Leading Teams: Six Techniques For Success

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

A highly motivated, problem-solving team is a key reason for every project success. These teams are committed to completing their assignments on time and within budget so the project goal is met. The proven techniques for leading teams to success include:

  • selecting the right team members
  • crafting the right-size assignment for each person
  • accurately estimating hours of work and duration
  • gaining team member commitment
  • receiving status reports
  • giving constructive feedback.

Leading Teams: Techniques for Three Sizes of Projects

The techniques are different for each project, depending on the size and scope. Here are the project size definitions:

Tier 1: Small – they’re done within one department
Tier 2: Cross-functional – they affect multiple departments and cross organizational boundaries
Tier 3: Strategic  – they’re organization-wide programs or projects for clients with strategic impact.

Leading Teams Technique #1: Selecting Team Members

In the selection process, you’re trying to get the best people for your project team. But you’re also gathering information about their work habits and personality so you can craft the right assignment for them.
Tier 1: Small projects: You are usually familiar with the potential team members’ work performance and quality standards when you all work in the same department. During the project planning phase, you need to ask the boss for the people you want on your team. That’s when the boss is focused on the project and can give you hints about the correct assignment for each person.
Tier 2: Cross-functional projects: When you have to borrow your team members froLead Teamsm other departments or organizations, it is more difficult to make sure you get productive team members. If possible, you should interview potential team members to assess their work ethic, problem solving ability and quality standards.
Tier 3: Strategic projects: On large projects for your organization or your clients, you may not be able to select the team members. If personal interviews are possible, you can gather information about potential team members’ experience and work standards. You will use that information to design the right assignments for each person.  If interviews aren’t possible, you will have to make an on-the-spot judgement about the right assignment for each team member. Leading Remote Project Teams

Leading Teams Technique #2: Designing Appropriate Assignments

You must design the assignments so they fit the capabilities and personality type of each team member. You want to give larger/longer assignments to people who have solid technical experience and are skilled problem solvers. They will appreciate the assignment’s challenge. You should give shorter assignments to people who are inexperienced and/or less capable. This will let you easily track their progress and help them when it’s necessary.
Tier 1: Small projects: You usually have flexibility about the duration of assignments. For trainee-level team members or less capable people, you want assignments that are 1 to 3 days long. For the average team member, 5-day assignments are usually the right size. For experienced professionals, you should design assignments that are 2 weeks or longer to give them a challenge and independence.
Tier 2: Cross-functional projects: With people borrowed from other departments, it is often acceptable to talk with their boss about the right-size assignment and the level of challenge you should give them.  If that’s not possible, then you will adjust the complexity and length of the assignment as they work on the task and you learn their capabilities.
Tier 3: Strategic projects: On larger projects with people who are accountable for major deliverables, you need to engage them in the design of their assignments. You must avoid micromanagement of these experienced people who are very capable.  On the other hand, you should give “rookies” assignments that are within their capabilities in terms of time and complexity. Team Micromanagement

Leading Teams Technique #3: Work Packages

You must clearly describe, in measurable terms, the deliverable(s) the team member should produce. And you must document their availability, as approved by their boss.
Tier 1: Small projects: This level of documentation is often skipped on small projects with three or four team members working on a project within a department. On the other hand, giving a simple work pack to each team member avoids confusion about your expectations for their deliverable.
Tier 2: Cross-functional projects & Tier 3: Strategic projects: For larger projects, you should document a work package for each assignment. It will make the assignment clear and document the deliverable you expect the borrowed person to produce. The work package also provides a standard information base for estimating the tasks’ hours of work and identifying their risks. It is best to document the work estimate and give a copy to the borrowed team member’s superior. Team Building Techniques

Leading Teams Technique #4: Estimating Task Work and Duration

A project management best practice is to estimate the required hours of work so you can measure progress during the assignment.
All projects: Regardless of the size of the project, you should engage the team members in the process of estimating the amount of work their assignment will take. The work package is the basis for the estimating effort. You should always estimate the amount of work (50 hours, for example).  You should never estimate just the duration (Oct. 21 through Nov. 7, for example). Estimating the amount of work required for the task provides you with the ability to more accurately track progress and spot problems. Their team member’s availability to do the work (halftime or 2 days a week, for example) is also documented. Team Building

You should also discuss the assignment’s potential risks with the team member and what can be done about them. This helps you avoid, eliminate or mitigate those risks. Finally, the work package should list the task’s required deliverable, the approach to take on the task and the inputs the team member requires to finish their task. Team Building video

Leading Teams Technique #5: Status Reporting

Team members should report status on their tasks every week. This allows you to find problems early so you and the team have an opportunity to fix them before the task or project is late or over budget.
All Projects: Data can come to you by phone, e-mails, a form, template or on “sticky notes.” The important thing is that each week you get the hours of work competed, as of that date, and the estimated hours required to complete the task. No narrative is necessary. You should make status reporting easy so people will do it.  It is a best practice to give all team members updated status data on the entire project.

Leading Teams Technique #6: Giving Feedback

All projects: You must give feedback to team members on a timely basis. People want to be praised for a job well done. Remember that public praise is the most effective. People also need to be told when their performance does not meet your expectations. This should be done in private and include what they can do to improve. You must deliver feedback in a way that encourages people to tell you about problems early, when you and the team can define a solution or a “work around.” Constructive Feedback

It is extremely ineffective for you to get angry with team members who report bad news. This action (or reaction) causes team members to hide problems. Then you are doomed to find out about problems when it’s too late to fix them. Dysfunctional Project Team video

Leading Teams Summary

Use these proven techniques to successfully lead project teams:

  • select the right team member for each task
  • assign the right size task for their capabilities
  • create a work package to define their deliverable
  • involve the team member in estimating the amount of work required and the duration of their task
  • receive weekly status reports from the team members
  • give team members constructive feedback and praise

Matrix Teams

Project Team Culture

You can learn these techniques and enhance your skills for leading teams in our online project management courses and certifications. You begin whenever you wish and control the schedule and pace. You work privately with an expert project manager and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish. Take a look at the courses in your specialty.

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What is Project Leadership? – Video

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

What is project leadership? It consists of proven techniques that project managers use to:

  • set standards of behavior and performance
  • motivate the team members to high performance and
  • rally the team members when the project has problems to overcome.

The number one challenge to project leadership is the fact that the project manager has no formal organizational authority over the project team. Another factor that makes project leadership difficult is that project managers are usually technically-oriented people with little experience or skill in motivating others.

Project managers must tailor the interpersonal techniques they use to fit the personality of each team member and stakeholder with whom they work. That’s the only way project managers can make up for their lack of formal authority.  Once they have “typed” the person’s personality and selected the right techniques for dealing with them, they have won half the battle. Here is a video on Team Member Personality Types

Another technique of effective leadership is to apply the best practices in terms of how the project manager trains and treats their project team members. Watch this video of a PM dealing with a situation where a team member has been pulled off the project and assigned elsewhere. In the first video, you see the PM use a technique that does not fit the personality of the team member. The result is complete failure. Then watch an analysis and see the PM do it the right way, using the right technique for the team member. Leading Teams

Communicating with the team member who has a problem

    You can learn all of these skills in our online project management basics course. We individually tailor this course for business, IT, construction, healthcare and consulting specialties.

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    Stakeholder Management in Four Steps

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

    Stakeholder management began as an effort to identify your project’s stakeholders so you could gather their requirements. This let you avoid requirements that spring up late in a project. These late requirements cost many times what they would have cost early in the planning process. So time spent on stakeholder management has a positive payback.

    The new focus in stakeholder management adds to that “requirements orientation” and provides tools for building and maintaining support from your stakeholders. It involves engaging them in the project management process itself. It also includes identifying their project expectations early and managing those expectations so they align with the project’s deliverables.  Stakeholder Main Page

    Stakeholder Management in The Real World

    If you manage projects in the “real world,” you know that strong stakeholder support for your project is critical in several areas.

    First, broad support for your project helps you keep your project team together and avoids losing them to other projects. In reality, every project is competing with the organization’s entire project portfolio for resources.  Your team members will be reassigned to higher priority projects if you have poor stakeholder support and/or unmet stakeholder expectations.

    Second, most projects involve implementing changes, whether it’s following new procedures, using new software, or installing new hardware. Those changes have to happen in operating/user departments and they always cause pain and take time. If you lose stakeholder support for your project, implementing those changes in the operating departments will fall behind schedule. They may even be ignored.  Your ability to deliver your project’s scope is negatively impacted if those changes are not implemented.

    Third, engaging your stakeholders in the project management process yields significant benefits. As an example, when you involve stakeholders in your risk management process, they are more likely to support and participate in your risk responses. This also helps you gain support with operational areas that are lending you team members. Always keep in mind that you are competing with other projects for those resources. You’re also competing with their “real jobs” and any projects that are launched in their home departments. When you engage the operational area boss(es) from the start of your project, you have a better chance of those resources being available when you need them.stakeholder management

    Stakeholder Management in Four Steps

    For all these reasons, we recommend this four-step stakeholder management process.

    First, during initiation you identify the people and organizational units who will be affected, positively or negatively, by the project. These stakeholders can come from outside the organization as well as the internal players. You’re identifying not only who they are but what interest they have in the project. This includes their “hot button” issues, their project requirements and their potential influence over the project.

    Second, during the project planning phase you plan how you will manage your stakeholders. You identify what techniques you will use to meet the needs of each stakeholder and to keep them engaged in the process.

    Third, during your execution of the project, you implement the stakeholder management plan. It includes the communication strategies you will use to engage the stakeholders in the project and build their ongoing support.

    Fourth, as you execute and control the project, you’re also monitoring the stakeholders and identifying problems and issues.  New requirements or requirements that are not being met are examples of stakeholders’ problems and issues. You must respond to these to maintain their support.

    Stakeholder Management Summary

    This four-step process may take an hour on a small project or weeks on a large one, depending on the size of the stakeholder group. But it’s a proven fact that active stakeholder management builds a foundation for your project’s success.

    You can learn how to successfully manage stakeholders in our online Project Management courses. You’ll work privately with Dick Billows, PMP, an expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.

    During an introductory video conference, you and Dick Billows PMP, will design your program and what you want to learn. You will choose you course and select your case study from business, marketing, construction, healthcare, or consulting options.  Your case study-based assignments that include project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your project specialty.

    Project Failure: How To Rescue It

    project failureProject failure rates top 70% in some organizations. Why is that? Here is the project management process in theory. First the project manager and sponsor define the scope in crystal clear terms that everyone understands.  Then the project manager and team  “just” execute the scope. What can go wrong? Lots! So much for the theory. Enterprise Project Management Main Page

    We all know how projects should be initiated but they often aren’t done the right way. As a result, you, the project manager, must try to rescue these failing projects. In one situation, perhaps someone else did the planning and you are assigned to take over the execution phase. In another situation, perhaps the project is headed for disaster and you have been asked to save it. I hope that this post will help you successfully manage whatever project situation you’re given. Project Failure

    Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Step #1

    When you take over a  project failure in process, your first and most important task is to understand the project’s scope. If you don’t know where the ship should go, you won’t be able to steer it. Also, if you don’t understand the scope, chances are you are not alone.  The project team, stakeholders and even the project sponsor may not be able to define the scope. If you can’t “uncover” a solid scope statement, it is never to late to write one.  Without a solid scope, you will have a hard time finishing what someone else started. I found it’s very useful to clearly state what is and what is not in the project’s scope. Make sure that at least you and the sponsor are crystal clear about what the project has to deliver. Project Rescue

    Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Step #2

    Next, you should try to locate the project charter and the stakeholder register. The project charter should tell you why you do what you do and what your boundaries are as a project manager. This is a very important document because you will have to maneuver the project around many obstacles. So you must know what the boundaries are. The stakeholder register is important because it lets you get in touch with the people who are most important to the project. The stakeholders are the people who are affected by the project and have an interest in its success.

    Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Step #3

    Third, introduce yourself to the major stakeholders and the project team. Make sure all of you have the same understanding of the project scope. Get the project team together and discuss the current status. This is also a good time to go over the project plan with the team. Once you know the scope, it is easier to spot weaknesses in the plan. It’s best if you go over the plan with the project team.

    Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Step #4

    Last but not least, if you and the team identify a major weakness, you should address it. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel, but you should listen to what the team, the stakeholders and the sponsor want to do differently. Project Catastrophes

    Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Summary

    Here is the bottom line: don’t shy away from accepting the challenge of rescuing a project failure. I urge you to start with the scope. Your job as the project manager is to keep the big picture in mind. If you have to turn a project around, you will find that most often the project failed because of scope creep or other scope-related issues. If you tackle the scope first, everything else will fall into place.

    You can learn how to correctly manage the entire project process in our online project management courses. You’ll work privately with an expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.

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    Requirements by Prototype

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

    Gathering your project’s requirements by using a prototype can be effective because it is very attractive to the users.  Requirements by prototype consists of planning and then developing a sample deliverable for the users to “play with,” review and modify.  Prototyping takes some pressure off the users.  They don’t need to specify all of the requirements up front, without having evidence that they work.  After the team produces the initial project deliverables, the user/client evaluates the prototype and tells the project team about the prototype’s flaws. Then the team goes back to work to fix those issues. They produce another prototype for the user/client to evaluate, and the cycle goes on.

    Project managers use prototyping with certain types of projects. It’s most often used in software development where the cost of making changes to the prototype is not too expensive. They also use prototyping in manufacturing, depending on the cost of each iteration. Prototyping can take a great deal of both the user/client’s and the project team’s time, depending on the number of iterations. The arguments in support of prototyping are that it encourages continuous contact between the user/client and the project team. Fans of prototyping say it produces a higher quality result and a shorter development cycle. On the other hand, prototyping can create a situation where the project team works on the effort forever. That’s because the user’s requirements change every time they look at a prototype.    Requirements Gathering Main Page

    Prototype vs Iterativerequirements by prototype

    The requirements by prototype process is different from iterative development because we’re only asking for the requirements, not a final deliverable.  We start by talking to the user and making a plan. Then we produce the prototype. Ideally, the user would review the prototype, make changes and then we would produce the final deliverable.  In the real world we’d make another prototype for the user to review and modify.  Producing one prototype after another allows us to develop the final deliverable prototype by prototype.  Depending on the deliverable, prototyping can be very expensive and time consuming. But if a user or client wants to pay for this approach, a good project manager can accomodate them.

    Prototype vs Waterfall

    Using prototypes is very different from the classic waterfall approach where we finalize the whole plan in a lengthy planning effort, and then produce the deliverable. The waterfall approach is cheaper.  But it requires the client or user to commit to exactly what they want during the planning process.   It also limits the changes the client can make once we begin to execute. The prototyping approach allows for changes during each iteration, if the client will bear the cost.

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    What Is a Project

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

    Are you wondering what is a project and what is not? Here is an example of a project:

    The manager of the department you work in tells you the people are wasting time getting supplies from the supply room. He wants you to do a project to fix the problem.

    Projects have a specific objective (goal). We want to achieve the goal so we have to do the project only once.  If you keep doing the same project over and over, obviously you’re not achieving the results the boss wanted.

    What is a Project: Some Examples

    The characteristics of all projects are the same. Their size doesn’t matter. All projects have a unique and specific objective. They have a beginning and end date. They often have a specific budget. The expectation is that we do them only once. Here are some examples of projects:

    • opening a new business
    • developing a computer program to process payroll
    • resurfacing a highway
    • opening a new healthcare clinic
    • What is a Projectbuilding an apartment complex.

    What is a Project: The Steps

    All of the efforts listed above are projects. All of them follow the same general steps:

    1. Project initiation – in this first step, a manager or executive comes up with the idea for the project. They give a project manager and other people an overview of the idea. The initiation process often includes obtaining approval from the organization to spend money on a project. When approval is given, we begin planning.
    2. Project planning – we need to communicate what the project is trying to produce. That’s called the scope and it’s defined by the manager or executive who initiated the project. Next the project manger develops the project plan. It includes a schedule, a budget and the people we need to work on delivering the scope. Larger projects have many stakeholders, the people who are affected by the project. So the plans for larger projects are more extensive. The project manager presents the project plan and schedule to the organization. When it’sapproved, we begin to execute the plan.
    3. Executing the project – most of the time and money on a project is spent during the executing phase. This is where we actually perform all the tasks specified in the project plan. The tasks are the deliverables that the team produces. The project executive or stakeholders review and accept the deliverables. They may also ask for changes. The project manager is monitoring everything that is happening.
    4. Monitoring and controlling – the project manager will monitor actual results and compare them to the plan. He or she will also identify differences (variances) between the two. When there are differences between the plan and the actual results, the project manager works to correct them.
    5. Closing – when the final deliverable has been produced and accepted, the project needs to be closed out. That involves holding a lessons learned meeting. It documents what we did and didn’t do well.  The intent is to have data that is useful on future projects and help avoid making the same mistakes. Archiving data from the project makes future projects easier and more successful.
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    Requirements Gathering for a Project

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

    One of the key phases on every project is requirements gathering from the users. If the project manager does a bad job gathering the users’ requirements, they’ll get change requests every week for features or deliverables. The users will say things like, “I found some more things that were “missing” from your project plan. If you don’t add them to your plan I will go to my boss.”

    These changes add time and costs, make the users unhappy and damage the PM’s credibility. Making changes to a project plan is not a problem. But it is a problem if the necessary changes to the budget and finish date aren’t approved by the project sponsor. The way to avoid this problem is by using good requirements gathering techniques during the project planning phase. Then the user’s change request will be expressed like this, “I want to add to the requirements I gave you during planning. Tell me what the impact is on cost and the completion date.” Good project managers receive this type of change requests. And they are able to handle them so the user is pleased and, as importantly, the sponsor increases the project’s approved budget and duration.  Requirements Gathering Best Practices

    Requirements Gathering Examples

    Here is the key difference between the two approaches. In the first situation above, the requirements belong to the project manger.  In the second situation, the requirements belong to the user. Let’s look at a simple example to understand what creates that difference.

    The goal of the project is to “Reduce Error Rates.” An unskilled project manger would meet with the users and ask what they need to reduce error rates. Then that PM would create a long list of things the users want. The users view the requirements as belonging to the project manager. So they feel free to add to the list each week. It’s like each of the users sat on Santa’s lap and gave him their Christmas wish list.

    On the other hand, a skilled project manager would first get the sponsor to define the project scope. It must be stated in measurable terms like, “The error rate on customer orders is less than 1.5%.” Then the PM and the sponsor would break the project scope down into major deliverables. These major deliverables are the responsibility of each of the user managers. An example could be that one of the user managers is accountable for reducing errors in their department from 3% to 1%.

    The project manager would meet with each user manager and ask, “What do you need to reduce your departmental error rate to 1.5%?”  One manager might list new systems. Another might need more people. And another might list modifications to the training classes. The project manager would record each manager’s requirements and link them to the project goal of “The error rate on customer orders is less than 1.5%.” In this process, each of the user managers “owns” the requirements they gave to the project manager.  Requirements Gathering by Prototype

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    3 Point Project Estimating: Padding, Accuracy, Commitment

    Dick Billows, PMPEstimating is tricky for project managers who have to balance conflicting pressures from the sponsor, stakeholders and their team:

    • The customer or user wants the project done quickly and cheaply.
    • You, as PM, want to finish on time and within budget.
    • For commitment, the team needs to participate in a process their perceive as fair and not feel like they are sure to fail because their estimate is impossible.
    • The estimating technique should yield accurate numbers and some assessment of the accuracy.
    • Decision makers need information of the certainty of the project finishing on time

    That list of requirements is a tough one for any project estimating process. The only process that meets all those requirements is 3-point estimating, which formerly called PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique).

    Briefly, 3-point estimating has three-steps.  In each, the PM works closely with the people who will be doing the work. The first step is to discuss the deliverable the team member will be accountable for producing. This discussion includes the “good” risks that could cause this task to take less work and the “bad” risks that could cause it to take more work. Second, the PM notes these risks on the work package form that also contains the approach the team member will use. Third, the team member makes three estimates: an optimistic estimate, a pessimistic estimate and a best guess estimate. The PM applies the 3-point formulas (at the end of the article) to those three estimates to come up with the actual data that you will use in the project schedule.

    Common Estimating & Risk Issues

    Two mindsets often plague the estimating process:

    • Executives often believe that projects have no risks that affect duration or budget.
    • Team members think that padding their estimates will protect them from blame.

    Both of these mindsets are false but they certainly get in the way of accurate estimating.

    The 3-point estimating technique deals with both these mindsets. It gives PMs a data to communicate the risk of a work estimate. It also lets everyone stop pretending that task #135 is going to finish in precisely 15 days or that the project will absolutely finish by August 30.  Three-point estimating is a straightforward process for developing estimates using just a little bit of statistics. It gives you a tool to address the issue that most projects are launched with less than a 35 % chance of finishing by their promised due date.  Because no one talks about that issue, executives think the completion date is 100% guaranteed. It’s only missed when someone goofs off.

    The best project managers have risk data for their sponsors.  They can document why a project has a 65% chance of finishing by August 30, as an example. These PMs also explain what they can do to increase those odds to 75% or 90% and what it will cost. Those same PMs manage the assignments of their project team members with an understanding that there is risk on each assignment. They use 3-point estimating techniques to get data on the risks.

    Three Point Estimating in Detail

    The 3-point estimating process starts with a discussion with the team member about the risks inherent in their assignment. You discuss the bad risks that will make their assignment take more work and duration (time). You also discuss the good risks that will cause it to take less work and duration (time). Why should you do this step? Because you need an estimating process that addresses the team member’s legitimate concern that bad things will happen on their assignment and they’ll be blamed for not meeting the completion date.  With agreement on the risks in the assignment and work package notes what you will do about them, you go on to the estimates work and duration.

    As the name implies, 3-point estimating requires three estimates for each task. That sounds like it will take a lot of work but it takes a matter of minutes.  You and the team member develop an optimistic estimate, a pessimistic estimate and a best guess estimate for each task. By developing those three estimates, we get estimates that are more accurate from team members and assess the assignment’s degree of risk and the range of durations.

    Padding Estimates

    Before we go on, we need to talk a little bit about risk. When you ask me how long it will take to read this article, I might estimate five minutes. Am I guaranteeing you that no matter what happens I’ll be able to read the whole thing in five minutes? No, what I mean is that 5 minutes is my best guess. That means there is a 50% chance it will take me less than five minutes and a 50% chance it will take me more than five minutes.

    However, if you were my project manager asking me for a task estimate, I would be a little hesitant about giving you an estimate in which there was a 50% chance of an overrun. What I would rather give you is an estimate where I’m 90% confident that I can finish in that amount of time or less. As the project manager, you would probably regard that estimate as padded. As the team member, I feel more comfortable with a 90% estimate. Unfortunately, there is no consistency in the amount of padding your team members will use.

    Reducing Padding

    You want your team members to leave the estimating process knowing that you considered the fact that things can go wrong on a task assignment. That’s why you identified risks at the beginning of the discussion and documented what you could do about the risks. With that recognition of the risks, we move on to gathering data on the impact those risks could have on the assignment. Using the three estimates enables you to do that. It’s better than having a team member give you a single estimate and play the padding game about how certain that estimate is. The three estimates tell you the variability in the task.

    Best Guess, Optimistic and Pessimistic Estimates

    Now let’s start the estimating process.  Your team member estimates that a task has a best guess estimate of 80 hours of work.  That means that 50% of the time it will take more work and 50% of the time it will take less.

    Next, the optimistic work estimate is less work than the best guess.  The optimistic estimate is low enough that the team member thinks they can get the task done for less than the optimistic estimate only 20% of the time.  The task will require more work than the optimistic estimate 80% of the time.

    The pessimistic estimate is more work than the best guess. It is not a “disaster” estimate but we want an estimate that’s based on the bad risks that we identified happening.  The pessimistic estimate is high enough that the team member thinks they can get the task done for less than the pessimistic estimate 80% of the time.  The task will require more work than the pessimistic estimate 20% of the time.

    Now let’s dip our toe into the statistics and look at two tasks, Alpha and Beta, and the calculated work estimates we would use at three different level of confidence (* see formulas below).

    What we did was take the three estimates and use some simple formulas to calculate the task’s work estimates and calculate the mean and standard deviation.  Using standard statistical tables (z-scores from a table of standardized normal deviates); we can take those means and standard deviations and use them to calculate levels of confidence of finishing within the estimate.  In other words, for task Alpha we could say that we have a 50% chance of completing the task with less than 54 hours of work.  For an 80% confidence level, we would calculate that 69 hours of work would be required.  This is the data to use with a client or project sponsor to quantify the cost of higher levels of certainty about a completion date. In the previous example with Alpha, we have to buy an additional 15 hours of work to move from 50% confidence to 80% confidence of getting the task done within the work estimate.  The beta is much less risky task than alpha. The mean work estimates are very close but the standard deviations are very different. To move from the 50% level of confidence that is 50 hours on task beta we would need to increase the work estimate to 51 hours. So for task beta higher levels of certainty a relatively inexpensive. Extending these calculations to the entire project is very easy with a spreadsheet such as the one we use in our classes. It gives project managers the ability to discuss the cost of higher levels of certainty. Sponsors always say they want to be 90% confident of finishing on time. When you present them with the cost of that level of certainty, it often is the case that lower levels of confidence would be acceptable.

    Using 3-Point Estimates

    All of the better project management software packages, such as Microsoft Project®, enable you to use 3-point (PERT) estimates and create a variety of reports that communicate the project’s risks. You can take estimates like those above and calculate the odds of finishing the entire project within various durations.  That information is a solid basis for a discussion with the sponsor about the tradeoffs between cost, scope, duration, risk and staffing levels.

    To learn these 3-point estimating techniques and the entire estimating process, consider our private, online courses where you work individually with your instructor. They are available by phone, video conference or e-mail whenever you have a question or need help on an assignment. We can also deliver a customized training program at your site for up to 25 people. Call us at 303-596-0000 and speak to an instructor.

    *Three point estimating Formulas

    Mean= (4*bg)+OE+PE/6

    SD= (PE-OE)/6

    Probability level = work= Mean + (z-score for probability)*SD

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    What is Project Management and How To Do It

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

    What is project management? It’s a process for producing a predefined result, called a deliverable, on time and within budget. A deliverable can be a highway, an office building, a computer software, a medical records system, a book, a full-length movie and many other things. A project has a specific start and finish date. It is not an on-going effort like managing the organization’s accounting department.

    What is Project Management: It Involves Special Techniques

    There are special techniques for managing projects and they start with creating a plan. The project plan is a document that details what the project is going to deliver (the scope). It is created by the person who wants the project done (the sponsor) and the person who will manage the effort (the project manager). It also defines what resources the project manager needs and how he/she will manage the people working on the project. The project manager meets with people affected by the project, called stakeholders, and learns what they require the project to produce. As the project manager breaks down the scope and requirements into smaller deliverables, they are developing a pyramid of clearly defined deliverables that lead from the smallest tasks up to the largest deliverables. At the top of the pyramid is the project scope. Good project managers focus on deliverables that are defined by metrics.  Here’s an example of a deliverable defined by a metric, “Design a payroll data entry screen with 25 data fields that allow payroll clerks to enter 65 payroll transaction per hour.”  A deliverable that is based on metrics has a number of very important benefits. First, when the project manager assigns deliverables to the project team members, they know exactly what is expected of them before they start work. They don’t have to guess or worry about failing on their assignment because the PM has defined what a good job is in measurable terms.  With that type of assignment, a team member can break it down more accurately and use their experience to plan their approach to their deliverable.

    Second, using deliverables as the basis for the project lets the project manager and team members develop much more accurate estimates of the duration anWhat is a Project Managementd cost of each task. It also lets the PM determine how long the entire project will take and what it will cost. Another effective tool is the work package. The project manager should give each team member a work package which describes their deliverables and details the risks and other factors that will affect their assignment. Then PM and team member use that same work package to develop an estimate of the amount of work in their deliverable(s). This gives the team member something very much like a contract; it explains the expectations the team member must meet.

    Third, managing a project that is built with deliverables gives the PM unambiguous checkpoints to measure how the project is doing versus the approved plan. Each deliverable has a crystal-clear and measurable definition of success so the project manager, sponsor and stakeholders don’t have to guess about the project’s progress. After the project plan is approved, the PM executes it by assigning work to the team members to ensure all the project deliverables get produced. As the team is working on their deliverables, the PM is monitoring their progress, controlling the project schedule, budget and scope and solving any problems. As part of this monitoring and controlling process, the project manager makes periodic status reports to the sponsor who initiated the project. During the executing phase, deliverables are reviewed and accepted as they are produced. The project stakeholders and sponsor examine what the team produced, compare it to the specifications and accept or reject the deliverables. The PM doesn’t wait until the end of the project for the stakeholders to review the deliverables. He/she does it as they are produced so they can identify and fix problems early.

    Fourth, with measured deliverables as a basis for the project plan and schedule, the project manager can do a better job quantifying the impact of change requests. Using the example above, if the user wants to increase the number of fields on the payroll data entry screen from 25 to 30, the PM can use the metric along with project software and revised work estimates to quickly assess the impact of this change on the project budget and completion date.

    After the last of the deliverables has been produced, the project manager closes the project by verifying with the sponsor that the project delivered what they wanted. The project manager will also archive all the data generated by the project so it can be used by other project managers in the future. That information will make it easier to plan similar projects.

    What is Project Management: It’s Leading and Managing People

    In addition to these planning and workflow management techniques, the project manager also has to lead, motivate and manage the project team. And they must build support from other executives in the organization for the project. Last but not least, the project manager has to “manage” the project sponsor who very often will outrank the project manager by several levels. Managing the sponsor requires a great deal of subtlety and tact if the project manager is to ensure that the sponsor plays their important role in defining the scope and controlling the project.

    To learn more about how to use these tools and techniques, consider our online project management courses. You begin whenever you wish and work privately with Dick Billows, PMP, an expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.

    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, 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

     

    Project Manager Role Producing Deliverables

    The project manager is responsible for producing a specified deliverable using organizational staff & materials.  The project manager role requires a wide variety of skills in planning, leading, scheduling, tracking progress and managing teams to produce that specific deliverable. This set of skills is very different from managing a department or a business.

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

    Project Manager Role: Different Than Other Managers

    Several things make a project manager’s job different. Working on the project is often not the team member’s full-time job. They may work on several different projects managed by different project managers or have a position in a functional area. Because of this, the project team often is not very committed to achieving the project’s goal. So the project manager must use their leadership and communication skills to motivate these team members.

    Project managers must also build support for the project among the stakeholders. Stakeholders are the people who will be affected by the project. Very often the stakeholders are executives in the organization who have an interest in the project because it affects their area of responsibility. Project managers must be able to persuade stakeholders to loan their people to the project and possibly supply other kinds of support. What makes it more difficult is that the project manager is usually a relatively low ranking employee and has no formal authority over stakeholders.

    The project manager role also requires technical skills and knowledge that are relevant to the project. The project manager does not have to be the most knowledgeable expert on technical issues. It’s not a problem if members of the project team have more technical expertise than the project manager. That’s why they’re needed on the team.

    The project manager role requires the ability to use the special tools and techniques of project management. These include running the planning and status report meetings, scheduling people and tasks to finish the project as soon as possible, spotting variances to the plan and optimizing the schedule to finish as soon as possible. These tools and techniques can be quite complex, especially when managing a larger project. Becoming a project manager requires a lot of learning as well as mastering leadership and communication skills. These are the keys to a project manager’s success.

    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