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10 May 2011

Expectations versus Requirements

Discussions about expectations and requirements tend to focus too narrowly on the relationship with the customer. Expectations come from a much broader group, however.

On a tangent: We do not manage customers. We manage their expectations. Managing customers is just a little too proactive.

Stakeholders include not only the customer, but also management, regulators, subcontractors, and the various departments within the performing organization. Figuratively and to varying degrees, everybody involved is a customer. Expectations, therefore, fall into categories that vary from documented requirements and undocumented management decisions down to bad ideas.

For example, management expects the project to stay within 5% of a given budget. Although management's expectation is not a requirement, it bears just as much force.

Other stakeholder expectations might become product or project requirements during requirements decomposition. For example, -ilities Engineering may identify environmental or safety expectations that the systems engineer will record as requirements.

At an intermediate level, expectations might include awards, schedule needs, training, or internal deliveries of work products or tools that people need in order to do their jobs -- all things transparent to the Buyer.

On the other hand, Marketing may want gold plating that, since they went around the systems engineer, falls to the project manager to reject.

Everybody has expectations. Expectations carry varying degrees of force, but only those that define binding project success in the eyes of the Buyer constitute requirements.

Those in LinkedIn's INCOSE group can read a running discussion about the topic.


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07 May 2011

Speed Up MS Project 2007

When Microsoft Project 2007 slows to a crawl, speed it up with this simple tip.

As the project size grows, so does the file size. Updates to one entry can have a ripple effect. For example, changing a date early in the project's critical path can force changes to all the following dates. Project has to make all those calculation and then rewrite all those pieces of information in the project file.

You can speed up Project by turning off the automatic recalculations.
  • In the menu bar, click on Tools. 
  • In the pull-down menu, click on Options. 
  • Click on the Calculation tab. 
  • Change the calculation mode from Automatic to Manual. 
  • Click on Close.
Setting MS Project Options for Manual Recalculation
(Click figure to view at full size.)
Entering data will go like it was a new project again.

Here's the drawback: To see the effect on calculated values, remember to click on Tools, Options, Calculation, and then click the Calculate Now button. 

There's a shorter way. You can set it up as follows.

  • In your standard command toolbar, click on the down-arrow at the far right. See the illustration.
Accessing the Customize Toolbar Dialog Window
(Click figure to view at full size.)
  • Click Add or Remove Buttons.
  • Click on Customize...
  • The Customize dialog menu should appear as shown in the next figure.
  • Click the Commands tab of the dialog window.
  • In the Categories list, click on Tools.
  • Scroll down in the Commands list until you see Calculate Now.
  • Using drag-and-drop, drag the Calculate Now icon to the standard command bar. You can place it anywhere you wish in the bar. I put mine next to the Help icon.

Adding a Calculate Now Button to the Standard Commands Toolbar
(Click figure to view at full size.)
You should have a Calculate Now button in your command bar, as shown in the next illustration.

The Calculate Now Button in the Standard Commands toolbar.
These changes personalize Project. They will apply every time you open Project, not just for the large file you are working on. To set recalculation back from Manual to Automatic, follow the same steps. You might, however, consider leaving the new button in your Standard Commands Toolbar.

Changing the frequency of recalculation from automatic to manual speeds up Microsoft Project 2007 for large project files. The same idea, and very similar steps, also works in Microsoft Excel. And now you know how to add frequently-used commands to (or take buttons you never use from) your toolbars, too!

03 May 2011

Strange Phrase: Hoisted by His Own Petard

For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar.
 -- Hamlet

Petard or petar was a container filled with explosives and placed against a gate to encourage it to open. The word itself comes from the Middle French word meaning to fart. So, what has this to do with hoisting anyone to his just deserts?

Unwelcome guests would place a petard on a long lever arm. The lever arm's mount resembled that of a trebuchet. The machine would sling the petard over against the gate and hold it in position while its operators remaining behind cover.

Upon release, the arm would hoist a careless, entangled army engineer toward the gate along with the petard. If this occurred at the wrong moment, it would result in the undoing of the engineer's structural integrity.

To maintain propriety, I formated this post using Trebuchet font.