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The Importance of Trust in Business

The Importance of Trust in Business
By Timothy Prosser

Trust is essential to getting anything done. How it is expressed makes a huge difference in how things go, however, and it’s one of those things you can ignore (though you may do this at your peril). I always told my kids “trust, but verify”. Trust is earned through consistently following through on your commitments, and trust grows stronger over time if it is not betrayed. While it is often spoken of as if it was an absolute, it is actually a continuum stretching from complete and absolute trust to complete distrust. Even the heinous criminal is trusted to an extent, though it may only be that we trust that they are untrustworthy. High levels of trust are required for effective business relationships, however.

If you hire someone you often expect them to do work you cannot, and micromanaging them (a common response to a lack of trust) reduces your productivity as well as theirs. Read the Complete Article

Which Is Better? A Budget with “Challenge” or a Budget with “Reserve”?

Which Is Better? A Budget with “Challenge” or a Budget with “Reserve”?
By Timothy Prosser

In the defense contracting world budgeting is typically done under a rigorous “earned value management system” (EVMS) that usually includes keeping aside 10% of the budget for use as a “management reserve”. This can then be doled out in bits and pieces as needed to fund changes in what needs to be done (“scope” in the project-organized world) and solutions for problems that arise during the course of business. It also allows people within the organization to cope with unexpected changes without feeling like they are endangering the project or organization when they have to ask for more funding. They all still have to do what they can to stay within budget, but it gives the appearance that upper management accepts that unexpected changes happen and are going to be reasonable in helping people dealing with them. Read the Complete Article

Smart Project Endings Add Serious Value

Smart Project Endings Add Serious Value
By Timothy Prosser

Failing to effectively end projects can have high but hidden costs. Some companies are so buried in the latest and hottest project or in “fighting fires” that they fail to close projects constructively. In doing so they not only miss opportunities to generate extra value for the company and everyone involved, but also to maintain the quality of management information (financial and other types) and prevent or limit cost overruns. When projects aren’t formally ended some workers may go on working on them unaware that it is time to move on to other work. Other workers may find reason to continue to charge the project for their time, especially if they run into a slack period without enough work to keep them busy (which happens naturally in many product development organizations or in highly seasonal work). This is especially likely where “charging overhead” has a negative stigma attached to it and project charge codes are not shut off. Read the Complete Article

When and Why Does Total Quality Management Work, and Why Isn’t It Still Prevalent?

When and Why Does Total Quality Management Work, and Why Isn’t It Still Prevalent?
By Timothy Prosser

Total Quality Management, or TQM, was prevalent in business thinking in the 1980s, and improved the work lives and productivity of many people as well as the fortunes of some major corporations in that era. I won’t try to describe how to implement Total Quality Management here, as there are a great many publications on the topic. I will instead describe the most important and fundamental elements I believe an organization needs to achieve the full benefits of TQM, and discuss why I think it fell into disuse.

TQM is much more than just a tool set, which is an important part of why it works. TQM isn’t just a set of statistical tools and practices, though it includes them. It works best when its philosophical base is understood and supported, and when that understanding and support come from the top of the organization. Read the Complete Article

Finding the Roots of Organizational Incompetence

Finding the Roots of Organizational Incompetence
By Timothy Prosser

First let me define my term “Organizational Incompetence”. Sometimes in business you sit in a meeting and hear people grousing and struggling, and perhaps arguing and talking over each other in their frustration. The problems they describe are almost always not of their own making, nor do they have the wherewithal to remedy them by themselves. You begin to perceive that on some particular aspect of business the organization just doesn’t do well, and it keeps posing problems to groups and individuals and holding up productive work. The appearance is that the organization is incompetent, at least in some particular way or area, and is suffering from needless cost, waste, and widespread frustration and stress. In essence, the organization or a system within it is dysfunctional. So how does this occur and what can you do about it?

Organizational incompetence leads back to the usual source: poor management. Read the Complete Article

Know Your Audience When Developing the Project Management Plan

Know Your Audience When Developing the Project Management Plan (#10 in the series Effective Planning for Big Projects)
By Timothy Prosser

Know your audience, your organization, when reviews take place, and what makes sense to include in the plan.

There is no substitute for knowing who will be using and reading your plan, what they need in the way of both direction and presentation, and when they need it. Knowing this, you can:

  1. choose the appropriate timing granularity, as you don’t need to plan something day-by-day when the activities you’ll show all take weeks or months
  2. know when the plan and project will be reviewed, and when changes are most likely to occur. If the plan is only going to be reviewed in detail at the end of each month, perhaps you can wait to update it until a few days before the review, update it again after the review (with the inevitable changes), and spend the rest of the month tracking progress and helping people understand what they have to do and when
  3. identify the functional groups that could benefit from more detailed subordinate plans, and include the work to produce and maintain them in your estimates of time needed for the planning effort
  4. understand what information will be available to substantiate the plan.
Read the Complete Article

Proper Organization Can Make The Plan A Better Reference

Proper Organization Can Make The Plan A Better Reference (#8 in the seris Effective Planning for Big Projects)
By Timothy Prosser

Divide the plan into areas that represent different functional groups’ activities, or into work streams representing specific sub-chains of dependent tasks. This will make it easier for people to refer to, and allow them to see quickly what they need to do and when, or what will happen if a task is delayed.

The overstuffed plan is divided into separate row-areas for various activities, a good idea, but within each one there are 20 to 60 different dates, many with bars to indicate activities with start and end points, and the rest mostly attached to symbols. Unfortunately, the events and labels are crammed so close to each other it becomes difficult to figure out which symbol is associated with which date. In many of the sections there are boxes of notes and lists of dates that apparently wouldn’t fit into the chart. Read the Complete Article

Include Reference Information to Explain Symbols and Acronyms

Include Reference Information to Explain Symbols and Acronyms (#7 in the seris Effective Planning for Big Projects)
By Timothy Prosser

First a disclaimer: I don’t claim to be the world’s expert on project management, and I urge anyone who is involved in or interested in project management to seek good sources of information and study, as this is a profession requiring a lot of skill and knowledge to do well. That said, I believe my decades of experience (planning projects up to 4 years in length and over $1 billion in cost) gives me some basis to write this. You may notice that I tend to focus more on the timing aspects of large scale plans. I am not ignoring the financial side of the discipline, but not stressing it either, because I have usually had a parallel financial planning effort, run by accountants and financial experts, to lean on. Read the Complete Article

A Too-detailed Plan Can Become Nearly Impossible to Maintain

A Too-detailed Plan Can Become Nearly Impossible to Maintain (#5 in the seris Effective Planning for Big Projects)
By Timothy Prosser

First a disclaimer: I don’t claim to be the world’s expert on project management, and I urge anyone who is involved in or interested in project management to seek good sources of information and study, as this is a profession requiring a lot of skill and knowledge to do well. That said, I believe my decades of experience (planning projects up to 4 years in length and over $1 billion in cost) gives me some basis to write this. You may notice that I tend to focus more on the timing aspects of large scale plans. I am not ignoring the financial side of the discipline, but not stressing it either, because I have usually had a parallel financial planning effort, run by accountants and financial experts, to lean on. Read the Complete Article

You Have to Have Plans, but to Be Effective They Must Achieve a Happy Medium as Far as Detail and Readability

You Have to Have Plans, but to Be Effective They Must Achieve a Happy Medium as Far as Detail and Readability (#4 in the seris Effective Planning for Big Projects)
By Timothy Prosser

First a disclaimer: I don’t claim to be the world’s expert on project management, and I urge anyone who is involved in or interested in project management to seek good sources of information and study, as this is a profession requiring a lot of skill and knowledge to do well. That said, I believe my decades of experience (planning projects up to 4 years in length and over $1 billion in cost) gives me some basis to write this. You may notice that I tend to focus more on the timing aspects of large scale plans. I am not ignoring the financial side of the discipline, but not stressing it either, because I have usually had a parallel financial planning effort, run by accountants and financial experts, to lean on. Read the Complete Article

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