Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

About this Blog

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View Posts By:

Cameron McGaughy
Marian Haus
Lynda Bourne
Lung-Hung Chou
Bernadine Douglas
Conrado Morlan
Kevin Korterud
Peter Tarhanidis
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
David Wakeman
Jen Skrabak
Mario Trentim
Shobhna Raghupathy
Roberto Toledo
Joanna Newman
Christian Bisson
Linda Agyapong
Jess Tayel
Rex Holmlin
Ramiro Rodrigues
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Wanda Curlee

Past Contributers:

Jorge Vald├ęs Garciatorres
Hajar Hamid
Dan Goldfischer
Saira Karim
Jim De Piante
Geoff Mattie
sanjay saini
Judy Umlas
Abdiel Ledesma
Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Alfonso Bucero
Kelley Hunsberger
William Krebs
Peter Taylor
Rebecca Braglio
Dmitri Ivanenko PMP ITIL

Recent Posts

Do You Understand the Critical Path Method?

Find Purpose to Unlock Exceptional Performance

What is project success?

Predicting Performance: There Must Be a Better Way

Driving Diversity of Perspective

Do You Understand the Critical Path Method?

Categories: Best Practices, Metrics, Scheduling, Tools

By Ramiro Rodrigues

 

The term path is used for a sequence of activities that are serially related to each other.

 

Imagine, for example, that your colleagues have decided to organize a barbecue. After dividing up the work, you are responsible for hiring the catering services. For this task, you are likely to have to look for recommendations, check availability and prices, analyze the options and then choose the best one. These four activities are a path. In other words, they are a sequence of activities that must be carried out sequentially until a final goal is achieved.

 

A project manager’s job is to estimate the duration of each planned activity. And if we return to our example, we could consider the possible durations:

  • Activity 1: Seek professional recommendations—three days
  • Activity 2: Make contact and check availability and prices—six hours
  • Activity 3: Analyze the options—one day
  • Activity 4: Select the best option and confirm—two hours

 

This sequence of activities will last 40 hours, or five workdays. And since the whole barbecue has been divided among various colleagues, other sequences (or paths) of activities—such as choosing the venue, buying drinks, organizing football, etc.—will also have their respective deadlines.

 

The critical path will be the series of activities that has the longest duration among all those that the event involves.

 

Let's imagine that the longest path is precisely this hiring of the catering services. Since the process is estimated to take five days, the barbecue cannot be held at an earlier time. And if it were held in exactly five days, all the activities involved in the path have no margin for delay. This means that if, for example, my analysis of options is not completed on the date or within the duration planned, then the barbecue provider will not be selected in time, which will invariably lead to the postponement of the barbecue—and leave a bad taste in my co-workers' mouths.

 

Under the critical path method, there is no margin for delay or slack. If there is a delay in any activity on that (critical) path, there will be a delay in the project. At the same time, other "non-critical" paths can withstand limited delays, hence the justification of the term.

 

It is the duration of this path that is setting "critical" information for all projects—when all the work will have been completed.

 

Do you use the critical path method in your work? If so, what are your biggest challenges?

Posted by Ramiro Rodrigues on: September 21, 2018 04:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Find Purpose to Unlock Exceptional Performance

Categories: Benefits Realization, Best Practices, Career Help, Change Management, Communication, Complexity, Facilitation, Generational PM, Human Aspects of PM, Human Resources, Leadership, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Mentoring, New to Project Management, PMI, Program Management, Roundtable, Strategy, Talent Management, Teams, Volunteering

Find Purpose to Unlock Exceptional Performance

By Peter Tarhanidis, MBA, PhD

Purpose

There are three common maturity levels in developing project management leadership:

  • In the first level, the project leader becomes familiar with PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and begins to implement the methods in their initiatives.
  • In the intermediate level, project leaders broaden their abilities by implementing more complex projects and demonstrating a strategic use of the methodology.
  • And in the most mature state, project leaders demonstrate high performance by using advanced project methodology and leadership competencies to take on an organization’s most critical initiatives.

It takes many years to cultivate the skills necessary to execute complex initiatives of all sizes and types. And project leaders may find gratification in the personal development to sustain their performance, as well as their project achievements. 

However, over time, it’s not unusual to lose sight of that passion, excitement and engagement for executing initiatives. Instead, the project leader may default to simply providing the project management administrative activities of project execution. This reversal of development is a leadership pitfall and creates a chasm between high performance and exceptional performance.

One way to bridge the chasm is to be purpose-driven. A defined purpose distinguishes oneself as a distinctive as a brand. A brand is underpinned by one’s education, abilities and accomplishments. By identifying what is central to your interests and commitments, project leaders can re-engage with purpose and unlock exceptional performance. This can be broad or can be very specific in a subject expertise.

I have use the following method to find my brand and define my purpose:

  1. Develop a purpose statement—this is your elevator pitch that quickly and simply defines who you are and what you stand for as a project leader.
  2. Assign annual goals to achieve the purpose and watch your performance increase.
  3. Create a network of relationships that support your purpose and brand.

Having used this approach to define my purpose, I learned I enjoy the macro view of the firm. I regularly coach leaders and help them develop their teams. Therefore, I like to simultaneously drive toward exceptional performance to achieve a firm’s mission and to advance the needs of society.

Please share your purpose and any examples of exceptional performance you achieved toward that purpose.

 

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: September 14, 2018 09:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

What is project success?

Categories: Calculating Project Value, PM Think About It, Project Delivery

by Christian Bisson, PMP

 

Project success is typically defined as being completed within budget, schedule, and scope, and that has been imprinted so much in project managers’ mind that it blinds them to other important aspects that defines a project’s success.

Client Satisfaction

This aspect of project success seem to be more and more popular, and with reason, if clients are not happy, they will shutdown the projects, or proceed with another organization. If your project is on budget, delivered on time, and does exactly what it should be doing, but the client is so unhappy that they ceases to work with the organization, can you consider the project a success?

For example, if you focus so much on being on budget/schedule/scope, that you decline everything the client asks for without a second thought, chances are the client will not want to work with you long term. On the opposite side, giving everything the client wants and ending up late or 200% above budget is not an acceptable alternative. You or the team will often need to be creative to find ways to balance things out, and properly managing the client’s expectations is also key top this.

Project value

Another very important aspect of project success is the value it’s adding. A project that is doing what was planned, but ends up being useless, is not a success.

For example, if you create a great website, the client loves the design, the development phase had only few minor issues that were fixed rapidly so the team is happy, the project is delivered on time, on budget, and does what it’s supposed to do, however, users that go on the website are completely incapable of finding the information they need, and they end up always calling customer service instead, then is that really a success?

It’s important to identify right from the start what metrics will be used to calculate the project’s success, and tie those metrics to features of the website as you go to make sure a feature is not useless or solves an issue that has nothing to do with the project’s objectives..

Organization Satisfaction

The organization that has provided the services needed to make the project happen is also a key aspect to look at to define the project success, and unfortunately often due to lack of transparency from management, can be a challenge.

For example, there are projects that the organization’s management know they will lose money on, but for them it is considered a long-term investment to bring more business. If that’s not communicated, the project manager will see the project as a failure because it’s over budget.

It’s important to have visibility on the organization’s goals and expectations around the project in question.

 

 

What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you use other aspects to define project success?

Posted by Christian Bisson on: September 11, 2018 08:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Predicting Performance: There Must Be a Better Way

Categories: Motivation

By Lynda Bourne

Accurately predicting project outcomes has always been difficult. The standard tools in use today for doing so don’t offer much help. These tools work on the assumption that the planned duration or cost of future work is the best option to use for calculating completion outcomes.

The significant exceptions to this approach are earned value (EV) and earned schedule (ES). EV, ES and some other tools do adjust future performance based on past performance to predict outcomes—and they have demonstrated significantly more accuracy as a consequence. But no mainstream control tools deal with the management opportunity to actively change future performance with the use of incentive and motivation.

The performance of any activity is influenced by:

  • Management competence, in organizing the work and the workers
  • The availability of the right resources, tools and equipment
  • The skill of the workers
  • Workers’ incentives and motivations. Incentives are extrinsic, while motivations are intrinsic.

Incentive Schemes and Motivation Theory

Incentive schemes

Incentives in the form of piece rates have been used since the commercial revolution of the 11th and 12th centuries. Then in the 20th century, a range of more sophisticated payment schemes were introduced by management consultants looking to drive enhanced productivity (some of the better known are outlined in the chart above – click for more information).   

The word “piecework” first appears in writing around the year 1549. Under this system a worker is paid for each piece of work he produces. Since the 16th century, a wide variety of incentive schemes have been developed to encourage productivity by directly linking payments to performance.

Individual schemes are either time-based, with incentives being paid for completing on time or early, or production-based, with workers paid based on the number of items produced.

Group incentive schemes reward team performance by paying a group bonus instead of individual bonuses. The bonus is distributed among all the employees of the organization or team.

From the 1920s onward, management researchers began to realize simple incentive schemes were not sufficient and a range of motivational theories were developed.

Management theorists are still debating whether it is possible to motivate a person or if motivation is an internal state that can be encouraged. However, there is a consistent view that when motivation is increased, productivity increases.

 

The Planning Conundrum

From the 12th century on, managers have known that well-directed incentive schemes can influence worker behaviour. Consequently, we know the productivity of a worker is a variable based on how he or she responds to various incentives and motivators.

Similarly, the emergence of scientific management and other management theories in the 20th century also highlighted the importance of organization and planning of work, and the workspace, in enhancing productivity. Improvements are always possible.

However, these concepts are largely ignored in project planning and control disciplines. Plans are set based on estimates made at the beginning of the project and rarely changed; at best, tools such as EV adjust future estimates based on performance to date.

What seems to be missing is a process that takes an objective look at productivity and identifies the changes needed to improve productivity to the levels needed to achieve project objectives. The concepts of process improvement and total quality management exist in general management and are mentioned in the A Guide to the Product Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), but no one seems to have moved these concepts into the domain of project planning and controls.

How do you think we could better approach the management of future work to enhance productivity and deliver better outcomes?

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: September 08, 2018 07:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

Driving Diversity of Perspective

Categories: Best Practices

by Dave Wakeman 

It’s easy to assume that the people we work with have the same viewpoint as we do about the projects we’re working on and the jobs we’re doing. 

That’s often not the case. In every instance, people are going to see the project differently than we do. And that’s not a bad thing. 

This diversity of perspective can have a positive impact on our projects in several ways:

It can lead to new solutions. 

In your projects, you might know the big picture, but your team doesn’t always know it. That’s great because they can give you a different perspective about what is going on inside a project and some ideas for solutions.  

You can encourage them to bring these ideas to you by wandering around. According to business guru Tom Peters, leaders should work to create opportunities for conversations that are spontaneous and often insightful. 

It can give rise to new experts.

The old days of command-and-control project management is over—dead and buried. 

In today’s world, it is unlikely that you are going to be an expert in most areas of your project. This provides a tremendous opportunity because you can actually use your lack of expertise to encourage other people to share theirs. 

Often team members don’t get to communicate their expertise because the communications systems that we have put in place don’t allow specific expertise to bubble up. 

To make the most of the diversity of expertise on your project, spend some time consciously asking people for their opinions about the project, their tasks, milestones and things they have learned. 

This can be during meetings or outside of any formal setting or process, but the key is to encourage as much sharing and communication as you can. 

It can free project leaders from having to have all the answers.

The problem with leadership roles is that we often feel compelled to have an answer, even the answer. 

The problem is that no one has all of the answers. The other problem is that all too often our egos get in the way and we feel like we have to give all the answers or give the final decision no matter what. 

This can hold us back. To maximize the impact of the diversity of your teams, you have to recognize that you don’t need to be the know-it-all. You just have to be willing and able to understand various points of view, ideas and explanations. Then you must be able to take action and get people onboard. 

So, how are you taking advantage of a diversity of perspective? 

BTW, if you like this blog, I do a weekly newsletter focused on value, leadership, strategy and more. I'm happy to send it to you, just drop me a note at dave@davewakeman.com with newsletter in the subject line. 

Posted by David Wakeman on: August 23, 2018 01:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)
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