NZIM Diploma in Project Management Assignments
As an NZIM Diploma in Project Management (DPM) student, during the programme you are required to submit the following four assignments based on an actual project that you undertake outside the four two-day periods of classroom tuition:
- Assignment One. To prepare a Project Charter, which is a written contract that sets out the project purpose, goal, parameters and other factors that once approved authorises the project manager to then plan the project execution in detail. To be submitted at the start of Module Two.
- Assignment Two. To prepare a Project Plan that details how the project is to be undertaken, showing responsibilities, budgets, schedules, risk management measures and other information needed to ensure the effective and efficient implementation of the project. To be submitted at the start of Module Three.
- Assignment Three. To maintain a dossier of project execution documentation, which includes progress reports, registers for changes, accidents, risks and issues, minutes of meetings, relevant email traffic etc. To be submitted together with Assignment Four within one month following Module Four.
- Assignment Four. To prepare a comprehensive Post-project Report that objectively assesses project performance, documents lessons’ learned, and makes recommendations as appropriate. To be submitted together with Assignment Three within one month following Module Four.
Students often ask how long these assignment documents need be. Of course there is no definitive length, other than to say the assignments need to be of sufficient length to properly achieve their purpose. However, conciseness is appreciated, but not at the expense of clarity or completeness. Excluding cover, contents, amendment record pages and attachments, a Project Charter might achieve its purpose in no more than say six pages (A4 with size 12 font), a Project Plan about 20 pages, the record of project execution material could be contained in a large ring-binder folder, and a Post-project Report would not usually exceed 10 pages. To fulfil the Assignment Three requirement, copies of relevant documentation is best accumulated chronologically in a physical or electronic folder as the project proceeds. For these assignments if you are in doubt, it is usually better to include more material than not enough, and generally for assignment purposes do not refer to documents unless they are attached. All assignments may be submitted electronically as a pdf document or in hard copy.
Selecting a Project
Your project, which may be work-based, a personal endeavour or perhaps a community undertaking, will ideally meet two important criteria:
- Be of sufficient size and complexity to satisfactorily practise you in the application of the various tools and techniques that you will be familiarised with during the four two-day periods of classroom tuition.
- Be of a duration and schedule that, as far as practicable, conforms to the dates of the DPM programme, such that given the relevant tuition, you can then apply this knowledge immediately to your chosen project and submit the associated assignments in a timely fashion.
It is appreciated that in some instances it may be difficult for you to fully meet this second requirement, and in which case you may need to use only a portion, phase or stage of your selected project for assignment purposes and/or may need to use more than one project – possibly even a different project for all four assignments to ensure their timely submission. And should your project be of duration well beyond the span of the course, an interim project evaluation report that assesses progress and performance to-date will meet the Assignment Four requirement.
Should you have concerns about the suitability of your selected project for DPM assignment purposes, please discuss the issue with NZIM. Invariably a satisfactory solution can be agreed.
The templates for Assignments One, Two and Four are contained in the course textbook “The Framework” at appendices Three, Eight and Eleven respectively. However, Assignment Three, which is a dossier of project execution documentation does not lend itself to a template so much as a checklist of possible items as given below.
The templates contained in “The Framework” describe in detail the typical content that we expect students’ assignments to include. However, we appreciate that every project has differences and on occasions some headings given in the templates may not be applicable for your project, and sometimes, additional headings and subject matter may also need to be included. Thus, the templates are guides for the preparation of assignments and need not be followed slavishly. Nevertheless, it is not appropriate for these assignments that you simply use the format that you typically use in your place of work. Experience has shown that such formats are not necessarily sufficiently comprehensive or even best practice. If in doubt about this requirement please contact NZIM for clarification.
Assignment Three is a logically assembled record with appropriate cover and content’s page that may include any or all of the following types of documentation to demonstrate that you maintained appropriate records and properly managed problems and issues and other realities of project execution. Possible items for inclusion are reviews and audit reports, status and progress reports, risk register, issues register, change register, accident register, lessons learned register, meeting agendas, meeting minutes, email correspondence, stakeholder communications register, requests for changes, newsletters, project diary, contracts, press releases, internal memos, website releases and presentation material.
For this assignment, evidence of anything that you may have done as the project manager during the implementation of your project would be appropriate. Such activities may include – allocating work, analysing reports, approving payments, arranging reviews and audits, arranging contracts, assesses team members’ performance and holding performance reviews, building relationships, celebrating successes, checking and approving time sheets, assigning and clarifying roles and responsibilities, coaching, counselling and mentoring, communicating with stakeholders, coordinating resources, delegating work packages, escalating issues, establishing targets, evaluating tenders, forecasting expenditure, holding meetings, identifying and resolving new risks, implementing change, maintaining a project journal/diary, leading the project team, listening to stakeholders, maintaining project control, maintaining project registers and files, making decisions, managing conflict, managing issues, monitoring variance, negotiating for resources, ppractising politics, preparing task briefs, preparing updates for newsletters, procuring resources, producing deliverables, providing advise, providing praise, re-estimating time, cost and resource needs, re-negotiating resources and constraints, reporting progress, rewarding achievements, scheduling and rescheduling work, sharing lessons learned, smoothing and levelling resources, solving problems, tracking project performance, and visiting sites and stakeholders.
In addition to these four assignments, during the last module, DPM students are required to give a presentation of about 15 minutes duration (excluding subsequent questions and discussion) on their chosen project. The purpose of this exercise is twofold:
- To practise participants’ presentation skills, given that project managers may need to make such presentations during the life of their project.
- To share participants’ experiences, knowledge, lessons and learning about project management planning and implementation realities.
The presentation should cover the following topics:
- Why the project was undertaken.
- A summary plan to accomplish the project goal.
- Progress to date, including significant issues, variances and variations.
- An evaluation of the project (if it is completed), or an interim evaluation.
In practice, participants may extract relevant information from their assignment work, supplemented where appropriate with graphics. Photographs in particular bring a presentation alive. NZIM will provide a laptop, projector and screen.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) and other recognised project management authorities identify effective communication – both written and verbal – as the top credential for project managers and the most critical factor for project success.
While the written assignments are assessed primarily for specialised project management content, we also need to ensure such content is readily understandable – preferable so in one read only. On some previous occasions students’ assignments have been unclear, incomplete and verbose. To help ensure quality assignments, included below are some basic reminders to help you achieve this objective. Also, you will appreciate that during the course of any project we need to prepare both formal and informal written communications. The advantages of writing include a permanent record for us and the receiver, and an opportunity to edit and proofread before we transmit our message. We also have the software to include project pictorials of various types, particularly technical drawings, photographs, network diagrams, flow charts, Gantt charts and other pictures all of which should be designed for easy comprehension.
Our informal written communications during a project consist primarily of text messages and email traffic, whereas formal written communications are mostly about the preparation and transmission of documents such as project business cases, questionnaires, charters, estimates, communication plans, project implementation plans, contracts, project progress and status reports, requests for variations, meeting agendas and minutes, and post-project reports. We also need to maintain various logs (such as those for variations, risks, issues, accidents and lessons learned). And most of these base versions need to be updated during the life of our project as realities unfold. There are a variety of default templates that help us prepare these documents, but remember they may need to be tailored to better meet our specific needs. For example, we need to assure ourselves that the status reports that we receive from our team members provide us with the information we need and in a timely fashion to properly navigate our project. The default solution may not achieve this objective.
The top two principles for effective written communications are clarity and brevity, and in that order, since it is pointless being so brief that our message is unclear. To achieve clarity, such that our writing is understood and not misunderstood by our recipient we should avoid false generalisations, exaggerations, obscure or trendy words, ambiguous expressions, double negatives, jargon and unfamiliar technical language, gobbledygook, legalese, clichés or out-of-date language, slang, colloquialisms, little known abbreviations and acronyms, euphemisms, politically correct language, redundancies, and very small and intricate styles of type. And if giving examples, we should favour the familiar over obscure, specific over general, factual over emotional, simple over complex, recent over previous, and positive over negative.
Some reminders to help with the clarity of our writing are to use reader-friendly visuals (diagrams, tables, graphs and photos), present material in logical order, include a glossary, use simple familiar short words, keep sentences and paragraphs mostly short, use adjectives and adverbs sparingly, avoid errors in grammar, punctuation, syntax and spelling, avoid foreign words and expressions, use plain verbs rather than fancy abstract nouns, use headings freely, use white space, use easily read fonts, and use capital letters sparingly.
The most important strategy to achieve a desirably concise style of writing is to be strictly relevant in terms of our purpose for writing. Anything we write that does not help achieve this purpose is irrelevant. In fact, for more complicated writing tasks we might write down the purpose, display it, research and write to achieve it, and eventually evaluate our writing success in terms of it – did we achieve our purpose? Other ideas to achieve brevity are to avoid redundancies, wordiness, meaningless qualifiers, and unnecessary explanations and background information.
On project completion, a report is often required and if our reports include recommendations, it is useful to word such recommendations as specific goals. For example, a vague recommendation such as “The procedure for recording variations should be updated in due course” will most likely ensure that nothing is done. However, a more action-oriented and specific version might read “The project sponsor is to update and publish the procedure for recording variations by 1 June”, which may indeed spawn another small project.
Some ideas to further improve our written submissions are – don’t avoid writing opportunities, seek honest feedback about our writing efforts, understand that a first draft is always a basis for improvement, keep the reader and purpose in mind, and allow time to elapse between writing and revising.
The objective of this course is to provide participants with the essential knowledge, skills and best practices to effectively manage larger projects in a variety of contexts. The course content, delivered in four two-day modules, each module about one month apart, is show here:
Module One: Project Conception
Project management overview
Project terminology, stakeholders, characteristics, parameters, challenges and organisational structures
Project selection, prioritising and definition
Project financial evaluation, feasibility studies and business cases
Project proposals and charters
Module Two: Project Development
Project work breakdown structures
Work package estimating and budgeting
Critical path analysis
Scheduling work including Gantt Charts
Resource histograms smoothing, leveling and allocation
Pre-empting implementation problems
Project plan components
Module Three: Execute Project
Leadership, motivation and team-building
Variations, variance, issues and risks
Earned value analysis and performance curves
Module Four: Project Finish
Project closure procedures
Project evaluation and benefits review
Visit project sites and guest speaker presentations
PMBOK review, PRINCE2, multi-project management, and recent developments