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Friday, August 27, 2004

Project Objectives and the Work Breakdown Structure

I talked earlier about a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), but this is such an important subject it is valuable to revisit.

The WBS should accomplish several things:

It is the mechanism that takes the project's requirements and turns them into manageable project tasks

It is used to communicate project objectives to the project team and other stakeholders

Its output is used to build your first plan and schedule

In David I. Cleland's Book "Project Management: Strategic Design and Implementation. Second Edition" he states that:

In general the development of the WBS provides the means for:

Summarizing all the deliverables , resources, and activities of a project

Relating work elements to each other and to the total project

Building the matrix organization for the project by cross referencing the work elements to the organizational resources responsible for their completion

Addressing all contracted resources required for the project.

Estimating costs, simulating project scenarios, and conducting risk analysis

Providing information to define, budget, schedule, perform, and control work packages

Definition: "Work Package" - A deliverable at the lowest level of the Work Breakdown Structure.

Keep in mind a complex WBS isn't' required for most small and medium sized projects. Many times a simple deliverable-oriented tree of activities that graphically displays the work to be done will suffice. By that I mean a structure similar to an organization chart with the project name on the top row and the second row consisting of some elements of your project methodology.

For example, for an IT project the second row headings might be:







The best way to get started with creating a WBS is to gather the team (always done with the team) and write down the project tasks on Post-It Notes. Then, use an available wall to post the tasks in the appropriate places under the headings of your WBS's second row.

Project Management Boulevard

Another good Project Management site with an extensive, usable library of White Papers.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Project Management KnowledgeBank

Here is a link to a site I use quite often. It contains lots of links to other Project Management sites that have some useful information. Project Management KnowledgeBank

Monday, August 16, 2004

Project Management and Disaster Planning

Had you been a Floridian this past week living on the southwest Gulf coast like I was, you would have quickly realized that Disaster Planning was something you should have completed months if not years earlier. It turned out that Hurricane Charlie was a major disaster for thousands of families in our area. I wonder how many might have lessened their troubles if they had done some disaster planning prior to this tragic event.

As my wife and I scrambled around the house on Thursday night taking pictures and recording serial numbers of our possessions, I quickly realized I should have prepared a disaster prepardness plan long ago.

As most of us know, one of the most important things to have when planning for any project is a scope statement. My scope statement for this hastily started project was simple: "keep my family safe and protect our property". I live in a new house, and with the strict Florida building codes that were enacted over the last several years I felt we were safe staying in our home. But, like most projects, my plan was full of risks, and I needed to perform some serious Risk Mitigation. Did I have fresh batteries for the flashlights, a portable radio, a designated safe area of the house to escape to in case things got bad?

On Thursday evening the kids filled the bathtubs with water (in case we lost our water supply), we made sure there were candles and matches (in case the electricity went out), my wife took the time to ensure the propane tank for the gas grill was exchaged for one that was full, and she went to the store and purchased plenty of canned goods and bottled water. To further mitigate risk, my wife and I filled our cars with gasoline and began clearing the yard and lanai of objects that could become flying missiles in a strong wind.

Having said all this, it would have been much better to have had a well thought out plan, or checklist prepared ahead of time so that no important task would be left undone. While our immediate area wasn't impacted much by the hurricane, the lesson learned from this experience is that early planning is not only important, but it can save a lives!

God Bless the families impacted by Hurricane Charlie!

Monday, August 09, 2004

Will the real Project Sponsor please stand up?

In my experience most projects don't have a real project sponsor. A project sponsor is the senior manager or executive that champions the project in the organization. The sponsor provides support for obtaining resources, provides strategic direction, and acts as the decision point for questions outside of the project manager’s authority.

Every project that crosses functional lines of authority needs a project sponsor to remove barriers, assist in resolving conflict, and mediate negotiations. The sponsor can also act as a mentor and coach to the project manager and team members.

The project sponsor is usually chosen by senior management, but sometimes the sponsor volunteers because the project directly impacts their resources or budget the most.

Typically Project Sponsors are responsible for:

Providing project direction
Monitoring project progress
Assisting the Project Manager to define the Project Management process for the project
Approving final scope, project objectives, schedule, resource assignments, roles and responsibilities
Providing accurate, relevant and timely communications in writing when appropriate
Approve scope changes
Obtain or resolve issues surrounding resources (people, money, equipment)
Setting project priorities and removing barriers to project success

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Project Management Truths

I found these "Project Management Truths" several years ago on the Internet . Here is a partial listing, I will post more later.

The same work under the same conditions will be estimated differently by ten different estimators or by one estimator at ten different times.

Any project can be estimated accurately (once it's completed).

The most valuable and least used WORD in a project manager's vocabulary is "NO".

The most valuable and least used PHRASE in a project manager's vocabulary is "I don't know".

Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn't have to do it.

You can con a sucker into committing to an impossible deadline, but you cannot con him into meeting it.

At the heart of every large project is a small project trying to get out.

If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

The more desperate the situation the more optimistic the situatee.