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05 December 2013

Should I ask for introductions to expand my network?

Reference: Giammatteo, Giacomo. Should You Ask For Introductions on Linked in? 2 December 2013.

The author of the referenced article correctly state the rules, and his reasoning is solid. I recommend reading the article. It will help you understand the most common view about asking for favors when networking.

If you have 15 gazillion connections like he does, and you receive dozens of requests each day, you have to be selective. That is not selfishness; it is survival. 
I have a little over 300 connections, and I have received one request for introduction in the last four years. If I imposed the same rules, it would be terribly selfish.
Providing an introduction is a small favor to do. I look at the profiles, decide whether the fit is appropriate, and then (if appropriate) provide the introduction. I might even give the requester some unsolicited advice about networking etiquette.  The author does not distinguish between asking for introductions and asking for recommendations. I think that one can make an introduction without recommending the requester.
In the introduction, I will state to what degree I know the requester. If I do not know him, I will say so; but I will leave the receiver of the request with the freedom to look at the requester's profile and make his own decision.

Others' non-responsiveness has taught me not to ask for favors until I have developed our relationship. When I started building my LinkedIn network, I requested several introductions. I never heard back, not even a "no."

That means you have to impress your connection enough that he offers help; or you have to do him enough favors that he owes you a favor in return.

That seems manipulative. It is quite frustrating when you are just beginning to network and your need is now and desperate.

But those are "the rules."

I abide by them, but I do not impose them.

My advice to those who wish to ask for introductions follows: 
  • If they have a few dozen connections, they might be unsociable. Don't expect results. On the other hand, they might not know "the rules" yet, so it might work. Give it a try.
  • If they have a few hundred connections, wait to ask for favors until you've established a relationship (not just a connection) or done them some favors.
  • If they have thousands of connections, make sure you've established a relationship AND done them some favors.
A good network takes years to assemble. Start building yours now. Make it a hobby. Do not wait until you need it.

02 November 2013

Communicating the Organization's Direction: The Missing Ingredient

The average worker could not tell you the vision of the employer.

To some degree, the average worker can perform just fine without knowing the mission and goals of the business. However, knowing the purpose of the work can guide decisions made in the course of the work. Perhaps more importantly, having a known, defined purpose can motivate the worker by providing a roadmap to the work's contribution. It provides a personal connection to the work and to the company. This, in turn, improves performance and retention.

Leadership can improve overall performance by communicating the vision, mission, and goals of the business, as well as the specific objectives of each project. (To cut down on wordiness, I'm going to combine all of those messages and call them the "direction" of the business.)

This topic could take up a whole book, but I will address a portion that I think leaders tend to forget. The specific methods and tools used will vary during the lifecycle of a project. For that reason, I would recommend organizing a more complete description of the topic around process groups or project phases:
  • Project selection
  • Project initiation
  • Project planning
  • Project execution
  • Project monitoring and control
  • Project closure
Defining the direction is part of creating the business plan. Any responsible business owner will create most of those materials and update them regularly. From there, communicating the direction requires breaking each section into a PowerPoint presentation, asking lower-level leadership to give it visibility, putting it to work in the organization, and setting up systems of accountability.

Businesses commonly forget to ensure that the elements of the business direction flow down to projects. Leaders present and promote the direction, but they also need to communicate it through actions that create the processes and provide the tools for carrying out the direction and controlling its implementation.

Just as the business needs to continuously review and refine the direction, the projects need to ensure alignment with the business direction. For example, many project managers set the contract as the highest level of requirements. However, many decisions made within a project depend on the business direction.

Leadership can take one step to communicate business direction by empowering Project Scope Management. They can do this by making available a good Requirements Management System (a tool such as DOORS or CORE). The project managers should then include the business direction's documentation as the top level of each project's requirements. During the project lifecycle, the project can ensure that decisions support the business direction and all requirements trace to the business direction.

Many leaders focus on communicating business direction through presentation. However, they must also communicate it through action. Obviously, actions include specific soft-skill behaviors such as demonstrating the importance of meetings by prompt attendance. But they must invest in resources that empower their teams to use direction as a tool and to use it as the measuring stick of performance.

15 July 2013

CPI: Earned Value (EV) Can Never Exceed Planned Value (PV)

Al succeeded with his very first project!  He was so proud of his project.  The customer was delighted and the Costs Performance Index was 1.1.  Yet, the program manager only graded the project as Satisfactory.  Al is so discouraged.  What was wrong with that program manager?

My new friend Bay -- an old friend of Allen, the new Project Manager -- clearly wanted me to be sympathetic toward his friend.  And he wanted me to share his negative feelings toward the program manager.

That is a shame, I replied.  Bay was studying for PMI's CAPM exam, so I decided to turn the moaning session into a project management lesson.  But you can help Al improve his project management skills if he will learn from this.

What do you mean? asked Bay.

What do you think the CPI of 1.1 means? I asked.

Bay thought a moment and replied, Al delivered more than required?

Why? I aked.

A CPI over 1 is good, and the customer is delighted, so Al delivered even more that what was required.

I baited Bay.  Those are all good things, but too much of a good thing can be bad.

How can that be?  Bay asked.

Delivering too much value might not mean you're efficient.  It might mean you're incompetent or even unethical. I wouldn't worry about that, though.  It's impossible to create a high CPI by delivering extra value.

That doesn't make sense, Bay protested.

Do you know what gold plating means in project management?

Uh-oh.  I see what you mean, he said.  I hoped I had him hooked and ready for the lesson.

The Dangers of a High CPI

Each organization has its own expectation for accuracy in estimating.  10% is a common tolerance, but a former employer of mine expected the final estimate to be accurate within +/- 5%.
  • Since a CPI of 1.1 represents a 10% deviation from the estimate, the PM's estimating skills come into question.
  • A CPI at or above the upper control limit of 1.1 means that planned resources have gone unused.  Managers scramble to find work for their employees.  People could lose their jobs.
  • A CPI above the upper control limit means that the company set aside funds for the project that it could have used to support other investments.
  • As you will see below, plenty of reasons exist for avoiding an excessive CPI.

Extra "Earned Value" Is Hidden

Al's CPI was 1.1.  If AC at completion equaled a Budget At Completion (BAC) of $1 M, then EV must have been $1.1 M because CPI = EV/AC.  That would mean that the PV at completion was $1 M.

While EV>PV is mathematically possible, it is not practically possible.  You will see that a CPI of 1.1 at project completion can only mean that the project underspent by 9.1%.

Suppose the scope says, deliver widgets A1 through A10.  When you create the Scope Management Plan, you schedule reviews to ensure that widgets A1 - A10 get delivered. Delivery of each has a pre-assigned value that is measured in the EV.

Suppose the team delivers widget A11, as well.  The Scope Management Plan assigned Earned Value to A1 - A10.  The customer paid for them.  However, the estimate did not include A11, so the customer did not pay for it and it was not included in the cost baseline. 

Since the Scope Management Plan did not include A11, the Quality Management Plan will not check to see whether it was delivered and the Cost Management Plan has no value estimate to assign to it.  Without assigning value, you cannot measure it or include it in the EV.

EV can precede PV during the project, but it cannot exceed PV at end of project.

For a CPI of 1 at end of project, EV = AC = BAC = PV.  If EV = PV = BAC, the only way to achieve CPI = 1.1 is if AC = (0.9090... x BAC).  This is because
CPI = EV/AC = PV/(0.9091 PV) = 1.1
 Thus, a high CPI at end of project can only result from spending less than planned.

The Dangers of Too Much Value

Gold plating refers to extra value given to a customer.  A company's policy may allow delivering extra value as an investment in future business.  For example, the phone company may sell you a $200 cell phone for 99 cents so you will sign a $100/month contract for the service that goes with it.  They expect to earn back the cost of the cell phone during the life of the contract and the following contracts.

In general, however, gold plating has a negative meaning.
  • Gold plating represents areas in which the project delivers value that the customer did not pay for.  Therefore, it represents a loss to the company.
  • If the estimate did not include the gold plating, then the PM's estimating skills come into question.
  • If the Scope, Cost, and Quality Management Plans do not prevent production and delivery of gold plating, then the PM's project planning and control skills come into question.
  • Even if the project stays within budget, gold plating represents missed opportunities to cut costs and increase the company's return on investment.
  • If the PM delivers significantly extra value, it not only raises an issue of an inaccurate cost estimate, it also raises an issue of whether the Seller overcharged the customer.  This raises an issue of the PM's ethics. 
Assigning planned value to A11 could cause major problems:  Suppose the PM anticipated that the team might deliver A11, assigned value to it, and included it in the EV.
  • The team fails to provide A10 but provides A11. The Cost Management Plan will indicate an EV of 100%, even though the project only delivered 90% of the authorized scope.
  • The team provides A1 - A11.  The customer can say, "your bid included A1 - A10. Since you were able to provide A11, as well, your bid was too high. We are reducing our payment accordingly."  The FFP contract provides the Buyer no protection from this if the Buyer feels he has good evidence that he was overcharged.
  • By stopping the team from delivering A11, the PM could have cut costs and increased profits.  This represents waste and lost profits.
  • Delivering A11 might be nice for the Buyer, but it could also be a white elephant.  Suppose the Buyer is a crop duster and A1-A11 are barrels of insecticide.  If the farmers only need ten barrels of spraying done, the pilot will be stuck with the expense of storing, guarding, and disposing of the extra barrel of poison.  That represents extra liabilities to the crop duster, as well as an extra burden on the environment.  If the Buyer refuses delivery of the extra barrel, you will be stuck with it.  If the barrel gets delivered, the Buyer may sue your company for his losses.


PM's view the CPI the same way you look at any other measurement done as part of statistical process control.  They work to prevent high CPIs by striving to accurately estimate expenses.

PM's also view gold plating as an issue and prevent it through careful project management planning and control.

Copyright 2013, Richard Wheeler -- Permission granted for non-profit or personal use with a link to this post.
IT Metrics and Productivity Institute (ITMPI) Premium membership gives members free access to 400 PDU-accredited webinar recordings and waives the PDU processing fees when you attend the live session. The library is growing at about 100 webinars per year. Check it out:

30 June 2013

Transferring Domains between Domain Registrars

When Microsoft abandoned its web site service, my daughter and I had to find another provider.  The new provider wanted us to get an EPP code from the old registrar.  Microsoft had used the registrar Melbourne IT.  I obtained a code that sounded like what the new registrar wanted and sent it to them. 

The new registrar did not reply, so I interpreted that as a success.

A year later, the Melbourne IT began sending notices that our registration was about to expire.  This was unsettling, but I assigned the issue a low priority because I "knew" the new registrar had transferred the domain.  I was wrong.

Eventually, just to verify what I "knew," I checked.  The old registrar still held the registration.

Through some back-and-forth with the new registrar, I found that they had failed to notify me that the code I sent was not the correct code.

Back at Melbourne IT's site, I could not find an EPP code.  I finally left them a message asking for it.  Later, I found that they called it by a different name.

This was the short version of the story.  Most of it had repeated elements.  I am not happy with the new registrar's service.

Here are some hints to save you headaches.
  • You can learn about EPP codes under Transfer Secret on Wikipedia.
  • The Extensible Provisioning Protocol (hence "EPP"), which defines Transfer Secrets, is maintained by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). 
  • The correct term is AuthInfo Code or Auth-Info code.
  • Your registrar service may call it
    • Auth code
    • Authinfo
    • AuthInfo
    • Auth-Info
    • Authorization code
    • Domain auth code
    • Domain name password
    • Domain password
    • EPP authentication code
    • EPP authorization code
    • EPP code
    • EPP Key
    • EPP Password
    • Transfer key
    • Transfer secret

Copyright 2013, Richard Wheeler -- Permission granted for non-profit or personal use with a link to this post.
IT Metrics and Productivity Institute (ITMPI) Premium membership gives members free access to 400 PDU-accredited webinar recordings and waives the PDU processing fees when you attend the live session. The library is growing at about 100 webinars per year. Check it out:

24 June 2013

So You Failed PMI's CAPM Test?

This is your first practical lesson in Project Risk Management. When your customer (PMI) specifies a parameter (x%), determine a safety margin so that, if you take the test on a bad day, you will still pass.

How many times did you read Rita's book? Most people read it AND the PMBOK Guide at least twice.

How many practice test questions did you take? Many people take thousands. (You can easily find thousands of free PMP practice questions on the web, although many are outdated and few will be up-to-date after July 31. CAPM questions are much harder to find.)

When you took the practice tests, did you research the answers you got wrong? Did you research the answers you had to guess at? Memorizing will only get you part way through PMI's tests; you need to dig and understand the material.

If you are taking the CAPM, you must want to become a PMP. Consider studying for the PMP exam. The deeper knowledge will give you understanding that goes beyond mere memorization for the CAPM exam. Also, for the PMP exam, you need to have 35 contact hours. Again, the extra effort would help you with the CAPM exam.

The two books I've heard the best reports about are Rita's books and the Head First books. You can also find many free podcasts on the web and on iTunes.

Two names to look for are Oliver Lehmann and Cornelius Fitchner. Oliver has some free apps and the best sample question on the web. Cornelius has some great 'casts, some of which are free.

Finally, when you have a tough time with some concept or a sample exam question, feel free to ask about it in the Google+ group, "Project Management, PMI, PMP Certification." Ask under the tab "PMP preparation questions." (Out of respect for copyrights, please identify the source of quotes.)

Other than that, I suppose there's not much you can do.

See Also

Copyright 2013, Richard Wheeler -- Permission granted for non-profit or personal use with a link to this post.
IT Metrics and Productivity Institute (ITMPI) Premium membership gives members free access to 400 PDU-accredited webinar recordings and waives the PDU processing fees when you attend the live session. The library is growing at about 100 webinars per year. Check it out:

20 June 2013

Make Lessons Learned a Part of Your Culture

An organization with process maturity will close the loop on Lessons Learned.

By closing the loop, I mean that the organization will ensure the capture, distribution, and institutionalization of the lessons taught by the school of hard knocks.

While the Project Manager should identify and collect Lessons Learned, Quality Assurance should categorize and preserve them.  QA should take further steps to communicate the lessons.

First, leaving it to everybody to go searching the LL database does not work.  Like that will ever happen! Ha!

Instead, QA should sort the LLs by function and subject and distribute the information to affected functional managers across the organization.  This ensures that, for example, the Integration Engineers in different programs and at different locations receive the expensively acquired knowledge.  If the functional managers fail to communicate the lessons to their people, upper management should give QA the authority to do so.

Second, QA should incorporate applicable improvements to the Organizational Process Assets.  This way, QA does not merely deposit critical knowledge into the Tribal Knowledge Bank, but actually institutionalizes it.  This introduces accountability when QA audits process compliance.  It also allows the lesson to be moved to a section of the database that lists rationales for historical purposes.  Not every Lesson Learned needs to be researched for normal operations.

Note that this involves Change Control at both the project level and at the organizational level.

As an example, engineers delivered documents to a customer without the necessary review and approval of the Chief Engineer.  The incident led to rework and incorrect customer expectations.

Tribal knowledge had established a channel that would have ensured proper review before release.  However, new employees did not know it, and management had nothing in writing that allowed them to discipline experienced employees who knew better.

Engineering stepped in where corporate management had left a gap.  They instituted processes for document review and approval and for an engineering communications manager to coordinate release of documents to clients.

Thus, an incident led to a Lesson Learned.  The Lesson Learned led to policy and procedural changes.  The new practice became part of the formal procedures and did not get lost in a database that ever researched.

Copyright 2013, Richard Wheeler -- Permission granted for non-profit or personal use with a link to this post.

IT Metrics and Productivity Institute (ITMPI) Premium membership gives members free access to 400 PDU-accredited webinar recordings and waives the PDU processing fees. The library is growing at about 100 webinars per year. Check it out:

Agile, Waterfall, and PMI Project Differences

I've been asking about the differences between Agile projects and traditional project management.  Many explanations err by answering the question only from a software or Information Systems perspective.  While Agile primarily appears in the software industry, the different approaches appear in many industries and product areas.

Since the Project Management Institute (PMI) offers both Project Management Professional (PMP)® and PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certifications, it would seem that Agile contrasts against traditional project management. 

However, it would be more instructive to contrast the Agile approach against the "traditional waterfall approach" of Systems Engineering.  (Refer to the International Counsel on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) for details.)

Agile uses a highly iterative approach that works better when requirements are vague and must be defined over the course of the project.  It is more appropriate for, as an example, the next set of security updates to Windows or the next year's model of the Ford Mustang.

The waterfall approach assumes progressive or phased elaboration of a fixed set of requirements that can be defined, validated, and turned into a design architecture or solution, from top to bottom.

However, Agile methods can still be used for portions of the system, particularly peripheral functions of the software. It is more appropriate for, as an example, the core of MS Project 2015 or a new hybrid squirrel-electric vehicle.

Copyright 2013, Richard Wheeler -- Permission granted for non-profit or personal use with a link to this post.

IT Metrics and Productivity Institute (ITMPI) Premium membership gives members free access to 400 PDU-accredited webinar recordings and waives the PDU processing fees. The library is growing at about 100 webinars per year. Check it out:

05 June 2013

Study Plan for PMP Certification (Early June 2013)

It's a little late to start studying for the PMBOK Guide, 4th edition, test. First, you have less than two months to join PMI, apply for the exam, prep for it, and arrange a test date, and pass the exam.   Second, the 5th edition is out, so a significant portion of knowledge based on the 4th edition is already obsolete.  Third, lots of people need to retake the exam; so if you need to retake the exam, you will have to re-study for the 5th edition test.
Classroom interaction is great, but online training has a lot of advantages, too. With my budget, schedule, and remote location, distance learning is an absolute must.  If I had the budget, I would take the training offered by Cornelius Fitchner at PM-Prepcast. Cornelius is also on Facebook at Project Management Prepcast.
I would add some warnings.  Preparing for the PMP exam should not be about learning to take the exam.  Boot camps teach to the exam.   That's alright, as long as you understand that a boot camp is just an orientation.  The learning takes place when you

 - Read the PMBOK Guide at least twice.
 - Master the material in one of the great reference books out there. (1)
 - Research the answers to a thousand or so practice questions. (2)

Finally, join the Project Management, PMI, PMP Certification community on Google+.  When you get stumped by a topic or a sample question, share your question.  We LIKE helping each other because, if something stumps one person, others probably have difficulty with it, too.  Besides, it drives us to learn the material. (3)

Studying for the PMP exam is just a starting point.  Getting a piece of wallpaper may help you get a job, but if you want a career, use your certification as a springboard to deeper studies of PM topics and further certifications.


(1) Rita Mulcahey's PMP Exam Prep has a wealth of information, and the Head First PMP book has gotten a lot of recommendations, too.
(2) Cornelius Fitchner has listed a number of free exam question sources on one of his sites. Make sure the questions correspond to the edition of the PMBOK Guide for which you plan to take the test.
(3) "Fair Use" allows sharing a limited number of questions for critique or discussion. To be fair to the person who wrote the question, cite the source; and to help the rest of us, provide a link.
Copyright 2011, 2013, Richard Wheeler -- Permission granted for non-profit or personal use with a link to this post.

IT Metrics and Productivity Institute (ITMPI) Premium membership gives members free access to 400 PDU-accredited webinar recordings and waives the PDU processing fees. The library is growing at about 100 webinars per year. Check it out:

04 June 2013

What to Call Risk and Opportunity Management

Many writings lump risk management and opportunity management together under the label, Risk Management.  Risks and opportunities are left-pointing and right-pointing rays on the same line.

Many equate risk with probability, so they drop opportunity from the label. They think of risk as an abbreviation for risk and opportunity. Others worry, then, that opportunity will be forgotten -- as it usually is!

When one speaks of risk [and opportunity], one speaks of the probability that something will happen. That is,

Risk = Probability x Impact, where Impact is a loss


Opportunity = Probability x Impact, where Impact is a gain

If risks and opportunities are rays pointing left and right, then opportunities are negative risks. If you deal with them in the same matrix, pay extra attention to your negative signs.

Risk and opportunity management can result in influencing the probability, influencing the impact, or other strategies such as accepting a potential loss or waiting to deal with situations when and if they become an issues.

(Remember that a situation is a risk if the probability lies between zero and one.  A situation is an issue if the probability is one.)

Uncertainty Management

Could we simply call it Uncertainty Management?  Uncertainty would only deal with influencing the probability that something will occur. The face-value of the term fails to imply the other strategies for dealing with risks or opportunities. The name of this knowledge area should reflect the highest-level concepts, not a component concept.

Opportunities and Threats

Another pairing of terms comes from SWOT analysis - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. SWOT analysis is one technique for identifying risks and opportunities.

Opportunities and threats, as a pair, emphasizes the influences or situations that affect or can be affected by a person or project. (In fact, threat implies that the risk event comes from outside, whereas risks can be either internal or external.)  SWOT analysis emphasizes identification of risks. It makes up only a fraction of the whole set of risk and opportunity management processes.

A Common Risk:  Failing to Deal with Opportunities

Many people forget to manage opportunities with the same vigor that they apply to managing risks.  Exploiting opportunities can mitigate the potential impact of risks. The reasoning goes, Risk A may set us back a week, but Opportunity B may save us a week.

PMs have other reasons to exploit opportunities.   Exploited opportunities cut costs, relieve schedule pressure, and improve quality. In short, they maximize profit.

Failure to exploit opportunities wastes resources, causes product lines to stagnate, erodes market share, and results in lost jobs (perhaps your job!) when the company withers.

The failure to exploit opportunities is itself a fundamental risk.

Therefore, referring to the practice as Risk and Opportunity Management calls attention to the oft-forgotten second half of the discipline. 

Remember that semantics is about communicating, not about winning arguments.  If somebody refers to risk management, you know what they mean.  Adjust.

Copyright 2011, 2013, Richard Wheeler -- Permission granted for non-profit or personal use with a link to this post.

IT Metrics and Productivity Institute (ITMPI) Premium membership gives members free access to 400 PDU-accredited webinar recordings and waives the PDU processing fees. The library is growing at about 100 webinars per year. Check it out:

15 May 2013

How to Memorize PMP Formulas

Four Keys to Memorizing Anything

Memorization is like eating my biscuits. You use a knife and a cutting board to cut them into smaller pieces. Then you bite them into even smaller pieces with your incisor before chewing and chewing with your molars, sometimes on the right side of your mouth, then on the left side of your mouth.

Memorizing a formula, you use a pen and paper to break it into parts. Then you repeatedly work on the pieces. Sometimes you write them and sometimes you say them out loud so you involve more than one sense. Unlike my biscuits, you put the pieces back together in medium-sized pieces and chew on them for a while before putting the whole formula together and chewing on it.

The keys so far are
  • Smaller pieces
  • Repetition
  • Multiple senses
  • Reassembly

The Fifth Key to Memorization

The remaining key is (drum roll, please!)
  • Analysis
If you can understand a formula, you can recreate it without memorizing as much of it.

Example:  Point of Total Assumption in a Cost Reimbursable Contract

  • PTA = ((Ceiling Price - Target Price)/Buyer's Share)) + Target Cost
(I have limited the scope of this post to memorizing the formula, so please don't expect an explanation of Cost Reimbursable Contracts.)

The first step in analysis is to restate the formula in a fashion more visually decipherable.
  • PTA = Target Cost  +  (Ceiling Price - Target Price) / (Buyer's Share)
Notice that I turned the formula around.  I like to write formulas the way you would see it graphed: with the biggest portion first, at the bottom. Look at the inconsistent way most people present the Cost Estimating formulas, and taking this liberty will make even more sense.

The contract is Cost Reimbursable, so the first part of the PTA is what we hope the cost will be, the Target Cost.
  • PTA = Target Cost + some ugly fraction
The two price points above the Target Cost are the Ceiling Price and the Target Price. The Ceiling is higher, so it goes first:
  • (Ceiling Price - Target Price)/something
Something is the Buyer's Share.  Sorry, you'll just have to memorize that.

This is the point where you take total assumption of your own learning and put the formula back together. Remember, the keys to memorizing are
  • Smaller pieces
  • Repetition
  • Multiple senses
  • Reassembly
  • Analysis

14 May 2013

Networking, Patience, and Self-torture

If I am looking out for a job and see that a guy in a senior position may be of help to me, how do I ‘pretend’ that I am of help for him and he should connect with me, when the reality is that in this case, atleast for the time-being the ‘help’ will be going only one way – him to me. For a direct person, who does not like beating around the bush and pretence, this networking bit becomes tricky. I know it is my weakness, but I am finding it hard to overcome it.

I go through the same doubts, especially when connecting to somebody who is many levels above me. But I look at it this way. We must take time to be polite.

The connection

Suppose you come home and, before you even put down your briefcase, your roommate or spouse starts telling you all the things on the repair list and all the things that went wrong today. To-the-point requests make people feel the same way.

People do things for friends that they will not do for strangers. Good manners includes telling a new acquaintance what you admire about them and explaining something you have in common. It establishes a bond. If you don’t have any reasons that you can turn into a compliment, then why are you connecting?

The request

Remember, it’s about your contact, not about you. You don’t want to put him in a position where he has to sound mean. So I ask, “If you think our interests fit, may I join your LinkedIn network?” or “…would you add me to your LinkedIn network?”

The offer

You try to connect with as many people as possible, right? If you, yourself, do not have confidence to offer help, you can still offer to connect them with somebody else who can help them. Sometimes I ask, “As I build my network, what skills or knowledge could I look for in people I might send your way?” (Of course, now, you have to start keeping track of the answers!)

Another way might be, “Does your organization face any challenges where I could watch for resources for you?”


I’m sure there are much better ways to say such things, and you should always adapt your words to the person you’re connecting with.

Remember, establish a relationship before asking for something. Better yet, don’t ask for anything until
  • they offer to help, or 
  • you have been able to do something for them.
When you’re desperate for work, it’s very hard to be patient, but it will get you much better results.

For further reading, see a great article with excellent comments:

05 May 2013

Differences between Risks and Issues in Projects, Part 1

Differences between Risks and Issues in Projects, Part 1


Updated 1 June 2014

People define issue in many ways, but in project management, issue has a special meaning.

In everyday English, one synonym for issue is topic. An issue is a situation that merits discussion. For example, the issue, what caused the last ice age or is man's contribution to climate change significant compared to factors such as volcanic ash and the variability of our star.

Everyday issues include past, present, and future situations. Discussions about issues may or may not lead to actions. Often, when we say that something is an issue, we imply that people disagree about it.

In project management, an issue is a situation that merits consideration because it affects the project. For example, the vendor left our parts to rust on the dock and will not ship them until they get paid, but our policy prohibits paying for the shipment until we receive and inspect it.

If the issue is significant, the project team will study actions that would reduce or remedy the situation effects on the project. This leads to change requests.

Part 2 (click here) focuses on the definition of risk and explains a side of risk that most PMP prep materials overlook.

Copyright 2013, 2014 Richard M. Wheeler

27 April 2013

Links to Management Resources

General Management Resources

Process Asset Samples and Templates

Project Management Newsletters

Project Management Resources

Project Management Tools

PM Social Media and Online Study Groups

Technical References

PM Blogs

PM Study and Free Resources

  • PM Study - Free Simulated Practice Test, Sample Guides and Podcasts, Work Experience Hour Calculation Tool
  • PM Success - 400 Questions of the Day
  • Head First Labs - Free PMP Practice Exam
  • Simplilearn - Articles and instructional videos

Agile Study and Free Resources

  • ScrumStudy - Free learning resources (including the ScrumStudy BOK) - Hat tip to Kylie Wilson in the Comments.

This is a work in progress. Add links to your favorites in the comments, below, and I'll add them.

10 April 2013

Understanding the Rule of Seven

Context: Discussion of the Rule of Seven in statistical process control 

Problem: In some industries, one cannot wait for repeatable errors as defects and errors lead to loss of life. I was told that, in pharmaceuticals, a certain % of death is acceptable and almost expected. The waiting process or period of time before halting tests or evaluations is where I am stuck.
First, let's use the terms specified value and control limit rather than errors or defects.
Also, we would normally discuss this topic in terms of parameters that have numeric values such as temperature, weight, and speed. In this conversation, we want to deal with measurable characteristics long before they result in catastrophic failures.

Rule 1. Out-of-bound conditions

If you have just one value outside the control limits, such as a severe side effect from a drug, you stop the process and figure out what went wrong. 

Rule 2. Calibrating the results

The Rule of Seven (or Run of Seven) does not apply to parameters that go outside the control limits. The Run of Seven applies when seven consecutive, acceptable values lie on the same side of the specified value. Such a situation indicates that the average has deviated from the desired value and you need to recalibrate the process so that the average is close to the specified value.

Illustrating with a made-up scenario

Suppose the scientists at Schpooky Pharmaceuticals want to test an inoculation against the HG (Heebie Geebie) virus. In order to train the immune system to fight off a full invasion of Heebie Geebies when somebody sneezes on us, the inoculation has to cause a fever of at least 0.5 degree F. They calibrate the variables in making the vaccine and in the dosage to cause a 1.0 degree F fever, or a temperature of 99.6 degrees F.  In this test, they set an upper control limit of 3.0 degrees, or a temperature of 101.6 degrees F.
  • T = 99.6 degrees F, average
  • 99.1 degrees F < T < 101.6 degrees F
Using the first rule, just one person develops a temperature of 103.0 degrees F. We stop the tests to see what's gone wrong because 103.0 > 101.6, the upper control limit.
Using the second rule, if we have seven consecutive people develop fevers between 99.6 and 101.6, we stop the tests to see what's gone wrong. These temperatures are all acceptable, but they are all greater than the desired value.
The Run of Seven indicates a special cause -- that is, one or more variables in the process need to be controlled. Maybe the dose is too large and needs to be reduced. Perhaps the HG virus needs to be baked five minutes longer. So we make the adjustments and then resume the trial.
These rules and others like them serve to stop a process long before it reaches catastrophic failure such as the death of a patient.

But catastrophic failures do happen

You might wonder, What about the catastrophic failures? They do happen! What about the one in 10,000 who dies? How can that be acceptable?
This takes us to other techniques such as Decision Tree analysis (p. 299 of the Project Management Institutes Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, 4th edition).
Suppose withholding the vaccine results in 1,000 deaths per 10,000, but giving the vaccine causes one death in 10,000. If you distribute the vaccine to 10,000, you save 999 lives.
Unfortunately, many drug companies withhold such drugs because that one in 10,000 will sue them, and the juries will severely punish the companies.
This issue, tort reform, is one of the dividing lines between the political parties in the US. A project manager needs to use various decision-making methods and maintain awareness of a wide range of environmental factors.

The Difference between Accuracy and Precision

In technology and science, accuracy and precision are different, although they go together.

For the measured characteristic
  • Precision is described by the range of values.
  • Accuracy is described by the difference between the average value and the specified value.
Lets have a goal of making two batches of cookies and specify that they measure 5" across. Afterwards, we measure the cookies.

Chocolate cookie widths
  • Average = 5.10 "
  • Range = 0.25"
Cinnamon cookie widths
  • Average = 5.01"
  • Range = 0.50"
The chocolate cookies have a smaller range of sizes, so they are more precise. The average size of the Cinnamon cookies comes closer to the specified value, though, so they are more accurate.
Does that seem counterintuitive?
For a measurement or a measuring tool
  • Precision is described by how many significant figures the tool gives you.
  • Accuracy is described by how closely the measurement matches the value of a standard device and also by how accurate the standard is.
As another example, I have two 18" rulers.
  • One came from a store that sells drafting supplies. It is graduated in 16ths of an inch.
  • The other, I made for myself after I loaned the store-bought ruler to a neighbor kid. I based it on one cubit (18"), the length from my elbow to my finger tips. When I graduated the cubit ruler in 50ths of an inch, I eyeballed the measurements and marked it by hand.
 The cubit ruler is more precise, but the store-bought ruler is more accurate.

24 March 2013

Project Management and Open Communications

Project Managers need to guard against setting up an environment where bad news never reaches them. They need to praise and encourage those who communicate risks before they become issues, issues before they become problems, and problems before they become project failures.

Some managers remind me of the Clinton trial in the Senate, following his impeachment in the House.

The Senate set up a rule requiring Ken Starr to keep all the records and evidence in another building. Bringing it to their offices without an invitation would have violated protocol.

Then the majority of senators refused to go view the evidence. A few who did view it said they came away weeping, and the rest (having refused to view the evidence) said that they lacked evidence sufficient to convict.

Does your comfort zone tempt you to maintain willful ignorance? Does your character allow reliance on plausible deniability? The PM has accountability for project success, which any lack of awareness may bring about; but that accountability extends to achieving success ethically.
I wonder:  Do PMs ever include ethical lapses as project risks?

23 March 2013

The Best Project Management Software

Project management covers many knowledge areas. Developers approach PM software functionality from the perspective of a particular discipline or PM knowledge area. The approaches usually focus on a narrow selection of the following needs:
  • Requirements
  • Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)
  • Agile methods
  • Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE)
  • General verification/validation
  • Software test management
  • Software test management with scripting
  • Issue and change management
  • Product definition from a market research angle
  • Scheduling
  • Cost management
  • Resource management
  • Project communications
  • Scope and requirements definition
  • Quality management
  • Configuration management
As a result, all the solutions I have looked at work for only a small portion of project management. For example, MS Project would be useless for requirements management, and DOORS would be useless for project scheduling.
Some developers stress integration of their products with other products -- preferably their own. For example, Rational (specializing in SDLC) bought DOORS and worked on integrating the two product lines. Then IBM bought Rational and expanded the integration effort to include other IBM products.
Implementing many PM software products and then tailoring them to the organization's needs can require permanent, trained resources. Integrating several products can take years, even in large organizations.
With the current state, I believe any attempt at a total PM solution will require a very large initial effort, significant support to maintain the solution, and an acceptance that some interfaces between PM processes just have to be done by hand.
Therefore, to answer the question, "What is the best software/tool for end-to-end Project Management?" you need to prioritize the areas of PM because no product addresses the end-to-end needs -- or at least, the top-to-bottom needs.

Life Cycle Costing for Projects

Defining Life Cycle Costing

Life cycle costing (LCC) looks at the cost of the whole life of the product, not just the cost of the project. A product has two major cost phases, the project phase that designs and produces the product, and the O&M phase where the owner operates, maintains, and decommissions the product.

(A lot of Project Managers (PMs) forget decommissioning. As an extreme example, consider how much it will cost to maintain and protect a nuclear waste site for the next 500,000 years.)

The design philosophy is part of the project scope.  The customer may want a cheap, disposable product, so the design team would not put much effort into designing for low maintenance, low manning, and long lifespan.

On the other hand, the customer may need the product to last a long time.  Operations costs can include:
  • building more units
  • maintaining equipment
  • training users
  • expanding, upgrading, or re-purposing the product
  • providing consumables
  • procuring replacement and spare parts
  • transporting, installing, or disposing of waste
Operations can far outweigh the initial cost.

The scope statement, the Statement of Work, the nature of the product, industry standards or government regulations, and the user needs can guide decisions about what aspects, if any, of life cycle costing to include in project planning.

What LCC Means to the Project

Considering operations and maintenance costs requires including, as part of the scope, performing the project in such a way as to keep O&M costs down for the customer.

For example, easy access to a car's timing belt decreases the amount of labor the owner has to pay to have it replaced, and using a steel widget instead of an iron one results in fewer failures due to corrosion.  Such steps will increase the cost of the project, but they may decrease the customer's total cost of ownership.

Considering operations and maintenance costs also requires estimating the cost of the entire product life cycle.

A point exists where spending more on reducing O&M costs would not cut total cost of ownership.  For example, making windshields out of the material they use in Soyuz windows might mean never having to replace cracked glass after a bird hit, but it would cost more than the rest of the car.

For this reason, the project will include a trade study that estimates the total of both the project cost and all the costs incurred by the customer after product delivery.  As its goal, the study will recommend ways to minimize the total cost.

What LCC Means to the Project Manager

The PM should consider the following steps to ensure project success:
  • Make sure the customer considers cost of ownership and agrees to LCC goals.
  • Ensure that project scope and project requirements clarify LCC goals.
  • During project planning, account for the effects of those requirements on the project.
  • Oversee a trade study to determine the best compromise between project cost and O&M costs before project planning is finalized.
  • Make sure the customer understands cost tradeoffs between a cheap project and a project that produces a product with characteristics such as longer life, less expensive maintenance, and greater safety.
  • Get approval of the LCC strategy from the customer and authorization to follow that strategy from the project's sponsor or management.
Please let me know in the comments if you have any corrections or additions.

19 March 2013

Life Cycle Costing for Project Planning

Life cycle costing looks at the cost of the whole life of the product, not just the cost of the project.

A product has two major groups of life cycle phases, the project phases that conceive, design, produce, and deliver the product, and the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) phases where the owner operates, maintains, and decommissions the product.

Some products also have phases where proof of concept testing, design refinement, and prototyping overlap with O&M phases.

(A lot of PMs forget decommissioning. As an extreme example, think about how a chemical or nuclear waste site might require maintenance and protection for the nest 500,000 years.)

The project scope should define the design philosophy. The customer may want a cheap, disposable product, so the design team would not put much effort into designing for low maintenance, low manning, or long service life.

On the other hand, Operations costs such as building more units, maintenance, training users, expansion and modification, providing consumables, transporting, installing, and disposing of waste can far outweigh the initial costs.

The scope statement and the nature of the product will guide in deciding which aspects, if any, of life cycle costing to include in project planning.

15 March 2013

ROI on Subsidizing Professional Memberships

What Return On Investment (ROI) does a company receive by paying the professional membership dues or educational expenses of employees? For example, if a company pays the annual PMI or INCOSE membership dues, what dollarized benefit or ROI does it receive?


I only have one data point. When the company invests zero dollars in its employees' growth, the investment:
  • Creates zero expansion of its pool of outside SMEs
  • Creates zero growth of workers' skills
  • Encourages zero engagement in the work
  • Subsidizes zero creativity
  • Suppresses crazy ideas from professional cross pollination
On the positive side, such an investment strategy:
  • Discourages annoying attributes such as pride and overconfidence
  • Prevents exposure of its products, services, expertise, and industry leadership to the public
  • Encourages turnover of unengaged and obsolete employees
  • Ensures that personal connections will not interrupt hiring managers' time reading resumes.

[Sarcasm="off"] Employee Focus

If the company pays for schooling, it might be possible to argue that the ROI of membership fees is even greater. You will not only learn from presentations during meetings, but the meeting time per membership dollar will be a multiple of classroom time per tuition dollar, you will spend countless hours studying toward PMP, CSEP, or other certifications, and you will bring all the other intangible benefits, too.

If the company pays for books for classes or for reference, you can also list the values or prices of the numerous downloadable materials such as the PMBOK Guide (hard copy was $66 for the fourth edition). 

If the company reimburses you for certification exams, then you can list the discounts on exam fees. For example, if you join PMI before registering for the PMP exam, the discount on the exam pays for the first year's membership.

As an alternative to paying for dues directly, a company can reward employees through raises or bonuses when they see positive results. The flaw in a reactive strategy is that it fails to model the trust and loyalty that management expects from employees and only rewards tangible, directly measurable, short-term results.

Wider Perspective: It's Your Loss, Boss

Businesses lose a lot of money by failing to align their talent management with their business strategies.  A study by the Project Management Institute found that managing the talent pool cuts risks by 50% (1). Cutting project risks cuts costs, improves quality, shortens schedules, and boosts morale.

PMI estimates that active talent management results in 14% more project success -- meaning that projects reach all success criteria. If you focused on individual success critera, the numbers would be much higher. Would it be worth, say, a hundred dollars per employee to improve your success rate by 14% on a million-dollar or billion-dollar contract?

Turn the question around and ask, what does the company lose if it does not subsidize professional memberships? Just go through the issues above and you will see issues of obsolescence, disengagement, turnover and the resulting loss of braintrust, as well as disengagement of the company itself from its industry.

According to the PMI, industry will annually create 1.57 million new project management roles, globally, each year until 2020 (2) and 80% of organizations already report struggling to find qualified managers (3). Employers that fail to encourage employee growth will lose to proactive competitors.

Sample Calculation

Remember that you obligate yourself to whatever you list.

Some people will get the membership, add it to their resumes, and then never think about it again until the renewal notice arrives. Others would will join regardless of whether the company reimburses them.

On the other hand, if young employees find mentoring and take an early interest in expanding their networks, social skills, and professional skills, how would you calculate the exponential growth in their value to the company?

But... we have to try.

One source measured the increased productivity multiplied it by the hours saved and the labor rate.

They looked at the cost incurred by a project manager in previous projects under the charging categories for estimation, planning, resource, scope, schedule, and customer management. They then compared the numbers with the same charges in a current project.

The manager spent 27 hours less per year. This did not include the higher level of tasks or the higher quality of performance. Using a very conservative $100/hour, the savings appeared to be $2,700. A $130 membership spent corellated to an ROI of 20 times.

Factors such as the employee's learning curve could have contributed to the ROI. However, even with such factors accounting for 90% of the gain, the ROI was still 2:1.

If you consider that an employee creates value greater than the rate of pay (otherwise, why employee him?), then that 2:1 ROI leverages back into a higher ratio again; and the higher the level of the employee, the greater the leverage.

Even ignoring the many difficult-to-measure benefits, subsidizing membership fees yields a far higher return than most company dollars return.


1. Pulse of the Profession (TM) In-Depth Report: Talent Management. Project Management Institute. 2013.

2.  Ibid.

3.  Project Management Talent Gap Report. Project Management Institute. 2012.

12 March 2013

Difference between Quality Assurance and Quality Control

Major Differences between QA and QC

The difference between Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) can easily get lost among all the words. Some simple contrasts will help separate the two in your mind.
1. QA is primarily proactive. QC is primarily reactive.
2. QA focuses on the methods. QC focuses on the results.
3. QA uses some statistical methods to analyze how work is done, but QC uses a lot of measurements and statistics to make sure you get the right results.
4. QA's scope how the project gets done, whereas QC's scope includes how well the work got done and how well the product or service meet the requirements.
Putting those together, Quality Assurance assures you will get the product or service right by making sure the work gets done using the best methods. Quality Control measures and analyzes to control the quality of the product, service, or project execution, and to verify whether it meets the requirements.
If you view your studies of QA and QC with this framework in mind, the rest of the differences will make a lot more sense.
I like food, so let's use a restaurant as an example.  Normally a restaurant would be Operations (not Project), so let's assume that our fine establishment will cater an event and, therefore, Chef Boyardee has a project to manage.

QA (proActive Execution) may find weaknesses in processes or standards due to problems that have occurred. For example, Waiter A wanted to take a break, but Waiter B did not know to whom to deliver the food. We have identified a new stakeholder requirement: Waiters need the ability to hand off orders to each other.

The head waiter improves the process by requiring all waiters to include the table number and seat code for each order. Thus, QA reacts to the problem, focuses on the processes and tools, and enables improvements to the project.

QC (reactive Control) may find a trend indicating an approaching problem. The Chef inspects the food before it is served and notices less steam rising from the tandoori vegetables. Although the food is still acceptable, the temperatures are trending downward.

Before customers start receiving food below the Lower Control Limit of temperature, the Chef determines that the tandoori cook's burners are not getting enough propane. The Chef alerts the cook, who swaps in a fresh propane tank.

Thus, QC Monitored the product, analyzed the data, performed a Root Cause Analysis, and enabled proactive control of an issue before it became a problem.
Warnings about Generalizations
Remember, "proactive" and "reactive" are generalization to differentiate the two processes. QA (proActive Execution) can be reactive and QC (reactive Control) can be proactive, as well.
Is it safe to say that QA involves polices and procedures ... while QC involves actual work on a product or service?
Yes, as a generalization, it is "safe to say that QA involves polices and procedures ... while QC involves actual work on product or service."
One important note: Process and procedure are ambiguous terms, and every organization has its own definitions of them. Both QA and QC can initiate improvements to (processes or procedures).
For example, one level of (process or procedure) might instruct personnel to collect the materials and drawings, then have the machinist construct the widget, then have QC inspect it.
Another level of (process or procedure) might instruct the machinist how to program the machine, mount the raw materials, push the buttons, release and label the widget, dispose the scrap, and prepare the machine for the next task.
From that point of view, QA might perform quality audits to verify that a high level (process or procedure) is being followed, but QC might verify that a detail-level (process or procedure) was followed correctly and with the right results. Both QA and QC involve (processes or procedures).
Reminder:  This discussion is just about the major differences. When you look at the details and the ambiguous terms makes it confusing, refer back to the big picture for perspective.

11 March 2013

Slack, Float, and Critical Path Methodology

So as the PM I want to locate the longest path, because it will assure that I meet the project deadline.
Correct. But don't look for the "longest path," look for the "critical path." They are the same, but when you say critical path, you indicate that you know the best way to find it.
The shortest path, which has no slack, tells you as the PM that you will not be able to meet the deadline for the project.
Forget 'shortest path.' What tells you that you will not be able to meet the deadline is an end-to-end path having "negative slack." More about that later.
Slack is about an individual activity. Float is about how that activity's slack relates to the activities around it. They are the same thing viewed from slightly different perspectives.
Here's a source of confusion that I have yet to seen or hear anyone explain: For the critical path, we look for a path from the Start to Finish that has either zero or a negative number for the slack of all its activities. When we talk about a path that has slack (for example, 2 days), however, we talk about that single branch, not about a whole Start-to-Finish path.
Did you do connect-the-dots pictures as a child? Lets do a mental experiment. Imagine replacing all the boxes in a network diagram with their slack numbers. If there is enough time to do the project, you will see a path of zeroes from Start to Finish. In your mind, go over that path with a highlighter. That is the critical path. The durations of those boxes add up to the shortest time in which the project can be completed.
Suppose you add up the durations of the activities along the critical path, and the sum is 42 days. If the deadline is in seven weeks (49 days), then you have enough time.
If Sales promised the customer the project would be done in 40 days, but the project requires 42 days, then instead of having zeroes along the critical path, you will have negative twos (-2s). This is called negative slack. You will need to use schedule compression techniques to reduce the length of the project.
Note that the last two paragraphs involved only the critical path activities. None of the paths that you did not highlight in the first paragraph matter. They are all irrelevant -- up to this point.
Slack is also called "float" because you can move the activity forward up three days. Imagine a small cereal bowl floating in a large sink. It has room to float around. The bounds within which it can float are set by the edges of the sink. Similarly, an activity with positive slack can float within bounds set by parallel activities in the critical path.
Here's another confusing point. Suppose activities B and C are parallel to each other. That is, both can start as soon as activity A is done, but both must by done before activity D can start.
Activity B
Slack = 2 days
Duration = 4 days
Activity C
Slack = 0 days
Duration = 6 days
How long will the path that contains Activity B take? If you answered, 4 days, think again. Suppose activity A ends on day 10. Activity C takes 6 days, so activity D cannot start until day 16. So how long does the path containing activity B take? The path takes 4 days of activity plus two days of slack. It takes the same time as the longer activity (C) that it parallels.
Two activities done in parallel cannot be completed any faster than the longer activity. For this reason, it is a waste of time to look for "shorter" Start-to-Finish paths.
Activities or paths with slack (float) do not affect how long the project takes. However, there are two exceptions.
First, if the PM uses schedule compression techniques to shorten the project (for example, from 42 days to 40 days), then at least some of the activity durations or the relationships between activities change.
When the PM recalculates how long the project will take, the critical path may change. One critical path activity that had -2 slack might now have a slack of 1, so it is no longer on the critical path; and another activity that formerly had a slack of +1 and was not on the critical path may now have a slack of zero and lie on the critical path.
Second, every activity has risk. You can lower the risk of a non critical path activity by starting it early. You cannot do that with a critical path activity, so it carries more risk. If something goes wrong with a non critical path activity, if it takes long enough, it can still prevent the start of a critical path activity that follows it. On paper during planning, it does not affect the project's duration, but during execution, it can.
I hope I clarified more than I confused. Good luck!

08 March 2013

Forcing versus Withdrawal for Conflict Resolution

Is it true that the Forcing conflict resolution technique is worse than Withdrawal?

Withdrawal can have negative or positive consequences. On the negative side, left to themselves, people may escalate the conflict to the point that the PM loses control. While time passes, risks may evolve into issues, or issues into problems.

On the other hand, people may calm down and consider each others' needs and opinions. In time, they may voluntarily find ways to meet all needs, or at least reach a compromise. They might also find a new solution. So the problem may solve itself. It's important for the PM to respect the team's ability to solve problems and allow them "space" to do so.

Forcing always has losers and creates the risk of driving a less-than-optimal solution. People don't disagree about issues unless somebody sees an aspect that the others do not see. Odds are, if you force a solution, you've missed an opportunity to find a better solution.

Forcing also implies showing disrespect for the "losers," so it demotivates them. Their decrease in performace can becomes a drag to the team. The negative feelings and the drag, in turn, affects the whole team's performance.

You may not have time to find better solutions. Although forcing ranks as the worst technique, circumstances may force you to use it. If you force a solution, you need to follow up with the "losers" to identify the negative consequences. This shows respect for their needs and their perceptions. It also allows you to find ways to mitigate any shortcomings in the forced solution.

06 March 2013

The Lobbyist on the Project Management Team

You are the project manager in an aircraft manufacturing company developing a new range of supersonic fighter planes. Since government approval and involvement are essential, you hire a lobbying firm to get government support to prevent unnecessary changes in your project. Which process is this an example of? (Source unknown)
While aircraft manufacturers conduct some research into designs and materials that they can incorporate into new aircraft, governments usually sponsor development of fighter jets.
Scope creep happens in almost all defense projects.
For example: 
  • The Defense Department wants the aircraft to provide certain capabilities for the Air Force.
  • Then the Navy wants compromises in the design so the jets can take off from carriers.
  • The Army and Marines add their particular use cases.
  • Allies want introperability with their systems.
  • Later, one politician wants to cut costs,
  • another wants the aircraft to use inadequate landing gear designed by the manufacturer in his home town,
  • and over 600 politicians and thousands of bureacrats want to influence the project.
  • Meanwhile, competitors and the nation's adversaries develop new technologies to which the designers must respond.
  • And one of the political parties, along with the press, begin mocking your aircraft by calling it an Imperial Tie Fighter.
If you let it, the politics will multiply the cost twentyfold, drag out the schedule an extra 15 years, and make your company a laughingstock. By the time of the first production run, the aircraft will already be obsolete.
The same sort of changes can happen in any project. One way to control the risk of scope change is to refuse to make changes, but too little flexibility can create customer dissatifaction and cost you future business.
For a better way to reduce the risk of scope creep, maintain close personal relationships with the stakeholders, keep them informed of the costs of changes, and negotiate agreements that best serve the business case.
The PM cannot always do this, so the company hires a lobbyist with exceptional people skills and knowledge of the bureacratic systems. The lobbyist uses various methods to convince the politicians and bureaucrats to resist tinkering with the project requirements.
In process terms, hiring a lobbyist does not proceed from the Project Communications Management processes. Lobbying does not contribute directly to producing the product or providing a service. A first pass through the Identify Stakeholders and Plan Communications processes would assume everything goes as planned and would focus on required reporting and coordination. The lobbyist's job goes far beyond that.
If the team identifies scope creep as a risk, they make a note to consider it later when they follow the Identify Risks process. They would, at that time, add recruiting a lobbyist to the Risk Management Plan portion of the integrated Project Management Plan.
Don't forget that, as a member of the project team, the lobbyist becomes a stakeholder. For example, the team must add the lobbyist's tasks to the WBS and estimated costs during the next iteration of project planning. They must also consider the lobbyist's information needs during the next iteration of the Project Communications Management processes.

24 February 2013

Project Selection

For project selection, the Project Management Institute's (PMI's) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide assumes you have more than one project from which to choose. By analyzing the options, you can determine which has the greatest value to the company. The formal method for choosing the best option is called a project selection method.
Suppose I have to choose between
  • fixing my child's favorite meal and leftovers for my wife, or
  • fixing my spouse's favorite and cheese mac for my child.
So I ask, "which gives me the better Return on Investment (ROI)?" To answer the question, I consider
  • How much time and money it will take
  • How much of a mess I will have to clean up
  • Does it align with my goals (fun vs. study time)
  • Rewards (somebody else WILLINGLY taking out the trash)
  • How long it will take to reap the rewards
  • Risks (what if I overcook the macaroni? or burn the steak?)
A Project Manager (PM) will place a priority on each criterion and score the probable outcomes. The sum of the weighted scores for each option yields a total score for that option.
I did this with my daughter last year when she needed to buy a car. The result surprised me and was not at all what I expected, but it turned out to be a great choice.

The primary use of project selection is for choosing between projects. However, one can also used it during the project life cycle. The projected ROI of a project can change, for example, due to changing market or regulatory conditions. If the ROI falls, it might be worth canceling the project so the funds and resources can be applied to a more promising project. This is a special case of selecting between competing opportunities.
The executives of a company I won't name signed a contract to deliver a product on a certain date. If the company failed to deliver on that date, the company would have to pay liquidated damages; and if the company canceled the project, it would have to pay penalties.
Unfortunately, the executives failed to have Engineering review the contract. It turned out that the company could not meet the deadline. The PM tried schedule compression, but as risks turned into issues, it became clear that the project could not meet its deadline.
What should they have done? The company should have used the project selection method to choose between
  • Completing the project and paying the liquidated damages
  • Canceling the project and paying the penalties.
Remember, the considerations aren't always directly related to the project. Things such as the company's reputation, the future value of establishing a market presence, or future business based on this project's design work have value, too. For example, cell phone companies often sell cell phones at a loss because they make their money on the service contracts.

Copyright 2011, Richard Wheeler

09 February 2013

Project Management Career Path

In terms of study, what path should one take to become a project manager?

First, unless you have several years of project management work experience, I would suggest obtaining the Project Management Institute's (PMI's) Certified Associate Project Manager (CAPM) certification. After that, study the qualifications for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification and create a plan based on those qualifications. The plan should include studying PMI's Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide and added studies based on the PMBOK Guide's process knowledge areas.

Second, familiarize yourself with the International Counsel on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge (SEBOK). After achieving PMP certification, pursue INCOSE's certifications. PMI certification will give you a top-down perspective across all departments whereas INCOSE's certifications will give you a bottom-up understanding of the engineering processes and products.

Studying these two knowledge areas in this order should provide a faster path, on paper, to project management and beyond. However, if you would prefer a career path leading to a Chief Engineer title, you might reverse the order. Pursing Engineering in Training (EIT) and then Professional Engineer (PE) certifications would be valuable on the technical career path, too.

Third, study people, develop lots of relationships (focus on the personal aspects and what you can do for them, not on what you can get out of them), and find at least one mentor other than your supervisor. These are critical.

08 February 2013

Politics and the Project


Cultural norms include a common knowledge regarding how to approach getting things done. It also takes into account formal and informal leaders who exist in almost every organization. Most organizations have developed unique cultures that manifest themselves in many ways. Which attributes of a company culture is NOT consistent with the discussion of cultural "norms"?

A. shared vision, values, beliefs, expectations
B. policies, methods and procedures
C. consistent political views
D. view of authority relationships

I was given answer as "C".
Shared vision, values, beliefs, expectations; political views; and views of authority relationships are all cultural factors. Each is a valid topic of discussion to the degree that it affects the project and the organization.

Political views include both those related to national government and those related to the company goals, culture, and hierarchy.

Western employees are taught that religious and political views are inappropriate topics. However, Political Correctness (PC) is alive and well. For example, some countries suppress "subversive" or "counter revolutionary" political views. This can affect project success.

Even in the USA, many employers will fire you if you oppose certain movements such as homosexual marriage or affirmative action (discrimination in favor of disadvantaged minorities). The reasoning goes like this:
  • Diversity has value.
  • People who oppose a PC (politically correct) view create a workplace that is hostile to favored minorities and an atmosphere where conflict may arise.
  • This hurts members of those minorities, limits diversity, subjects the company to legal liability, and disrupts teamwork.
  • Thus, inconsistent political views concerning some topics can hurt the project.
You don't have to like PC, but it exists. PMs have to deal with it and sometimes even enforce it.

Consider a different meaning of "political views:" Every organizational hierarchy has "office politics." Competition, conflicting opinions, and popularity can affect whom you can rely on. A stakeholder or resource may oppose you, or others may not support your resource. Such factors affect how one succeeds in getting things done.

We may say (C) is an inappropriate topic, but political views are certainly a part of cultural norms, and some version of PC is enforced anywhere you go. Moreover, the question is not, "what is appropriate," but "which attributes of a company culture is [sic] not consistent with the discussion of cultural 'norms'?"  (C) cannot be correct.

While culture may affect policies, methods, and procedures, they are classified not as part of the enterprise environment (that is, external factors that affect the project), but rather as organizational process assets. (B) is correct.

Copyright (C) 2013, Richard Wheeler. Permission granted for use not involving publication.

16 January 2013

Buyers versus Users

The new project manager (PM) or systems engineer (SEs) knows that the Seller, the person or organization providing deliverable products or services, must fulfill the scope defined by the Buyer. The Seller and Buyer usually negotiate a Project Scope Description which the project Sponsor includes in the Project Charter. Details of the project scope description may be found in the contract, Statement of Work, and any subsequent approved Change Requests.
The PM also knows that the Project Requirements must detail the project scope through requirements analysis and through creation of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) that has enough granularity to define project tasks at a manageable level.
New PMs or SEs may overlook the importance of a third party: Users.
Users are people or organization who put their hands on the product or receive the service. The Buyer may or may not be the User. For example, as part of a project to set up a business office, a manager (the Buyer) may want to buy spreadsheet software for his analysts (Users).
In one contract, my company upgraded communications equipment for an agency (the Buyer) that needed new types of signal channels. The Buyer owned the equipment, but another contractor provided the operators, and yet other agencies utilized the communication channels.
Even though we took our direction from our contract with the Buyer, we coordinated with the third-party Users to validate the Buyer's requirements. Unhappy Users would have been reflected by an unsatisfied Buyer, which would have cost us future business.
The PM must gain acceptance from the Buyer by satisfying the requirements. However, in many projects, the PM must also define the requirements in enough detail to ensure that they reflect the Buyer's needs. This implies added responsibilities:
  • The differences between needs and requirements must be identified as early as possible in order to prevent expensive changes later.
  • If meeting the needs increases the scope, schedule, or cost, the PM must inform the Buyer and negotiate changes as soon as possible.
  • The PM needs the courage to help the Buyer understand what he needs and what he will not receive.
  • Enough time should be spent during the planning phase of a project to ensure that meeting the scope, requirements, and needs will result in a happy Buyer.

Returning to the example in the first paragraph: The manager may think he can get by with Lotus 1-2-3 (ca. 2000), but the analysts are familiar with Excel 2007 and need the new functions that come with Excel 2013. The PM needs to advise the Buyer to take a class in computer literacy.

Copyright (C) 2013, Richard Wheeler. Permission granted for use not involving publication.

Project Cancellation

While you are directing and managing your project execution, your sponsor tells you that your project has just been terminated. Will you complete Verify Scope process before closing your project?

Yes, verify scope provides an opportunity for the PM and the sponsor to document the project status at that moment... that can be used for lessons learnt as well for future projects. (Name withheld)


Process 5.4, Verify Scope is the process of formalizing acceptance of the completed project deliverables and includes reviewing deliverables with the customer or sponsor to ensure that they are completed satisfactorily and obtaining formal acceptance of deliverables.... (PMBOK) Since the project has been canceled, no more deliverables will be accepted. Completing the Verify Scope process would waste resources.
Exceptions not indicated by the question
  • The terms of a cancellation could include acceptance of whatever has been completed.
  • The company could preserve the deliverables in their current state for use in future projects, in which case, knowing their quality would have value.
Note 1: If one traces the flow of outputs from the Verify Scope process, the next step for any Accepted Deliverable is process 4.6, Close Project or Phase.
Note 2: Documenting the project status at the time of cancellation would start with Work Performance Measurements produced by following process 5.5, Control Scope, the process of monitoring the status of the project and product scope and managing changes to the scope baseline. (PMBOK).
The PM would then follow process 10.5, Report Performance, to analyze the project's progress, producing Performance Reports. For the final step, following process 4.4, Monitor and Control Project Work, the PM updates Project Documents, including performance reports and issue logs. (The PM would also make other updates to Project Documents during that preceding processes.)
Note 3: Non-accepted deliverables would be subject to the Direct and Manage Project Execution or Perform Quality Control processes (and their design and production partner processes). The Direct and Manage Project Execution and the Close Project of Phase processes might invoke some sort of Disposal process to handle the non-accepted deliverables.

Copyright (C) 2013, Richard Wheeler. Permission granted for use not involving publication.