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Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Project is Late Again!

Is is late because of...

Design Changes – Design changes during project execution almost always cause delays and impacts to your budget. Once the Scope document has been signed, any changes to the design need to go through your Scope Change Request Process.

Skill Sets – When planning, assumptions are made regarding people's skills. Sometimes these assumptions turn out to be wrong. Also, you will usually have people on your team who are new or are less experienced. These new or lower skilled workers won't be as productive or effective as higher skilled workers. Make sure your project plan has accounted for skill levels.

Unplanned Work or Workarounds – Many times changes must be made to the sequence of planned work. These changes can impact time, cost, budget, and quality. Think about these risks up front and discuss what if any workarounds will be used.

Rework – Rework happens; it is part of project management. Ensure your project plan accounts for rework.

Team Morale – Turnover, project conflict, sick time, vacations all can wreak havoc with your schedule and budget; plan for these things. A happy team is a productive team. Ensure your team is working towards a common goal and not working against each other. Remove disruptive team members from your project if their behavior can't be changed.

Schedules – Trying to do too much in too little time will result in delays. Once you get behind it is very difficult to catch up. Your project will have delays. You need to have contingency plans to get back on track quickly.

Work Environment – Ensure that your team has a proper workspace. Cramming people into poorly designed work spaces will lower productivity.

Tools – Ensure your team has the right tools to do the job. Having the right tool, but not getting into the teams hands at the right time will cause delays in your schedule.

Project Manager Overload – Too many people on a project team without the proper management oversight can cause major problems for the project manager.

Overtime – Adding hours to people's schedules in order to make a deadline will usually do nothing but increase your budget. Adding overtime rarely results in getting a late project back on track.

Executive – Executive apathy can kill your project. People are usually not going to make your project a priority if their boss isn't willing to tell them it is important. Deadbeat executives kill team morale and project momentum.

Plan for the above "risks" and you will start to bring your projects in faster, cheaper, and with higher quality.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What Is Not in Writing Has Not Been Said

While the title of this message may seem extreme, there are many times when it is relevant in project management. One example is in the area of requirements. Project requirements are always in written form. In the field of project management there is no such thing as a verbal project requirement.

The following text was taken from Chapter Twenty in the “Field Guide to Project Management”. The authors Francis M Webster, Jr. and Stephen D. Owens state, "the written document provides instructions, restates previous instructions, conveys importance to the message, and helps the project manager to cover their tracks".

The authors also make the point that that "e-mail isn't always enough and can get you in trouble faster and with more people". As we all know from experience, e-mail usually isn't given enough thought before it is sent which can lead to messages being misinterpreted and having unintended consequences.

A project manager that is doing his or her job will formally document all items that are important and relevant to supporting a project's objectives.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Twenty Good Life Tips

Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.

Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get older, their conversational skills will be as important as any other.

Do not believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want.

When you say, "I love you", mean it.

When you say, "I'm sorry", look the person in the eye.

Be engaged at least six months before you get married.

Believe in love at first sight.

Never laugh at anyone's dreams. People who do not have dreams do not have much.

Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it is the only way to live life completely.

In disagreements, fight fairly. No name-calling.

Do not judge people by their relatives.

Talk slowly but think quickly.

When someone asks you a question you do not want to answer, smile and ask, "Why do you want to know?"

Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

Say, "Bless You" when you hear someone sneeze.

When you lose, do not lose the lesson.

Remember the three R's: Respect for self; Respect for others; Responsibility for all your actions.

Do not let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

When you realize you have made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Snakes on a Project

Project managers must manage team dysfunction. Sometimes the dysfunction comes from the top (Sponsor, Steering Committee, Senior Management) and sometimes it comes from the project stakeholders and core team members (or the project manager). The project manager must be a motivator, and additionally must keep the team focused on the project’s objectives. Most importantly, the project manager must do all they can to ensure that negative or destructive elements are kept clear of their projects. Sometimes these negative elements (people) are called “project snakes”.

Project Snake Facts

Project snakes aren’t interested in you, your team, or your project’s success

Project snakes won’t confront you with an issue or problem

Project snakes are interested in feeding (their own needs and ego)

Project snakes operate one way – surprise attack!

Project snakes strike when you least expect it

Project snakes (almost always) operate alone

Project snakes have few if any real friends (except other snakes)

Project snakes wear pants and skirts

When you find out there is a snake present, ensure you expose him or her for what they are. When exposing the snake, make sure you do this in a way that won’t cost you or another person on your team their job.

Snakes are devious, sneaky, and often powerful. Remember, the snake is all about feeding their own appetite (ego). Hopefully, if you and your team continue to do the right things the snake will slither off to feed somewhere else.

Project teams are most productive when they have fun, trust each other, have commitment to the project’s objectives, embrace open communications, and are working in a culture where their opinion is appreciated and they are creating value.

Project snakes don’t care about people, teams, and most of all projects that don’t serve their narrow agenda. Project snakes are sneaky predators that feed on the weak. Beware of the snake!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Plan Backwards

I came across this article several years ago and thought it made some very good points.

1. RESULTS – Try planning backwards - Start with the results in mind. Most mid-level managers plan around their schedule in an effort to “fill the calendar.” If your group’s goal is to stay active and keep everyone busy this is a great idea. But if your goal is to accomplish something like, oh I don’t know, let’s say your organization’s mission or turn a profit, this is the dumbest way to start out. Really, what are you in business to do? Move the sand pile left then move it back right the next quarter?

Smart planners begin with the results they want to achieve. They ruthlessly eliminate everything that doesn’t support this goal. They never hesitate to say, “No, that’s not what we are about.” Great leaders stay focused on the main thing they and never deter from it. What do you want to see occur next year? Where do you want to be? Set that as your planning goal and let everything fall in to place around it. Guard this and don’t let any other activity or program get in the way.

2. ACTIVITIES – Next plan the activities it will take to accomplish your goal(s). Don’t schedule them yet. Just sit down and determine what it will take to get to the destination you have set. Some activities may be impossible to pull off, but this will give you a good idea of what you need to be doing and how you need to distribute resources to get things done. Planning activities will help you determine the Big Three questions that need to be answered in planning guidelines:

(A) What do you think you are doing?
(B) What ought you to be doing?
(C) What are you actually doing?

Examining all three perspectives will give you valuable insight into your job and time problems.

Activities that don’t meet these criteria or don’t support the mission of your company, corporation or mission should be eliminated, no matter how sacred they are. How many exercises do you do for no other reason than, we’ve always done them? Read Sacred Cows Make Great Burgers. Yes, it is risky to ask “Why?” but you’ve got to take a few risks to venture into new territory. Have some fun. Go around and ask people how certain historical practices originated and why they continue to schedule them every year. You’ll be surprised at how many people are clueless, but continue to perform them like mindless sheep.

3. PRIORITIES – The next step will happen almost automatically. You and your staff will begin to re-evaluate your priorities and find out what you need to be about in the year ahead. You’ll be surprised to find consensus when you have eliminated useless activities that don’t accomplish your mission or goals. Determining your goals and activities will help you establish clear priorities for the time period you are planning. It will help you enforce the “If it doesn’t support or goals, we’re not doing it” rule.

Use the Paretto Principle to establish priorities: “Eighty percent of our activities produce 20 percent of the results, while only 20 percent of our activities produce 80 percent of the results.” Vilifredo Paretto was a 19th Century Italian economist who established a rule for economics that works in almost every realm of planning. It is simple: List your top ten priorities in order, then circle the top two. Concentrate planning on those two and the other eight will take care of themselves. More organizations waste time on useless trivial activities that produce almost no results. The wisdom of life consists of eliminating the non-essentials.

4. TIME ESTIMATES – How long will it take? How much time will each activity require to get you closer to your annual goals? The key to successful planning is to plan both work and time. Start to determine what will take big blocks of time, how many people will be required to get it done and where will the resources be needed to accomplish each task. Next look at the smaller blocks of time and find out how they can be batched together to eliminate waste in funding and time. Where are the wasted time slots? How can they be reduced or wiped away completely?

Determine what time of the year is the peak performance time to get each task accomplished. Where are the slow periods annually that you can get more “behind the scenes” work done? When is your “showtime,” when visible tasks are best accomplished? Remember these are only estimates but they will give you a good idea as to when you need to be concentrating on the right tasks at the right time.

5. SCHEDULING - Now look at your actual calendar. Things that are scheduled tend to happen on time. Things that are not scheduled may never happen. As I said earlier, most managers tend to schedule first in an effort to fill the calendar and eliminate gaps. Knowing what you are about, why you are about it, and how long it will take will be the greatest ally you have in putting things on in ink.

Use this guideline for scheduling: Flexibility in time: Start early on major efforts, Big blocks come first; smaller jobs/activities come second; and group items that are similar in nature. Scheduling along these lines will do more to eliminate wasted time in your calendar. It will allow for the time estimates to become realities and your people to know what they are doing, why they are doing it and how it fits into your overall mission/goals.

6. FLEXIBILITY – Allow time for error and the uncertainty. This can only be done if you have set out to allow the proper amount of time for big projects. No one can predict the future (although we seem to have an abundance of philosophers, pundits and fanatics who attempt to do it every day). A well-known television economist spent the first two months of his new program telling everyone not to buy home improvement company stocks (Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.) then was forced to retract every prediction when they soared following the devastating hurricanes in the Gulf Coast areas. One good rule: Don’t take advice from anyone who isn’t personally invested in the suggestions they are giving. You probably have example in your own life of people who said to do one thing only to change when things weren’t as certain as they assured you. Don’t get stuck paying the bill for their mistakes.

Planning flexibility allows you to adjust your schedule as needed. It allows you to drop back and re-evaluate your intentions and redistribute resources and personnel in key areas as are required. Be flexible about your schedule, but not your results or goals. Times change and although you can’t predict the future, the great leaders are able to see through the present times and prepare for both good and bad events. Those with the best outlook on life are always expecting the best, but prepared for the worst, just in case. To deny that problems will arise is foolishness. In summary, our ability to control our time is directly related to our attitude toward controlling our environment. Now you are in control of your schedule. You determine what to do and when to do it based on a simple rule: What results do we want? Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right.”A year from today, evaluate the tasks you accomplished. How did your employees, support staff come together to meet your goals? How long did it take for everyone to get in step with the master plan and find ways to cut wasted time and reallocate resources? How prepared were you for unforeseen events in the market and society? How much more can you accomplish next year? Try “Backwards Planning” and see how everything fits better into place.

Permission is granted to reproduce this article in whole or in part provided the following byline below appears along with the article and that a copy is sent to me after publication. Thank you: JIM MATHIS is an International Speaking Professional and Trainer.

To subscribe to his FREE personal and professional development newsletter, please send an email to with the word SUBSCRIBE. An electronic copy will be sent out to you every month. For more information on how JIM and his programs can benefit your organization or group, please call 888-688-0220, or visit his website:

Monday, June 01, 2009

Your Health is a Project

DISCLAIMER - Please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Quick Introduction

Our health is important, I think we can all agree on that. If we want to improve our health and fitness we really need a plan. Part of our plan needs to include exercise. The exercise that delivers the best fitness and weight loss results while using the least amount of your time is jogging/running. Many people begin a jogging/running routine, but quit due to fatigue, soreness, or injury. Why do they get injured or lose interest? They do too much without getting their body in shape first. The plan I use starts with only walking at first. Also, in the plan I use no workout is longer than 30 minutes.

How I Got Started

Back in March I found a document online entitled "From Couch to 5-K in 9 weeks". Since I am 51 years old and wasn't in very good shape I modified the document for my needs and included a link to it here. I added a few weeks to help me get in shape (15 weeks instead of nine), and modified some of the distances and times (started slower). I'm currently using the plan and am in week 11. So far so good. I have lost weight and I feel good.

In closing, If I can follow this plan anybody can. Especially when doing jogging in the Florida heat! The trick is to go slow, listen to your body, and keep following the plan.

If you are interested in the plan I use you can get a copy of the document here

If you want a MS Word version of the document e-mail me at sfseay(at)

DISCLAIMER - Please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.