Project Management in Real Life

Sharing my Project Management adventures and some tips. I try to keep my articles brief and to the point. Project Management is an Art, Science, and Discipline.

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The Project Presentation

The Problem Solver

My Project Management Zen Moment

The Project Manager with dirty hands

I need to make this Meeting happen

The Microsoft Project Plan with subprojects


You have created a meticulous Work Breakdown Structure of all the tasks for your project. The next step is to transfer that WBS to your MS Project plan. You created a very impressive project plan with over 10,000 entries. All you have to do now is maintain the plan to keep it fresh.

Are you kidding? The project scope has changed. My project plan has over 10,000 entries with start dates and finish dates. My masterpiece is ruined! I spent one month creating that project plan after the official sign off on the project.

Take a deep breath. All you have to do now is create as many as needed MS Project plans to address the additional scope. For example you can create five small MS Project plans to address the additional scope.

Great, I now have six plans to maintain for the same project. Yes, you have six projects, but you can turn those scope creepers into subprojects by creating five tasks in your master project at the appropriate areas in the project plan. MS Project can insert a project into a project, resulting in subprojects in the master project.

When you bring up your master project all the subprojects will be there creating an illusion of one MS Project plan. Well, there will be a MS Project icon next to the line number in the MS Project master plan indicating a linked project. The subproject line numbers will start with a 1 - 97 for example, they do not renumber the master project plan.

A suggestion for large projects. Create a master project and subprojects to help make the management of the plan a pleasant experience. As much as possible we diligently gather the project requirements to build a project plan that will have minimal additions, but we need to respond quickly to incorporate the additional requirements that gets approved and needs to be incorporated into the master project plan.

There is a plus to the birth of subprojects. From a reporting standpoint you can show how much additional effort was introduced into the original project. You can create reports from the subprojects and of course you can create reports of the master project with all the subprojects that are linked to it giving you the big picture.

When you are disciplined to create a master MS Project plans that employs subprojects, you gain flexibility in the master plan. You now have an Agile project plan to address the thing that go bump in the night from those sponsors and stakeholders.

Posted on: June 09, 2018 09:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Waterfall or Agile, that is the Question

The dilemma of Waterfall or Agile.

Organizations should never declare that they are leaving Waterfall to be a full Agile organization. In defense of Agile you can't remain only on Waterfall. The problem is the lack of education and false perception. Education will help to get everyone on the same page. It's all about having clarity in the perception of Waterfall and Agile.

I can't make up my mind so let's flip a coin.

Waterfall is here to stay and it needs to play nicely with Agile. Opposites attract. Agile and Waterfall make a nice hybrid. The rule of thumb is to use what will work best to deliver project results. Did a stakeholder or sponsor ever ask you what approach did you use on the project? I don't think so. The stakeholder or sponsor could care less. It's all about guiding the team efficiently through the project to make happy stakeholders and sponsors with a project delivered on-time.

The Waterfall-Agile hybrid marriage.

The ship needs to raise the anchor and leave the harbor to make it to it's port of call on time. Many projects still follow a linear path to the finish line, but they have requirements not fully designed or approved. With tight deadlines you can't wait till the requirements dust settles to start the project. Use the approved requirements that you have to create a project plan timeline. Mark the the areas in the project plan timeline that are still waiting for the requirements dust to settle with a "Under Construction - Come Back Later" notation, hint hint, that is an example of Agile in the plan. The Project Manager is the Captain of the ship that will use his/her discretion to direct the team aka the crew on what needs to be done. The project plan timeline is the map to the destination.

They love colors, stats, and no budget variance.

The Project Sponsor is not interested in a dog and pony show. Using Waterfall in the plan will help give the sponsors that warm and fuzzy simple report card. What is the color of the project via Stoplight reporting along with the current project completion percentage. Hey look Mom no budget variance to report.

Posted on: May 24, 2018 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (27)

The High Risk Project

Project Management has been around from the beginning of time. Just think about the wonders of the world that have been built. A form of project management had to have been used to accomplish such feats. The Romans and Egyptians are examples of accomplishing amazing construction projects with only primitive tools and slaves. The use of slaves must have been ingrained into project teams through the years to joke about Project Managers being slave drivers.     

Fast forward to modern times. Project Management is a critical discipline to ensure successful delivery of projects on time within the budget. Projects are tied to a budget with a reasonable variance for the bumps in the road that could pop up. The bumps in the road are the project risks that should be identified and monitored all the time. The entire team needs to be onboard with open communication to immediately report any risks that are starting to materialize. If you stick your head in the sand and hope that the risk goes away without any mitigation, good luck, get your resume ready. 

The person overseeing the entire high profile project needs to be transparent, accessible and have integrity. Knowing when to say timeout takes guts when it's starting to look bad. Slapping on workarounds for deficiencies that eventually catch up with the project is just pure stupidity. Money and time are just wasted and your competency will questioned. 

Having an unrealistic attitude that we have put in many hours and spent big money on the project already so it's unstoppable because we are at the point of no return will not work in your favor. Any failing project can be shutdown to repurpose it or dismantle it to stop further financial loss. Repurpose or dismantling will come at a cost, but if you continue on with a poorly planned project that should have never gotten a green light to proceed, you better have deep pockets to keep funding that White Elephant. A lot of people will be outraged and at the same time relieved that bleeding will be stopped. 

It's all about gathering the required cost and time to complete a project on-time within the budget. Not an easy job for some projects, but it needs to be done properly without cutting corners to get an approval. That's the expectation you expect when you entrust a project team to embark on a major high risk project that is very expensive. 


(Note - this article was originally written by Drake Settsu and published on in May 2016)

Posted on: April 15, 2018 06:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Budget Creep a Project Manager's Nightmare

Going over budget within the scope of a project can happen. You think you covered all the possibilities that could occur in the project. You submitted a budget with padding so you can avoid a budget overrun. You are now at the one third milestone in the project and your funds are being depleted faster than anticipated. How did I not see this happening?

Reporting any budget variances on a monthly Project Stop Light Report will expose your budget creep. You will see how your monthly expenditures keep going up for the project. That is your cue to stop the project and revisit the budget. Are the projected estimates accurate or grossly underestimated? The faith of the project is in jeopardy now. Will the project be shutdown or will additional funds be allocated for it? A big decision needs to be made based on an accurate big picture on what the new realistic funding will be to keep the project moving.  

Project Managers need to always keep an eye on the budget and raise the red flag when the project funds are depleting ahead of time. Avoid what I call Budget Creep.


(Note - this article was originally written by Drake Settsu and published on in September 2016)

Posted on: March 02, 2018 05:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

The Project Equations

The answer is ???

Do you remember when you were required to show your work in a math test to give the instructor an idea how you arrived at the answers. They had to see the approach that you used to solve the problems. Showing your work demonstrates that you understand  how you arrived at your answers.

Connecting the dots

The Work Breakdown Structure in Project Management is the decomposition of a Work Package that is a basically a large task that needs to be broken down as far as you can to create work packages that are smaller tasks. When you breakdown a large work package into smaller tasks it gives you a better insight on the work that needs to be done. It will give you a chance to provide good estimates on the time required to complete the entire work package.

The value of the WBS

The work breakdown structure is a valuable technique to get a better understanding of the components in your project. Showing your work on how you will deliver your project will provide clarity. The better you are at showing your work, the better your chances on delivering tasks on time.

Posted on: February 25, 2018 08:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

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- Camille Saint-Saens



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