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.

About this Blog


Recent Posts

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)

Tales of Project Management

You are the Project Manager for two important projects that need your attention on a Saturday night what do you do? Have the right people on the project. 

I had a Radiology/Pharmacy system relocation go-live that involved moving the system across town to a new Data Center. The second project required some critical tasks to be performed for another project that cannot move forward until two critical tasks are completed.

The players that supported me was a Business Analyst, Data Center Operations Supervisor, and HP Field Engineer to shut down and pack up the hardware at 23:00 to let the moving company deliver the system to the new Data Center.

The system arrived in the new Data Center in good condition. The Data Center was already prepared for power, network connectivity, and telephone lines. Everything went well except an issue with a legacy application that had issues with a modem. I had to leave the team and work on my second project that I was the only player that could do two critical tasks to keep the project on track.

I had to drive back to the old Data Center to perform the two critical tasks. It's 03:00 and I go to work and everything went according to my plan and I finish at 04:30. 

Time to drive back to the new Data Center to help the team get the legacy application working. We get the application to work at 11:00 Sunday morning. 

The key to a successful project go-live is teamwork, it's so important to support each other. Having a good Risk Assessment review meeting to make sure you cover everything in your go-live plan is so important to catch anything that you might have missed on the plan.

Tip for your project go-live plans. When you develop your plan break the timeline tasks down in half hour increments when possible. By breaking down your tasks in half hour increments you can measure your progress better. You will see what areas are taking more time or less time to complete. You can determine if you need to back out the implementation or continue to move forward. In some cases you can't go back so it will help you give a status report to management.


(Note - this article was originally written by Drake Settsu and published on in December 2013)

Posted on: May 31, 2018 09:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

The Risk Assessment

Holding a Risk Assessment meeting prior to implementing a modification to a process or system that could result in loss of productivity to a business unit. Invite business units with a stake in the implementation. Encourage feedback to tear up your plan and look for any holes in it. You need to really know your stuff when you hold a risk assessment meeting because they can get intense. The meeting is your time to shine and field questions. Show what you are made of. Be confident and never get defensive or offended by the reviewers. You should have a subject matter expert on your team to help you out when a discussion gets out of hand. Sometimes the risk assessment meeting has hecklers to distract from the productivity of the meeting and your job is to shut that person down diplomatically to keep the meeting on track.

The risk assessment document should include an implementation timeline giving a summary and anticipated duration of the activity that is being performed. Build your timeline with appropriate padding to allow you some extra time should you run into issues or take a little longer than anticipated. Break down your timeline into half hour increments to gauge your progress. The Go/No-go decision needs to be placed at a critical point in your timeline to evaluate your current progress to determine if the implementation is on track or not on track with numerous issues encountered warranting a back-out of the implementation. The plan should also include names and contact numbers of key people that you might need to reach out to at anytime during the implementation.


(Note - this article was originally written by Drake Settsu and published on in December 2013)

Posted on: April 20, 2018 04:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

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)

Good Morning Hawaii - Seek Shelter

Hawaii Civil Defense

Hawaii gets a nice Saturday morning wake up alert on their phone.

Words cannot describe the initial reaction you get when you receive an alert that you need to seek immediate shelter because a ballistic missile is on it's way. You only have about 20 minutes to find your hiding place. 

Project Management failed on setting up the new civil defense preparedness for a ballistic missile attack on Hawaii. The failure caused panic and pain. Your life could be ending in 20 minutes. You keep waiting for the all clear and nothing happens. It took over 38 minutes for the Hawaii Civil Defense to send out an alert that there is no threat.

Some lessons learned:

  1. There was no leadership from the top to bottom that day. Just confusion. They knew immediately that the alert was and error.

  2. Step up, no one had the guts to take charge of the situation to immediately send out an alert that there is no missile on it's way.

  3. How does one person have access to such a critical life and death alert without management authorizing the alert to be sent out.

  4. Training and safeguards was obviously missing in the project plan.

  5. No contingency plan was properly developed to execute in the event of an erroneous alert going out to the public.

My final thoughts on the incident is that Project Management and Leadership play such an import part no matter what type of project it is. In this case the residents and visitors in Hawaii will never forget this date 01-13-2018 because a Project Manager and lack of Leadership really really messed up bad.

Posted on: January 16, 2018 06:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

"Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."

- Mark Twain