Category: Blog


LATEST BOOK: EARNED VALUE MANAGEMENT

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My big thanks to the coronavirus lockdown that provided me with an undisturbed opportunity to put together this 104 page booklet on Earned Value Management, interrupted only by my too frequent visits to the pantry and fridge, and occasional local walk with my wife Esmeralda and Robbie the dog, both of whom seemed to tolerate this writing foolishness. You can access this free book here, although I suspect it will have less than stellar appeal and probably not a riveting bedtime story for everyone.


Project Estimating Checklist

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

Hofstadter was right. Given the lessons we conscientiously learned from our previous projects, at the start of every new project we convince ourselves that, this time, the best-case scenario will be realised. Unfortunately, every project is a unique endeavour with fresh risks and issues to frustrate our best-case expectations.

While an “exact estimate” is an oxymoron, have we ever been on a project where the deadline was way too tight? Chances are that tempers were frayed, sponsors were unhappy, and team members were working ridiculous hours. Chances are, too, that this happened because someone underestimated the time needed to complete the project. “The planning fallacy” is a term used by psychologists to describe our tendency to underestimate the amount of time … Read More »


Earned Value Management Misconceptions and Limitations

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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 number of gaps or anomalies with EVM that somewhat limit its effectiveness and discourage its universal acceptance. Despite these shortcomings, and despite the cries from Agile practitioners that EVM is a step back in the evolution of project management, I suggest that EVM is sufficiently useful to ensure it’s here for the long run. Among EVM limitations and criticisms, which if resolved will further enhance this tool, are these:

Lack of Commitment

The old adage, “what gets measured, gets done,” has a corollary in “what gets promoted, get used.” EVM may take time to set up and can involve a rethink of how our projects are planned and how their progress is measured. If our organisation’s senior managers … Read More »


Project Management: Communication

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We can’t be an effective project manager if we’re not able to articulate what we need our project team to do. And we’re not only going to be communicating with our team, we’ll need to communicate with everyone associated with our project, internal or external, technical or functional, junior or senior.

In a recent PMI Pulse of the Profession report, it was revealed that the most crucial success factor in project management is effective communication with all stakeholders. The research finds that effective communication leads to more successful projects. Also, it’s been estimated by the Project Management Institute that a project manager’s job is some 90 percent communication, hence this comprehensive blog.

Importantly, as project managers we need the confidence and the communication skills to speak up when it’s necessary. The sponsor wants a ridiculous variation? It’s our job to explain why … Read More »


Preparing a Project Resource Schedule

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In project management, resources are required to carry out the project tasks. Having a plan for our project doesn’t mean we should only have listed the tasks it takes to deliver it. Planning also includes knowing what resources we’re going to need, how much, and when. Resourcing isn’t just about people, it’s also about materials and equipment.

Whether the project is developing a new software feature or the construction of a building, resource planning directly contributes to the project’s end result. An over-resourced project wastes time, those with too few resources risk missing critical milestones, and those that use the wrong resources won’t meet expectations. Project managers need to understand what resources a project needs before completing project plans. The basic steps for the preparation of our project resource schedule are these:

Step One: Finalise the project schedule, typically in Gantt chart … Read More »


PRINCESS: A Soft Skills Companion for PRINCE2

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I’ve been busy. Here is another one that you may wish to buy.  If so, I’ll post you a copy – a mere $28.75 includes GST and postage.  Let me know: jim_young@xtra.co.nz

DESCRIPTION

It’s fast becoming accepted wisdom that it’s people who deliver projects, not processes and technical tools. However, project management methods, tuition and publications still largely ignore the soft skills component of successful project management, particularly absent from Prince2 publications and public training courses, hence the title of this book “Princess – A Soft Skills Companion for Prince2” that explores the human factor that every project manager should master.

And for those contemplating Project Management Institute’s (PMI) credentials, the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam content is to change with effect December 2019 to include people skills that will represent 42% of the marks. However, people skills will not be part of … Read More »


The Project Audit

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Project auditing is a formal type of “project review”, most often designed to evaluate the extent to which project management standards are being followed – that we are doing the right things, and doing things right. Project audits are rarely welcome and often contentious, but when done correctly, they offer unparalleled opportunity to uncover the issues, concerns and challenges encountered in the execution of our project. It affords us the project manager, project sponsor and project team an interim view of what has gone well and what needs to be improved with our project to successfully complete it. Such an audit is often triggered when:

Situations come do not give a clear picture of the happenings on a project.
Reports give a project manager the feeling that facts are being glossed over.
A doubt arises on whether the project deliverables are being achieved.
The … Read More »


Monitoring Project Progress

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We project managers need to be constantly on our toes to ensure that our project is on the right track. Monitoring includes all the efforts and activities to collect and analyse project performance data. Accurate and effective monitoring helps us stick to our timeline and identify and resolve problems early to ensure our project success. To help achieve this we typically use the following three-step controlling process:

Measure: Keep a strict vigil on progress against the project plan.
Evaluate: Determine the root causes of deviations from the plan.
Correct: Make appropriate corrections to address deviations.

Finding a good balance between monitoring too much or too little is often a challenge, especially if we’re new to project management. If we’re constantly checking our team or expecting them to report to us every day, it can feel like we’re micromanaging and don’t trust … Read More »


Typical Key Project Roles & Responsibilities

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Professional relationships between us project managers (PMs) and our sponsors are organic – they are born, they grow, they mature, and ultimately they conclude. Importantly, we must clearly agree our respective roles and responsibilities at the start of the project and any changes to these as our project proceeds. The first thing that we might do is interview each other to assess each other’s skills, experience and philosophy. Our agreed roles and responsibilities may be included in the project charter and plan. Other than deciding our respective roles and responsibilities, two essential matters for us to clarify with our sponsor at this first meeting are:

Problem. What is the problem, opportunity or compliance issue that our project is to address? We want to clearly establish why the project exists.
Success. What would a successful project outcome be? We want to … Read More »


Project Management: Logic Fallacies

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Failure to apply critical thinking can have a negative impact on our project. A logic fallacy is an incorrect argument in logic. A key element of critical thinking is being able to spot logical fallacies to reduce risk and enhance our ability to complete projects successfully. We project managers must be aware of common logic fallacies such as these:

Sunk Costs. “Sunk cost” is an economic term for any expenses that can no longer be recovered. Sometimes we might invest ourselves so thoroughly in a project that we’re reluctant to abandon it, even when it turns out to be fruitless and futile. It’s natural, and usually not a fallacy to want to carry on with something we find important, not least because of all the resources we’ve put into it. However, this kind of thinking becomes a fallacy when we continue … Read More »



Blog

My latest thoughts on Project Management and life.

LATEST BOOK: EARNED VALUE MANAGEMENT

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...