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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