The shopping project – contingency time

Do you go on weekly or fortnightly supermarket shopping expeditions?  Either way, this blog item might help you determine your shopping contingency time (or contingency time for any other project) – that’s the extra time needed to allow for possible delay-causing incidents during project implementation.  This blog item shows us how to determine contingency time somewhat more scientifically than merely thinking of a number and doubling it or throwing dice.

Part of the solution is to apply what’s called the PERT formula (Program Evaluation and Review Technique).  This formula allows us to determine a project’s best estimated time (BET) or duration – depending always on the accuracy of our input data.  (PERT is a weighted-average estimate, heavily weighted towards the most likely duration (ie, 68.3%), which is one standard deviation (sd) either side of the norm – for … Read More »

The bulb-sucking project

This short story was written by my daughter and edited by me.  It was a school assignment. I publish it here for your amusement  – perhaps a warning to any would-be do-it-yourself project advocates.

Fizzle, fizzle pop!  This last Saturday night the light bulb blew when I turned the switch on.  A true story and seeming not a big repair job, but this particular light bulb was in the hallway interior roof, some five metres up.  Dad undertook to replace this now dead screw-in type bulb with my assistance.


“We could borrow the neighbour’s ladder, but that would risk wall damage” dad explained.  Recorded here are the five “Murphy Law” type sequential events we experienced in this light-bulb changing project.  I had confidence in dad – a project manager by profession, he has … Read More »

Getting personal with productivity

The New Zealand Productivity Commission’s recent report (September 2013) highlights a growing productivity gap between New Zealand and other countries in the Organisation for Co-operation and Development (OECD).  Evidently, us Kiwis work 15% more hours per year than the OECD average, but despite these longer hours we produce 20% less economic activity per hour – an embarrassing double whammy!

While I sometimes wonder about the basis for OECD assessments and comparisons, there is always scope for improved productivity, both at the macro and micro or personal levels.  Admittedly, we need to get the macro stuff right first, otherwise our efforts at improving personal productivity might be akin to straightening the deck chairs on the Titanic, as the saying goes.  Nevertheless, personal productivity is also important if we manage projects and here is a quiz I’ve prepared that has a two-fold purpose:

To … Read More »

Letters to the Editor

Here are some of my letters (latest first) to the editor mostly published in The Dominion newspaper (Wellington, NZ), but not all because this paper does not agree with all of my right-wing views. If you’re not from Wellington several of these letters won’t make much or any sense.  I try to put a fun spin on topics of the moment, although the letters may suggest that I’m a bigoted reactionary, but in fact I prefer to think that I’m a harmless, somewhat cynical humorist who has some interest in politics and time on my hands.

1 April 2017. The Wellington Town Hall is an anachronism.  Its past use is irrelevant.  Sell the building for apartments and use the proceeds together with the rapidly escalating amount of ratepayers’ money seemingly available for the refurbishment of the Town Hall to roof the … Read More »

Project probabilities

We don’t need expensive software to answer questions such as:

When do we reasonably expect to complete our project?
What’s the probability of completing our project on time or on a given date?
Which tasks on the critical path should we focus on to meet the schedule?
With a 95 percent confidence level how much will our project cost?
How much variance is associated with the total man-hours we’ve estimated for this project?

Well, here’s a worked example.  We need a calculator with a square root function.  Given the task durations below, what’s the probability of completing this project in 13 days?

First we calculate variance and standard deviation along the
critical path:

Based the probability distribution table, the Z Score of 0.46 provides a probability of 0.1772, and since 13 is less than BET we subtract 0.1772 from 0.5.  The resultant 0.3228 … Read More »

Project problem solving 101

Projects are often initiated to solve problems, although such problem solving projects may aim to take us from good to better, rather than simply putting right something that has gone wrong within our project.

Sometimes in project management we make a distinction between problems and issues – problems are those that we as project managers can resolve within our delegated authority, whereas issues require a solution beyond our authority as defined in the project charter.  Of course should we escalate an issue to our project sponsor for a decision, we should also suggest some solutions and preferably identify our preferred solution and explain.

Project management problems are not of course confined to behind-schedule or over-budget concerns, but check here if that’s your concern.  There might also be at least 34 other types of problems:

attitude problems
business problems
capacity problems
communication problems
competition problems
control … Read More »

Resource-constrained scheduling

Resource-constrained project scheduling sounds nasty.  It is needed when the availability of resources or lack of resources dictates our schedule.  A lack of resources may result in resource overloading or stretching.  For example, Jack finds that his project workdays consistently and considerably stretch beyond eight hours (or about 6.5 hours if we were realistic about productivity).  In this situation we need to get Jack off the rack to reduce tension and reschedule his workload such that it is achievable.

Resource-overloading is often the consequence of poor estimating or simply that the project has been assigned a low priority.  Other higher priority projects get first access to our organisation’s limited resource pool, and even those projects may have under-estimated their resource needs (sometimes deliberately by sponsors keen to ensure their projects are approved, but not in our organisation of … Read More »

Project value management

Looking for a way to stay ahead of the pack in today’s competitive environment.  Companies are turning to project value management to consistently achieve project results at less cost and greater benefit.

This blog and PowerPoint describes the purpose, benefits, principles and process of project value management (PVM), which is a powerful intervention strategy that is gaining ground as a technique to obtain maximum project value for money spent.

In recent years, several major NZ projects have benefited from PVM, including the construction of hospitals, office blocks, retail centres, industrial complexes, and restoration and quake-proofing of buildings.

PVM advocates the use of group-based facilitated workshops to obtain ideas to improve project value.  Such workshops involve a multidisciplinary group of project stakeholders. There are several PVM professional facilitators operating in the NZ construction industry, most within project management consultancies, who … Read More »

Project management processes

There are heaps of processes in project management including those for managing stakeholders, issues, risks, variations etc.  And developing a process is best managed as a project.  This blog entry shows us how to prepare a process map and provides us with a comprehensive checklist with which to review a process and ensure its continuous improvement.

There is no universal agreement about process mapping terminology, but the following would all be reasonable definitions of a process:

A process is a logical sequence of activities that takes inputs, adds value, and produces outputs for an internal or external customer.” 

A process comprises all the activities that people must undertake to achieve a particular outcome.”

A process is a series of steps to achieve a desired result.”

A process is a collection of related events performed to provide products and services … Read More »

Project management templates

Templates are designed to give us direction, confidence, quality, consistency and save us time.  They are checklists. We simply fill in the blanks. Importantly, templates are not straitjackets, but to be useful their format needs to be controlled, otherwise continual local amendments will soon diminish their value.  The “owner” of the templates who safeguards their integrity and to whom suggested amendments are made for their improvement, could be the PMO if one is established, otherwise a functional manager might get the job – not necessarily the IT manager.

Some common templates are listed belowfor your use, although they may need some modification to better suit your particular needs:

Project Schedule
Project Risk Log
Project Organisation Chart
Project Lessons Learned Log
Project Initial Definition Statement
Project Concept Checklist
Project Change Request
Project Audit Checklist
Project Status Report
Project Risk Registration Form
Project … Read More »


My latest thoughts on Project Management and life.


My big thanks to the coronavirus lockdown that provided me with an undisturbed opportunity to put together this 104 page booklet on Earned Value...

Project Estimating Checklist

Hofstadter’s Law: “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account this law.”

Hofstadter was right....

Earned Value Management Misconceptions and Limitations

Although EVM offers excellent benefits, and is undoubtedly a very clever thing, it’s not perfect. In this final chapter I’ve discussed in detail a...