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Monday, May 23, 2005

Condemed to Repeat the Past?

Have you ever heard the old quote by the philosopher and poet George Santayana that states, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"? In project management, we need to remember that historical data is our best friend when planning new projects. Do not forget when doing your planning to use empirical data from past projects. This data can help you to reduce negative risk and increase your odds for project success.

Other information to review when planning new projects:

Review your companies past project files for information regarding past resource estimates, lessons learned, budget data, risks, assumptions, etc...

Conduct interviews with select project team members from past projects to understand what went right and what went wrong.

Interview customers and other project managers for lessons learned from their past projects.

Do searches on the Internet about similar projects to gather information which might assist in planning your project.

Most importantly, use Risk Management during the planning cycle to identify issues that could cost you big later on.

Finally, do not fall victim to the project manager's curse of not learning from the past. Remember the old saying, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Perfect Project Manager

I have a book entitled “What Makes a Good Project Manager” by James S. Pennypacker and Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin. In the book, there is a reference to a 2001 ComputerWorld article that discusses “The Perfect Project Manager”. The consensus of the article was in the world of Information Technology (IT) there are three general areas of Project Management competency: Technology, Business, and Behavior (in no certain order).

One of the CIOs interviewed in the ComputerWorld article stated “in order to motivate IT workers, you need … an understanding of human behavior and how to motivate teams.” Do not miss this important point. Project Managers are primarily team leaders, motivators, and communicators. Project Managers will not be successful managing IT projects if they do not have an understanding of basic human behavior.

It has also been determined there are three Project Management skills that are required for success in IT:

General Management Skills

Project Management Skills

IT Management Skills

Under General Management, the key areas of expertise are (not in order):

Thinking Skills

Organizational Awareness


Interpersonal Relations

Communication Skills

Many companies are now interviewing Project Managers placing a heavy emphasis on character traits versus professional competencies. These companies realize if a Project Manager cannot get along well with others and have poor communication skills they will not be successful.

The key to project success is having a competent project manager and the number one competency of a project manager is honesty. Research has shown that projects are more likely to fail because the human elements are not managed. In order to mitigate this type of risk project managers need to develop skills that support sound decision-making, good communications, motivational techniques, and conflict management.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Are You Trustworthy - Part II

I have always admired Stephen Covey’s writings. In his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” Mr. Covey talks about being Trustworthy. As project managers if we are not trustworthy, we are not going to be effective. When you are trustworthy, you can be counted on to keep your word. Trustworthiness is a qualitative measure so we cannot apply some objective measure to how honest or reliable a person is.

As mentioned in Paul Friedman’s Book “How to Deal with Difficult People”, Paul states “Faith in people is fragile”. “Every single breach of trust diminishes people’s confidence in you”. Paul goes on to say, “Most people believe themselves to be more trustworthy than others think they are. We forgive ourselves more readily for minor transgressions that linger in other people’s minds. We know why we neglected to do something. We know we had a good reason and intended no harm. However, others cannot read our minds or know what our lives are like”.

Take your promises seriously. When you are unable to keep your commitments, be quick to admit fault, explain, apologize and do whatever is necessary to repair the damage and reassure others that you will redouble your efforts so you do not repeat the same mistakes. Trust is earned, but it is earned only after you demonstrate that you are Trustworthy.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Project Requirements and the WBS

The project manager is responsible for controlling a project's requirements. To start the process of managing requirements the project manager works with the team to create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

A couple of things to keep in mind regarding a WBS are:

A WBS should identify the level tasks to be completed, and relate to the project’s deliverables.

The customer(s), project sponsor, and stakeholders are actively involved in creating the WBS.

The WBS helps avoid future "scope creep".

As you can see the WBS is an important project artifact. The WBS accomplishes several things:

It assists the project team to identify and create specific work packages

It is another way of communicating the project's objectives to the team

It is the foundation for future project planning and activity sequencing

In closing, a WBS summarizes deliverables, shows work relationships, helps the team to estimate costs and perform risk analysis, and assists the team to identify project assumptions and dependencies.

The WBS is your friend. Start taking time to create one for every project.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Business Process Mapping

Does your organization perform business process mapping? Mapping of business processes is important if you want to understand what is happening. Mapping your "as is" processes tells you a lot about what you may already know, but also a lot about what you don't know.

When you begin to map your processes, you will start to see the activities, products, information, and decisions being made that support the process.

Some reasons to map your business processes are:

Mapping the "as is" processes will assist your team when doing detailed analysis

Helps to identify process ownership, and identifies the roles that support the process

Helps to show the difference between cycle time and value-added time

Helps to measure process performance

Helps to identify problem areas to address

Establishes performance baselines when creating "to be" processes

Identifies process bottlenecks, and disconnects

Shows relationships between activities and products

NOTE: When looking at what processes to model, the processes that cross functional business areas should be addressed first.

Three principles to keep in mind when process modeling are (in this order):

Eliminate wasted time and work

Consolidate efforts where possible

Automate (where it adds value)

When process mapping we are always asking questions like "why are we doing this", "why are we not doing that", "can this step be eliminated, consolidated, automated", "can we do this step/sub-process better, faster, smarter, cheaper”? Business process mapping can help your organization to operate more efficiently and respond to change faster, which ultimately will lead to improved customer satisfaction.

For more information be sure to Google "Business Process Mapping" or "Business Process Modeling"