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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Quality Revisited (again)

Quality is a heavily tested knowledge area on the PMP exam and as such we should all be familiar with the subject.

According to Philip B. Crosby, Quality is “conformance to requirements”.  He goes on to state the Four Absolutes of Quality as:

The definition of quality is conformance to requirements

The system of quality is prevention

The performance standard is zero defects

The measurement of quality is the price of nonconformance

Another Quality Guru is Joseph Juran.  He states that “Quality is fitness for use”.  He also defines something called the Quality Trilogy.  

It is composed of:

Quality Improvement

Quality Planning

Quality Control

Juran also goes on to define the “Ten Steps in the Quality Improvement Process”.  They are:

Build awareness of the need and opportunity for improvement

Set goals for improvement

Organize to reach the goals

Provide training throughout the organization

Carry out the projects to solve problems

Report progress

Give recognition

Communicate results

Keep score

Maintain momentum by making annual improvement part of the regular systems and processes of the company.

Lastly, we look at what Dr. W. Edwards Deming says about Quality.  According to Dr. Deming, Quality is “continuous improvement through reduced variation”.  

His five principles are:

The central problem in lack of quality is the failure of management to understand variation

It is management’s responsibility to know whether the problems are in the system or behavior of people

Teamwork should be based upon knowledge, design, and redesign.  Constant improvement is management’s responsibility.  Most causes of low quality and productivity belong to the system

Train people until they are achieving as much as they can (within the limits of the system)

It is management’s responsibility to give detailed specifications

Do the above statements reflect the situation in your work environment?  Is your management engaged in Quality?  Are they hands-on, hands-off, or asleep at the switch? 

Quality is everyone’s job; however Quality cannot be managed with out the participation of management.  I would even be so bold to say that “poor quality equals poor management”.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

16 Points to PM Maturity

One of my favorite project management books is called - "Project Management - A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling" -  and is written by Dr. Harold Kerzner. In this book there is a section entitled "16 Points to Project Management Maturity". These points are listed below, and are worth reviewing on a regular basis.

1. Adopt a project management methodology and use it consistently

2. Implement a philosophy that drives the company toward project management maturity and communicate to everyone

3. Commit to developing effective plans at the beginning of each project

4. Minimize scope changes by committing to realistic objectives

5. Recognize that cost and schedule management are inseparable

6. Select the right person as project manager

7. Provide executives with project sponsor information, not project management information

8. Strengthen involvement and support of line management

9. Focus on deliverable rather than resources

10. Cultivate effective communication, cooperation, and trust to achieve rapid project management maturity

11. Share recognition for project success with the entire project team and line management

12. Eliminate non-productive meetings

13. Focus on identifying and solving problems early, quickly, and cost effectively

14. Measure progress periodically

15. Use project management software as a tool - not as a subsitute for effective planning or interpersonal skills

16. Institute an all-employee training program with periodic updates based upon documented lessons learned

If you have some of your own post them in the comments section.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Take on Some Project Management Principles

Here are four basic Project Principles and some of my ideas regarding what to watch out for when managing your projects.

(1) Projects are often constrained from the start (Initiation Phase) by a fixed, finite budget and defined timeline. In other words, many projects have budgets that have strictly defined constraints and a timeline with a set start and end date. This is obvious to all project managers, however what is not so obvious is many times these budget and timelines are not sufficient (or realistic) to accomplish the project’s objectives. From the start, ensure the project sponsor is aware that budget and timelines may need to be renegotiated as project planning progresses.

(2) Projects can have many complex and interrelated activities that need to be coordinated so that proper organizational resources can be applied at the proper time. The big thing to watch out for here is "proper organizational resources". While you may not have input on which resources you get for your project, you do have input on the project’s estimates and schedule. Do not allow others to dictate unrealistic schedules or estimates for resources that are unproven, unreliable or untested.

(3) Projects are directed toward the attainment of a clearly defined objective(s) and once they are achieved, the project is over. Yea, right! Not all projects have clearly defined objectives, and if they do, they are not always achievable given the budget, time, and organizational constraints. Not only that, your organization’s culture can be a huge impediment to successfully managing your project. Be very careful when accepting a new project to ensure you are not being setup to fail. Do not accept projects with unclear or unrealistic objectives.

(4) Projects are unique. Because they are unique, the risks are great and failure is always an option. Minimize the risks by informing your sponsor that until you are finished with your initial project planning activities you may not be able to provide realistic budget and time estimates. Once you have completed your initial project planning activities, (project planning is continuous) provide your sponsor with an estimated budget and time range, and remind him or her that as planning progresses these ranges will be adjusted to closer reflect reality.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Is Accurate Estimating Possible?

I have been burned more times than I can count by bad estimates. What can a project manager do to help ensure the accuracy of estimates?  First we should understand the basics behind the estimating process (there are many more than I have listed here). Some are:

• The more unique the project, the more of a challenge it will be to get good estimates

• Estimates are only as good as the estimator is at predicting the future

• "Padded" estimates are not always bad as long as the padding is communicated (... and as long as the Project Manager is the one doing/approving the "padding")

• An estimate is not a bid

• Estimates using sound estimating practices, performed by experienced estimators from clear specifications should never be negotiated

• Ballpark estimates are guesses and should be treated as much by the project team, management, and the project sponsor

Other items to consider when estimating are:

• Ensure the statement of work or contract is clear and understood by the person(s) doing the estimates

• Ensure that a schedule or mandated date doesn't drive the estimating thought process

• Include risk management in the estimating process

• Ensure that estimates take into account the skill level(s) of the person(s) that will do the work

• If your work breakdown structure (WBS) is flawed, your estimates will be inaccurate

Accurate estimating is an art and a science. The estimator (or estimating team) must take into account historical data from past proejcts, the team's knowledge and experience, the project risks, the statement of work and other project information to make the best estimate possible.

Keep in mind when planning your project that estimates aren't hard and fast numbers. They are guesses, however they should be very good guesses if you have good estimators and are following tried and true estimating practices.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Project is Unique...

As the readers of this blog know, I try to cover the basics of Project Management. As project managers, we get in trouble when we try to complicate things. In my career, I have worked for many different types and sizes of organizations. Some have embraced Project Management and others have made excuses so as not to be constrained by what they believe is a process that slows things down (adds cost and overhead). I have preached the same message for years. Project Management is designed to help reduce or eliminate rework and surprises at the end of a project.

So why don’t some organizations see the value of Project Management? Usually it is because they do not understand the benefits of Project Management, they do not trust the Project Managers they currently have, or the ones they have encountered in the past. OK, we can accept that, however, what we should never accept is the idea that Project Management just adds cost and overhead.

We need to educate those around us about the difference between projects and other organizational work. Senior management needs to realize the fact that work is basically broken down into two areas: Operations (focused on Maintaining) and Projects (focused on Change). Most organizations do an adequate job of managing their operations; however, my experience (limited as it is) has shown that projects and the support of project management vary greatly.

Every organization has projects; sometimes they are just too busy to realize it. As project managers, we need to educate the influencers in our organizations about the benefits of Project Management. In addition, we need to realize that the benefits of Project Management are demonstrated in the successful implementation of projects. Do not preach the benefits of Project Management; demonstrate them by walking the walk and talking the talk.

Therefore, to answer our central question and wrap this up, a project is:

A temporary endeavor to create a unique product or service


Constrained by a finite budget

Constrained by a finite timeline (defined start and end date)

Composed of interrelated activities

Focused on attaining one or more clearly defined objectives

The last point needs to be stressed. Without clearly defined and agreed upon objectives your project is doomed to fail from the start. I would also add that your project does not have a chance for success unless you have an engaged, influential, and respected executive in the role of project sponsor.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Project Don'ts

Don’t believe everything you are told about a potential project’s benefits. Investigate for yourself and plan accordingly.

Don’t take on a project that doesn’t have a strong sponsor that is committed to seeing the project succeed.

Don't forget that most project assumptions should also be risks.

Don't set project expectations that are higher than reality can deliver.

Don't try to define reality too early in the project planning phase.

Don’t define solutions that do not address needs.

Don’t forget to manage customer expectations.

Don’t forget to thank your team members for doing a good job.

Don’t be a whiner. A leader never whines and a whiner never leads.

Don’t forget that leaders need to have credibility.

Don’t forget that credibility requires honesty, dedication, commitment, and capability.

Don’t forget that people are the number one reason for project failure.

Don’t forget that empowering teams is a management function.

Don’t allow others to influence your attitude. Be positive in the face of adversity.

Don’t forget to have fun while working on your projects.

Don’t forget that Project Management is mostly art and some science.