Category: Blog


Project Cost Estimating

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Estimation is notoriously difficult. Projects by definition are unique ventures. We do not have the luxury of “having done it before” enjoyed by our operational colleagues – something is always different. But if it were just difficult we would expect to err in both directions – we would over-estimate as much as we under-estimate. Whereas the latter is common, the former is not – except perhaps when quoting a fixed price to a client. We know that our track record is poor but it doesn’t seem to help us – we are not improving. Rather than accept inaccurate estimation as an inevitable part of project management life, the application of good practice should significantly enhance the resultant estimates.  The following ideas may help:

Check we’ve identified all the work to be done, including all those jobs we do as PM – … Read More »


Projects: Recognising the Need and Justifying the Investment

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Just because someone has an idea for a project, doesn’t mean it should go ahead.

An organisation’s process for deciding which projects get dropped or deferred (often a euphemism for “dropped”) and which ones get approved is sometimes intuitive, informal, ineffective and inconsistent; the equivalent of rolling dice or the random throwing of darts. Each project has different costs, benefits and risks, and rarely are these known in advance with much certainty.

Rational project selection is an important process, but it’s not easy and many organisations struggle with issues such as running too many projects at once, misaligned business goals and projects, poor co-ordination between projects, lack of management commitment, deficient cross-functional collaboration, resistance to change, reluctance to terminate poorly performing projects, no attempt to check if project benefits have been realised, and finding the right balance between smaller short-term projects that … Read More »


Dealing with Difficult Participants

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One challenging thing to deal with as a facilitator is the “difficult” participant.

Sometimes tricky behaviours will emerge during a training session and often when participants don’t feel safe, valued or heard. Much of this behaviour is amusing and tolerable providing it doesn’t impinge on other’s learning. We’ve got the prisoner, the latecomer, the sleeper (although, sleeping I don’t mind; it’s the snoring that might annoy), the know-it-all, the side conversations, the bored, the confused, the domineering, the challenger, and the otherwise preoccupied – the text messenger. In some thirty years of training I’ve met them all.

It is not uncommon to find at least one participant in a workshop who is not fully or positively engaged. When confronted with such behaviour, we might step back and objectively assess what might be the root cause of their behaviour. For example, why would someone … Read More »


Closing a Project

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In a rush to get projects done, one of the most often overlooked, but critical, tasks of a project manager (PM) is conducting the project close-out step. The project close-out, closing, closure, termination or finish phase is the fourth and last phase in the project life cycle. In this phase, we formally close our project, and evaluate and report its overall performance.

Once the project product(s) has been produced and accepted by our sponsor and customer, our PM responsibilities continue to ensure that the project is properly closed down. A stakeholder acceptance meeting, as the name implies, is when our project team meets with other key stakeholders to review the project product and ensure that it is acceptable.

But sometimes projects take on a never-ending characteristic. They go into limbo land and are never allowed to close often because … Read More »


Project Risk Myths Debunked

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If we were to look up the definition of the word myth, we would find that one definition is that a myth is a “widely held, but false belief or idea.” In many respects a myth is much the same as a false assumption – “factors that, for planning purposes, are considered to be true, real, or certain without proof or demonstration.”  In other words, if we know that a belief is false, then it is not an assumption.  Also, if we know something to be verifiable then it is not an assumption but a fact. Importantly, all assumptions are risks and should therefore be recorded and subject to risk analysis. 

Myth 1: All risk is bad. Risks are potential problems, and if they happen then we are in trouble. The Truth. Risk includes both threats and opportunities, … Read More »


Project Management Programme

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During the three days 3–5 May 2017 I delivered a project management training programme for Ruapehu Whanau Transformation at their excellent training premises at Ohakune in full view of the impressive Mount Ruapehu. The intensive training was well-received and the participants impressed me with their keen interest and conscientious application – particularly their ability to work effectively as a team, which was most evident during the final exercise when they co-operated to produce and present an outstanding solution.

Attached is some PRE-COURSE READING and the comprehensive WORKBOOK that contains the exercises that we used to good effect during the programme, and also attached are the POWERPOINT slides that supported the tuition. Click on the red words for access to these items, but do check … Read More »


Quitting the Project

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“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run.”

Kenny Rogers – “The Gambler”

“The Gambler” reminds us that in poker, folding is part of the game. It allows us to take risks, knowing that if things don’t take a positive turn, we can always abandon the pursuit, although as in poker our project might be seduced by sunk costs – irreversible expenditure.

In 1996 there was a fatal attempt to climb Everest, when five people died on the mountain unwilling to heed the mandatory turnaround time and pull the plug on an expedition that faced deteriorating conditions. How do projects continue in the face of evidence that the plug should have been pulled? How can we make sense of this compulsion to continue? While there’s no single … Read More »


IMNZ Diploma in Project Management – Review

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Surprising Invitation to Review Proposed Content

IMNZ (Institute of Management New Zealand) is tinkering with the current Diploma in Project Management (DipPM). The structure, content, and method of delivery will evidently be very much the same as the previous programme developed by SkillPower, and will still be waterfall-based, but some adjustments, such as the exclusion of project site visits that were designed to add a practical element to the otherwise classroom-bound tuition, have apparently been made to align the programme with new qualifications, but unfortunately there will still be no recognition of prior learning or cross-crediting for this programme as for NZ National Diplomas.

Frankly, I’m not sure the IMNZ is now in the project management training hunt and might be better to focus on their generic management training given the increasing presence of project management-specific training organisations, such as ProjectPlus, and … Read More »


PRINCESS

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My intention is to write a book titled “PRINCESS” which will be a soft skills companion for the hard skills focused PRINCE2 or any other project management (PM) methodology.

The book will be designed as a uniquely Kiwi companion to the UK process-heavy PRINCE2 methodology that largely ignores the so-called soft skills essential for PM success. Once the technical processes of PRINCE2 have been mastered, it’s always the people that make the difference. Soft skills help us use our hard skills expertise to full advantage. So, to be effective PMs we need both soft skills and hard skills, and research supports this assertion, but let’s describe these two skill sets:

Hard Skills. Hard skills are technical abilities that generally involve the creation of a tangible deliverable such as a work breakdown structure (WBS), project schedule, critical path diagram, earned value reports, and … Read More »


Delegation

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Big projects mean we can’t do all the work ourselves,  and no one wants us to because we aren’t that good at everything. So assigning or delegating project tasks to others who possess the requisite skill sets is crucial to getting the project done. Within an organisation, project management (PM) itself is an example of delegation of authority, typically from the CEO to the project sponsor to the PM.

Delegation means realising results, by empowering and motivating others to achieve their assigned targets. But before we explore this important soft skill further, we need to have an understanding of three terms – accountability, responsibility and authority. The main difference between them is that the last two can be shared, while the first cannot, and responsibility moves upwards, whereas authority flows downwards.

Accountability. Accountability is the answerability for performance of assigned tasks. … Read More »



Blog

My latest thoughts on Project Management and life.

Free Book: “Managing Smaller and Medium-Sized Projects” by Dr Jim Young PMP

I acknowledge with sincere appreciation the contributions to this book from numerous clients, student, colleagues, friends and project management practitioners. Their sometimes unwitting input...

The “Lean” Project

Lean is an often-used adjective in business these days, but there’s some confusion over its exact definition. In essence, the goal of Lean is...

Monte Carlo Simulation

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Edition 6) advocates the use of Monte Carlo simulation for performing quantitative risk analysis.

In the project management...