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Virtual Teams – Video

Virtual Teams Need High Tech, High Process and High Touch Leaders

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

The traditional way of managing teams doesn’t work with virtual teams. Virtual teams despite (or because of) all the technology are regularly crippled by:

  • conflict between team members
  • poor communications
  • ineffective collaboration
  • little cohesion
  • inefficient processes
  • declining interest and commitment.

In summary, they are poorly managed.

Virtual Teams: Leaders Build a Foundation

Why are virtual teams poorly managed? Because the leaders of virtual teams ignore the unique leadership demands of virtual teams. Or they assume the technology will take care of the leadership demands.  So they start work without building the special foundation that virtual teams require. That foundation has three components:

  • High Tech Leadership that can select the correct technologies for each team & project
  • High Process Leadership that can design and enforce the right processes for decision-making
  • High Touch Leadership that builds trust and understanding among team members.

Those components are nice for any team but they are essential for a virtual team. The leader of a virtual team must be both a high tech leader and a high touch leader to succeed. (John Naisbett, “High Tech High Touch”). They must be actively involved with the communications technology the team uses. The leader must install, monitor and enforce communication processes. The entire team should participate in setting these rules. The leader of a virtual team also has to be a high touch manager. They need to focus on the relationships they have with the team members and the relationships the team members have with each other. Fostering strong social connections between the team members is the basis for trust and effective collaboration.

VIRTUAL TEAM

Virtual Teams: Leader Implementation

These ideas make the case for a different kind of team leadership and management. Multi-tasking is certainly one of the requirements for success. Let’s consider the steps a virtual team leader must take.

The leader begins by selecting the technology platform for the virtual team. Data from the Economist states that videoconferencing is a standard tool among the more successful virtual teams. There is a lot of videoconferencing software available. The leader has to choose between the offerings of WebEx, Microsoft Skype, GoToMeeting, and many others. The technological choices don’t stop there. The leader has to select the kind of email, chat, blog or Twitter/Facebook page is best suited to the team. Each of the alternatives has advantages and disadvantages. So the selection of the technology platform is of major importance. It’s the vehicle on which the team will collaborate (more on that later).

Another initial step is the design of the processes the virtual team will use. It’s not like a co-located team that meets in the third floor conference room. There the leader can assume that the processes for information exchange, collaboration and decision-making will automatically happen. With a virtual team, they won’t happen automatically  or effectively. The leader has to lay down some rules. These  are simple, common sense ideas that have to be enforced. The leader might choose a completed staff work concept. That means no items are discussed in a virtual meeting that have not been put on the agenda. And team members must have received supporting documentation for the items.  The leader has to enforce that rule, “If it’s not on the agenda we don’t talk about it.”

The leader also might have a rule about responding to people’s phone calls or emails within six business hours. Because the virtual team is not located together, members of the team don’t know if a fellow team member is out of the office. A virtual team member must follow the process rules for responding to phone messages or emails. The team leader also enforces that process. These rules and others like them must be developed with the team members’ participation. Compliance won’t happen without it. The team must agree that they need these rules to make the virtual team function properly.

Finally and most importantly, the team leader has to build the foundation in which people can collaborate efficiently. That requires that they have empathy (the ability to share someone else’s feelings) for the other team members. They must be able to understand “where the other team members are coming from.” That requires a fairly high level of familiarity with the team members as people. It’s certainly a lot easier to develop that kind of familiarity and get to know the other team members if they all work in the same office. But they don’t and they won’t have effective collaboration if the team members don’t trust one another. That trust must be built on knowing the other people on a personal level, as people. This is the most difficult role for the virtual team leader. He or she must have a relationship with each of the team members. They must also be able to lead the team through interpersonal processes so the team members develop empathy for each other. From empathy they can build trust. And with trust the team members can collaborate effectively. This is the key to excellent team performance and the role of the virtual team leader.

Learn more about how to effectively lead teams in our online project management courses. You’ll work privately with an expert project manager who is your coach and instructor. You may have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish. You begin when you wish and work on the course at your pace and as your schedule allows. Take a look at the courses in your specialty.

At the beginning, when you and Dick talk to design your program and what you want to learn, you will select case studies that fit the kind of projects you want to manage. Chose you course and then select the which specialty case study from business, or marketing,  or construction, or healthcare, or consulting.  That way your case studies and project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your desired specialty.

  1. 101 Project Management Basics
  2. 103 Advanced Project Management Tools
  3. 201 Managing Programs, Portfolios & Multiple Projects
  4. 203 Presentation and Negotiation Skills
  5. 304 Strategy & Tactics in Project management

 

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What is WBS?

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

What is the WBS? The WBS or work breakdown structure  is a list of every task the team needs to complete in the project. After the project manager lists all the tasks, he or she links them with predecessor tasks that control the sequence of the tasks. Then the project manager assigns resources to each task in the WBS. The resources could be people,  contractors or materials. Next, the project manager calculates the duration of every task in the WBS. That completes the project schedule.

When the project sponsor approves the schedule, the project manager saves the approved version of the schedule in the software as the baseline. When work begins, the project manager keeps track of the progress of each task. That is the basis for status reporting and that’s how we use the WBS.  Main WBS – Work Breakdown Structure Page

What is WBS?: The Decomposed Project Scope

The WBS is not a list of the things people think must be done in project. That “to do” list approach to developing the work breakdown structure causes projects to cost more money and take longer than they should. You develop the WBS by working top-down from the scope. You start with the scope of the project that is defined by the project sponsor. Then you break it down into 4 to 7 high-level deliverables. Each deliverable must be measurable, like a metric or an approval/sign-off. Then you take each of the major deliverables and break it into its components. Those are the elements that are required to produce that deliverable. On a very large project, you may work down another level or two and subdivide large deliverables into smaller ones. You continue until you get down to the level of individual assignments for team members.

What is WBS?: How to Create the WBS

The WBS is central to the entire process of planning, scheduling and tracking a project. The best practices for developing a WBS involve these steps:

  1. The sponsor of the project defines the scope or overall objective
  2. The project manager (you) define each of the major deliverables by its end result. As an example, “Clean up the file room” is not a clear deliverable because you can’t measure the end result. On the other hand, a deliverable like, “98% of the files on the shelves in alphabetical order,” does define the end result in measured terms.
  3. You take each of the major deliverables and break them down into smaller deliverables. You stop when the task is the right size for an individual project team member contractor.

What is WBS?: An Example

Now let’s see how you would take an assignment called “Fix the XYZ program schedule” assignment and create a WBS. First, you go through the process of identifying what you want your team member to give you when he or she completes this assignment. wbsGoing back over your conversations with the project sponsor, you could identify a number of characteristics they want to see in the schedule. They want the project to be finished in less than 250 days. They want to avoid using outside contractors. And they want to spend less than $325,000 on the project.

So you use those metrics to tell your team member exactly what you want. You tell them you want a schedule that completes the project in 250 days or less, doesn’t use outside contractors and has a budget of less than $325,000. Those are the success criteria for the assignment and that’s the deliverable you would define for the team member. A really awful assignment would have been to tell the team member you want the schedule revised to be shorter, cheaper and not use any outside contractors. If you do that, the odds of getting what you want are very poor. That’s because the team has to guess what you mean by faster, cheaper and no outside contractors.

At this point, you don’t know if this deliverable is actually achievable. You need to sit down with the team member and look at the current schedule. You need to give the team member a chance to think about whether the result is achievable. Then they need to think about how long it will take them to achieve the result. You would discuss the approach and the budget for doing the work. Then you would have a good entry for your work breakdown structure. Create WBS With Team Members

What is WBS?: Too Much Work?

You may be saying to yourself, “It is going to take me a lot of time to decide exactly what I want and how I’m going to measure it for every task in the WBS.” And you are right. It does take more time than compiling a “to do” list. However, remember how important the WBS is to your project success. It is the centerpiece of every project. You use the tasks in the WBS as the foundation for estimating the work, costs and duration. The WBS gives team members clear project assignments, allows everyone to track progress on their tasks and it allows you to identify problems. As the project team executes the plan, you compare their actual results to the estimates for each WBS task. That lets you quickly identify variances and design corrective action.

Unfortunately, too many project managers don’t recognize the importance of the WBS. They think they can just make a list of all the tasks in the project and then start work. That approach yields projects that take longer and cost more than they should. Those projects are late because the PM did not identify all deliverables during the initial planning. To develop a strong WBS, you begin planning by defining the scope and the major deliverables. Then you break them down into tasks that are team member assignments to create your WBS.  Work Breakdown Structure Size

What is WBS?: How Big is It?

Project managers often ask, “How many tasks should this project have?” or, “How much detail should I have in the WBS?” The mistake PMs often make is to list hundreds of tasks. work breakdownThey start by listing the first thing they can think of to do and stop when they can’t think of anything more. They may list tasks that will take as little as an hour to complete. The driving force behind this minutia is the fear of forgetting something. How Many Tasks in a WBS?

It’s easy for a PM to think that a project’s WBS should detail everything everyone should do on the project. PMs mistakenly think that will protect them from people forgetting or skipping an item because they are lazy, stupid or sloppy. The PM may also think it frees them from relying on the thinking or creativity of the team members. The team members can just put their heads down and follow the “To Do” list. The PM mistakenly thinks they have thought of everything. That’s an unrealistic expectation.

At the beginning of your 4pm.com course, when you and Dick talk to design your program and what you want to learn, you will select case studies that fit the kind of projects you want to manage. Chose you course and then select the which specialty case study from business, or marketing,  or construction, or healthcare, or consulting.  That way your case studies and project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your desired specialty.

  1. 101 Project Management Basics
  2. 103 Advanced Project Management Tools
  3. 201 Managing Programs, Portfolios & Multiple Projects
  4. 203 Presentation and Negotiation Skills
  5. 304 Strategy & Tactics in Project management
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Project Estimation Techniques

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Project estimation techniques are critical survival tools for predicting when a project will finish and how much it will cost. Estimating duration and cost accurately can make the difference between consistent success and frequent failure.  Project managers need to use different techniques during the project phases to provide good information to the decision-makers. Let’s look at some estimating situations and how to handle them properly.

Project Estimation: Questions and Answers

In the real world, estimation of project duration and cost is a high stakes game.  The client or executive quickly wants an accurate estimate of the project’s costs and duration with your commitment to hit those numbers. When an executive asks for those estimates during the initiation process, project managers may respond with any of the following comm20statements:

  1. I’m 60% confident that we can finish the project within a duration range of 3 – 8 months and a cost between $50,000 and $250,000.
  2. We’ll be done in 5 months or so and the cost will come in at about $110,000, But that’s just a rough guess!
  3. I will have no idea until we detail the deliverables, estimate the work and find out how many people are available to do that work.
  4. Tell me when you want us to finish and the amount of the budget.

Now let’s consider each of those responses:

  • Answer #1 – it’s truthful but enrages executives
  • Answer #2 – executives quickly forget the “rough guess” and are happy with the answer
  • Answer #3 – it’s the truth but executives find it useless
  • Answer #4 – is very ingratiating but a project deathtrap.

Which response do most project managers give? Choice #2 because it deals with the reality of the situation. Executives are under pressure to make cost/benefit and priority decisions about projects. So they don’t want to hear the “rough guess” part of that response. And as we all know, there are often strategic realities that force completion dates on everyone.

Project managers are caught in a narrow vise when we’re asked to give estimates and it is easy to make estimating mistakes. This is especially true when the scope of the project is vague and the resource availability is unknown. You can make this situation a little better for everyone, however, by using a four-step estimation process. You announce this during the project initiation process. Then you explain the estimates the executives will receive in each of the four phases in the project lifecycle.

Project Estimation: A Four-Stage Process

  1. Initiation: Analogous estimates are used at this phase. They are big picture estimates based on similar projects that have been documented in the corporation’s project archives. These estimates are stated as order of magnitude estimates.
  2. Early Planning: Project-level and major deliverable-level estimates are often analogous or 3-point estimates. During this phase, you may also use parametric estimating techniques.
  3. Final project plan: You use information from the team members and include them in bottom-up estimating of their deliverables.
  4. Weekly status: You use rolling estimates every week until the project is complete.

Project Estimation: Process Example

Let’s look at this four-stage estimation process on a simple project.  That will clarify what it is and how you use it. An executive invites you into the conference room and says, “All these weekly reports from the branches come in with different data in different formats.  I want you to quickly develop a consistent template.  This is a high priority for me and you’ll get everyone’s cooperation.  Listen, I have to run to a meeting now. Come back at 3:00 this afternoon. I want to know when you and your team can get it done.” Does this sound familiar?

You think through your experiences with similar projects and review the project archives for similar projects.  You meet with the executive at 3:00 and say, “During the course of the project I will give you 4 different estimates. The accuracy will get better as we know more about the project and the work involved. The best I can do now is give you a project-level, order of magnitude estimate. It’s based on prior experience with similar projects.  I’m 60% confident we can have this project done in 18 to 35 working days.”

The executive gives you a poisonous look and says, “Okay, come back when you can give me a better estimate.”

You reply, “I can give you a better estimate when we have finalized the scope and major deliverables and you have signed off on what you want.”

The executive frowns and replies, “I was planning to delegate that.”

You smile and say, “I still need a sponsor’s signature on the scope and deliverables.”

The executive nods glumly, “OK, let’s do it tomorrow at 8:00.”

The next day at the end of the 8:00 o’clock project estimating session, the executive frowns at you and asks, “Now, how long will the project take?”

You look over your meeting notes and say, “At this point in our project estimating process, I can give you a better project-level estimate.  We’re still working top-down from the project scope down through the deliverables required to achieve that scope. Based on similar projects, I can give you a somewhat tighter estimate and apply some ratios to that. I can give you estimates on each phase. I’m 75% confident we can finish the project in 23 – 30 working days.  Using my project experience and the ratios between phases on previous projects, I can also say that I’m 75% confident in the following phase estimates:

  • Branch office managers signoff on requirements: 4 – 7 days
  • Development – people in the test group can complete the template in < 60 minutes: 5 – 8 days
  • Training- users can complete the template in 45 minutes: 4 – 5 days
  • Rollout and enforcement – 95% user compliance: 10 – 15 days.”

The executive scowls again and says, “When will I get better numbers?”

You answer, “As soon as I detail the work estimates and get commitments on the team members here at headquarters and in all the branches.  Then I can give you a bottom-up estimate, which will be more precise than the top-down estimates I’ve been using. Bottom-up is more accurate because I’ll be using estimates from the people who will be doing the work. Then I’ll aggregate them into the overall numbers. Best of all I will give you 3-point estimates with risk data.”

A few days later, you return to the executive’s office and say, “Here’s the bottom-up estimate I mentioned. With the work breakdown structure done and the resource commitments I’ve noted, I’m 60% certain we can finish within 24 – 28 working days.”

The executive gives a slightly less venomous sigh and says, “This is getting better but I’d still like a really tight estimate.”

You nod and say, “The fourth type of estimate I’ll be giving you is a weekly rolling estimate. As our work on the project progresses, the uncertainty will decrease and I’ll give you new estimates regularly.  These are called rolling estimates.  As an example, once the stakeholders approve the requirements, the uncertainty in the development work will go down and that estimate will get much tighter.”

Project Estimation: Increasing Certainty

This simple four-step process illustrates how you can give estimates and use different estimation techniques as the project uncertainty declines.  In the example, you initially used analogous estimates based on information about prior projects.  Next, working top-down from the scope, you estimated by major deliverables using ratios from earlier projects.  This information could have come from an organizational project databank (analogous estimating), from commercial estimating methodologies (parametric estimating) or from elaborate statistical analysis of earlier projects. Whatever the source of the data, the top-down estimation technique provided overall estimates with relatively broad ranges.

 In the third and fourth project estimation techniques, you used the work breakdown structure and duration/work estimating techniques at the level of individual assignments.  Using work packages improved the estimate accuracy and team member commitment. So the numbers got a lot more accurate. In the bottom-up approach, you totaled the project team members’ estimates to develop the overall project estimate.  You based your estimate on each team member’s pessimistic, optimistic and best guess estimates (3-point estimates) for their individual assignments. Three-point estimating is a widely used and effective technique.

The fourth estimation type was rolling estimates. These were also based on the bottom-up approach with the team members making regular weekly re-estimates of their task’s remaining work/duration.  As the team completes tasks each week, the uncertainty decreases and the estimates become more accurate.

A consistent requirement in these project estimating techniques is a clear and unambiguous scope definition. You also need measurable outcomes for all the deliverables and task assignments in the project. Estimating is difficult enough without the burden of a vague project scope or vague team member assignments.

Project Estimation: Organization-wide Process 

A major step to consistent estimation accuracy and success involves a modest investment in archiving data from earlier projects. This whole estimation process becomes more effective when the organization stops playing fantasy games with project estimates. They must adopt a consistent methodology for developing the kind of better and more accurate estimates we’ve been discussing.

Having an organization-wide process that details what estimating technique should be used at each project lifecycle phase is also a valuable component.  So is requiring the use of work packages to document what data supports each estimate.

Here is a related article:  How to Estimate Cost and Duration

To learn more about these project estimation techniques, consider our private, online Project Management Tools course. You have reading, video lectures and work on a project case study to practice using these project estimation techniques. Your personal coach is an expert project manager. You have unlimited video conferences with them as you master these project estimation techniques.

At the beginning, when you and Dick talk to design your program and what you want to learn, you will select case studies that fit the kind of projects you want to manage. Chose you course and then select the which specialty case study from business, or marketing,  or construction, or healthcare, or consulting.  That way your case studies and project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your desired specialty.

  1. 101 Project Management Basics
  2. 103 Advanced Project Management Tools
  3. 201 Managing Programs, Portfolios & Multiple Projects
  4. 203 Presentation and Negotiation Skills
  5. 304 Strategy & Tactics in Project management
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Work Breakdown Structure WBS – Video

Work Breakdown Structure WBS: Deliverables or a “To Do” List?

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

The work breakdown structure (WBS) provides the foundation on which a project manager works. The project manager uses the Work Breakdown Structure to control the project and the work of the team. The WBS also provides the checkpoints against which the project manager, the sponsor and the organization measure progress.

In the project management world, there are two ways to build the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The first way is to develop the WBS as if it were a “To Do” list. Just like the kind of list you’d make up before going to the grocery store or running errands. Now, there is nothing wrong with “To Do” lists. I make them up for myself all the time. The problem with “To Do” lists comes when you give one to somebody else.

How To Build a WBS in MS Project Software

Here’s an example. My “To Do” list for the workday includes an entry like “Fix XYZ’s program schedule.” That’s a fine reminder for me because I’ve been thinking about what client XYZ wants to do. That includes the politics of changing the program scope and the executives who have different opinions about that scope. But if I were to give that as an assignment to another one of our consultants, they would have absolutely no idea what it meant. They might have to spend days acquainting themselves with that client company and the new strategic program they are starting. That “To Do” would be a terrible assignment to give someone. I’m not creating a performance expectation. I’m not telling them what a good job is or how I will evaluate their work. Clearly, project managers ought to limit their use of “To Do” lists to personal reminders. For something like a project, which may affect your professional career and the success of your organization, you need a better tool. What Is WBS?

Work Breakdown Structure WBS: Criteria

A professionally done Work Breakdown Structure WBS has to meet two criteria to be included in our work breakdown structure.

  • It has to tell the person doing the work what a good job is before they start, creating a clear performance expectation.
  • It has to be unambiguously measurable. You don’t want to require a meeting to decide whether the task is done. You and the executives need hard-edged measures of project progress that are not open to interpretation or word games.

Those two criteria sound simple but it is not easy to produce them. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult parts of the art of project management. You need to decide exactly what you want as the assignment’s end result and then convert that end result into a metric.

Work Breakdown Structure WBS: Example

Now let’s see how I would take that “Fix the XYZ program schedule” assignment and make it work. First, I would go through the process of identifying what I want our consultant to give me when he or she completed this assignment. wbsGoing back over my conversations with the client, I could identify a number of characteristics that they want to see in the schedule. They want the project to be finished in less than 250 days. They want to avoid using outside contractors. And they want to spend less than $325,000 on the project.

So I could use those metrics to tell our consultant exactly what I want. I would tell them I want a schedule that completes the program in 250 days or less, doesn’t use outside contractors and has a budget of less than $325,000. Those are the success criteria for the assignment and that’s the deliverable I would define for the team member. A really awful assignment would have been to tell the team member I want the schedule revised to be shorter, cheaper and not use any outside consultants. If I do that, what are my odds of getting what I want? They are very poor because the consultant has to guess what I mean by faster, cheaper and no outside consultants.

Now I don’t know whether this deliverable is actually achievable. I need to sit down with the staff member to whom I am giving the assignment and look at the current schedule. I need to give that staff member a chance to think about whether the result is achievable. Then they need to think about how long it will take them to achieve the result. We would discuss the approach and the budget for doing the work. Then I’d have a good entry for my work breakdown structure. Create WBS With Team Members

Work Breakdown Structure WBS: Too Much Work?

You may be saying to yourself, “It is going to take me a lot of time to decide exactly what I want and how I’m going to measure it for every task in the work breakdown structure.” And you are right. It does take more time than a “To Do” list. However, remember how important the work breakdown structure is to your project success. It is the centerpiece of every project. You use the tasks in the WBS as the foundation for estimating work, costs and duration. The WBS gives team members clear project assignments, allows everyone to track progress on their tasks and it allows you to identify problems. As the project team executes the plan, you compare their actual results to the estimates for each WBS task. That lets you quickly identify variances and design corrective action.

Unfortunately, too many project managers don’t recognize the importance of the WBS. They think they can just make a list of all the tasks in the project and then start work. That approach yields projects that take longer than they should. These project are late because the PM did not identify all deliverables during the initial planning. To develop a strong WBS, you begin planning by defining the scope and the major deliverables. Then you break them down into tasks that are team member assignments to create your WBS.  Work Breakdown Structure Size

Work Breakdown Structure WBS: How Big?

Project managers often ask, “How many tasks should this project have?” or, “How much detail should I have in the WBS?” The mistake PMs often make is to list hundreds of tasks. work breakdownThey start by listing the first thing they can think of to do and stop when they can’t think of anything more. They may list tasks that will take as little as an hour to complete. The driving force behind this minutia is the fear of forgetting something. How Many Tasks in a WBS?

It’s easy for a PM to think that a project’s WBS should detail everything; everyone should do on the project. PMs mistakenly think that will protect them from people forgetting or skipping an item because they are lazy, stupid or sloppy. The PM may also think it frees them from relying on the thinking or creativity of the team members. The team members can just put their heads down and follow the “To Do” list. The PM mistakenly thinks they have thought of everything for them.

Work Breakdown Structure WBS: “To Do” List

This “To Do” list approach may work for projects with one or two people but it falls apart when the project gets any bigger. The flaws come from a misunderstanding of:

  • How to exercise tight control on a project
  • How to spot and solve problems early
  • The pros and cons of micro-management.

Work Breakdown Structure WBS: What is Tight Control?

Is tight control having no problems? Hardly. That happens only in project fantasyland. Tight control requires that:

  • You can identify problems early and fix them quickly and inexpensively
  • Every project team member knows what he or she is accountable for delivering.

Acceptance criteria tell team members what they are accountable for delivering. This is quite different from what they have to do. As an example, a “To Do” list might tell a team member to “clean up the file room.” That task is open to many different interpretations. It doesn’t define your performance expectation for the team member. It’s a very ineffective checkpoint against which to measure their progress.

The deliverable of “98% of the files are on the shelves in alphabetical order” creates a crystal clear expectation for the team member. It also provides the acceptance criteria and an objectively measurable checkpoint for progress. When you assign that deliverable, you have better control because the team member knows what is “good enough” and doesn’t have to guess. Then you combine deliverable-based WBS with work estimates to create a superior tool for control and tracking. When you can’t exercise tight control, you must check everyone’s work frequently and make all the decisions. That’s micromanagement.

Work Breakdown Structure WBS: Micromanagement Pros & Cons

Micromanagement is right for brand new employees who need to learn their jobs. It’s also necessary for known slackers or nincompoops on the team. However, few project teams are composed entirely of people who need all the decisions made for them. Micromanagement discourages problem solving or ownership of results. It makes team members dependent on you when you don’t allow them independent decision-making. Worst of all, it creates team members who have no accountability for their results. All they have to do is follow the “To Do” list of activities.  Problems Created by Micromanagement

Most of your project team members won’t thrive under micromanagement. Micromanagement stifles people who want independence and are willing to be accountable for their work. They are the best performers and you need to encourage their best work.

Micromanagement doesn’t work on projects that need complex judgments and creative thinking. On these projects, much of the work is cerebral. comm30So it’s impossible for you to specify everything they must do. More importantly, it’s stupid to try. Let’s say you have an experienced engineer performing a task like “design the payment input screen (GUI) for the billing system.” That relatively small task will require:

  • Meeting with users to gather information about requirements
  • Listing all the required information for the GUI
  • Thinking about how to arrange the data elements on the screen for data entry efficiency
  • Writing a layout document for the screen
  • Meeting with users to get approval of the rough design.

You could list all those activities and more in the WBS. But what if the engineer comes up with a great idea? Do you want the engineer to ignore it and follow the WBS ‘To Do” list? Of course not. You want the engineer to figure out the best way to do the design. So instead of the activities in the ‘To Do” list, you might assign deliverables like:

  • User management signs off on the GUI design and acceptance criteria
  • User management signs off that the GUI meets the acceptance criteria.

You let the engineer estimate how long those two deliverables will take. You’ll get a status report each week so you know how their work is progressing. Best of all, you designed an assignment that motivates the engineer to do his best work. Clear Performance Expectations

Work Breakdown Structure WBS: Maintaining the “To Do” List

Remember how small the second WBS was for the engineer compared with the “To Do” list? That is typical. The “To Do” list approach yields large and detailed work breakdown structures that require lots of maintenance. Every time one of the micro-tasks changes you need to update the WBS. That can require entering dozens of changes each week. If each team member is reporting on 5 – 15 tasks per week, you’ll have a lot of data entry (even if you have clerical support to input all the status data).

The inevitable result is that tracking falls behind and so does updating the schedule. There are simply not enough hours to complete these maintenance tasks. Within a few weeks, you’ll stop updating the schedule because it takes too much time. This may sound like a stupid and improbable reaction but we see it frequently, even on large and important projects. The justification for stopping is, “No one is looking at all that detail anyway, so why should I spend the time to update it?”

Work Breakdown Structure WBS: Deliverables-based WBS

Professionals who manage projects for a living and use the best practices in project management agree the WBS should be composed of deliverables (end results), not “To Do’s.” Assigning accountability for deliverables to team members yields a smaller WBS, easier reporting of progress (actuals) and less work to keep the schedule current. You also get team members’ ownership of the results when they are accountable for producing deliverables. Pre-launch Review of a WBS

Work Breakdown Structure WBS: Summary

Your work breakdown structure -WBS is your design for making assignments, holding people accountable and monitoring process. When you do it properly, your schedule will be easy to keep current and your team members will be responsible for their deliverables.

You can learn to create a WBS the right way as part of our basic and advanced project management courses. You’ll learn how to break down the scope into deliverables for which you will hold people accountable.

At the beginning of your 4pm course, when you and Dick talk to design your program and what you want to learn, you will select case studies that fit the kind of projects you want to manage. Chose you course and then select the which specialty case study from business, or marketing,  or construction, or healthcare, or consulting.  That way your case studies and project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your desired specialty.

  1. 101 Project Management Basics
  2. 103 Advanced Project Management Tools
  3. 201 Managing Programs, Portfolios & Multiple Projects
  4. 203 Presentation and Negotiation Skills
  5. 304 Strategy & Tactics in Project management