Cover your *ss project management

This would make up the absolute minimum documentation, controls and management processes you need to control a project.

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There are probably thousands of articles and papers written about what is essential in managing a project. This article will focus on gaining a semblance of control.

Projects are complex constructs that for the most part drives us into the unknown (see Project Management – 101 to make sure you have a project). I believe that the PMBOK ® is one of the most comprehensive descriptions of the art and skill known as project management.

However, my writings are focused on the learning and growing project management practitioners (maybe even some professionals) out there that may consider advice from someone doing this for a living.

For controlling or managing projects the 10 knowledge areas defined are: (names may change to protect the innocent :-))

So if you are starting out – this must be daunting, even intimidating.

Let’s have a look at what would be the absolute minimum that you would need to deliver any sort of project successfully.

  • Why? – You need to understand (not necessarily document) why this project exists in the first place.
  • What? – What is the intended result (s)? (This you definitely need to document)
  • When? – The intended result is needed by a specific time for a reason (Document)
  • How? – Is there some planning or though in existence as to how the result should / must be achieved? (Document)
  • Who? – This is a multi-layered question as it includes: (Document)
    • Intended recipients – the people who need to live with the consequences
    • Sponsor(s) – People or organization paying for the project
    • Team – People or organization that will make it happen
    • Stakeholders – Everybody affected in any way with either the project or the consequences of the project
  • How Much? – Cost is one of the most important aspects of project management and is a success / fail criteria that will be applied to measure the project (Document)

Remember the rule – Good, Fast, Cheap: You Can Only Pick Two!

GOOD-FAST-CHEAP

Ok from the info you should have now you can create all the documentation and processes you need to effectively manage a project.

RULE: Size matters in Project Management – The bigger, the more documentation, controls, and management you will need to manage the beast!!!

Documentation:

(I use interchangeable descriptors of documents that do vastly different things in a formal environment to explain the functionality that needs to be achieved.)

  • Most important is a Project Charter / Project Scope / Specification document – This is simply a written agreement between you and all the people involved that describes what has to be achieved, by what time, using which resources and costing X much. (Sponsors usually have to sign this to ensure that they pay for it.)
  • Project Plan / Schedule / Deliverable list with delivery dates – This describes what has to be done by what time, by whom, costing this much. Usually described as tasks or work packages, it is an attempt to guess what would happen in the future.
  • Billing / Payment agreement – You have to ensure that you can get the funds required before you need it.
  • Pay-out mechanism – You need to be able to pay those that render services and goods to your project.
  • Communication plan/strategy – Communication and reporting are essential to the success of almost any project. Make sure you understand how you need to communicate to whom by when with what content.

This would make up the absolute minimum documentation, controls and management processes you need to control a project.

Controlling the project from this basis becomes much easier.

 

triple-constraint

All you have to do is make sure everybody does what they are supposed to do, communicate to those that require it and DELIVER BABY – DELIVER…

Have a fantastic day – follow the blog and share this 2 or 3 thousand people 😉

Project Management 102

Post aimed at positioning and considering standards and approaches to manage projects. It takes a look into phases, knowledge areas with some detail.

You should already know that you have a project and you can do some planning to get things done – From the previous post – Project Management 101.

Now moving swiftly along…

There are many standards and approaches available to manage projects: (From Wikipedia)

Approaches

International Standards

There have been several attempts to develop project management standards, such as:

For clarity sake, we will only delve into one of these “flavors” of project management – Project Management Institute (PMI). The most important next step in your discovery of what project management revolves around phases.

Phases
Phases

The phases are intended to allow us mortal beings to group things together logically that will allow us the greatest chance of succeeding. We have to remember that some learning and bitter experiences have contributed to the knowledge that constitutes the groupings.

Initiation

You have to know a few things before you really start to attack a project. These things are absolutely vital to the success of the project.

  • What MUST the project achieve (not from the project’s view, but from the client’s view)?
  • How many funds are available to achieve what (and how will you be able to get it – what does the project have to do)?
  • Who are the people involved (probably the list of stakeholders already identified in Project Management 101)?
  • Get written signed approval of your understanding of what the project has to achieve (project charter).
New Team - Fresh Young...
New Team – Fresh Young…

Planning and Design

We have discussed planning before, why again now? In Project Management 101 we explained planning to give you enough detail to define the project. In this phase, you will have to plan to achieve the results… You have to plan to an “appropriate level of detail” to allow you to manage project risk by estimating the time, resources, cost and other factors that will affect the chances of delivering the project successfully. (more on project planning)

Planning Discussions....
Planning Discussions…

Executing

Do the work that you said that you were going to do in the planning phase. This is where the tire hits tar, things get serious and things will have to happen…

  • People will have to know who does what when, why and for how long…
  • They have to work hard (I can almost guarantee you that you will not have enough time or people to get all the stuff done),
  • They will have to be accurate and precise (cannot re-do stuff here),
  • You will have to do it cheaply (yes, I know – haha).
Getting it Done....
Getting it Done…

Monitoring and Controlling

You have to constantly evaluate what people are doing…

  • Is it in line with what has been specified?
  • How do we overcome this unanticipated problem?
  • If we lose time doing this, how do we get it back?
  • If that thing now cost more than what we were told, how do we recover the extra expenditure?
  • If we pay more for a better person, will we save enough time to make it worth our while?
  • How does the client perceive all the activity?
Insider View...
Insider View…

Closing

One of three things will cause a project to close:

  • Achieved all of the project deliverables (YAY….. )
  • Stopped due to requirements shift (the reason why the project existed has changed or disappeared)
  • Will never reach the project deliverables (many reasons within and external to project can cause this)

Remember any project you can walk away from…

Project Team - Older Wiser...
Project Team – Older Wiser…

To give you some idea of how projects will tax you as they move through the phases, the line drawing below is a good approximation of how most projects behave.

Phase - Consumption
Phase – Consumption

Phew… Glad that’s over with… So I’m a fully-fledged project manager now?

Well yes and no…

To be a project manager you have to know a little bit of each of these:

The ten knowledge areas are: (Sixth Edition)

  • Project Integration Management
  • Project Scope management
  • Project Schedule Management
  • Project Cost Management
  • Project Quality Management
  • Project Resource Management
  • Project Communications Management
  • Project Risk Management
  • Project Procurement Management
  • Project Stakeholder Management

We will look at this next time…

Have to wait... for... more...
Have to wait… for… more…

Have a fantastic day…

Project Management – 101

You have just inherited something that everybody calls a project…

What do you do, where do you start?

Ok, so someone that you know knows someone that did a project once and you have just inherited something that everybody calls a project…

What do you do, where do you start?

This post is aimed at addressing the most basic elements of project management. These topics are:

  • What is a project?
  • What are the most important things to know?
  • What are the most important things to do?

Whoooooo… slow down…

Let’s make sure you are busy with a project…

NOTE: I have included project speak (terminology) in brackets and italics.

What is a project?

Ignoring all the well-defined definitions about what projects are, let us look at what it means to me and you…

Checklist:

  • Is this a one-time occurrence? (does not happen often or regularly)
  • Is there an agreed or understood set of outcomes or results?
  • Is there a time limit on achieving the result?
  • Is there funds or money (budget) allocated specifically to achieve the results?
  • Has a group of people been specifically tasked to achieve the results? (outside normal working situation)
  • Is there someone specific or a specific group that would receive the results?

If you can tick more than three of these, you have probably been infected by the project bug…

 

A new victim...
A new victim…

What are the most important things to know?

Obviously, there are some things you should know or have:

  • List of results or outcomes (deliverables)
  • Know when the outcomes should be delivered or completed (end date)
  • Understand how you can get your hands on the money (budget)
  • Know who is involved with the project (stakeholders)
  • Some knowledge of how these results can be achieved (content expertise)

Now that you have all this the most important rule of all – People = Results

Contrary to popular belief, projects are not about schedules, milestones or cost analysis…

It is about getting other people to help you achieve results

 

The real reason...
The real reason…

What are the most important things to do?

Have a meeting – ha-ha got you… Actually… it’s not that far off…

Look out here it comes… the most dreaded word in business today…

COMMUNICATE

Who should I communicate to? (Sorted in what I think represents an order of importance)

  • People that will receive the outcome, results, deliverables or benefits. (project clients)
  • People or person who hired or tasked you to do the project (project sponsor)
  • People who will assist you in achieving the deliverables (project team)
  • People not on the project that you will have to use to achieve the results e.g. Human Resources, Procurement (Project Stakeholder)
  • People who will make sure the project is on the right track e.g. Auditors, Steering Committee (Project Stakeholder)
  • Other people who are affected by the project OR can have some influence in achieving success (Project Stakeholder)

Make sure that you understand what the clients really want, how does that fit in with what the sponsor has asked you to deliver, does the team have to understand what needs to be done?

If you can simply get these communications bedded down, the project will immediately start going in the right direction.

 

Ideal project manager...
Ideal project manager…

So now that we have done the communications, we can simply sit back and watch the action… Where is my remote?

I’m so sorry… NO…

There is this other thing…

PLANNING

Planning is a way of figuring out the following: (a sequence that would work under the majority of conditions)

  • What do we need to achieve? It is very important to understand what you are expected to do and what you are not expected to do? What would fall “outside the project”? (project scope)
  • If there is a lot of work, chop it up into logical or sensible pieces. Arrange these pieces of work in a way that makes sense to all the people involved in making sure the project is a success (work breakdown structure – WBS).
  • Look at these pieces of work and decide which will have to be done first, because some pieces will need it to be in place before others can occur e.g. house walls must be erected before you can put a roof on. (sequential or logical arrangement)
  • Try and get an accurate understanding of how long (duration) each of these pieces of work will take to complete. Consider when the project has to be completed (end date) and try to work backward from there. (scheduling)
  • Now we can add people to these pieces of work (human resource management). Remember to include the people that you will have to hire in for expertise, workforce or any other reason.
  • We have a big pot of money (overall budget) that we should now divide between the work packages. Include what you have to buy (procurement), who or what you have rent (procurement and services management) as well as the people that will be working on the project’s salaries and wages. Add the unusual stuff like travel cost, hotels, visa’s, food, venue hire, insurance, furniture, … (Preliminary and General – P&G)
  • Making sure that each of the work packages delivers a usable and functional output is obviously important. How you and the project team will ensure that this is going to happen is called quality assurance.
  • If the project team can come up with a list of things that can go wrong (risk analysis), it would help a lot because you will then know what to look out for.
  • Amazing as it may sound the stakeholders will want to know how the project is doing. So we will need to find a way to communicate to all these people in a way that THEY can understand, on a regular basis…

Congratulations… You have completed a project plan…

 

Planning - How to...
Planning – How to…

But wait… some stuff doesn’t fit together… we don’t have enough people, money, time… OH MY GOODNESS…

Because you only have a certain amount of money (budget) to hire people and stuff (resources) to achieve the goals within a specific amount of time (duration), it is almost inevitable that there will not be enough of one these elements (constraints).

 

Project Management - Explained!!!
Project Management – Explained!!!

Welcome to project management…

Just a note…

 

Next time...
Next time…

Have a great day and remember to smile…

A Plan – What is it?

Everybody and I mean everybody, tell me, you and everybody to plan for… (Insert – the future, your life, career, love life…)

That leaves me with the question – Do you know what a plan is? I mean really understand what the different elements of a plan really are?

Definition: A plan is typically any diagram or list of steps with timing and resources, used to achieve an objective. It is commonly understood as a temporal set of intended actions through which one expects to achieve a goal. – Wikipedia

So from the definition above, we know that a plan should have:

  • Goal, Objective or outcome (list of deliverables)
  • List of steps or actions (May include logic like dependency and predecessors)
  • Time (Labour, elapsed time and duration)
  • Resources (human, capital, time and objects)
  • Value measurement (Quality statement and benefits)

If you have all this, it should all come together like:

Ta Daaaa… end of Lesson…. Thank you, come back next week…

Plans lead to success
Plans lead to success

But, I’m stuck over here:

Where to start a plan?
Where to start a plan?

I don’t know where to start… There is just soo much stuff… See:

Unplanned Plan
Unplanned Plan

It looks NOTHING like the plans they put forward…

Where do I start? What do I do?

Ok so, you twisted my arm.

Finding the right goal
Finding the right goal

Element 1 – Understanding the objective

Here are the most important steps to execute to end up having a plan (with all the good stuff inside).

You call this help? What does Scoping mean? Please translate this into ENGLISH…..

Step 1 – Know what you want. Know exactly what you want. Include the stuff that you don’t know to make sure that somewhere, you can build it into the plan where you make a decision once you fully understand if you want something or not. Most importantly – write this stuff down to allow you to come back and check against the original goal.

Step 2 – Look around and figure out what other people with similar problems have done. Get more than one possibility and be genuine in evaluating the level of success each of these possibilities offered. Most importantly – don’t discard anything now, you don’t know what the probability of success in your situation is.

Steps 3, 4 and 5 – Apply (theoretically) the possible solutions in your situation. Consider the impact, cost, duration and estimate how complex it would be to make it work. Most importantly – estimate what the realistic chances are to achieve success with each of these options.

Step 6 – It should become clear now that some of the solutions will work better than others for you in this situation. Select the one with the best chance of actually working. Most importantly – walk away from the discarded options and channel all your energy into making sure that the option you have selected will work.

Element 2 – Figure out what to do next

Amazing as this may sound, we have the capacity to build stuff in our minds and we can then work “backward in time” to get a clear roadmap or path to reach a goal.

Step 1 – Visualise the goal as if it has already been achieved. Make this picture as clear as you can. Take it to extremes like experiencing the emotions of achieving this objective; smell it, hear it, see the sun glinting… Most importantly – visualize the completed or finished result.

Step 2 – Get a realistic understanding of where you are now. Get honest, don’t soft-soap or be gentle. Most importantly – understand that this is your point of departure. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Many have achieved great things from starting in humility with nothing and little to no opportunities. You have already seen your future…

Step 3 – Find the shortest route to achieving the goal. I cannot stress this enough… Most importantly – the shortest route requiring the least amount of resources and time almost always returns the best results. Things like motivation, endurance, and determination become significant issues when you travel the scenic route…

Step 4 – Identify the big moments. On this road that you are about to travel, you should find places where you can “stop and recuperate”. It is almost exactly the same as driving a long distance. You need moments to just stop and reflect. Most importantly – choose the rest spots looking back from the goal to the starting point. This perspective will allow you to see things as if they have already occurred and your perception of these rest-spots will result and not problem orientated.

Step 5 – Fill in the gaps. Now that you know what the main moments are; fill in the details from where you are now to the first big moment. It is almost impossible not to start filling in the blanks between the next moments. Most importantly – just get enough detail down between the next moments to stop wondering about them. Focus on getting the detail of reaching the next moment. Understand that you will have to repeat this step every time you reach one of the big moments.

Elements 3, 4 and 5 – Time, resources and value are related

Now for the big surprise…. These three things are interrelated and interdependent. So if you want to travel from point A to point B very fast, you will need a fast car, which cost lots of money. Should you want to get there in style, well those cars are expensive too. If you are the champagne, caviar, and first-class jet set; I hope that you understand we are talking big money now.

You may elect to go the dirt cheap road and simply arrive at point B; you have to pace yourself here… Both ways… Most importantly – choose the car well. Too expensive and you don’t have enough money to make it to the end; too cheap and the car may not see the end…

So you need to look at the items listed in the “what to do next” section and attach time, money and resources to each one…

End Game

If you have written down all the stuff that you have decided, elected and seen, you will now be in possession of something that will answer these questions:

  • What
  • How
  • When
  • Where
  • Who

Congratulations – You are now the proud owner of a well designed, well thought through plan that presents a very high probability of success. You will now be able to communicate clearly to yourself and others what you are doing and why; know when to do what as well as constantly know what will happen next.

Welcome to the world where you can now say to other people…..

You are a winner
You are a winner

I hope you enjoy this journey and would like to invite you to comment, share and splash this around…