The power of a WBS…

Shortcut to get to a full project overview and develop integrated management plan

Project management is a complex skill/art to master. It is my endeavor to assist those new to the field to gain “hindsight” driven insight into what makes projects more successful.

Today we are going to discuss a reasonably technical element – Work Breakdown Structures (WBS).

The name is even daunting, but I can assure you that it is quite simple once you have grasped the concept, and the benefits are numerous and powerful.

So what is it?

What does it do?

How can it help me?

The way in which you should approach this is as follow:

  • Can I break up my project into smaller (logical) pieces? E.g. if you bake a cake you can separate preparation, baking and decorating quite easily.
  • Ok now if we look at these pieces, are there logical pieces inside of them? E.g. in preparation there are 2 other pieces – wet ingredients and dry ingredients that have to be mixed separately (depending on the recipe of course)
  • Carry on until it stops making sense or all the pieces have been broken up into elements.
  • If I ignore outside influences, what do I – and my team – have to do to achieve success in each of the lowest pieces? E.g. all the dry ingredients have to be mixed BEFORE the wet ingredients. As a general rule, you will now be in the task or actions level where stuff has to done by people.
  • If it becomes clear that you may have missed a piece (measure the ingredients) simply add them in on the level that makes the most sense.

wbs1

What has happened here is astonishing:

  • You have actually planned the work that would be required to achieve the overall goal in a structure and logical manner
  • You have determined what has to be done in some sequence (e.g. measure before mix)
  • You can see where tasks can occur simultaneously (e.g. switch on the oven and gather ingredients)
  • You know that there are dependencies (e.g. you cannot pour the dough into the baking pan before you have greased the pan.
  • You have an idea of the time (work and duration), the number of resources (ingredients, equipment, and people) and sequence of events – I would call that a basic schedule with time and cost management capability.
  • You know what can be measured – when, where, who… – I would call that a quality and milestone plan you may even want to base your communications plan on this…

I know this sounds like stuff you have heard of before, but if you do this early enough (it’s never too late) in your project, you will be able to isolate the areas that you and your team are not too clear about. You can now focus on these areas to gain the knowledge or information required to properly plan – I’m so sorry, would this be your risk log?

I promise you just knowing what you don’t know is justification enough to do the exercise.

Every document and tool (e.g. Project Charter, Scope of work, Schedule, Resources plan, Communications plan, Quality plan, Risk / Issue management plan, Cost management plan) now have a BACKBONE from which they can be developed.

If the WBS is used in developing your project management infrastructure, you will discover that you have an integrated management plan.

If that does not impress the boss??????

integrated-management

The most important benefit that the WBS provides a project team is – – – – UNDERSTANDING!

join-our-delivery-team-

Now you and your team simply have to get up, show up and execute…

Please follow, share and comment. I love to hear from you.

 

Cover your *ss project management

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

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 😉

People in Projects

On this beautiful day, let us try to understand what project management really is.

Some definitions:

Project management, then, is the application of knowledge, skills, and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently. It’s a strategic competency for organizations, enabling them to tie project results to business goals — and thus, better compete in their markets. – PMI.org

Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals. A project is a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or deliverables), undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value. – wikipedia.org

The planning and organization of an organization’s resources in order to move a specific task, event or duty toward completion. Project management typically involves a one-time project rather than an ongoing activity, and resources managed include both human and financial capital. – investopedia.com

They are all wrong…

Ok sort of… The most important element that these definitions lack is the mention of people – not resources.

I am of the opinion that project managers (at least initially) are intimidated with the technical complexities, budgets, timelines and contracts that they forget the single most important element of project management – The People.

Because projects are temporary, external to existing organizational hierarchy and constrained in some way, the people involved in the project are “cut off” from their usual organizational support, referencing and reporting structures. This may lead to them experiencing emotions like exclusion, abandonment, isolation, and loneliness.

Different people-centric approaches exist in many other professions and industries. Project managers can benefit significantly by changing the focus of how they view their project as shown above.

But who are all these people that a project manager now has to look after? Does the project manager have to treat them differently?

These people are called stakeholders. Each individual group needs to be considered, managed and communicated to in a way that would enhance the probability of project success. To illustrate the concept, I would use the picture shown above and provide a simplistic sample of the questions that one has to ask to “shape” how they should be treated.

The Groups

  • Sponsors – The people paying for the project. Obviously displaying to them how the project is converting their money (resources) into the value they were seeking is vital. People in this group would generally assist in any way they can to ensure the success of the project – So ask them if you need something, show them progress and deliverables.
  • Vendors & Suppliers – They provide goods and services (resources), that you procure in some way, which is needed to successfully complete the project. They could be distant and uninvolved through to full collaboration partners dependent on the success of the project – Figuring out who they are, and how they fit in, will go a long way in gathering allies.
  • Customers – They will be using the product of the project. They will be the people who will determine the overall or long term success of the project – Making sure that they partake in the delivery and evolution of the product in such a way that it will enhance their lives is VERY important.
  • Project Team & Performing Organisation – They are the resources referred to in the project definitions, the alienated souls that perform the actions to convert money into value. If you can get these people operating in a motivated and successful team, your life will change for the better – They have to be close to the action, know what is going on, what is happening next and have an honest view of how things are going.
  • General Public – Not all projects involve the public at large, but there are always the onlookers, spectators, peripherally affected and curious individuals who will influence how others perceive the project. Including these people (that fall outside of the circle as shown above) can yield extremely positive results – If they are affected by the project in any way, consideration of these effects would assist in shaping communications and management.

So what am I saying?

If you treat the people like they are your most important resource…. Your projects (and your life) will make a significant turn to the positive.

If you win the minds and hearts of the people, you will get their hands and labor for free.

– I tried to source the origin of this or a similar quote, but have been unsuccessful.

Please feel free to comment, share and spread this post around.

Portfolio, Program and Project Management

From a distance, it seems that people use these terms interchangeably. They do however represent many different undertakings.

Trying to steer away from the “official” definitions provided by the various project management institutes and organizations I hope to explain it in a way that would be easily understood, and can be agreed upon by all professionals in the field.


Definitions:

Project Management – the discipline of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources to meet specific goals. A project is a temporary undertaking with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or deliverable), undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast with business as usual (or operations), which are repetitive, permanent, or semi-permanent functional activities to produce products or services. In practice, the management of these two systems is often quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and management strategies. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_management)

Program Management – the process of managing several related projects, often with the intention of improving an organization’s performance. In practice and in its aims it is often closely related to systems engineering and industrial engineering. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Program_management) I would like to add that it could temporarily include the management of areas that are business as usual (or operations). Programs are also focused on obtaining business benefit observable from outside the program environment.

Portfolio Management (Project Portfolio Management) – centralized management of processes, methods, and technologies used by project managers and project management offices (PMOs) to analyze and collectively manage a group of current or proposed projects based on numerous key characteristics. The objectives of PPM are to determine the optimal resource mix for delivery and to schedule activities to best achieve an organization’s operational and financial goals ― while honoring constraints imposed by customers, strategic objectives, or external real-world factors. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_portfolio_management)

Just looking at these definitions does not distinguish large projects, from small programs, portfolios from very large programs and so on. So let’s look at what is different and then we should be able to tell them apart.

Finite Focus Components Related Objective
Project Yes Functional Delivery Yes Single
Program Yes Strategic Objectives Yes Multiple
Portfolio No Strategic Intent No Varied

This will give us some basis for comparison.

  • Portfolios do not have an end date
  • Portfolios are entirely strategic
  • Portfolios contain projects, programs, and operations that do not require a specific relationship to each other
  • Portfolios don’t intend to reach a specific strategic objective, but rather address a strategic value or intent
  • Programs have a specific strategic goal that it must satisfy
  • All components in a program are included to deliver or contribute to reaching a measurable strategic goal (Could be more than 1)
  • Programs may temporarily include the management of operations
  • Programs have a start and end date within which they have to deliver on the agreed objectives
  • Projects deliver a specific outcome (product, result)

Example:

A specific aircraft manufacturer has a project portfolio in which they intend to enhance the organization’s image, improve service delivery and secure the medium and long term financial future. Within this project portfolio, a program exists to design, develop and implement the manufacturing of a new aircraft. The program contains many projects, one of which is concerned with the building of the manufacturing facility in which the aircraft will be built.

Now that this picture is becoming clear -> I have a gift…

Sorry I simply had to include this graphic J it just keeps on growing…

Please ask questions, offer differing views and comment at will.

Follow this blog, share, link, spread the news…

Have a great day.

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…