Project Management View from Rail Transit Programs and Projects

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A collection of articles sharing project processes, design and construction experience, best practices, and lessons learned along with operational knowledge related to executing programs and projects in the rail transit industry.

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Part 4 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

Part 2 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

Part 1 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

Part 3 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

Part 10 of 10-The Book that Most Impacted My Career-Excellence in Engineering

Part 4 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

This is Part 4 in a series about a second book that affected the development of my skills in the business of managing projects and program of projects    The book -  Human Factors in Project Management by Paul C. Dinsmore – published in 1990 by AMACOM-American Management Association.  

The series contains articles on:  1)  A Classical View of Project Management.    2)  Planning and Strategy.   3)  Project Interfacing.   4)  Using Managerial Time.    5)  Negotiations.   6)  Decision Making.  7)  Managing Changes. 

This article summarizes the key points in Chapter 8 – Using Managerial Time and it provides commentary relating the content to PMI’s Project Management Book of Knowledge – 6th Edition (PMBOK).

Some clients use a percentage of direct labor in design and construction contracts to determine the value of managerial time for a project.    Some consultants may use a similar estimating process.  Some project managers may estimate the managerial costs by hard estimates for activities needed to meet the client’s requirements and expectations.

The contract documents specify managerial activities, services and deliverables required from the assigned management teams.   The requirements are usually concentrated in the Scope of Work (SOW) in a consultant service contract and in the Division 1 specifications in a construction contract.  In addition to the requirements, experiential data may help clarify the estimated cost based on historical averages for manpower usage and expenses on other contract with the client and similar clients in the industry domain.

One of the best ways to understand and formulate the costs is to create a chart of managerial activities, services and deliverables and to assign manhours over a defined period of time, such as monthly – the most common recurring period on construction projects.   Best practices for estimating project management team costs would include input from experienced project managers, including the PM that will be used for the contract.   The managerial items will cover a variety of personnel including PM assistances and  support staff for estimates, schedules, knowledge/records management, quality, safety, budget/financial  administration, contract administration, reporting and process expediter. 

Dinsmore presents a table of managerial items, which was created from survey response from project professionals, that illustrates a good template for generating an estimate of manhours necessary for managerial activities.    Models can be prepared for each contract type, contract requirements, and unwritten client expectations.   The Table includes:

  • Routine paperwork
  • Telephone conversations
  • Project meetings
  • Personal work time
  • One on one sessions with staff
  • Breaks for lunch and social interaction
  • Other
  • Business meetings
  • Updates with supervisors
  • Travel to other project areas
  • Reading and professional development

Once the Models are prepared, activities and manhours can be adjusted based on the available budget negotiated for the project.   The adjustments may means that low priority low value activities can be trimmed or increased accordingly.   However – in some cases funding partners and oversight agencies may not be flexible in reducing the scope for project management activities, services and deliverables.  

Dinsmore identifies behaviors in the project team that cause high manhour usage and create inefficiencies in work flows including:  A)  Difficulty in saying “no.”   B)  Lack of self-discipline.   C)  Lack of time management.   D)  Less than fully competent employees.  E)  Excessive bureaucracy in the organization  F)  Poor utilization of administrative staff.   G)  Tendency to centralize, rather than delegate.  

As a result, Dinsmore discusses other strategies that may be helpful assessing alternatives including:  A) Delegate more.   B)  Do less work.  C)  Let things slide (delay).   D)  Work longer (more hours).   E)  Work harder (faster).   

PMBOK Chapter 3-The Role of Project Manager includes the quality and skills for project leadership.

Focusing on important things including:

  • Continuously prioritizing work by reviewing and adjusting as necessary
  • Finding and using a prioritization method that work for them and the project
  • Differentiating high-level strategic priorities, especially those related to critical success factors for the project
  • Maintaining vigilance on primary project constraints
  • Remaining flexible on tactical priorities
  • Being able to sift through massive amounts of information to obtain the most important information.

PMBOK Chapter 4.3.2-Develop Project Management Plan identifies Expert Judgment for determining the resources and skills levels needed to perform project work, and prioritizing the work on a project to ensure the project resources are allocated to the appropriate work at the appropriate time.

Commentary:    Soft costs for project management services are often secondary to direct hard costs for delivering the intended project assets.   While understandable, the soft costs for project management services should not be underestimated or go overlooked.  PM services are essential to manage execution risks that could affect the project schedule and costs.    I routinely monitor and assess manhour usage and cost of PM services and deliverables with the expectations of the client/owner.   A simple chart of monthly activities and deliverables and the estimated manhours can be reviewed with PMO management and the client/owner to evaluate needed adjustments to PM scope to better align with expectations.      

Posted on: June 14, 2018 06:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Part 2 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

This is Part 2 in a series about a second book that affected the development of my skills in the business of managing projects and program of projects    The book -  Human Factors in Project Management by Paul C. Dinsmore – published in 1990 by AMACOM-American Management Association.  

The series contains articles on:  1)  A Classical View of Project Management.    2)  Planning and Strategy.   3)  Project Interfacing.   4)  Using Managerial Time.    5)  Negotiations.   6)  Decision Making.  7)  Managing Changes. 

This article summarizes the key points in Chapter 5 regarding Planning and Strategy and it provides commentary relating the content to PMI’s Project Management Book of Knowledge – 6th Edition (PMBOK).

After reminding the readers about Murphy’s Law – If anything can go wrong, it will”, Dinsmore explains the importance of planning including anticipating and preventing problems.    During the planning of projects the following is accomplished:  A) Critical path is determined.   B) Activity interfaces are defined.  C) Resources are gauged.  D) Schedules are determined.  E)  Costs are related to schedule.  F)  Control systems are interfaced with plans.   These items will then become part of a project plan that is used by the Project Manager and project team as the business plan and strategic plan for the project.  

Basic Plan

Better Plan

Best Plan

  • Objective
  • Scope of project
  • Work environment
  • Organization and reporting structure

Basic topics plus:

  • Summary of execution
  • Schedule requirements
  • Management team
  • Deliverables and operating concept
  • Acquisition
  • Facility support
  • Manpower, equipment and tools
  • Personnel development and training
  • Financial support
  • Product/deliverables requirements
  • General information
  • Proprietary information

Basic and Better topics plus:

  • Mission statement
  • Milestones
  • Work breakdown structure
  • Activities and estimates
  • Precedence diagram
  • Network schedule
  • Planning and controlling costs
  • Management review and approval to become “Project Charter.”

Dinsmore stresses that the plan will encompass strategic input from the managers that will be responsible and accountable for the work.  Their commitment to the plan will create a culture to achieving the requirements and managing the work elements for:  1) Scope.  2) Time.  3) Money.  4) Quality.  5) Communications.  6) Human Resources.  7) Contracts and Supply.  8)  Risks.     

To supplement to Plan, the project manager may need to develop a Project Management Plan (PMP).   The PMP includes the processes, procedures, and philosophies for managing the work, defines key performance indicators for measuring progress, specifies organization and team member responsibilities and qualifications, and defines criteria for decisions and implementing changes.    

PMBOK – Chapter 4 identifies the inputs, tools and techniques and outputs for the project charter and PMP.   The PMP is interface for other PMBOK knowledge areas with subordinate plans, including management for scope, requirements, schedule, cost, quality, resources, communications, risk, procurement, and stakeholders.   The PMP may be supplemented by plans for change management, configuration management, performance management and management reviews. 

Each knowledge area in PMBOK and PMP components identify project documents that are created and maintained throughout the project life cycle including assumption log, basis of estimates, cost forecasts, issue log, Lessons Learned register, milestone list, quality reports, risk register, risk reports, and schedule forecasts. 

Commentary:    US projects funded by the federal government must maintain and demonstrate compliance with comprehensive project plans and management plans that meet requirements from Department of Transportation - Federal Transit Administration (see www.fta.dot.gov.)    While only required on projects exceeding FTA thresholds, I routinely prepare project management plans for each project regardless of value.   It provides clear strategies and philosophies for management of any size project, and it ensures that each team member, oversight consultants and independent engineering consultants are aware of the expectations for added value services and deliverables.  

Posted on: June 07, 2018 06:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Part 1 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

In a previous series of articles – The Book that Most Impacted by Career – I related content of Excellence in Engineering by W.H. Roadstrum. -  published in 1967 by John Wiley & Sons, with Project Managements Institute’s (PMI) – Project Management Book of Knowledge.    The series contained good and poor practices for:  1) Engineering and project life cycle.   2) Project team. 3) Project team members.  4) Problem solving.  5) Project controls/schedule development.  6) Project monitoring/schedule updates/tools.  7) Project controls/schedule analysis.  8) Project engineer/project manager.  9) Project leadership.  10) Human relations/team development

Prompted by feedback from reviewers on the Excellence in Engineering, this series is about a second book that affected development of my skills in the business of managing projects and program of projects    The book -  Human Factors in Project Management by Paul C. Dinsmore – published in 1990 by AMACOM-American Management Association.  

Acknowledged in the Forward of the book, David L. Cleveland, Professor of Engineering Management, School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh writes: 

“Paul C. Dinsmore, a valued friend and colleague, is a notable member of the Project Management Institute.  In this book, he has presented a valuable, commonsense prescription for understanding and appreciating the human side of project management. …  His contribution is without parallel in the project management literature.” 

This series contains articles on:  1)  A Classical View of Project Management.    2)  Planning and Strategy.   3)  Project Interfacing.   4)  Using Managerial Time.    5)  Negotiations.   6)  Decision Making.  7)  Managing Changes. 

This article summarizes the key points in Chapter 2 – A Classic View of Project Management and it provides commentary relating the content to PMI’s Project Management Book of Knowledge – 6th Edition (PMBOK).

The Chapter discusses the management elements covering all types of projects, including those that were foundational examples at the time project management emerged as a field and profession for advancing global industries: 

  • Aerospace and electronics
  • Construction of public housing, transportation, highways and other public works
  • Manufacturing and product management

Dinsmore concisely describes what project management is and is not.  

What project management is  -  managing:  1) Scope.  2) Time.  3) Money.  4) Quality.  5) Communications.  6) Human Resources.  7) Contracts and Supply.  8)  Risks.   In 1990, these were the primary elements and knowledge areas for project management.  

PMBOK and the PMBOK – Construction Extension contains additional areas for Stakeholder Management, Environmental Management, Safety Management, Financial Management and Claim Management. 

What project management is not  -  1) PERT/CPM Network.   2)  A Magic Formula -  A template for size fits all.  These are input, tools and outputs that are only a portion of the overall project management processes.    Personal skills, knowledge and judgment are required to create the plans for plans activities.  The metrics in schedules and performance management are unique to each project.   

PMBOK contains an Appendix section that summarizes considerations for tailoring the PMBOK processes, inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs for the unique characteristics, environment and execution parameters of a project.         

What is the difference between project management and on-gong management:

  • Project management on projects there is a well defined scope, duration and budget to complete the project a a short term endeavor.
  • On-going operational management for the core business of the company.  

PMBOK – Chapter 1, Introduction, enforces that project management is not the same as operational management but it does describe the circumstances where the two cross functions and complement objectives for project delivery and for creation of business value.  The examples cited include:

  • Creating or updating a product
  • Improving operations or development processes
  • Completing the project lifecycle.

Commentary:   PMI’s mantra is “Making project management indispensible for business results.”     I always felt that the PMBOK knowledge areas applied equally to management of the core business.   The scope would be the business plan, quality management system, and recurring strategic plans for products and asset equity.  The budget would be the recurring operating and asset expenses, and the projected revenues.   The schedule would be business plan duration, discrete objectives, goals, and activities with intermediate milestones, and financial targets tied to annual and quarterly budgets.   

Posted on: May 30, 2018 06:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Part 3 of 7 - 2nd Book that Influenced My Project Management Career

This is Part 3 in a series about a second book that affected the development of my skills in the business of managing projects and program of projects    The book -  Human Factors in Project Management by Paul C. Dinsmore – published in 1990 by AMACOM-American Management Association.  

The series contains articles on:  1)  A Classical View of Project Management.    2)  Planning and Strategy.   3)  Project Interfacing.   4)  Using Managerial Time.    5)  Negotiations.   6)  Decision Making.  7)  Managing Changes. 

This article summarizes the key points in Chapter 7 – Project Interfacing and it provides commentary relating the content to PMI’s Project Management Book of Knowledge – 6th Edition (PMBOK).

Dinsmore starts the Chapter with a concise statement “Working the Interfaces” is a major project management function.   An effectively interfaced project is a well-managed project.

At first glance, interfacing is the interconnection of scheduled project activities and the process for establishing the appropriate sequence based on the predecessor and successor activities, contract milestones, and project goals.  But scheduled activities are only a portion of the work required for managing a project.   Management activities are not discretely listed on a schedule but they are equally critical for maintaining progress and achieving success. 

Project management interfacing relies heavily on the quality of the project manager’s institutional knowledge, project experience, management skills, and acumen for influencing activity execution.   Management to scope, schedule and budget must be supplemented by broad knowledge of processes that can affect scheduled activities.   The processes may be different for the industry domain of the project.   Some of the processes involve quality management; contract administration; budgeting, accounts payable/receiving, and cash flow; code compliance and permitting; and design and contract development. 

While not directly part of the earned value mechanism, the project team’s effectiveness in interfacing processes can affect progress of activities.   After describing some interface characteristics, Dinsmore suggests project managers should:

  • Size up overall  needs
  • Define static interfaces such as organization structure and functions
  • Establish early design control
  • Emphasize project flexibility
  • Adapt the organization – know the scope, responsibilities and authorities of team members
  • Manage design and production
  • Control dynamic interfaces such as conditions that change with time – technology and project phase

At the end of the Chapter, Dinsmore identifies the general principles for project interfacing:

  • Learn how client and/or upper management personnel feel about the project.  What are their views?  Their biases?
  • Start the project with a macro-scale participative planning approach.
  • Develop a formal integration plan that includes project blending techniques such as integration workshops, training efforts and coaching sessions.
  • Pinpoint major areas requiring interfacing and assign responsibilities to individuals for monitoring those efforts.
  • Schedule periodic project overviews, management audits and routine coordination meetings.
  • Make provisions for expediting efforts when activities get “bogged down.”

Project interfacing is referenced in several areas of PMBOK.  The most prominent and appropriate is Chapter 3 -  The Role of the Project Manager.   On many project, the Project Manager is expected to use organization’s in-house resources for work by the management team.   In rail transit, some common departments resources are system safety, quality assurance, contracting/procurement, fiscal control, strategic planning, public affairs, operations planning, maintenance of equipment and engineering.   As a result, the PM will need to assure that the organization’s representatives transfer knowledge on the process assets that will be used to execute the work. 

PMBOK Chapter 3.5 Performing Integration summarized the application at the process level, cognitive level, and content level.   The majority of rail transit projects require heavy integration and are considered complex.   PMBOK lists the dimensions of complexity as:

  • Interdependencies of components and systems
  • Interplay between diverse individuals and groups
  • Uncertainty of emerging issue and lack of understanding and confusion.

PMBOK lists the characteristics of complex projects as:

  • Containing multiple parts
  • Number of connections between the parts
  • Number of dynamic interactions between the parts
  • Behaviors produced by interactions of participants
  • Conditions, actions and cause of behaviors that can not be explained

Commentary:    The effectiveness and quality of project interfacing is highly dependent on the project manager, and his ability to quickly gain a working knowledge of all organizational processes affecting each project phase.   A project manager needs to be social and build relationships with the team and exchange knowledge and processes.   I have been fortunate to work on projects with project teams that willing shared information, discussed optimizing processes, recognized individual and team responsibilities, and equally supported accountabilities.   

Posted on: May 23, 2018 06:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Part 10 of 10-The Book that Most Impacted My Career-Excellence in Engineering

This is Part 10 and the final post of a blog relating sections of Excellence In Engineering by W.H. Roadstrum, 1967, with Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK-5th Edition).

In Parts 1 through 9, the blog covered Roadstrum’s good and poor engineering practices and PMI’s  factors for success on topics including: Project Teams, Team Development, Problems Solving and Decisions, Scheduling, Progress Monitoring, Project Controls, Project Manager and Project Leading.  

Both books continue to impact my career and the quality of service and professionalism that I demonstrate to each person I encounter in the work domain and project environment.   

After a brief 3 years as an Engineers’ Assistant in the utility power generating industry, the majority of my career was spent in the rail transit industry on projects with roles that included Jr. Engineer, Manufacturing Engineer, Project Coordinator, Assistant Project Manager, Project Manager, Sr. Project Manager, and Director-PMO.    The bulk of the work involved projects that restored, improved or expanded infrastructure for accessibility and mobility of passengers and commerce and some with intermodal connections and real estate development.   

Now as a consultant, I continue to lead by example/sample and contribute equally to the success of the teams I work with on rail transit projects.    As often as possible, I transfer knowledge from my experiences while adapting to the changing work environment.

In Chapter 15 - Human Relations, Roadstrum cites the good and poor practices with essential attributes related to the project manager’s skills, objectives, and personal qualities necessary to be effective and to be a leader for his team.  

Good Engineering Practices in Human Relations

1.The engineer, while battling hard when he must, recognizes that in disputes with others it is important to maintain a calm and impersonal attitude if maximum benefits are to result.

2.The engineer recognizes the importance of the self-fulfilling image to his associates and is careful not to stir up difficulties for himself by inadvertently threatening these self-images in others.

3.The engineer recognizes how string an influence organization patterns have on setting his relations with others.

4.Realizing that differing backgrounds can interfere with his efforts at communicating, the engineer is careful to establish a common understanding and purpose before proceeding into new business.

5.The engineering is careful to avoid informal channels in most matters except in emergency and then covers his short cut with a parallel action through regular channels.

Poor Engineering Practices in Human Relations

1.The engineer feels that his expert technology knowledge will eventually solve all relations problems.

2.In disputes with other the engineer uses kid gloves to improve relations and group harmony.

3.Not understanding the concept of communicating, the engineer naively assumes that since his colleagues understand the English language they will comprehend what he is trying to tell them.  

4.Heedless of the effect of emotions on communicating, the engineer leaps headlong into a delicate situation with a minimum of results.

5.The engineer takes his boss for granted.

6.The engineer assumes that his relations with others are harmonious, they are necessarily effective.

In PMBOK Chapter 9-Human Resources, the selection, training, team building and performance monitoring of team members is presented.   The most relevant comparison to the good practices for a Project Manager is found in Section 9.3-Develop the Project Team.  

The Project Manager should:

  • Acquire skills to identify, build, maintain, motivate, lead and inspire project teams to achieve high team performance and meet the project’s objectives
  • Create an environment that facilitates team work
  • Continually motivate the their team by providing challenges and opportunities, by providing timely feedback and support as needed, and by recognizing and rewarding good performance
  • Request management support and/or influence the appropriate stakeholders to acquire the resources needed to develop effective project teams.

Working with the available resources, the Project Manager and individual team members should equally commit and contribute to:

  • Improving knowledge and skills of team members to increase their ability to complete project deliverables, while lowering costs, reducing schedules, and improving quality
  • Improving feelings of trust and agreement of team members to raise morale, lower conflict, and increase team work
  • Creating a dynamic, cohesive, and collaborative team culture to (1) improve individual and team productivity, team spirit, and cooperation, (2) allow cross-training and mentoring between team members to share knowledge and expertise.
Posted on: May 14, 2018 05:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)
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