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Project Status Reports

Dick Billows, PMP
DicK Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com

The biggest problem in Project Status Reports is getting good team status reports. It sounds easier than it is in practice. Project team members and vendors often report inaccurate data due to undo often about their ability to resolve problems like technical issues or lack of stakeholder cooperation. Another obstacle to getting good data comes from project managers and sponsors themselves and how they behave when they receive data about problems. If every report of a variance is greeted by anger, hostility or blame, project team members avoid that by basing their status report on hopes and even prayers of solving the problems before anyone notices. Many sponsors and project managers are their own worst enemy in this regard thinking that aggressive response will somehow magically stimulate a solution. What it does is cause people to hide problems until it’s too late to fix them.  How to Write a Weekly Status Report

Project Status Reports

Dick discusses Project Status Reports and how to gather good status data from your team members as he hikes the shore of a barrier island off the South Carolina coast. He’ll also describe techniques to avoid having the team hide problems until it’s too late for you to fix them. Consistently successful project managers get early warning on problems that will affect the project. They encourage the team members to discuss problems at the first hint that the project will be adversely affected. Getting that information is not as easy as it sounds. If the project manager explodes every time somebody reports a variance, the team will very quickly learn not to report problems until they are too big to hide. Project managers who behave that way are often doomed to find out about problems when it’s too late to fix them. On the other hand, getting problem information early lets them solve the issue quickly and cheaply. That makes good project status reports and results in projects that finish on time and within budget.

You learn all of those skills in our project management basics courses. Take a look at the basics course in your specialty.

At the beginning of yourncourse, 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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How To Do Analogous Estimating – Video

Analogous estimating will improve the time and cost estimates for your project. First, let’s talk about why estimates are often inaccurate and useless to the project’s decision-makers. That’s because project managers frequently estimate cost and duration by “plucking numbers out of the sky.” Or they provide estimates that have no basis in reality but are what the project sponsor wants to hear. Main Project Estimating Page

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

For these project managers, it’s hard to change their well deserved reputation that they “can’t estimate worth a lick.” These PM’s make their initial estimates at the beginning of a project when they know very little about it. Usually the project manager has never done a project like the new one so the uncertainty is high. In fact, it’s very possible that no one in the organization has ever done a project exactly like this one. However, the executives need decision-making data about how long it will take and how much it will cost to decide whether the project’s worth doing.

Watch a project manager develop and then present project estimates using analogous estimating.

Project Estimating Analogous & Parametric Techniques

The project manager can often find out how long the executives want the project to take and how much they want it to cost. But the executives may not know the difference between a good, accurate estimate and the numbers they want. They plucked the numbers out of the sky and often bully the project manager into estimating the cost and duration to match those numbers.

Unfortunately, the executives don’t treat those numbers as values they rammed down the project manager’s throat. Instead they treat them as the project manager’s solemn commitment to the cost and duration of the project. The numbers they plucked from the sky are not based on the amount of work required for the deliverables to be produced.  They don’t even reflect the size of the project team that will do the work.

This estimating cycle is what causes 70% of the projects in some organizations to finish late and over budget. This high failure rate undermines the credibility of project managers and makes it nearly impossible for the organization to launch strategic initiatives. But there is an answer.

Analogous Estimating: A Better Way to Estimate Costs and Time

Analogous estimating doesn’t provide a perfect solution but it is accurate and based on data instead of wishes and hopes. It also has the potential to substantially increase the organization’s project success rate from 30% to above 60%. And you can easily implement it.

The solution is relatively simple. The organization needs to keep track of the hours of work that each team member works on a project each week. It also needs to track the costs incurred to get the project done.  In as little as 3 months, the organization will have a good start on a database for estimating new projects. This data gives you thAnalogous Estimatinge best possible tracking on project progress and is the basis for analogous estimating.

Analogous Estimating: How It Works

Obviously, the new projects are not identical to the completed projects. Nevertheless, some of the tasks and some of the deliverables in the new projects are going to be similar to tasks and deliverables in the old ones. Project managers may have to look through a number of previously completed projects to find tasks and/or deliverables that are roughly similar to those in their new projects.

The longer the organization builds these archives of its project work and cost data, the more valuable it will be. After a year or two, it becomes relatively easy for project managers to find similar deliverables and tasks in the archives. These are the analogous deliverables they will use in their estimating process. Then the project manager and sponsor make adjustments to the historic, analogous data to reflect the differences between the old project and the new one.

An Example of Analogous Estimating

As an example, let’s say a new project requires a training session for the employees who will work on the new procedures and processes the project produces. The project manager could review the number of work hours used to create the training class curriculum in a previous project. They might also look at the actual classroom time used on the previous project. Then the project manager would consider the differences in complexity, scale, scope and focus between the old and new projects. The project manager would ask the Human Resources trainers to compare the two training efforts and they are told the new one is 20% more difficult and will take 20% more time than the old one.

Then the project manager would adjust the historic data for their project. Getting input from the people who will do the work is very valuable. It lets the project manager present data on the work and cost of deliverables that has a solid basis in reality. It’s certainly possible to debate the size of the adjustment factor. But you are still discussing the actual amount of work for a training class based on a previous project. That is much better than using data plucked from the sky.

You can use the analogous estimating technique at any level of the project. You can use it to develop initial estimates when a project is first discussed or initiated. You can also use it when you’re making estimates of the work and duration of the individual team members’ tasks and of the project as a whole.

How To Do Analogous Estimating

  1. You identify previously completed projects with archived data on work and cost by task and major deliverable. In organizations with mature project management processes, like established consulting or engineering firms, there may be a number of similar projects.
  2. On projects larger than the very smallest, you should include team members, stakeholders and the sponsor in examining the previous projects. They will help develop factors for adjusting the work and cost data.
  3. You should guide the group to consensus on the adjustment factor. Then use this as the basis for the business case and the work and cost estimates.

Analogous Estimating: Use Historical Data With Adjustments

Let’s look at some examples.

  1. Historic project- training for 30 reps: 50 hours of preparation and 16 hours delivery
  2. New project – 20% less preparation time, same 16 hours delivery time
  3. Analogous estimate – 40 hours preparation + 16 hours delivery = 50 hours of work

Analogous Estimating Summary

Analogous estimating is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. However, it is much better than using pretend numbers that are politically attractive at the beginning of the project but disastrous at the end. It’s inexpensive to implement analogous estimating. It merely requires every project manager to use automated scheduling software to plan and track projects. The software makes project managers more efficient gives the organization the hours of work and the cost of each of the major and supporting project deliverables. That’s all the data that future project managers require for their analogous estimating.

You can learn more about analogous estimating techniques in our online project management courses. You work privately with a expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.  Take a look at the courses in your specialty.

At the beginning of yourncourse, 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 Management Methodology Development

How to Develop Project Methodology – What Steps Should I Follow? 

As Project Management Professionals, we sometime find ourselves in an Project methdologyenvironment that has no established project management methodology. Instead, what we is inconsistent, and wasteful approaches to managing projects. Some project managers bury small projects in stacks of unnecessary paperwork.  Others manage large projects with no attention to risk management, the proper utilization of resources or procurement.  Still other project managers are so intimidated by due dates that their practices that focus on turning out something, anything (crap) by the deadlines, not on using resources wisely, nor meeting stakeholder expecations. Unfortunately, organizations in those environments are not leveraging their experiences to make improvements in their approach to project management. Enter the Project Management Professional (PMP), armed with PMI best practice approaches and eager to enhance his/her organization’s capacity to adopt best practices. However, the PMP should proceed with caution, do not try to change things overnight or act as someone who has all the answers. Project Methodology Main Page

It’s important to respect the project methodology that is currently in place within the organization. Also, to identify who the main players are and what are their key requirements. Once that has been ascertained, it’s time to start a gradual process to show how improvements in the project management process could add value to the organization’s efforts. Start by getting a clear idea of the requirements of the whole project delivery system within the organization. What are they trying to achieve via the projects in the pipeline? How successful have they been in the past in meeting those requirements? Are they capturing any lessons learned and recording those as an organizational assets? Once those have been determined, it’s time to start a participatory and inclusive process to address the current and emerging gaps within the organization.

I would recommend starting slow and proposing pilot projects that could demonstrate the effectiveness of any new or enhanced project methodology for managing projects. It’s critical to get senior management buy-in on any proposed changes/ enhancements to the current approach. Expect some resistance initially but if you can demonstrate efficiency and effectiveness as outcomes, you will be in a better position to get support and buy-in. It’s critical to remember that any proposed changes should demonstrate clearly how it would add value and close any gaps that currently impede projects being delivered on time, budget and achievement of intended outcomes.

At the beginning of yourncourse, 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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Lessons Learned: Questions to Ask

What do organizations that have consistently high levels of project success have in common? They conduct lessons learned discussions and create project archives during the project close-out phase. The lessons learned documentation includes what went right, what went wrong and what the project manager and team could have done better. The archives also include plans from previous projects and data on the costs and hours of work for every task in those projects. That data lets future project managers use historical data for analogous estimating, which is enormously accurate. Project managers who make estimates by the seat of their pants with no historical basis produce inaccurate estimates. Lessons Learned Main Page

lessons learned

Documenting the lessons learned is an important step that is often cut short during project close-out. That may be because of project or overhead costs and the crunch of follow-on projects for the various team members. But this step is critical to improving future projects in the organization. A best practice identified in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)® is to include lessons learned in the baseline schedule for the project. The project manager should prepare for the lessons learned task. The lessons learned approach may vary depending on the size of the project or your organization’s processes. The lessons learned may be gathered at milestone points during the project life-cycle, annually for a multi-year project, or at the end of the project. Some approaches to generate or gather lessons learned include questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, guided discussions, and meetings. Meetings may be held face-to-face, via teleconference, or video-conference. When the lessons learned are scheduled to be captured, the project member with the lessons learned task should schedule the resources and distribute the materials, agenda, and schedule. Lessons learned should be approached from a positive aspect, as gripe sessions seldom produce effective solutions. The team may cover areas for improvement in a positive frame. One may ask some of the following questions when discussing the project events. These questions may help the team to focus the discussion to improve the organization’s processes and OPA for future projects.

•           What worked well for this project or the project team?

•           What didn’t work well for this project or the project team?

•           What should be done over or differently?

•           What surprises did the team handle during the project?

•           What project events were not anticipated?

•           Were the project goals attained? If not, what changes would help to meet goals in the future?

Naturally, these are not the only questions and possibly not the official way to ask and develop lessons learned. But the questions are a reflection point for project managers and team members. Your organization may have some lessons learned questions and processes already developed, just ask. You will gain value from the experiences of your predecessors and increase your chances for executing a successful project.

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” said George Santavana. How can we avoid repeating past project failures if we don’t have lessons learned from previous projects? When I did a cursory review of the lessons learned database, I did not pay close attention to the content. The titles seemed unimportant and not related to the work that I would be performing. But I learned differently. You may halesson learnedve guessed the results of my experience. I repeated several of the mistakes made by my predecessors that I could have avoided. Had I noted the issues and the course corrections of my predecessors, I would have added this knowledge to my tool kit and saved a good deal of my team’s effort and repeat work. I did not realize this until I was preparing lessons learned from my project. I looked at former lessons learned documents to determine how to prepare my notes and I found several mistakes that I had repeated. I placed special emphasis on the title of my lessons learned to gain the interest of the casual reader.

A great outcome of the lessons learned activities is improvements in your organizational processes and the addition of artifacts to our library of resources. While studying for my master’s degree, I quickly learned that a very important characteristic to understanding an organization’s culture and success is to view the artifacts. Yes, the artifacts is a term you may recognize if you work with many of the industry standard quality practices, such as International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001, Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), and many others. In project management language, we call an artifact an Organizational Process Asset (OPA). The OPAs help us to reuse methods from previous successes and to avoid the pitfalls of past failures. These artifacts or OPAs help us to jump start success.

I did find many failed projects in organizations’ artifacts. Upon closer analysis, I found limited detail and little follow-through to engage the experts in each of the projects. I located the organizations that provide the services needed for these projects. I researched the documentation requirements to engage these experts. I used the OPA and prepared the supporting documents and details in the project folder formats of each of the organizations. When I invited the various teams to provide service support, the engineers were appreciative of the project folder format and materials. The project folders enabled the visiting engineers to be more effective in developing an appropriate solution. We successfully executed many of the previously failed projects by using the appropriate OPA. We followed the organizational processes to acquire the resources. Using the OPA to prepare the materials enabled the project team to easily digest the material and led to the efficient execution and ultimate success of each project.

Our project management courses teach you what questions to ask during your lessons learned discussions. Take a look at the course in your specialty.

At the beginning of yourncourse, 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
Posted on

Project Management Success

Project Management Success is not easy. There are several project manager skill sets or techniques that make a project manager successful. Successful project managers have both “hard” and “soft” skills in their project tool belt. They are able to select the appropriate tools and techniques to use on every project they manage. The ability to select the right tools prevents overloading small projects with too much paperwork and meetings. It also lets the  project manager decide which sophisticated tools to use on the big projects. Project Management Skills Main Page

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

In addition to the “hard” project management skills, there are a number of “soft” skills that consistently successful project managers possess. Project Management Success requires effective communicators. That’s important with project team members who must clearly understand what’s expected of them on their tasks. Project managers’ communications with stakeholders must also be effective so the project manager can persuade and influence these people to support the project. Project managers also have to be good motivators to build project team enthusiasm and morale. These “soft” skills and abilities are extensive and show how far project managers have come from the days when they were viewed solely as technical experts.

There are eight critical skill sets you need for Project Management Success. You must be able to:

#1 – Work with the sponsor to identify the business result the project must produce

#2 – Create a schedule using project management software

#3 – Estimate work (duration and cost) with the team members

Project Management Success#4 – Make clear assignments so each team member knows what is expected
#5 – Track progress against the plan and solve problems early (before it’s too late)

#6 – Run meetings for planning and status reporting

#7 – Make presentations to sponsors and stakeholders

#8 – Archive data (planned and actual) for use on future projects.

You learn all of those skills in our project management basics courses. Begin whenever you wish and work individually with your instructor at your pace and schedule.Take a look at the basics course 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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Scope Creep

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

First we’ll talk about what Scope Creep is and then we’ll talk about how to avoid it. Scope creep is the addition of new features and functions after the original project plan has been approved.  These additions to the project scope are approved without any compensating adjustment to the project budget or schedule. It is the number one cause of project failure. Some organizations are plagued by scope creep on every project because their project managers don’t do a good job of defining the scope or engaging the project sponsor in scope control. These actions should be done early in the project. If not, the projects (and project managers) have a limited opportunity for success. Trying to fight every change to a project doesn’t work either. Even if the stakeholder or customer doesn’t “ram the change down your throat,” they are still unhappy with the project and the project manager. Project Scope Creep Main Page

How To Avoid Scope Creep: Planning Is The First Line of Defense

The battle against scope creep starts during project planning. You and the project sponsor need to lay a foundation where you can fend off additions to the project that are not necessary to achieve its scope. Every good idea that is proposed by a stakeholder or one of your team members must first be tested to see if it’s necessary to achieve the project scope. That means that the scope of the project needs to be defined in unambiguous measurable terms. We need a scope statement like, “less than 5% of the customers spend more than 20 seconds on hold.” Then when someone proposes a good idea, you politely say, “Please tell me why we need to include that task to achieve our goal of ‘less than 5% of the customer spend more than 20 seconds on hold.’ It seems to me the tasks we have planned will get us to that end result.”
With a measurable scope and deliverables, you have a better ability to fend off scope creep additions to the project without making the stakeholders angry. So you must spend a great deal of time defining the scope in measurable terms rather than falling prey to the “start work fast” mandate. That often prevents the development of a clear scope definition. And without that clear definition, you may start fast but you’ll finish late because of all the scope creep that is loaded onto the project. The deliverables in the project must also be defined in measurable terms. They form the first line of defense against scope creep. You need to convince your sponsor that it’s worth spending time to define the deliverables because they help you avoid scope creep.

How To Avoid Scope Creep: Trade-offs Are The Second Line of Defense

Rather than trying to fight every change, you will be more successful handling scope creep when you are able to quantify trade-offs every time a stakeholder asks for a change in the project. You shouldn’t tell them you can’t do something they want.  Instead you should say, “Of course we can make that change. Let’s talk about what it will cost and how much it will change the duration of the project. We can also discuss how much it will change the resources we need on the project team.” Then you calculate the numbers that clearly communicate the impact of the requested change on the project.

Remember there is no such thing as a free lunch. Every change has an impact on the project cost, schedule, quality, risks or resource requirements. After reviewing your estimated impact numbers, the stakeholder making the request may decide not to pursue it. Or you may follow the organization’s change management protocol and send the data to the project sponsor to make a decision. Either way, you are better able to manage the stakeholders than if you try to fight all changes. You also need to be disciplined in maintaining the stakeholders’ expectation that any change to the project will increase the schedule and duration. Here’s an example. A stakeholder says to you, “I’ve got a tiny little change I want to make to the curriculum for the service representatives’ training class. This is so small I hate to bother you with it. I want to add about four hours to the class and give them information on the best way to deal with people who are having marital problems. With the skyrocketing divorce rate, I’m sure a lot of our customers fall into that category. This change is really nothing; maybe a few minutes of preparation for the trainer and a couple of hours of additional class time. Can you just add that for me?”

The short answer is no, you can’t just add that. It’s not that this scope change is so terribly damaging. Rather, it’s the expectation it creates in the stakeholder’s mind. If you “just squeeze in this one,” next week you’ll get a change request that is just a little bit larger and hurts the schedule and budget a little bit more. You must begin to control  the stakeholders’ expectations for making changes during the presentation of the project plan. And you must continue that control every week until the project is complete. There is never a free change to the project you can “just squeeze in.”

You can learn these skills in our basic and advanced project management courses. 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
Posted on

Small Projects Are An Art Form

Small Projects Projects Don’t Need a Plan… We Can Wing it

Managing small projects with consistent success is an art form.  Everyone from sponsor to PM to Team gets sloppy because they think “small projects are easy.  They are not. Scope creep is a disease that everyone ignores so are variances on a small project, “Hell, its only 6 days!” But the project duration is only 10 days so its not a small matter.  Having 5 small projects running simultaneously is much more difficult than having one big one.  Some project managers think that writing a plan for their small projects is not important and just consumes time.project plan Best to just start work.  I disagree with the idea that “the plan is not important.” Start fast on a small project and before you can take a breath, you have a 40% duration overrun. You need a project plan for any size project because it is identifying the four dimensions of any project scope, duration, budget and risk.
However, I agree with the idea that “writing a big project plan consumes the time and there is no need for it on a small project.” During project initiation, the project manager is exchanging the project’s requirements, scope, duration, and tasks with team members, executives, and vendors through email, or printed documents. All this communication contains the raw materials for the plan. It contains the agreed scope, the duration needed to finalize each task, accountabilities, resource commitments, budget, and identifying uncertain situations which may affect the project with their planned responses. As a result, the project manager will just reassemble the parts which are distributed among the email messages and documents, make it in one document, distribute it to all stakeholders, and then get their approval. At the end, the project manager will have a good documented plan for his/her small project without consuming much time.
For additional information on project plans, you might wish to consult our articles on the project charter. They include defining the project scope with the sponsor, identifying major deliverables and assessing the major risks and assumptions which the project faces. All this information can fit on a single page of paper ensuring that people read it and that it is a useful decision-making device.

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
Posted on

Project Variances, Solve Just the Real Problems

Work Breakdown Structure
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4PM.com

Project variance is what gives executives nightmares about project failure. They are the calculated difference between the approved project plan’s costs and duration and the actual project results. We can have project variance vs.  schedule where we identified that a task should have been finished by July 1 and it was actually finished by July 5. That’s a four day bad variance. We can also have project variance on the project budget. Let’s say a task was planned to cost $5,000 and it actually cost $4,500 when we were done. That’s a $500 good variance.  Project Tracking Reports Main Page

We can also have project variance on the characteristics of the deliverable and on the planned work versus the actual work. The most important thing about project variances is we do not have to wait until the task is completed to identify a variance. Project managers get information from their team members’ status reports. Using project management software, they take the information about the actual results versus the plan and they forecast variances when the task is done. That allows the project manager to start corrective action before the task is actually finished.

Another major use of project variance is in status reporting to the project sponsor. Having the variance data allows the project manager to show the sponsor how the project is going and what tasks are on schedule and what tasks are not. One of the techniques that separates consistently successful project managers from the rest of the pack is their ability to identify problems early, when they are small and easily solved. Unsuccessful project managers are routinely surprised by big problems that they find out about when it’s too late to fix the damage that’s been done.

The important thing to remember when your project sponsor becomes hysterical about a variance is that we do not have to take corrective action about every variance. If we have a 5 day variance on a task’s forecasted completion date, We do not have to order overtime for the whole team.  If you have used professional scheduling techniques, you will be able to quickly determine if the task is on the critical path and if not how much slack it has. I the task has 10 days of slack you should do nothing about the variance because the slack can absorb it and it will not affect the project completion date. You also need to check if the variance is a signal of a growing problem. But that is an example of when we can ignore a variance.

A few prudent steps during project planning can make all the difference. To spot problems early, you need unambiguous, measurable checkpoints in the project so you don’t have to guess whether you’re on track. With the deliverables defined by metrics, you will know exactly where you are. That’s what lets you take action at the first sign of a problem. Do you want to be regularly surprised by problems when it is too late to fix them or do you want to spot problems early and fix them before they mushroom? How to Write a Weekly Status Report

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
Posted on

Communication Techniques – Video

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

One of the most challenging parts of project management is choosing the communication techniques to use with all the different people who are involved with your project. Each of the team members, stakeholders and executives has a different personality and a different communication preference. You need to be able to “type” each of those personalities and then use the kind of communication that is most effective for them. What you can’t do is try and communicate in the same way with each of those different people. That may sound like it’s efficient but it’s certainly not effective. Project Management Skills Main Page

Let’s consider two of the personality temperaments or types that project managers encounter most frequently. People with the Guardian personality temperament (ISTJ in the Myers-Briggs terminology) make up the majority of executives in most organizations. These are very detail oriented decision-makers who want all of the data, usually in chronological order, before making a decision. If you push them for a quick decision, the answer will be NO.

Another frequently encountered personality type is the Executive (ENTJ in the Myers-Briggs terminology). This type makes up about 25% of the executives in most organizations. These are big picture thinkers who become quickly bored with the details and supporting information. They want to know the big picture and the end result, then they’re ready to make a decision.

Clearly the same communication techniques for these two executive types are not going to be effective. You need to tailor your entire communications process, including pre-meetings with individuals, to fit each temperament.

Now let’s watch a video of a project manager working with a team member. These two people have very different temperaments and the project manager is initially ineffective because he communicates with the team member in a way that suits his personality, not the personality of the team member. I’ll point out some of the key mistakes the project manager makes. Then we’ll look at the same meeting with the project manager tailoring his communications to fit the team member’s temperament. This yields a much better result.

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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Project Risk Management

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

You should spend some time doing Project Risk Management even if your project is small.  Let’s say your boss is the sponsor and your project has just two team members. That means you will be completing tasks as well as performing project manager duties.  Most projects are small like this but you still should perform some Project Risk Management on them. Risk Management Main Page

Now you shouldn’t tell anyone that you are starting the Project Risk Management process. That will make them think you’re going to waste time doing fancy mathematics, having all kinds of useless meetings and generating worthless paperwork. But you’re not going to do that fancy, expensive stuff. You’re just going to do simple risk management so you can solve some problems early in the project. In fact, risk management lets you solve some problems before they start.

This early problem solving begins during the planning phase. Let’s say your project is to reorganize the department’s supply room. First you identify the problems (risks) that may affect the project. Then you think about how likely each of those problems is to occur and what the damage will be if they do. The ones that are likely to seriously affect the project are the ones you should do something about. Next, you analyze the identified problems and think about how you might avoid each one. In other words, you think about how you might dodge them completely.

Project Risk Management – Early Problem Solving 

For example, when you think about the problems your supply room project will face, you come up with two of them that are likely to occur and will have a big impact if they do. The first problem is that people may not keep the supply room well-organized after you finish the cleanup. The second problem is that it will take people longer to find what they want than it does now because the supplies will probably be in different places. Let’s tackle each of these problems (risks) separately.

The first risk comes down to making sure that the new organization of supplies is maintained. You and your two project team members discuss possible incentives for the people who stock the supply room shelves. You believe you can avoid this problem if you involve the staff in the design of the supply room and hold them accountable for maintaining it. The three of you agree on that task and you add it to the project plan.

You go on to the second risk of people not being able to find the supplies they want because the supplies have been moved to different locations. You certainly don’t want complaints about your reorganization. So you discuss what would make it easy for people to find things. You finally agree to place the high-volume supplies, the ones that are needed most often, near the entrance to the supply room. After you’ve included the supplies that cause two-thirds of the trips to the supply room, you agree to organize the remaining items by category (paper products, writing instruments, clips and staples, etc.).

project risk managementThe amount of risk management you do depends on the size of your project. On a very small project, the risk management effort might be completed over a lunch with the project manager, the sponsor and some team members. Here’s what that discussion will do:

  1. Identify the risks the project faces
  2. Assess the likelihood of the risk occurring and the size (magnitude) of its impact on cost and duration if it occurs
  3. Develop risk responses to avoid or reduce the impact of the risk.

Project Risk Management Steps

Here are the steps you can follow for your project risk management process. You may do some or all of them, depending on the size and complexity of your project.

  1. You and the team members begin by reviewing the list of identified risks, both positive and negative. That list is called the risk register. Then each person assigns a rating of high, medium or low to the likelihood (probability) of each risk occurring and the size (magnitude) of the impact if it does.
  2. You gather and correlate the individual assessments of probability and magnitude and calculates the average for each risk in the risk register.
  3. You and the team members review the average ratings and select those risks that are important enough to justify a response. This is called qualitative risk analysis.
  4. You present the qualitative risk analysis to the project sponsor. The goal is to obtain their approval to plan responses to the risks.
  5. You and the team members develop risk responses for the positive and negative risks. For positive risks, you design the response to increase the probability and/or the magnitude of the beneficial impact. For negative risks, the response should decrease the probability or magnitude of the adverse impact.              Risk Responses
  6. You present the recommended risk responses along with an analysis of their impact on the project’s cost, schedule and budget. For the risk responses that the sponsor approves, the project manager makes changes to the project plan, schedule and budget to reflect those risk responses.

Summary of Project Risk Management

Even on small projects, risk management helps you identify and solve problems before you begin work. This increases your project success rate, which helps you advance your career.

You can learn more about managing risks in our online project management courses. You work privately and individually with a expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish. Take a look at the course 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