Rich Maltzman (LinkedIn Profile) and Jim Stewart (LinkedIn Profile) are back on the program today to talk about Goblins… no… wait… [furiously checks notes]... Ahhh… no. Sorry. My fault. No goblins today.
Instead, the focus is on preparing a facilitated project planning meeting. We look at resolving any looming unaddressed issues before the meeting starts, how to make sure that the financial investment of a planning meeting actually pays off, and then Rich and Jim talk us through about 8 actionable activities they recommend you do in order to plan the meeting right.
The interview is based on Chapter 8 : Preparing for the Facilitated Project Planning Meeting of their book How to Facilitate Productive Project Planning Meetings - A Practical Guide to Ensuring Project Success. Therefore, we close the discussion with the number one thing that each of them has personally learned about running a good project planning meeting while they were researching and writing the book… good stuff.
As you study for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam or even during your practice as a PMP® credentials holder, you may end up questioning if a change request is required when a defect is found in a project. That seems like a complex question but has a very simple answer – Yes. You may be wondering if that still holds true if it is a minor fix? For something that would be a small quick repair? Something you are not even sure needs to be fixed or even impacts the project? How about if the defect repair would take less time than filling out the change request form? The answer is still…Yes.
How do we get to a yes, each time? Let’s take a look at a few definitions within A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) - Sixth Edition. First, as you probably know, it is the Perform Integrated Change Control process that governs everything concerning changes on a project. Per the PMBOK® Guide, “Perform Integrated Change Control is the process of reviewing all change requests; approving changes to deliverables, project documents, and the project management plan; and communicating the decisions.” (pg. 113).
What is a change request?
A change request is a formal proposal to make a change on the project, and per the PMBOK® Guide “may be a corrective action, a preventive action, or a defect repair” (pg. 93). Defect repair, in turn, is “an intentional activity to modify a nonconforming product or product component” (pg. 96). Lastly, depending on the policies and procedures of your organization, you may need to gain approval for change requests from a change control board (CCB) which is defined by the PMBOK® Guide “as a formally chartered group responsible for reviewing, evaluating, approving, deferring, or rejecting changes to the project and recording and communicating such decisions” (pg. 115).
Ideally, projects would be completed without any defect repairs being needed, but since that is fairly unrealistic, projects typically build in some time, funding, and resources to deal with repairs that are needed as the project progresses and at the end once final testing has been completed.
Let’s take a look at a practical example. You are leading a software development project. One of its deliverables is a web interface where users can fill out a form and submit it using the “Submit” button. According to the specifications, the "Submit" button should be green. A tester finds the button is red. Is this a bug, or using formal language, a defect? Yes. Should it be repaired? Likely yes. One may argue it depends. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s assume the color of the button is one of the acceptance criteria. If the deliverable is not accepted, the defect should be repaired.
First things first - how should the tester notify the developer there is a defect? It depends on the organization’s policies and culture. The tester could send an email, make a phone call, or even visit the developer to discuss what they have found. How are defects typically reported and tracked? Through the use of defect tracking tools such as Bugzilla, JIRA, Plutora, etc.
Once the developer is made aware of the bug (aka defect) they then can analyze it. Hopefully, they are able to identify the root cause, can provide options to fix it (such as using configuration or hard coding) to make the button green, and are also able to provide an estimate on how long it will take to correct the defect.
When the developer has completed their analysis, what happens next? The basic process calls for a bug (defect) review meeting to be held where each bug is discussed along with their suggested repairs, impact on the deliverable and other factors, and a decision is made to approve, reject or defer the suggested repairs. Assuming the repair is approved, the developer will implement the fix, and the deliverable of a green “Submit” button will be accepted. Everyone is happy with the end result.
Does every defect repair require a change request?
Let’s take a look again at what has just happened here in the context of the primary question: Does every defect repair require a change request?
The tester has filled out the defect report in the bug tracking tool. That report was a formal proposal to modify the deliverable (the web interface). A formal proposal to modify a deliverable is the definition of a change request. A change request does not have to be a fancy 10-page document, it can be a napkin if that is what your organization accepts. A bug tracking tool described in the scenario was just an example of what could be utilized to submit a change request in instances when a defect is found. The change request in our example documented the expected result (green button), the actual result (red button), provided a unique ID number for the defect, and any other details an organization wishes to track. Whatever tool is used, we hope it is clear now that a change request should be submitted each time a defect repair is required on a project.
Does every change request require approval of the change control board (CCB)?
Another related question is: Does every change request require approval of the change control board (CCB)? This answer is not so simple, as it depends. A defect repair requires resources and often impacts a project schedule, each of which can add costs to the project. When those costs require funds beyond what was established for the project, or if allotted funds for defect repairs have been exhausted, then a CCB is often consulted for approval. Some organizations require the involvement of the CCB for all change requests. Others do not have CCB at all, and in that case, often additional approval beyond the project manager’s one will likely be needed if the change request to repair a defect will require additional funding. In some cases, the change management plan may specify that changes of up to a specific amount of money (for example, $10,000) can be approved by the project manager alone, otherwise, the change request would need to be submitted to the CCB for approval.
Does every change request trigger the Perform Integrated Change Control (PICC) process?
Finally, does every change request trigger the Perform Integrated Change Control (PICC) process? Yes, it does. In the example above, the tester reported the defect, the developer analyzed the defect and provided a suggested correction with estimated time to repair. A defect review meeting then took place to decide if the suggestion would be accepted. What has just been described matches the definition of the PICC process where changes are submitted, reviewed, and decisions made. Like with the change request that can be submitted using a fancy tool or just a simple napkin, the PICC process does not have to be extremely formal and involve the CEO and all project stakeholders. The way the process is implemented depends on a variety of factors such as the organization itself, the change management plan, and even the specific project.
The thing to remember is every defect repair, no matter how small or inconsequential it may seem, requires a change request. Completing a change request triggers the Perform Integrated Change Control process, and depending on the organization, the change request may or may not require to be submitted to a change control board for approval.
It is a question that we hear often from our PMP® exam prep students in the discussion forums. For example, Gunaseelan asked, “What all are the project documents which requires approved change requests to get updated?” Housam had a similar question.
Let’s face it: keeping on top of project management paperwork can be a big job. There are documents to create, get signed off and updated. And then there’s finding the information again when you need to revise or use it… A project manager is never far away from a document!
What I want to focus on in this article is the process for updating documents and also include some tips for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)defines a change request as a formal proposal to modify any document, deliverable or baseline. But does that really mean that you need to do a change request every time you want to add a new risk to your risk log? That would be really time consuming and add a lot of extra administrative overhead to the job of updating project management documents.
In this article we’ll dive into when you need a change request to update a project document and when you don’t.
And unfortunately it isn’t a totally straightforward answer!
What Change Requests Are For
Change requests are there to help you keep control of the document. They ensure that if an important project document is going to change, everyone knows what that change is and how it could affect other project assets.
For example, if you update your Resource Management Plan, that might have an implication for the project schedule or budget.
Change requests bring transparency to this process and also a degree of formality. This can help stop stakeholders asking for lots of little changes; the fact they know they have to go through a formal process might make them think twice!
What The PMBOK® Guide Says
So what does the PMBOK® Guide say about the documents that are subject to this process? Actually, not a great deal.
The PMBOK® Guide doesn’t clarify the documents that require a change request, and equally it doesn’t say which documents don’t require one. It just says “any document” but if you have worked in projects you’ll know that this isn’t what happens in real life.
Change Requests Are Required For Controlled Documents
There is useful guidance in the PMBOK® Guide about the types of documents that we have on projects. This is split between “controlled” documents and everything else — the “non-controlled” documents.
Basically, the Project Management Plan (with all its subsidiary plans and baselines) is considered to be a controlled document, while all the rest are non-controlled documents.
That gives us a handy rule of thumb. If a change would require a modification to any of the Project Management Plan documents (controlled documents), then a formal change request should be issued.
This should be submitted to the Change Control Board (CCB) for consideration and possibly approval. However, if the change would only affect a non-controlled document, such as the issue log (for example, because you were updating it with a new issue), then no change request is required.
However, you will have to exercise your professional judgement. The milestone list, for example, is a project document that might not fall within your Project Management Plan. If a change to a milestone was approved, it would likely require the project schedule to be amended, which would most likely require a change to the schedule baseline, which is part of the Project Management Plan. The Project Management Plan is a controlled document, so that particular change would require a change request.
The trick is thinking through what needs to happen at every stage. While the first document that gets updated might be non-controlled, there is possibly an impact on another document that should also be taken into consideration.
What About The Project Charter?
The Project Charter is not a controlled document and it doesn’t change very often. However, instead of editing the text within the document if you do need to modify it for any reason, you can add an addendum. This is a short section at the back that details the updates or changes within the document.
It’s useful to keep this separate as it gives you the ability to see what has changed from the original Charter.
When You Don’t Need A Change Request
Generally, you don’t need a change request to update a document that is not considered “controlled”, like the Project Charter.
There is also one situation when you don’t need a change request to update your Project Management Plan. That’s when the plan is still being developed. If your plan is not yet approved, you don’t need to get a change request approved in order to modify any part of it. Phew! At this point in the project when you are putting the plan together it is likely to change often, so that’s one less thing to worry about!
The act of getting your Project Management Plan approved is the first sign off for this document, which creates the baseline. Any future changes are effectively deviations from the original document that was approved, and they would need a change request so that the impact can be understood and acted on.
PMP® Exam Questions on Updating Documents
Questions about which documents need to be updated, and which would need a change request, could come up in your PMP Exam.
The correct answer will heavily depend on the question and the context in which the question is asked. Therefore, we always recommend that students make reasonable assumptions based on all the available information in the question. Then select the best answer from the choices given. It will not always be the ideal answer, but it should be the best option from those provided.
Remember to think about the implications of a change on a project. Frequently, if a change request is issued and approved, different types of project documents are likely to be updated. Think of how many times you can see that ‘Project Documents Update’ is one of the outputs from one of the processes — it’s a lot!
Project management documents help to keep your project under control. Managing them, updating them and ensuring the right versions are available to the right people goes a long way to reducing the headaches on a project. Hopefully these tips will help you manage your documentation, whether a change request is required or not.
The one thing that I really like about project management is how unpredictable my days can sometimes be. I come to the office in the morning with a clear plan of what I’m going to do and then something happens. I love this challenge because as a project manager, I now have to re-evaluate the situation and change my plans accordingly.
But there is more to it than just responding with a knee-jerk reaction. These times demand situational awareness, and you need skill and finesse to handle changing demands effectively. Situational awareness is an important skill to build as a project manager and in this article we’ll look at what it is and how you can use it on your projects.
This article is based on an interview that I recorded with Oliver Lehmann, MSc., PMP. We did the interview because “Situational Project Management” was recently added to the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam Content Outline, and Oliver has published a book on the topic (see link at end). So if you are currently in the middle of your PMP exam prep, then you can expect to see questions about situational project management on your exam. Therefore the article is not intended as a book review but as an introduction to the topic.
What is Situational Awareness?
Situational awareness builds on a very simple observation: the tools, practices, behaviors, and approaches that are successful in one situation may fail in another. Simple best practices may sometimes match the situation you find yourself in and create a great outcome, and other times sometimes they might lead to disaster.
You should always ask yourself: Am I doing the right thing for the situation, the moment and the environmental context that I am in now?
Situational project management begins with the same observation. One behavior, tool or technique may lead to success on a project in a specific situation and fail on a different one. The best project managers can analyze the situations and make adjustments as needed.
What is Situational Leadership?
Situational leadership is also something you’ll use on your projects. It refers to applying your leadership skills in a way that is relevant to the situation. Use the situational awareness principle of the right tool for the right situation and make your leadership calls appropriately.
You might have to do that because it’s impossible to plan ‘right now’ on your project. Maybe you are taking things step by step and making decisions as you go, based on the results of your actions.
Some leadership situations are the opposite, where you can see far into the future and perform considerable a long-term project planning. Essentially, you have to flex your style to suit the project and the moment.
How To Apply Situational Awareness
What this really means in practice is that slavishly following a methodology isn’t the most effective route to success. You are applying your professional judgment to every project decision, ensuring that you’re making the best choices at that time, given the circumstances.
You probably do this already, perhaps not methodologically but by instinct, or based on your ‘gut feelings’. In order to do this you have to be aware of the context of your project and the situation you are working in.
Let’s look at an example. Two recent rail projects in Germany involved building two new mainline stations: one in Berlin and one in Stuttgart. One project was a huge success; the other ran into deep difficulties. The projects were run by the same organization, Deutsche Bahn (German Railway). They used the same methodologies and approaches and even the same project manager. So why was the work successful in one city and unsuccessful in another?
The Berlin main station was a green field project using open space that used to signify the gap between East and West Berlin. It was possible to build there without having to take local stakeholders into much consideration. Stuttgart station was built in the middle of a city, where it was necessary to heavily involve local stakeholders, especially as people became afraid for their homes when the tunneling started. The project manager was not prepared to engage with local stakeholders and essentially that is what caused the crisis for that project. A lack of situational awareness and situational leadership led to local disruption that cost the project significantly.
How to Make A Situational Assessment
If you find yourself in a situation that is changing on your project, take a moment to ground yourself and reflect. Ask yourself: What is the situation that I’m currently in? Think about the project, the problem you are facing and the wider project environment. Consider the requirements of the situation on you as the project manager, on the project sponsor and on other important stakeholders.
Can you explain your behavior? Make sure that if someone asked you to write down why you made those choices and used that behavior that you could justify it. It’s especially important to check that you aren’t emotional and to consider the causes and purposes of your behavior.
Are these choices compliant with the needs of the project? Finally, check that you are making decisions in this situation that are allowed within the context of your work. Consider regulation, the requirements of your customer and manager, and the normal practices that would be expected in this situation.
Situational Leadership: Team Development
Situational leadership is a great way to develop your team as well. Think about how you are going to support the learning needs of your project team members, the ones that make up your core team. Like any other team manager, these people are your leadership team.
Leadership team development is about giving your core project team the skills they need to perform their assigned activities on the project, and you as a situational leader will be able to judge what is required at any given moment in time.
One of the primary things to focus on is helping to reduce complacency across the team. When they have done something before and have been successful, a situational leader will challenge them by asking if it be successful this time. Don’t let your team fail because they fail to be situationally aware.
Making An Ethical Situational Assessment
Assessing the situation on a project means being aware of shades of gray, which you have probably experienced on your own projects.
There’s one moment where you have to be very firm in your beliefs and that’s when the situation is about your professional integrity. When it comes to questions of bribery, corruption, or discrimination based on gender, on skin color, religion, or whatever it is, you should be “unsituational”.
Use your knowledge of the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to help guide you in making the right decision, or talk to your mentor or another professional associate you trust for advice.
Developing Your Situational Awareness
The more experience you have as a project manager, the easier it will be for you to make appropriate judgments when dealing with changing situations on your projects. However, solid training is a good shortcut for this when you don’t have time to wait until you’ve gained 30 years of practical experience.
The Book Situational Project Management: The Dynamics of Success and Failure written by Oliver Lehmann is available at Amazon.
Recently we’ve seen a trend: The Project Management Institute (PMI)® appears to be doing more Project Management Professional (PMP)® audits. That’s where they review your application in detail prior to approving you to take the PMP® Exam.
But there’s another part to this trend: we are seeing more people failing audits and reaching out for help. If that’s you, don’t worry: I’ve got you covered with this article. And if you are in the middle of your PMP training and preparing your application right now, read on: I have some great tips to help you avoid the headaches audits can bring.
Why PMI® Does Audits
First, you should know that being selected for an audit is random. There’s nothing on your application that flagged it as being worthy of a second look. PMI does, however, reserve the right to audit any candidate at any time – that’s clear in the PMP Handbook.
PMI does audits to ensure the standing of the PMP credential. The application team wants to make sure that their policies are fair and that they are only moving people to the next stage of the process who are eligible for the credential.
In other words, audits protect you because they ensure the value of the PMP credential stays high. As PMI can’t subject every application to an audit, they select a proportion to review.
The Audit Ensures That You Are a Project Manager who Leads & Directs Projects
One reason that the PMP credential has such a high regard around the world is the fact that it is reserved for a very particular group of people: project managers who lead and direct projects. And the audit ensures that you - the applicant - meet this qualification. So let’s make sure of that:
If you or the work you are responsible for do not meet all of these criteria then you should not apply for the exam.
Where the PMP Audit Fits Into the Application Process
If you are selected for a PMP audit you’ll find out by email after your payment has been processed.
You’ll have 90 days to provide the information that the audit team needs. Once you’re successfully out the other side of the audit, your one-year examination eligibility period starts.
How You Can Fail The PMI Audit
There are 3 ways that your application could result in an audit failure:
1. No Fault
Top Reasons For Failing The Audit (And How To Avoid Them)
So what could result in your application failing the audit process? Here are some of the top reasons we have gleaned from students and what you can do to avoid them happening to you.
Your experience entries do not meet the requirements of the PMP credential
The work experience you’ve listed is not aligned with the project management process areas (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling and closing). It might not be possible for PMI to see what role you took on the project. They need to see that you lead and directed the project.
They also need evidence that you have experience in each of the process areas. You don’t have to show experience in every area for every project but the totality of your application should document that you have experience that stretches across the whole of the Exam Content Outline.
You’ve submitted experience that wasn’t on projects
PMI doesn’t care about the work you do outside of projects. If you are not clear enough to determine whether they are truly projects, PMI may deem that experience inadmissible.
You’ve grouped information about multiple projects
PMI wants to review what you did on each individual project and your application will be rejected if you group information about multiple projects.
You included voluntary projects
While working on projects unpaid can give you considerable experience, for the PMP® application PMI only wants to see projects that “represent professional and compensated work.” If you include voluntary work this could cause you to fail.
You didn’t submit all the required audit information in one go
PMI requires that you send all your audit information back in one bundle. If they receive an incomplete submission from you, that’s an automatic fail.
Boost Your Chances of Success
Going through an audit isn’t the end of the world. If your application is solid, the audit process doesn’t take long and you can start preparing for your exam. If you want to avoid the extra steps and stress that an audit might bring, it helps to have an experienced PMP coach review your application. This can give you confidence and ensure that your investment in your application has the best possible chance of success.
You might also choose to use a PMP coach if you’re preparing a new application after failing an audit. They can help you select appropriate, different projects that are new for PMI’s review: the audit team may not pass projects that previously failed.
If you’ve been audited once you should expect to be audited on your next application. It might not happen: but it’s highly possible. Using the tips in this article you’ll be well prepared in case that happens.
About the author: Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 40,000 students prepare for the PMP Exam with The Project Management PrepCast at http://www.pm-prepcast.com and The PM Exam Simulator at http://www.pm-exam-simulator.com.