PMBOK standard deviation formula is most often wrong!

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Lies, damned lies, and statistics” 

British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli

You might well ask what is “Standard Deviation.” Sounds like a regular deviant? And what could it possibly have to do with managing our projects, given we’ve all no doubt managed projects successfully without any knowledge of this peculiar statistical thing involving probability theory.

A statistics buff would tell us that Standard Deviation ia about variation from the Mean. In the project context Mean or Best Estimated Time (BET) is a weighted average that is best calculated using the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) formula. A low Standard Deviation indicates that pessimistic and optimistic durations are very close to the Mean – see the blue curve in the diagram below. A high Standard Deviation indicates that these estimates of duration are spread out over a large range – see the red curve. Standard Deviation is usually represented by … Read More »

Project Network Diagrams

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A project could be described as a number of tasks that are performed in a certain sequence. A network diagram is a useful project planning tool that enables us project managers to determine and graphically illustrate this sequence of tasks and the relationships between the tasks that comprise our project. So it’s not a railway schematic diagram, but rather it’s a diagram defines project task dependencies and is a prelude to producing a schedule or Gantt chart. Such diagrams, first used in USA and Europe during the 1950’s, are referred to by a confusing variety of names:

– Network Chart
– Activity Sequence Diagram
– Programme Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) Chart
– Critical Path Method (CPM)
– Dependency Network
– Precedence Diagram
– Arrow Diagram
– Logic Diagram

With regard to our overall “CDEF” project process chart shown below, producing a network diagram is the … Read More »

More on Stakeholder Management

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Further to my item have you ever been in a situation where you had to balance the various interests of a group of people? In the project business we call this stakeholder management and it can be difficult since people involved invariably have different opinions, expectations, agendas and ways of communicating. Managing these differences can be a challenge. As the name implies, a project stakeholder is any individual or organisational entity with a “stake” in our project.

Project success depends largely on the stakeholders involved and one definition of project success is “happy stakeholders.” We may get to pick some or all of our project team, but we won’t get to choose every stakeholder.  As a project manager, it’s our job to work with the stakeholders we’ve got and to understand what makes them tick.  The ability to … Read More »

TTT Training Session

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TTT (Training and Technology Transfer) is an international development organisation focused primarily on working with the public sector in developing countries. The organisation has a global scope of operation covering 40 countries and has offices and representatives in 22 countries including New Zealand. Since its inception TTT has completed over 210 projects worldwide. I have had the pleasure of working with the organisation on several occasions.

Attached is a photo of the senior Indonesian officials who as part of their recent visit programme participated in a training workshop I delivered on behalf of TTT at the Wellington Majestic Centre.  The training objectives were:

Leadership. To discuss leadership credentials and introduce participants to a leadership model and its application.
Delegation. To remind participants of the need for effective delegation and familiarise them with the essential principles and processes involved and discuss associated issues.
Motivation. To remind participants … Read More »

Project Requirements

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“But you were supposed to…” “Oops I wanted…” “I thought…” “But that’s not what I said…” “Can you just…” “While you’re on the job…”

Requirements can be one of the biggest problem in projects. They drive the project scope. Get requirements wrong and everything we do after that is pretty much doomed. Without the right effort in gathering, documenting, agreeing and keeping to requirements, we won’t deliver the thing that our client wants, and in most cases, we won’t then get paid and we won’t be asked back. The requirements gathering process happens way before the project plan is put together. Requirements are a basis for the project product or service specifications. Requirements are based on stakeholders needs and describe what the finished product or service will do, whereas specifications are typically a more detailed and explicit technical explanation that show how … Read More »

Product and Project Scope

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A project’s scope is all the work that needs to be done to produce the project deliverable(s). Deliverables are what remain at project completion – a product, process or service produced for an internal or external client. Some projects have many deliverables; others just have one. Defining project scope is an important first step to preparing a project plan no matter what project management methodology we use – waterfall, agile, scrum, and even PRINCE2 (the UK government’s nightmarish methodology inexplicably adopted by our own government to the delight of exorbitantly-priced PRINCE2 training purveyors).

What determines a project’s scope is the product, process or service that the project intends to produce with its desired features or characteristics, called the product scope. The project scope includes everything we need to do to ensure the product scope is achieved. So project scope and product … Read More »

Research Projects

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Researching and publishing a report is a project and such projects come in many different shapes and sizes. Click on any of these rather different reports to view simple research projects:

Report on Greenpeace NZ Campaign to Raise Awareness about Potential Climate Change Impacts
Analysis of a Sacred Text: Book of Job, Old Testament, Holy Bible
Report on Human Trafficking
Report on Human Manipulations of Genetic Transfer and its Biological Implications
An Analysis of the Catholic Church’s Response to Genetic Engineering

An academic research project of any length and at any level can be undertaken by following these ten sequential tasks:

Choose your research area. This is the general area within your academic field … Read More »

The Upside of Quitting a Project

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You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run

Kenny Rogers – “The Gambler”


I think “The Gambler” has been banned in Las Vegas. The song reminds us that in poker, folding is a huge part of the game. The ability to quit our hand lets us choose favourable circumstances for ourselves. It also allows us to take risks, knowing that if things don’t take a positive turn, we can always abandon the pursuit.

Similarly we might abandon a project mid-course for a variety of reasons – deliverable (output) and/or outcomes is no longer needed, completion date can’t be achieved, costs exceed budget and/or anticipated benefits, technical requirements prove to be unachievable, expertise unavailable, project priorities change causing a re-allocation of … Read More »

Project Cost Overruns!!

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Projects cost overruns can affect our organisation’s performance, inhibit the achievement of strategic goals, and even jeopardise our credibility as project managers.

Some organisations don’t have data on project completion costs perhaps because their accounting system doesn’t allocate expenditure to projects, the invoices from suppliers often roll across several projects, or because going back over past performance to collect the data is a bother.

If a project costs more than is budgeted for and then needs more funding, other projects may be put on hold through lack of funds. On the other hand, if we have budgeted far more than the actual cost of the project, funds are tied up that could have been used elsewhere. It is also possible that a number of proposed projects may have been rejected because the costs were greatly over-estimated and thus the opportunities they presented … Read More »


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