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Build a Better Risk Plan by Pretending to Fail

by Donald Charles Wynes

Do you have team members that don't want to be seen as negative thinkers, thus hindering your risk management efforts? This PM decided to turn things around and came up with a technique that turns finding a threat into a positive thing.

Topic Teasers Vol. 76: Curing Repetitive Problems

by Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP

Question: It’s always something! No matter how carefully I plan or how energetically my team works, there is always some issue that rises up to prevent us from feeling like our projects are really successful--either for us or for our organization. And the frustrating part is that the same things don’t happen each time. I don’t see any project processes that we can implement to solve this issue. Ideas?
A. You are using the incorrect project processes. If you have exhausted the ones commonly used in the United States, try PRINCE II, DSDM or DSDM Atern (agile). They have a 96.43% success rate in European countries.
B. While PMI standards try to pass along the collective wisdom of experienced, active colleagues, there are always so many unique situations that these can only be general guidelines. Sometimes you have to develop your own process to stop failures or quasi-missteps that aren’t happening in other places.
C. When projects fail, it is usually the organization’s internal processes that are at fault. If they tie your hands or don’t provide you with the lines of communication you need, you are powerless to succeed with even the most talented and dedicated team.
D. It is a misconception that any projects can achieve 100% of their goals. Average the cost, schedule and quality rates for the last 100 projects completed in your organization. If you meet those metrics, you have done an exemplary job as the project manager. Update these statistics to set new goals each quarter.
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Team Stress Management

by Andy Jordan

No matter how hard we try to prevent it, there are times when our project teams feel overwhelmed. How do we manage those stressful times effectively?

Testing From 40,000 Feet: Types and Purposes of Tests

by Wayne Watts

Testing is crucial to risk management, allowing components and systems to be put through their paces. Ignoring testing can lead to disastrous consequences, possibly even cancellation of the project. Gain an understanding of the purpose of different types of testing and where each type is appropriate.

Topic Teasers Vol. 75: Falling Down On Risks

by Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP

Question: We’re kind of loosey-goosey on risk assessment on the projects where I work. A colleague is sitting for the PMP® exam and asked me about qualitative versus quantitative. I’m embarrassed to admit I can’t recall why the difference in the terms, but more importantly should I be using one or both on my current work? What’s the big deal?
A. If you are already certified and your projects are going well, there is no need to worry about risk assessment. These ways to evaluate risk are only for projects where public health or safety concerns are involved.
B. A rough consideration of “what could go wrong” is all that’s needed with most projects. If your projects fail to meet the time, cost or quality metrics over 79.6% of the time, you should use quantumtative assessment processes to try to find the issues.
C. Risk assessment is only mandatory on all projects that exceed a $1 million dollar budget or are being done for a governmental or international client. Regulations and your contract will both state qualitative and quantitative reports must be created.
D. For frequent small projects with standing teams that use internal resources and do little damage to the organization if they are slightly late, you may be able to get by with a very cursory consideration of project risks. But every project manager should know how and when to up their surveillance, especially if they want to move up to more complex assignments.
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The Importance of Department Ground Rules

by Erick Pino

Organizational values, project boundaries and performance expectations are all important areas that exist within every organization with varying degrees of thought and implementation behind them. Here we look at how organizational rules and norms are presented and communicated to employees and project team members, and how they can be interpreted.

Assumptions Analysis

by Stacy King

The application of assumptions analysis aids in the prevention of unnecessary work within the planning process group, which has an overall positive time and cost impact on the remaining process groups. Utilizing assumptions analysis lays the foundation for teaching the impact of prevention early on in the project's lifecycle.

Project Levels: So You Think You Know What a Level-4 Project Plan Is?

by Wayne Ragas

Outside of the discipline of cost engineering, the concept of project levels isn’t well documented. That hasn’t stopped the spread of the concept, but without supporting documentation, project managers have been left to make up their own definitions. Let’s question our own creative definitions by exploring some common themes, then look at a best practice to help clear the fog. Finally, we’ll apply what we learn to our own projects and programs.

The Importance of Project Preparation

by Kenneth Darter, PMP

No matter how much money or people are thrown at a project, it will not be successful without the proper amount of preparation. There is much that can be accomplished prior to the work beginning, and throughout the project there are key activities that must be done in order to support the project correctly.

Continuity Risk as a New Classification in Project Risk Management

by Ilango Vasudevan, PMP, MBCI, TOGAF, CSCP

Continuity risks directly impact an organization’s ability to continue its services or objectives. Drawing on the best practices of business continuity management (BCM), the author explains how formulating a responsive plan to manage continuity risk provides benefits to robust project performance.

Resolving Conflict in Project Management

by Syed Moiz

All conflicts—no matter how big or small—are harmful to projects. They all impact time, cost and our credibility. Let's bring into focus the importance of managing conflicts to ensure that our projects succeed.

Topic Teasers Vol. 74: Rescuing Failing Projects

by Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP

Question: A major strategic project in my company has failed! The current project manager has been reassigned and I have been asked to take over. The spotlight will be focused on me and my team, and while we have the chance to be heroes, we can also end up tarnishing our own reputations. Any innovative ways to pick up a messy assignment mid-stream and up our chances of beating the odds for success?
A. Start by meeting with the previous project manager to ascertain which people, vendors, stakeholders and unavoidable events led to the failure. As you plan your own Work Breakdown Structure, restaff with new, more competent employees and other surrounding people.
B. Start by calculating how much you have left in the budget and on the timeline and make sure the plans you create will not further stretch the company financially. This is the most important factor in having your outcomes ultimately checked in the “success” column.
C. Often, teams picking up previously failed projects start with what went wrong, who is to blame and how to avoid making the same mistakes. Find a more innovative approach if you want to have the outcome be positive this time.
D. A savvy first step that will jell your worth in the mind of management is to question whether or not this project should be completed at all. If you can convince them that it is an impossible quest, too expensive or beyond the scope of what your internal team can undertake, they may cancel it completely, leaving you without the risk of failure.
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Medical Device Product and Project Risk Management

by Claudia Campbell-Matland, PMP

How do you do both at the same time and not pull your hair out? This article explores the alignment of medical device product and project risk management--and leveraging product risk tools for project risk.

Topic Teasers Vol. 73: Multi-year/Complex Projects

by Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP

Question: When projects are a normal length, I’m experienced. But now I’m being asked to head a multi-year project that promises to be very complex. Is it just frying fish in a bigger pan, or are there special procedures to know when the undertaking is massive and international, or even just longer and involving more personnel than normal?
A. Long-term projects are challenging and offer a great sense of accomplishment, but there are some risks and procedural modifications to layer onto your usual processes if you hope to be successful. Thinking ahead is crucial, as any errors or missed estimates are magnified.
B. Large projects are scary at first, but because you have so much time and such a large budget, it is easier to balance small errors and still come out within your original metrics. Just be sure the team is signed to a contract of at least six months past the estimated completion date.
C. Projects that will take more than six months and exceed $1 million dollars need more than one project manager. The escalation metric is simple: each quarter on the corporate calendar and each quarter of a million dollars added to the budget equal one additional project manager.
D. Create a rolling staff plan for this endeavor, as people will get too bored and lose their ability to find creative solutions when a project drags on. Perhaps manning it with team members from a third-party staffing service is the most efficient choice.
Pick your answer then Test Your Knowledge!

Successful Project Management: All the Little Things

by Fernando Smye

A solid business case, a well-thought-out plan and fit-for-purpose business requirements are important. But what about "all the little things" that we do each and every day, things that--when added together--help create the recipe for successful projects and programs?

A 3 Step UX-Inspired Process for Achieving High Benefits Realization

by Dmitri Khanine

Do we have to wait until after the project is delivered and handed over to operations to see if it was a good investment? This article will provide practical advice and a proven user research process you can use today to improve your benefits realization management .

Three Strategies to Mitigate Project Team Attrition Risk

by Jhonasttan Regalado

What happens when a project manager faces team attrition? This article covers three strategies that can be applied during project planning, executing and controlling within the project human resources management and project risk management knowledge areas.

Topic Teasers Vol. 70: Compliance Challenges

by Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP

Question: We need to make some alterations in the way we manage our internal software and the access employees have to protected data. Now an audit shows we need to make specific changes immediately or pay a huge fine. Is there any way to avoid this embarrassment in the future and protect our public image?
A. International and federal regulations must be complied with, and knowing which regulations apply to your type of business so you can merge compliance into your plans at the project level will help satisfy the mandatory requirements to avoid large fines in the future.
B. Most staff members are reluctant to move forward with required changes to their daily routine, whether technological or manual. To get their cooperation and meet the audit list, fire the first three people who speak out in opposition. Setting an example clearly conveys that this change will occur with or without the agreement of the employees.
C. If your organization has been running smoothly and profitably, ask the legal team to search the past rulings to find ways to avoid altering the violation items listed by the compliance inspectors.
D. Each type of business has a single federal mandate to govern how they manage their profits. Know that the depreciation versus capitalization of corporate expenses should be recorded and tracked to meet audit specifications.
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Slashing Risks with User Experience Engineering (Part 4)

by Dmitri Khanine

This is the fourth and final installment in this series on using the latest UX methods for focusing on the right problems and slashing requirements-based risks. In this installment, we will be validating designs, using our prototypes for conducting usability tests.

Slashing Risks with User Experience Engineering (Part 3)

by Dmitri Khanine

What is UX, and why should you pay attention? In the first article, we looked at the seven key UX activities involved in collecting accurate insights, modelling and validating our designs. Part 2 focused exclusively on the key differences of modern user research methods from traditional requirements-gathering activities. Now we look at building prototypes that will make it easy for us to later validate our solutions with usability testing.

Slashing Risks with User Experience Engineering (Part 2)

by Dmitri Khanine

In Part 1, we introduced the idea of User Experience Engineering (UX) and the core tools and processes we use today to conduct user research. Here we continue by showing the core principle that all user research is based on--and how you can use it to combat scope creep and other requirements-based risks right now.

Divide and Direct

by Ronald B. Smith

Dividing your project into smaller parts that are more controllable helps you move closer to your ultimate goal: successfully achieving your project deliverables and high user satisfaction. Follow these seven tips to gain more direct control over your project.


"To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play and the childlike desire for recognition."

- Albert Einstein