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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Business Process Improvement and the Project Manager

Project managers need to ensure that customer's are satisfied with a project's deliverables.  Part of this process is ensuring that the customer's business processes are optimized.  You can't provide the best possible project results if your customer's processes aren't efficient.  Improving processes is about improving quality while reducing costs and waste. 

Processes need measures.  If you don't have measures then your processes aren't worth the paper they are printed on.  Processes have to meet the needs of the organization, business unit that executes them, and the customer's requirements.  Measures also help to identify and solve process problems, and help to ensure they are meeting the customer's requirements. 

When it comes to process improvement, a good project manager understands:

How to develop team skills

How to break down work into processes

How to solve problems and to find the root cause of  the problems

How to recommend solutions to problems that are acceptable to the majority

How to lead a team and when to let the team lead

Measure the effectiveness of a process by:

Looking at the cycle times between process steps

Identifying bottlenecks that cause unnecessary delays

Identify problems that cause defects to occur

In order to help develop good business processes, a project manager must have the knowledge, skills, and experience to ensure that the right people are doing the right things at the right time, using the right tools and delivering the results that are expected.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Project Management Professional Responsibility Questions Part 2

As mentioned last week, a few years ago Frank Saladis and Al Zeitoun compiled a list of Project Management Professional Responsibility Questions. These questions are an example of what might appear on the the Project Management Institute's (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. I posted the first fifteen questions last week, and the remainder are listed below.

Here is the second set of questions.  Comments are welcome. 

16. In order for the project manager to fully and effectively understand a stake holder's personal concerns or grievances it may necessary to:

  1. Ask for a written description of the problem and submit it through the project office
  2. Schedule a project review session with the entire project team
  3. Attempt to empathize with the stakeholder
  4. Involve the project sponsor as an arbitrator

17. As the leader of a project team, the project manager may be required to assess the competencies of his or her team members. Occasionally, some weaknesses or areas for improvement will be identified. The project manager should:

  1. Remove any team members who have demonstrated weaknesses in critical knowledge areas
  2. Communicate those weaknesses and establish a performance improvement program
  3. Hire additional resources to compensate for weak areas
  4. Wait for the team members to fail in an assignment to justify termination.

18. You have just changed jobs and discovered that your new employer routinely violates OSHA/EPA and affirmative action requirements on projects. You should:

  1. Do nothing; it's not your problem
  2. Start by asking management if they are aware that regulations are being violated
  3. Talk to the corporate legal department
  4. Inform the appropriate government agencies about the violations

19. The project manager must be an effective communicator to ensure that project stakeholders receive and understand project related information and status. Prior to delivering information to the stakeholders the project manager should attempt to:

  1. Research and understand the region of experience of the stakeholder before transmitting information
  2. Identify only those stakeholders that have a the same background experience as the project manager
  3. Filter the information to remove any details
  4. Restrict information to specific technical details

20. As part of your project plan you must develop an effective method of communication for your multinational team of stakeholders. You have several choices of media available. The appropriate action to take in the development of the communication plans would be to:

  1. Discuss the available options with the stakeholders and obtain their input
  2. Use the standard media that has been in effect for your previous projects
  3. Use multiple forms of media to ensure that everyone receives the information
  4. Obtain additional funding from the project sponsor and develop a project specific communications infrastructure.

21. One of your employees is up for promotion. If the promotion is granted, the employee will be reassigned elsewhere causing a problem for you on your project. You can delay the promotion until your project is completed. You should:

  1. Support the promotion but work with the employee and the employee's new management to develop a good transition plan
  2. Ask the employee to refuse the promotion until your project is completed.
  3. Arrange to delay the promotion until the project is completed
  4. Tell the employee that it is his responsibility to find a suitable replacement so that the project will not suffer.

22. The integrity of the project manager is often challenged by stakeholders who attempt to use personal power or influence to change the scope of an agreed upon deliverable. In these situations the project manager's most appropriate response would be:

  1. Refer the stakeholder to the process for change documented in the approved contract.
  2. Agree to the change because customer satisfaction is the goal regardless of cost.
  3. Contact the legal department and suspend all further project work
  4. Determine the risks and rewards for implementing the change before taking any action.

23. During project implementation the client interprets a clause in the contract to mean the he is entitled to a substantial refund for work recently completed. You review the clause and disagree with the client's conclusion. As the project manager which of the following actions should be taken

  1. Disregard the customer's conclusion and continue to process invoices
  2. Document the dispute and refer to the provisions of the contract that address interpretations and disputes
  3. Advise the customer that ambiguous information in contracts is always interpreted in favor of the contractor
  4. Immediately correct the clause to remove any possible misinterpretation by the customer

24. Your executives, in appreciation for the success of your project, have given you a $10,000 bonus to be disbursed among your five-team members. One of the five, who is a substandard worker and accomplished very little on your project, is in your car pool. You should:

  1. Provide everyone with an equal share
  2. Provide everyone a share based upon their performance
  3. Ask the workers to decide among themselves how the bonus should be subdivided
  4. Ask the sponsor to make the decision

25. Before reporting a perceived violation of an established rule or policy the project manager should

  1. Determine the risks associated with the violation
  2. Ensure there is a reasonably clear and factual basis for reporting the violation
  3. Ignore the violation until it actually affects the project results
  4. Convene a committee to review the violation and determine the appropriate response

26. Project Managers can contribute to their organization's knowledge base and to the profession of project management most effectively by:

  1. Developing and implementing a project review and lessons learned process
  2. Establishing strict guidelines for protecting intellectual property
  3. Promote the use of ad hoc project management
  4. Ensuring that all project plans are developed before the project team is formed

27. You have been assigned two concurrent projects. Because of the nature of the projects, you have a conflict of interest. You should:

  1. Do the best you can and tell no one
  2. Ask to be removed from one of the projects
  3. Ask to be removed from both of the projects
  4. Inform your sponsor and ask for his advice

28. You receive a contract to perform testing for an external client. After contract award, the customer provides you with the test matrix to use for your 16 tests. The vice president for engineering says that the customer's test matrix is wrong, and she will use a different test matrix, which should give better results. This is a violation to the SOW. You should:

  1. Use the customer's test matrix
  2. Use the engineering test matrix without telling the customer
  3. Use the engineering test matrix and discuss the reasons with the customer
  4. Ask your sponsor for clarification, assuming that the vice president is not your sponsor

29. An effective method for improving an organization's project management knowledge base is through:

  1. Coaching and mentoring
  2. Referent power
  3. A weak Matrix organizational structure
  4. Fast Tracking 
  5. Answer Key

    1=c    8=b    15=d  22=a

    2=d    9=b    16=c   23=b

    3=a    10=a   17=b  24=c

    4=a    11=c   18=b   25=b

    5=c    12=b   19=a   26=a

    6=b    13=b    20=a  27=d

    7=c    14=d    21=a  28=d

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Project Management Professional Responsibility Questions

Some years ago Frank Saladis and Al Zeitoun compiled a list of Project Management Professional Responsibility Questions. These questions are an example of what might appear on the the Project Management Institute's (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to post them here. How many did you get right? Post your answer on the comments section for this blog posting.

There are 29 questions total and the first 15 are published here. The answers to the questions appear at the end of this posting, and the remaining questions will be posted in the next few days.

1. While working on an external project your customer asks you to perform some additional tasks that are not included in the formal contract. You should:

a) Honor the customer's request as sign of cooperation to ensure future business
b) Refuse the request and report the customer to your sponsor
c) Acknowledge the request and advise the customer to submit a formal change request
d) Convene a meeting of the project team and rewrite the scope statement

2. You are managing an internal R&D project. The initial test results are very poor. You are afraid your management might cancel the project, and this could reflect poorly upon you. Verification testing could be done quickly and inexpensively. You should:

a) Be the first to recommend canceling the project
b) Inform management about the results and wait for a response
c) Inform management immediately and recommend retesting for verification
d) Withhold the information from management until you perform additional tests to verify the initial results

3. During an informal meeting with your project client you are offered a substantial monetary incentive to alter the configuration of the product to meet the client's personal need. This change may result in additional project costs and schedule delays. The appropriate action to take would be:

a) Refrain from accepting the offer and advise the customer to submit a request to the change control board.
b) Accept the offer and issue an internal configuration change request to the design group
c) Obtain additional information about the request and the customer's personal need before accepting the offer.
d) Delay acceptance of the offer until you can ensure that you can protect yourself from any legal liabilities.

4. As the project manager for a very large and highly visible project you receive a preliminary press release for your approval before distribution. You are expected to approve the release without comment. Your review identifies a major discrepancy regarding some key project financial estimates that may mislead the intended recipients. As the project manager it is your responsibility to:

a) Inform the project sponsor of the discrepancy and refuse to approve the release
b) Approve the release but send a memo to the sponsor advising that you are aware of the discrepancy and will refer any questions your receive to the sponsor
c) Completely rewrite the press release and include the correct information
d) Approve the release as requested

5. Your project is running out of cash and significant work remains. You are directed by senior management to instruct your people to use another project's charge numbers while working on your project. You should:

a) Follow instructions
b) Inform the corporate auditors
c) Understand the background of management's instructions before taking any action
d) Shut down the project, if possible

6. While reviewing the estimates from the functional managers assigned to your project you discover that one cost estimate is clearly higher than those submitted for previous projects. You should:

a) Reject the estimate and remove the functional manager from the project
b) Request the supporting details for the estimate to ensure it has been properly prepared.
c) Accept the estimate and plan to use the additional funding as a reserve.
d) Question each functional manager for information about this estimate.

7. You are working in a country where it is customary to exchange gifts between contractor and customer. Your company code of conduct clearly states that you cannot accept gifts from any client. Failure to accept the gift from this client may result in termination of the contract. The action to take in this case would be:

a) Provide the customer with a copy of your company code of conduct and refuse the gifts.
b) Exchange gifts with the customer and keep the exchange confidential
c) Contact your project sponsor and /or your legal or public relations group for assistance.
d) Ask the project sponsor or project executive to exchange gifts.

8. During your assignment as project manager you add a new member to your project team. This new team member was recently hired from a competitor and offers to share a substantial amount of proprietary information from his previous company. This information could put you and your team in a very strong position for future business. You are aware of a non compete
clause in the new hire's condition of employment. You should:

a) Accept the information and agree to keep it confidential between you and the new hire.
b) Review the condition of employment with the new hire and advise her to reconsider the offer.
c) Review the information and only accept only what may have a direct impact on the project's financial status.
d) Ignore the offer to share and move forward with the project

9. You are asked to write a paper for your sponsor so that he/she can present it at a technical meeting. You are informed that his/her name will be the only name on the paper. You should:

a) Follow instructions
b) Follow instructions but demand that your name also appears
c) Refuse to follow the instructions
d) Go over the head of your sponsor seeking advice

10. An example of a conflict of interest would be:

a) As a public official you make a decision about a contract award that will benefit you personally
b) You and a functional manager disagree with a task cost estimate
c) Your sponsor decides to cancel your project because it no longer supports the company strategy
d) Your personality conflicts with that of a key member of your project team.

11. Each of the following describes the use of an ethical approach except:

a) Attempting to understand the religious and cultural sensitivities of the country in which you have been assigned.
b) Ensuring that personal interest does not interfere with your decision making process.
c) Accepting gifts in exchange for favoring one contractor over another
d) Maintaining confidentiality of sensitive information obtained during the project life cycle.

12. To maintain the customer's schedule, massive overtime will be required between Christmas and New Years. Many of your team members have put in for vacation during this time. You should:

a) Let the schedule slip and inform the customer
b) First give the employees the choice of working overtime
c) Make the employees cancel their vacation plans and work overtime
d) Hire temporary employees for the overtime

13. Which of the following situations describes a violation of the PMP® Professional Code of Conduct?

a) Accepting a gift that is within the customary guidelines of the country or province you are currently working in.
b) Use of confidential information to advance your position or influence a critical decision.
c) Complying with laws and regulations of the state or province in which project management services are provided
d) Disclosing information to a customer about a situation that may have an appearance of impropriety.

14. In order to balance the needs of the many stakeholders involved in your project the most desirable method to achieve resolution of conflicts would be:

a) Compromise
b) Forcing
c) Controlling
d) Confrontation

15. You receive a contract to perform testing for an external client. After contract award, the customer provides you with the test matrix to use for your 16 tests. The vice president for engineering says that the customer's test matrix is wrong, and she will use a different test matrix, which should give better results. This is a violation to the SOW. Suppose your sponsor is also the vice president for engineering. You should:

a) Use the customer's test matrix
b) Use the engineering test matrix without telling the customer
c) Use the engineering test matrix and inform the customer
d) Tell your sponsor that you want to set up a meeting with the customer to resolve the conflict





Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Good and Bad Leaders

Why are there so few good leaders in organizations today? While I can't answer that question, I am always willing to chime in with things I have learned and believe.

Good Leaders...

need to have a vision that is different, but still able to be accepted by the masses.

step outside of their comfort zones to make change happen

take risks, make sacrifices, and sometimes pay a cost to achieve their vision

instill confidence in others because they themselves are confident

build consensus

with charisma can change organizations

are encouragers

are positive

have the interests of others above their own

attract followers

bring new perspective to problem solving

are enablers

are an inspiration

Bad Leaders...

drive wedges in between people, teams, and organizational structures

don't stand up for their peers or their subordinates

behave like children when they don't get their way

gossip and spread rumors

don't reward others for their accomplishments

use "technobabble" and jargon to confuse others

believe they are smarter than everybody else

are unaware (sometimes) that most people don't respect them

dictate policy and doctrine almost exclusively via e-mail

are invisible to most of the organization

don't want rules, process, or procedure except for others

prescribe before diagnosing

don't solicit input from others unless it is to validate what they already believe

kill organizations through their arrogance and unwillingness to listen

are silent when they should speak

speak when they should be silent

Bad Leaders are hurting our organizations, our governmental institutions, our local schools, churches, and neighborhoods. Bad leaders ruin opportunities for our kids, run organizations into the ground, and are culture killers.

Do your part to eliminate the "cancerous" effect caused by Bad Leaders. Be a "good" leader by exhibiting the necessary leadership principles and ideals that inspire and motivate others. Don't be just another talking head. Be visible, don't gossip, be respectful of others, build consensus, and most of all be honest in all of your dealings.