisfying their needs and landing the project without incident.

Identification. Several stakeholders jump out immediately: the sponsor, end users and your team. But a stakeholder is an individual or group that is either impacted by the development process or the end product of your project, for example:

In 1988, New York State attempted to put a low level radioactive waste dump in Allegany County. Although not involved in the construction or ultimate use of the facility, the people of the county were key stakeholders. Their “Bump The Dump” campaign successfully blocked the project and in 1992 the US Supreme Court amended the federal law that required states to store radioactive waste within their own borders. Read the Complete Article

Cost of Project Success

Cost of Project Success
By Thomas Cutting

Great things can be accomplished if Scope, Budget and Duration are no object. Here are some historical examples:

Hoover Dam

  • Scope: Stop a river and produce 2080 megawatts of power.
  • Budget: $49M US cost (under budget)
  • Duration: < 5 years (2 years ahead of schedule)
  • Added Expense: 112 Deaths

Egyptian Pyramid

  • Scope: Started as a grave. Scope creep resulted in one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World with quite a bit of gold plating, literally.
  • Budget: Spare not Cost
  • Duration: 27 years each
  • Added Expense: Slave Labor

Great Wall of China

  • Scope: Stop the Xiongnu attacks with a really big wall (6400km / 4000miles long)
  • Budget: Unknown
  • Duration: Several Centuries
  • Added Expense: 2 to 3 million Chinese lives

Each of these was an amazing project and each came with a high price tag in human lives.

Unfortunately there are a fair number of companies that force their teams to nearly kill themselves for unrealistic timelines. Read the Complete Article

Categories