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Why Projects Fail

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

In too many organizations, projects fail often and enterprise project management is a significant competitive weakness. These organizations are unable to deliver projects for their products or services on time or within budget.  The project managers, executives, sponsors and team members don’t know how to play their roles in the company project management process.  Additionally, their projects lack priorities, resources and clear definitions of what they must produce. Most organizations’ projects of all sizes deliver little business value, are often over budget and are often late. Poor company project management processes waste a lot of time and money. The organizations’ worst performance, however, is on their strategic initiatives. These projects have significant impact on the organization and its customers but they often have an 80%+ failure rate. Enterprise Project Management Main PageCompany Project Management

But that isn’t the end of the project failure symptoms in many organizations. There are so many projects underway that many first-line managers spend most of their work day on project assignments. The most productive and dedicated project team members work 60-70 hour weeks without an end in sight. These problems make organizations very vulnerable to competitive moves like competitors’ new products and services.

Company Project Management: The Portfolio of Projects

Let’s take a 10,000-foot view of the typical portfolio of projects in an organization. In the lower left-hand corner are the “puppy” projects. There are hundreds of these small projects and no one outside of the initiating department (and possibly IT or facilities) knows they exist. But when an organization installs effective project initiation processes, two-thirds of these puppy projects go away. They simply can’t meet the required business value justification.

In the upper left-hand corner are the “porpoise” projects. These are the smartest projects in the organization and they have a tight focus and lean staffing. The porpoise projects don’t cost very much and they yield solid payback. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t have any of these because the project managers and sponsors aren’t able to work together to meet the tight focus required for these projects.

In the upper right-hand corner are the “pachyderm” projects that are the organization’s strategic initiatives. These projects cost a lot of time and money and can yield significant business value. However, they often fail for a number of reasons. One reason is that they’re starved for resources. Another is that the project managers, sponsors, senior executives and team members don’t know how to play their project roles. These issues can lead to the slow descent of a strategic initiative into a failed project.

“Pig” projects in the lower right-hand corner don’t start out as efforts that waste a lot of resources and produce nothing. They can start as pachyderm projects but lose their focus and become pig projects. Pigs can also start as puppy projects that balloon out of control because of poor planning and a lack of scope control.

The company project management process requires regular fine-tuning of the portfolio of projects.

Company Project Management: People Don’t Know Their Roles 

Here is the common thread among organizations with problems in their company project management portfolio; people don’t know how to play their roles. Specific roles and responsibilities are necessary for projects to deliver business value on time and within budget.

Executives don’t know how to control the initiation of projects or how to set priorities for projects. Calling everything priority number one is not setting priorities. The executives have to agree on a company project management protocol for the organization. In 2 pages, it can spell out the rules for initiating, planning and tracking projects as well as the various roles people will play. They don’t have to do all the work in this protocol. They just oversee the process and use their authority to enforce the protocol.

The first step is that all new projects must be submitted with the project charter and data to justify the project. Projects that do not meet the criteria in the project protocol don’t get approved and work doesn’t start on them. Next, all approved projects are given a priority and that controls their claim to resources. High priority projects get the “first call” on resources and lower priority projects have to wait. This is much better than starting every project as soon as someone thinks of one and then waging a battle for resources. Allocating resources by priority allows everyone working on projects to have a calendar of what they have to get done, by when, for which project. That does wonders to cut the chaos and confusion in the lower ranks. It is a key element for a company project management system.

Project sponsors often don’t know how to define measurable acceptance criteria for the new projects they want to start. The company project management process requires clarity on how the company will measure the project’s success and what business value it will produce. Sponsors must learn how to define those criteria and create a statement of work  (SOW) to initiate a project. The statement of work is part of the project charter which the sponsor must submit for project approval. Next, project sponsors must learn how to review a project plan and make sure the plan meets the criteria laid out by the company project management protocol. And finally, sponsors play a lead role in approving any changes to the approved project plan.

Project managers often don’t know how to accurately estimate the work and duration of tasks. They also don’t know how to model different ways to deliver the scope. Sponsors need to be given those options so they can juggle trade-offs between the scope, cost and duration. Finally, project managers must be able to spot problems early. This requires accurate status data from the team. The project managers must be able to forecast completion dates and costs and propose solutions to problems.

Project team members often don’t know how to take part in the estimating process for their tasks. They must know how to report status accurately and provide “estimates to complete.” This data is the key to allowing the project manager to spot problems early so they can solve them when they are small. Team members also don’t know how to juggle multiple assignments because the project priorities are not clear.

When everyone knows how to play their role properly, according to the rules laid out in the company project management protocol, the organization has the foundation for fixing their project problems. Now let’s talk about the five steps to improving your organization’s project performance and developing your protocol.

Company Project Management: What Doesn’t Work 

Fixing the project performance mess is tricky and it can be painful. We have worked with over 300 small and medium-size organizations to address these company project management issues. And we have learned that senior management will make the required sacrifices to straighten out project failure only when they can’t tolerate the pain of those failures. However, there are no easy fixes.

You can’t fix the problem with expensive project software and servers, despite what the IT department recommends. Small and medium-size organizations can control up to 250 in-process projects on a PC with software that costs a couple hundred dollars. To do this, you need a high level of compliance with a new, leaner way of planning, scheduling and tracking projects.

You can’t fix this problem by sending a few project managers to training, despite what the trainers tell you. Everyone, including sponsors, project managers and team members, must be trained on how to play their company project management role.

You can’t fix this problem by tightly controlling only the big projects, despite what the consultants tell you. If you only make your company project management process changes for big projects, the puppy projects will run amok, leaving a mess on the corporate carpet.

Finally, you can’t fix this problem by having a few certified project managers or consultants create a paperwork jungle. Endless paperwork and needless meetings are the curse of project management.

The solution is installing a simple, straightforward company project management process that everyone follows. These processes save people time so they willingly follow them. Achieving a high level of compliance is the key to making these processes work better, not adding a lot of paperwork.

Company Project Management: A Five-Step Program That Fixes the Problem 

It is challenging to achieve consistent company project management success because you need to overcome a number of problems simultaneously. Successful programs to improve company project management performance in organizations include these five elements:

1. Executives exercise control over initiating new projects. That means all new projects, not just the big ones, must justify their business value. This will make sure that the resource investment is repaid by the benefits the project delivers.

2. The executives agree on and approve a company project management protocol that details the process and defines everyone’s role. Every organization needs its unique company project management protocol but this document should not exceed two pages. Once again, high compliance by executives and project managers is the key, not fancy processes and excessive paperwork.

3. Everyone gets trained on their role as it’s designed for your particular organization. In the training program, they also learn the data they’ll be getting from decision-making and the inputs they must give. The training must be focused on managing the kind of projects your organization does, not generic academic case studies. The curriculum and case studies must be tailored to the kind of projects you do and your organization’s unique culture. Otherwise, the program isn’t relevant.

4. We’re talking about making significant changes to people’s work habits, so ongoing support is a critical requirement. People need to have someone they can ask about what to do in unique situations. This is particularly true in the first few months of implementing the new protocol.

5. Finally, everyone needs to agree to the implementation plan. It will substantially reduce the number of puppy projects and require the re-planning of some ongoing projects as you clean out the pipeline of poorly conceived projects.

These steps work because they make everyone’s job on projects easier and because they free up a lot of resources from the poor payback projects that are cancelled. This allows people to work on the important projects.

Company Project Management Summary 

To improve your company project management success, people must learn how to play their project roles properly. The project managers, executives, project sponsors and team members often do not know what their role is. And they don’t have the tools and techniques to play it properly. The consequences are devastating. Executives don’t set priorities for projects or allocate resources based on those priorities. The priorities change every day, depending on who a team member talked to last. That causes chaos among the people working on projects.

Additionally, project sponsors don’t know how to define the scope of a project nor exercise the necessary control over changes to the scope. Many project managers don’t know how to use their project software tools to create options and alternatives for project sponsors to consider. They must be able to create those options during planning and every week when there is a problem and corrective action is needed. The project manager must produce a couple of options for sponsors to consider.

Finally, project team members very often don’t know how to estimate the work and duration in their tasks. They also don’t know how to report their progress and make estimates of the remaining work. Without that data on the estimate to complete, project managers and sponsors have difficulty identifying problems early, when they are small and easily solved.

The five step program we discussed addresses each of these issues and will improve your company project management.

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 Plan for Small Projects: Fast Food Approach

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

Creating the Project Plan for a small project is difficult for many reasons.  One of them is that the boss wants you to start as soon as possible without “wasting” a lot of time with meetings and paperwork.  Also the boss usually doesn’t give small projects much thought before dumping them in your lap. You clearly see that this is a recipe for failure.

Good project managers know that for every minute you spend on your project plan you save 10 minutes during the execution of the actual project. The reason for that 10 to 1 payback is that a plan allows the team to focus on executing rather than deciding what they’re going to do next.  A project plan also communicates to everyone what you’re going to do and how you’re not going to do it.  So how do you deal with the boss and still get even a basic plan?

Project Plan: Drive-thru Window at “Projects Are Us” Fast Food

You can do your project plan like the order-taker at a fast food drive-thru window. The fast food approach to planning is focused on getting started quickly by finding out what you. Here’s an example of how to apply that approach to a new Supply Room Project the boss emailed you about. You’d go to his office and the conversation would go like this:

Project Manager: “Exactly what do you want me to deliver on the last day of the project?”

Boss: “I want you to clean up the file room!”

Project Manager: “That’s what you want me to do but what is the end result you want me to deliver?  What should I be able to show you at the end of the project?”

Boss: “I am too busy for games.  I want you to show me a clean file room!”

Project Manager: “What is your standard for a clean file room?”

Boss, irked: “Nothing on the floor and everything stacked neatly in part number order”

Project Manager: “I can deliver that.” But then you remember how the fast food folks at the drive-thru window always ask if they can supersize it. So you add, “Do you also want to make it easier to find supplies? Not everyone knows the numbers of the parts.”

Boss, smiling for the first time: “Good thinking. I get a lot of complaints about things being hard to find.  Let’s kill two birds with one stone.”

Project Manager: “Great. Give them to me and I will suggest some additional deliverables before I leave today!”

What did the project manager accomplish here?  First, he/she improved the chance of project success.  They would have been near zero if the project manager had just started work with a scope of “clean up the file room.” Second, the project manager enhanced their credibility by asking some good questions that earned the boss’s praise. The approach used here appeals to a lot of bosses who sponsor projects. Particularly the ones who often complain about the planning meetings and paperwork that are necessary to start a project. In the fast food approach, you’ll forget all that PMBOK® stuff and reach agreement with the boss on the project’s scope. The project manager’s “supersize” question got a great reaction from the boss and they could continue talking about what business value the project has to deliver. The the project manager can get to work.

You can learn these skills for small projects in our project management basics courses.

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 Sponsor – How to Train a Bad One

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

Project sponsors should play a critical role in projects. They should set the goals for the project, use their authority & influence to help the PM get resources and solve problems. When there are conflicts the sponsor should protect the project. While many executives understand their role and play it well, there are many who do not. The bad ones won’t commit to exactly what they want from their project.  They  play it safe politically by never committing to a scope. These sponsors usually want to drive the project to a completion date they often pluck from the sky.  Talk to other PM about a new sponsor.  If the have many failed projects and often blame the project manager and team. You have a bad. Because sponsors outrank the project manager, often by many levels, you have to use a great deal of tact in using these techniques to guide an ineffective project sponsors toward fulfilling their project role. As a project manager, you will routinely face high-pressure situations with sponsors trying to do things that will harm the project. If you let the intimidation get to you, the project will fail. Here’s what to say, and what not to say, in each situation.

Project Sponsor Situation #1 Defining a Project Scope

Number one among the project sponsor’s responsibilities is defining the scope of the project.  Its the reason the sponsor initiated the project in the first place. Project sponsors need to give the you and your team a crystal-clear definition of what the project should deliver. The definition should include the acceptance criteria they will use to accept or reject the project.  If they’re playing political games with the scope, doing friends favors, or won’t committ themselves to exactly what they want, the project manager and the team members are almost certain to fail. When the sponsor demands the project team to start work without knowing what’s expected of them they are headed for delivering an unacceptable product, late and over budget.  There are other project sponsor obligations that project managers have to subtly guide them to fulfill. Let’s discuss them.

This occurs during the initiation of the project. In that first session you need to take a very strong position that the scope of the project must be defined in measurable terms, that is with a measurable metric. Often times you have to “sell” the sponsor on the benefits of a scope that defines what he or she wants with numbers rather than vague, subjective definitions.

Project Sponsor Situation #2

Another make or break situation occurs when you discuss your authority to direct the project team. If you are borrowing team members from another department, you want to be able to give them assignments directly rather than going through their supervisor.  You also want to be able to evaluate their performance and have input into their annual performance review.

Project Sponsor Situation #3

Other critical situations are change orders affecting the project scope, duration or cost. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Every scope change affects the project’s duration and cost.  Similarly, the project sponsor can’t cut the project’s duration without affecting the scope and cost or cut the budget without affecting the scope and duration. Project sponsors don’t want to hear this so you must be able to show them options for managing changes to the scope, duration and cost.

Project Sponsor Situation #4

Finally, status reports with a bad variance are a critical situation. You must present viable solutions to fix the problems of schedule or cost overruns.

Effectively handling each of these situations is critical to your relationship with the sponsor and to the success of the project.

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, 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 Plan: Surface Expectation Differences Early

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

Stakeholders and project managers often judge the success of a project plan meeting by how well everyone gets along. But they are making a mistake. One of the key outcomes from the planning process should be to surface any conflicts about the scope, deliverables and resources.  It is better to have those disagreements aired and resolved during the planning phase than have them erupt half way through the project. Project Plan Main Page

Project Plan Step One: Surface Expectation Differences

First, as the project manager, you do not take sides in the conflict.  Your best position is that you don’t care which side wins. You just want the conflict resolved before work begins on the project. Basically, you are on the sidelines for the whole project plan meeting. But you periodically sprinkle gasoline on any smoldering embers of conflict until they are all put out.

Why should you go to this trouble?  Why not smooth-over any conflicts about expectations and requirements now? That will get the project plan approved and let you start work.  That’s what the boss wants. The answer is that the conflicts you smooth-over in the project planning meeting always rear their ugly heads halfway through the project. Then they slow the work down and may even cause problems with the availability of team resources.  Experienced project managers know that there will be plenty of unexpected conflicts that arise as the project progresses. You don’t need to have known conflicts festering and bursting into flames late in the project. Resolving these expectation differences now, during the planning meeting, is a form of risk avoidance.

Project Plan Step Two: Draft the Project Plan

The second part of this technique is in how you write your draft project plan.  As an example, on a customer service project you would never define a deliverable with wording like, “Improve the quality of answers given to customers who call Customer Service.” That’s a terrible way to define a deliverable. It’s just motherhood and apple pie mush.  It’s not specific enough for anyone to disagree or raise differences of opinion. It allows every stakeholder to define their own expectation for the accuracy level. And their expectations will vary wildly.  You need to surface and resolve these differences, then get agreement on their expectations of the deliverable.

Here is another problem with the “Improve quality of the answers given to customers who call Customer Service” statement. It doesn’t give you or the team any of idea what the accuracy level goal is on the answers given to customers. Here is a better way to define the deliverable; “Improve the accuracy of answers given to customers from 61% to 71%.  Some stakeholders may want 90% accuracy and others will want less.  But now the discussion can focus on the differences in cost and time (duration) between various specific accuracy levels.project plan

Once again, your role is not to take sides or voice your own opinion.  Instead, your job is to quantify the tradeoffs in terms of cost and time between the various accuracy levels. You use project management software to model these options. For example, you would say, “Going to 91% accuracy would increase costs  by $18,000 and increase the project duration by 8 weeks.  Is that what you want?” The one issue you are very firm on is that no improvement in accuracy is free. The tradeoff always has a cost and duration impact. Your stance on this is very important.  If you let your stakeholders believe that they can change the project scope for free, you will face a constant flow of change requests throughout the project. And, stakeholders will be angry if you tell them there is a cost.

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, 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 Deliver a Status Report

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

The way you deliver your status report determines your credibility with the sponsor and stakeholders. It impacts their level of comfort with the project itself and your ability to manage it. You need to clearly and succinctly answer the questions the sponsor and stakeholders have about the project.

Status Report: Common Questions

You should answer their questions in the first five minutes of your project status presentation or in the first paragraph of your written status report. The four questions are:

  • Will the project produce the deliverables promised in the scope statement?
  • Will it finish on time?
  • Will it cost more or less, than what was budgeted?
  • Do the team members and vendors working on the project know what you expect of them? How to Write a Weekly Status Report

Status Report: Answer Questions

You should immediately answer the four questions above and discuss the problems as well as what you can do about them. How do you answer those four questions? With language that a 10-year-old child could understand.  The answers should not assume any knowledge about the project or what people said at the last status meeting. Why does it have to be that simple and straightforward? Because project managers are often their own worst enemy when they deliver status reports. They incorrectly assume everyone in the audience is as familiar with the project as they are. Status Report Template

Status Report: State Problems and Solutions

If you delay in answering these questions at the beginning of the report, people will think you are hiding something. If there are problems and variances to the plan, you should disclose them at the beginning of your status report. You need to tell people what you will do about the problems and variances and what help you need to take corrective action. You must also quantify the trade-offs between the project scope, budget and duration to solve the problems. If you can’t fix the problems, you must tell them. The sponsor and stakeholders must have confidence that you will reveal the problems as soon as you know about them. What they hate the most are problems that surprise them late in the project. Most executives will think you hid the problems for weeks or months and revealed them only when you could no longer hide them.

Status Report: Be Brief

Project managers tend to provide too much data and they assume everyone understands it. They also tend to “deep dive” into the technology of the project itself, using acronyms and discussing technical issues until the audience is bored to death. Some project managers assume this detail is the way to build their credibility and the stakeholders’ confidence in them. The opposite is true. The stakeholders think the PM is a technical geek who has a very weak grasp on what’s happening in the real world.

When a project status report confuses people, they assume the worst. They assume the project is out of control, that no one is monitoring the work and that the team members are equally confused and lost. They also assume that they are hearing only the tip of the iceberg and that many other problems are being hidden. As a result, they have little confidence in the project manager’s analysis of problems and recommendations for corrective action.  Earned Value

Status Report: Use Visuals

You can avoid this situation by using simple visual communications with the sponsor and stakeholders. Don’t assume they are as interested in the technical details of project management and the project work as they are. None of these assumptions are ever true but project managers often make them. Effectively communicating with stakeholders and sponsors requires you to use easily understood visuals that communicate the project status. The worst thing to give your audience is the classic project variance report which has 12 or 15 columns and lists every task in the project. This chart compares the planned start date with the actual start date, the planned finish date with the forecasted finish date and so on. No one can get an accurate picture of what’s going on in the project from that kind of data. Project Variances

You need to have visual charts and graphs that people can look at and understand in a moment. The Tracking Gantt chart available in many commercial software packages is ideal forStatus report this purpose. It has a bar chart for every task in the project. It shows when the task should start and when it should finish, usually in gray. Each task also has a second bar, usually in blue, which shows when it will start and when it will finish. If these two bars are stacked on top of one another, the task is on schedule. The red bar is the critical path which is the longest chain of tasks. It depicts the project’s actual start date and the projected finish date. This visual display lets everyone quickly see where the problems and opportunities are. It also makes it easy to explain your options for corrective action. Project Tracking Software – Video

Status Report: Tailor It to Your Audience

In addition to visual aids that tell the story with pictures, you also need to tailor the status report presentation to your audience. If the attendees are all expert project managers, the status report can be concise and fact-filled without explanations. If the audience is composed of stakeholders who have had little exposure to projects or project management, you must explain the basics. You can’t assume everybody knows as much about the project itself or project management best practices as you do.

Another issue is designing the presentation to fit the personalities of the attendees. If the audience is composed of technical staff who are very detail oriented and value a chronological presentation with plenty of data, you will have one type of presentation. If the audience is composed of “big picture” thinkers, you need to present the end results first and then offer as much supporting detail as the audience wants. If you get into too much detail for these people, they’ll quickly leave the room.  Team Status Reports Video

You can learn all these status reporting skills in our online Project Management Basics courses. You work privately, one-to-one, with a expert project manager.

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 Charter Template

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

Use this project charter template to create the charter at the end of the project initiation process. This is after you have the scope information, the statement of work (SOW) from the sponsor and before the detailed planning begins. It includes the following:

  • scope
  • major deliverables
  • assumptions
  • constraints
  • risks
  • required resources and
  • change control.

 Starting work is still a ways off and this is the best time to discuss potential risks and problems with the project sponsor. You should also discuss your authority to assign work to borrowed team members and the availability of those resources. You need to be sure the project team will show up to do the work when they’re scheduled.

Other issues you should address are the scope’s underlying risks and assumptions. You can use the project charter template to identify those assumptions and risks. Then talk with the sponsor and stakeholders about how you can avoid or mitigate the risks. You should do this before the detailed planning begins. It’s easier and cheaper to include responses to the risks now than it will be later on. The project charter template should also include a process for making changes to the project plan. Everyone needs to understand that there is a process that includes an evaluation and approval before the plan can be modified. Project Phases Main Page

Project Charter Template: Cross-functional Authority

The project charter template should also address cross-functional authority issues. But that issue often gets lost among the assumptions and “mission statement” narrative. Even when PMs generate a concise decision-making document, they are vague about the authority they need to successfully manage the project. They want to avoid conflict over this touchy subject. But if you are a savvy PM, you know this conflict is inevitable. It is better to have the debate on authority now than to wait until the project is late and over-budget. It looks like you’re shifting blame if you explain slippage by finger-pointing at cross-functional resources. You need to specify in the  project charter how you will assign work to people from across functional or organizational borders. You should design an achievement network that maps the lines of accountability and shows the sponsor and stakeholders where you need authority. You must make crystal-clear assignments to the team members that are measurable achievements.

You can’t expect to have dedicated resources you can manage as subordinates for all the project project charter templateassignments. So you have to make careful choices. You should ask for direct authority for assignments that are:

  • on the critical path
  • are high risk
  • have a long duration
  • require rare skills.

You can live with indirect authority and even settle for “in the hopper” authority on shorter, less critical assignments. This means your request for resources goes “in the hopper” with all other demands for resources. If you ask for too many dedicated resources, it will backfire. You’ll be stuck with “in the hopper” authority for every assignment on your project.

Project Charter Template: Project Sizes

The project charter template requires some information gathering.  You have choices about which elements to include.  You also have to decide how much detail to give on the elements. As we said earlier, everything flows from the Statement of Work (SOW) that the sponsor  issues to get the project started. Let’s look at initiating a project, the project charter template document, and how you’ll complete the pieces for projects of varying sizes:

Tier 1: Small Projects – Done within an organizational unit. Your manager or your boss is the sponsor

Tier 2: Medium Projects – Projects that affect multiple departments or are done for customers/clients

Tier 3: Strategic Projects – Organization-wide projects with long-term effects on all departments.

Project Charter Template: Identify Stakeholders

Tier 1: Small Projects: This step is not necessary on an in-department project where the department manager is the primary stakeholder.

Tier 2: Medium Projects: You must make an effort to identify the stakeholders in multiple departments. This avoids getting surprised by late arriving requirements that must be added.

Tier 3: Strategic Projects: This step is a process of surveys and interviews to identify internal and external stakeholders who may be affected by the project. Their requirements must be considered.

Project Charter Template: Business Case

Tier 1: Small Projects: This step is not necessary because formal project approval is not required.

Tier 2: Medium Projects: Organizations with sound project management processes require a business case to justify a project’s priority versus other projects in the portfolio.

Tier 3: Strategic Projects: The level of financial and human resources requires detailed documentation and justification of the strategic impact of the project.

Project Charter Template: Scope, Deliverables  and Risks

Tier 1: Small Projects: A 1-page overview of the plan that includes the scope, deliverables, risks, resources and PM authority.

Tier 2: Medium Projects: The project charter document addresses the project acceptance criteria, business justification and rough estimates of the resource requirements (human and financial).

Tier 3: Strategic Projects: The size of the investment in these projects usually requires extensive documentation of risks, benefits, impacts on other strategic initiatives and on the total organization.

Project Charter Template Summary

Depending on your environment, the project charter template can include many components. The charter usually has a statement about the scope or statement of work (SOW) and the principal risks and assumptions that underlie the project plan. It should also include the processes for identifying and approving changes to the project scope. In addition, the project charter template should specify what resources the project plan requires and the project manager’s authority to manage those resources. You can learn how to prepare and present your project charter in our Project Management Basics course. You’ll work privately with your instructor and have as many e-mails, phone calls and live video conferences as you need.

You learn all of those skills in our online project management basics 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, 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 Scope Statement

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

The Project Scope Statement is defined by the project sponsor. The project manager must ask the right questions to get the sponsor to clearly state the end result they want the project to deliver. It must be stated in measurable terms as acceptance criteria. Those criteria are the real definition of what the sponsor wants and how they will measure if the project is a success. Project Scope

Executives who are not used to project managers asking questions may resent it. But a successful project manager responds to the sponsor’s objections with a reasonable statement like, “I can’t deliver the business end result you want if I don’t know precisely what it is.”

Executives may not like that push back. But it is worth a bit of early executive dissatisfaction because it helps you define a measured business result for the project scope rather than a list of ever-changing requirements.

Project Scope Statement: The Sponsor’s Role

Another reason why the Project Scope Statement definition is not easy to get is because too many sponsors don’t know how to properly play their role in the project. During project planning, the sponsor’s role is to define the project in a statement of work (SOW), prove its value to the organization in a business case and define the scope statement. After they have completed those requirements, the sponsor’s role and their level of involvement declines. Then it consists of approving plans and any changes to those plans as well as accepting or rejecting project deliverables. Project Phases Main Page

In too many organizations, the project sponsor role is poorly played. Instead of defining the Project Scope Statement that will drive the project to a successful end, many sponsors do destructive things. Some play cat and mouse games with the project manager, refusing to commit to exactly what they want. They may do this because they don’t actually know what business result they want the project to deliver. So they are unable to define the scope. Or they are vague because they want to be able to avoid blame if the project fails. They can say, “That’s not what I wanted the project to deliver.”

Either way, this behavior dooms the project to failure. It drifts from one goal to another while the project manager and team members try to figure out what the sponsor really wants. They often find out a month before the due date (which the sponsor has arbitrarily set). That sets off the “end of project panic” which is also caused by sponsors who don’t know their proper role. The PM and team frantically try to produce something close to what the sponsor now says he/she wants. It’s not a surprise that what the team produces has no value. So they will spend the next six months trying to fix it. Bad sponsors leave a trail of these project failures in their wake. That’s how you can spot them… and, hopefully, avoid managing their projects. Project Scope

You can learn these techniques for defining the project scope statement in our customized, online courses. You work individually with your instructor and have as many phone calls and video conferences as you need. The Project Management Basics course, #101, teaches you a step-by-step process and how to use MS Project® software to make your job easier.

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 Size

Starting work on your project before deciding about work breakdown structure size is a mistake. It guarantees that you will waste resources, money and have a very small chance for project success. The WBS is central to everything a project manager does. It is also a prime determinant of the project success. We build this listing of tasks by decomposing the project scope and major deliverables. It contains everything that we must produce to deliver the project scope.

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

As a result, the work breakdown structure size is the basis for the project manager’s assignments to the project team. The tasks in the work breakdown are the units for which we develop our estimates of duration and time. It also is the basis for our status reporting to the sponsor about the progress on each of the tasks in the project. For the work breakdown is very central successful project management. Main WBS Work Breakdown Structure Page

People always have questions about how to build the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). They often ask us how big the WBS should be and how many tasks it should have in it. There is no magic number of tasks in a project. The number in your work breakdown structure depends on the capability of your team members. You need to consider a number of factors.

  • What is the correct duration for the assignments I’m going to make to my team
  • How frequently do I want to receive status data and estimates to complete from my project team and vendors
  • how often do I want to update the project schedule with current data
  • how risky are the tasks in this project

As you can see from this list, we design the work breakdown structure to fit both the project manager’s style and the capabilities of the project team. First, let’s consider the team member’s capability. If you’re fortunate enough to have a project team made up of experienced professionals who know how to do their tasks because they’ve done them dozens of times, then your work breakdown structure will have a smaller number of very large tasks. The tasks will be of longer duration because these experienced professionals can handle assignment durations of 7 to 21 days. We should give experienced professionals larger, more challenging assignments and the independence and decision-making latitude that go with it.

WBS Work Breakdown Structure

However, not every team is composed of project superstars. You’re going to have some people on your team who have some experience with projects and know their jobs but for whom a two-week assignment would be too much. It would be discouraging and perhaps even intimidate. Therefore, for these people we design assignments that are about 5 to 7 day’s worth of work.  We’re still giving them responsibility for a substantial deliverable and the project but we’ve broken up into smaller pieces so we can track their work more frequently. Remember that the frequency of deliverables is a prime determinant of how accurate our status reports are.  That’s because prior to a deliverable being finished and accepted, we’re still working with estimates of how much work remains.

Finally, you may have a team composed of new hires or people who have little experience with your company, little expertise in the technology of their task or no experience working on projects. With these people, you want to break the assignments into small pieces where they have a deliverable to produce every day or two. You would have a large work breakdown structure with relatively small, short duration tasks. That kind of WBS works best with inexperienced people because you will be expecting several deliverables from them every week. This gives you the opportunity for frequent feedback and coaching to improve their performance. With these newer team members, it is a valuable motivational technique to give them larger and larger assignments as they demonstrate their ability to produce deliverables on time and within budget.

Designing your work breakdown structure with these team member considerations, also allocate your time properly. You don’t want or need to spend a great deal of time frequently reviewing the work of one of your experienced project superstars. That kind of micromanagement will be an irritant and interfere with their feelings of independence and professionalism. Therefore, they get the biggest assignments. The people who need the most review of their deliverables will have the shorter assignments and that’s where you’ll spend most of your time.

The last consideration is the risk of the project as a whole and the individual tasks. If we have one or two of the high-level deliverables that have a very high risk of duration or cost overrun, we’ll adapt the work breakdown structure and deliverable definitions accordingly. Specifically if certain of the deliverables have a high risk of changes in technology or where the technology is so uncertain that cost overrun is likely, we break those major deliverables down into smaller pieces. Thus, we will get deliverables every day or two and big problems won’t surprise us. Making this adaptation for the risk does he into the project manager’s time and so we do it only when the risks that resource allocation.

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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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

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