Newsletter: March Edition Print

Where There Are People, There Is Conflict

             

Conflict is a mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, and external or internal demands. Where there are people, there is conflict. Conflicts are seen as negative. However, this is inaccurate as conflicts are necessary for healthy relationships.

Conflict should not be perceived as a problem. It is a chance for growth and can be useful in opening yourself up to groups or other individuals. When conflict begins to suppress or disrupt productivity and gives way to more conflicts, conflict management is needed to address the dispute. There are many types of conflict, but here are three typical examples:

1. Intragroup Conflict

Intragroup conflict occurs among individuals within a team. The incompatibilities and misunderstandings between team members can lead to intragroup conflict. It starts from interpersonal disagreements like team members have different personalities which may lead to tension or differences in views and ideas.

Within a team, conflict can be helpful in coming up with decisions, which will eventually allow them to achieve their objectives as a team. However, if the degree of conflict disrupts harmony among the members, then some serious guidance from a different party will be needed for it to be settled.

2. Interpersonal Conflict

Interpersonal conflict means a conflict between two individuals. Conflict occurs because of differences between individuals. We all have varied personalities which can lead to incompatible choices and opinions. So, it is a natural occurrence which can eventually help in personal growth or develop our relationships with others.

Interpersonal conflict among individuals at work has been shown to be one of the most frequently noted stressors for employees. This type of conflict is associated with the broader concept of workplace harassment. It relates to other stressors that might co-occur, such as role conflict, role ambiguity, and workload. It also relates to strains such as anxiety, depression, physical symptoms, and low levels of job satisfaction. Disputes between peers as well as supervisor and subordinate conflicts fall into this category.

3. Intergroup Conflict 

Intergroup conflict occurs when a misunderstanding arises among different teams or groups within an organization.

Horizontal strain intergroup conflict typically can occur between the marketing & sales departments who are looking to increase the organizational sales. Varied sets of goals, objectives, and interests of these groups can cause conflict. Competition between the groups also amplifies intergroup conflict as each organizational team is trying to outperform each other in reaching their set of goals and objectives. These factors may include a rivalry in resources or the boundaries of responsibilities.

Another type is Vertical strain conflict which involves competition between hierarchical levels such as a union versus company management, or a struggle between a group of employees and management.

Conflict Resolution Management Techniques

There are five strategies for managing stressful situations. None of them is a "one-size-fits-all" answer. Choosing the best conflict management technique depends on a variety of factors, including an appraisal of the intensity of the conflict and environmental factors. Here are the five types of conflict resolution management:

  • Collaborating − win/win
  • Compromising − win some/lose some
  • Accommodating − lose/win
  • Competing − win/lose
  • Avoiding − no winners/no losers

 

Collaborating Technique

This technique follows the rule "I win, you win." Collaborating means working together by integrating ideas set out by multiple people. The objective here is to find a creative solution acceptable to everyone. It calls for a significant time commitment. Collaborating can lead to “I will win all costs” or the Competing technique below. Each group must be committed to the win/win outcome and have trust with each other for collaborating to be successful. The collaborating approach gives longer lasting and more meaningful agreements. Participants that collaborate are significantly more likely not to feel negative about the outcome.

Compromising Technique

This method follows the rule "You bend, I bend." Compromising means adjusting with each other’s opinions and ideas, and thinking of a solution where both points of view are part of the solution outcome. Similarly, both the parties need to give up on some of their ideas and should agree with the other. Values and long-term objectives can be derailed using this technique. This process may not work if initial demands are high and if there is no commitment to honor the compromised solutions or outcomes. Comprise is best in tough situations where collaboration will not work. The results are less likely to be sustainable and mutually valued as both sides feel slightly negative about the experience.

Accommodating Technique

This method follows the rule "I lose, you win." Accommodating means giving up on ideas and thoughts so that the other party wins and the conflict ends. However, using this technique, one's own ideas do not get attention, ensures lost credibility, and influence is lost. The approach of “I will just do what you say” deflates the morale of one side of the conflict. Accommodating gives a lack of caring, concern, and commitment to the solution outcome by one side of the conflict. It is having one side of the conflict jumping ship and saying “It is your problem now.” Leaving both sides of the conflict feeling negative about the experience and untrusting of each other regarding the solution outcome.

Competing Technique

This method follows the rule "I win, you lose." Competition means when there is a dispute a person or a group is not willing to collaborate or adjust, but it simply wants the opposite party to lose. This technique can further escalate conflict or losers may retaliate. This “It is my way or the highway” leads to stronger emotions and greater conflict. Many conflicts start as competing but then move into other collaboration types.

Avoiding Technique

This method follows the rule "No winners, no losers." Avoiding means the ideas suggested by both the parties are rejected. Both parties are then lead undermine each other, ignoring each other’s ideas and creates a greater wedge between the two parties to reach a conclusion in the future.


Usama Shamma, PMP, TOGAF  is a Senior Program Manager / Chief Architect with over 17 years of experience  spearheaded Usama Shammathe success of multimillion-dollar projects for major clients spanning multiple industries. He is  a North America and EMEA 2014 & 2015 PMI global congress subject matter expert. A public technical  speaker in international events, have a lot of publications. He holds a Bachelor in computer science from  Alexandria University, Egypt, MBA candidate with major in International Management at Geneva Business School, Switzerland. You can contact Usama via Email: Usama.shamma@gmail.com, LinkedIN: https://sa.linkedin.com/in/UsamaShamma

 

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3 Project Manager Headaches and How to Cure Them

Project management is a highly complex and complicated job. Because there are so many factors that come into play during every single project, project managers must be extremely versatile and skilled. Unlike developers, engineers, or architects that work on the technical side of projects, project managers, in addition to being familiar with all the technical details, also need to deal with the social and corporate aspects. On top of all that, they are often juggling several projects at once.

In addition to all this, project managers need to ensure that lines of communication between different departments stay open so that teams coordinate with each other and any potential risks that can sideline the project don’t go unnoticed. Naturally, all this complexity is a fertile breeding ground for a myriad of problems. Here are three major headaches almost every project manager faces, along with some practical solutions.

Headache #1: Project Schedule Updates

It goes without saying that every project needs a schedule, so that everyone involved can keep track of their progress and responsibilities, including milestones. It is up to the project manager to monitor all the activities of the team, update the project status, and act as the link between the team and any stakeholders, including upper management. However, all of this is an incredibly time-consuming activity for project managers, when their skills and expertise could be put to better use by having them do actual work on the project, instead of administrative tasks.

Solution: Automate schedule updates whenever possible, so that you don’t have to waste time collecting them manually. Meeting with your team and asking each member for task status is time-consuming, especially when there are project management and collaboration tools available that allow your team to simply mark a task or milestone as finished and provide real-time status updates and reports. By saving time on administrative busywork, you can focus your efforts and expertise where it really matters.

Headache #2: Multitasking

With so much on your plate, multitasking may seem unavoidable. But it turns out that it actually impedes your productivity, negatively affects the quality of your work, and can create massive delays. A setback in one area will inevitably cause problems for any dependent tasks, which can’t begin until the first task has finished, and so on. It quickly compounds and creates further delays.

Solution: Do what you can to limit the number of projects that are in progress at the same time. Try to keep no more than 25 to 50% of your projects running simultaneously to result in fewer delays and a higher quality of work. As a project manager, you will have a much easier job with fewer projects demanding your time and attention at once. You should also take advantage of the many online tools that can help you shoulder some of the burden. An instant message app like Slack allows for real-time communication, message archiving, and easy search, in case you need to recall specific conversation details.

Headache #3: Project Duration Estimates

Unless you have a working crystal ball on hand, (in which case, can we borrow it?) you simply cannot know how much time it will take to complete a particular task. However, you will need provide an estimate to stakeholders and clients, based on all the relevant information you have at your disposal. And you will be held accountable to that estimated completion date.

There are several different methods you can use to estimate how much time it will take your team to complete a project. But even if you assign proposed durations for each task, you may come up short with your estimate—which means your team will have to pick up the slack and make up for lost time. And aside from the stress, that can mean sacrificing quality, going over budget, or potentially slipping deadlines.

Solution: Instead of asking your team members to provide a single estimated deadline for their individual tasks, try a two-point estimation method. The advantage of a two-point method is that it allows you to miss your estimate, while providing enough of a buffer that you can still deliver the project before the final deadline. Note that this method still doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to deliver every project on time, but it’s still a safety net of sorts.

With these helpful strategies and tools, you’ll be able to plan and execute your projects better, and allow yourself and your team to function more productively, under less stress, and still meet (or exceed!) your client’s expectations.

 


Diana Clark is a Digital Marketing Expert and Marketing Operations Project Manager works with her talented marketing team at Aussiewriter. She loves guiding people though their business practice and shares her ideas as a blogger.

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7 Essential Project Management Skills for 2017

If you’ve started the year and committed to upping your project management skills to be a better project manager, what project management skills are the ticket for success? We’ve written before about ‘What makes a great digital project manager? where we talked about the need for ‘competence’ – a blend of experience and skills but in this article we explore more specifically, examples of project management skills you can develop to successfully lead teams and projects effectively and be an even more awesome project manager.

We project managers often have a bad rep. Mention you’re a project manager and all too often, people share their unenlightened thoughts on what we do; “Oh, you’re one of those ones who boss everyone else around on a project.” While that’s true, anyone who’s ever managed projects knows there is far more to project management than being a tin pot dictator who barks out orders to the team and then returns to their desk for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

In fact, being good at telling others what to do, or managing is not even in our list of skills for a project manager. Leadingothers however, now that’s a different story, one which is core to the success of any project manager, and we’ll will get to that shortly.

As project managers, we’re responsible for managing work through the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. This PMI definition of project management succinctly communicates the idea that our jobs as project managers demand that we possess varied competencies, one of which is skills. Yes, we must be knowledgeable; yes, we must have the right tools; but critically, we must know how to apply the right techniques to our projects.

Knowing project management theory – but without the skills to apply what we know is useless. Similarly, having the right tools and techniques – but without the skill to put them to good use is meaningless. So in order to become really great project managers, we need to hone our project management skills where theory, experience and knowledge of proper application come together in one happy family!

7 Project Management Skills to Master

We’ve trimmed our project management skills list to just seven areas that we think it’s important to master to be an effective project manager – leadership, communication, time management, risk management, planning, negotiation, and subject matter expertise. Let’s explore each of these project management skill areas:

Leadership

If we’ve learned anything from years of leading projects, it’s that great leadership is an essential skill to being a good project manager. Our leadership role means we lead and manage teams;  setting the vision, motivating the team, serving them, coaching them and inspiring others.

As project managers, we lead from both a strategic and operational perspective – we communicate the vision and get team (and organizational) buy-in, we resolve conflict, set goals, and evaluate performance and make sure team members have the tools, money, space etc. that they need to get things done.

But being a leader isn’t just about creating a feel-good vibe for our teams – we have to enforce process and keep everyone on the team in line too. And while it’s important to get everyone’s buy-in, we know that we have the final call about what our team works on next, as well as the final responsibility for whether the project fails or succeeds. As Jane Callahan admonishes, “Even if the entire team is up-to-speed, remember that you, the project manager, are still in the lead. That means doing whatever it takes to get the project done, even if it’s outside of your assigned duties.” Ouch.

Every project needs a leader who supports the process, the team and client. They are the team’s No.1 cheerleader and chief encourager, but at the same time, not afraid to call out the team when they drop the ball; they bring balance to the project and team. Leading them well means to serve them by taking responsibility for how you as a project manager are going to make your team’s life better today. Be the person that moves mountains for them. Be the one that greases the wheels. Be the one to move all the barriers that could get in their way.

The key project management leadership skill to master in leadership is making sure you’re leading, rather than just managing. That means providing a vision and a roadmap for success and serving and empowering your team to get there. 

Communication

One of the essential skills for project management is the ability to communicate well – understanding and being understood. Great communication is the crux of any relationship and so the effectiveness of a project manager’s communication has an impact not only on the project team but the client and stakeholders too.

‘I wish my project manager would stop giving me so many project updates.’ – said no client, ever. The more touchpoints you have with your client, the more solid the relationship will be, and the more likely the project will be a success. Good communication gets you continually realigned, and if you’re doing it frequently enough you’ll ensure you are successful as you’ll never deviate far from where the project needs to be to be a success.

We’ve discussed previously the importance of ‘keep communicating’;  communication isn’t effective unless the person you’re communicating to understands what you’re trying to tell them. Frequent and effective communication will ensure that everyone is on the same page and help to avoid uncomfortable conversations and in future.

For our clients, communication and interpersonal skills are important for successful project stakeholder management so that people know what’s going on, that they’re not surprised. That means we need to take very seriously, our responsibility to convey vision, ideas, goals, and issues, as well as produce clear status reports and project presentations.

From the client’s perspective, communication of project details in writing and a periodic status report is absolutely essential as it will help to reinforce the message and build rapport. We have also found status meetings and reports with our teams to be invaluable, as it helps us keep track of next steps, action items, project risks, budgets and process.

And for our teams, communication is critical. We’ve written before about ‘Why our teams suck at doing what they’re told (and what to do about it)‘ – in that article we propose that people don’t do what we want them to do because we haven’t been clear on what they need to do, why they need to do it, how they need to do it, and when they need to do it by. Clear communication and proper briefing is fundamentally about being understood. It’s a dialogue, not a one-way, garbled message.

Effective communication is just as important in relation to project team dynamics. Human Resource adviser, Fred Holloway’s observation that “You can tie back almost every employee issue –attendance, morale, performance, and productivity – to communication,” applies just as much to project management as it does to HR, since a core part of the project manager’s role is communicating with the project team.

However, effective communication doesn’t just happen. It starts by putting in the time and effort required to get to know your team well, and devising an appropriate communication plan that connects with the different personality types. For us, this has meant having to adapt our communications strategy from project to project, for the simple reason that we may have different team members for each project and a particular communication system or structure may not always work for every everyone.

The key project management communication skill to master is the ability to listen, to be clear and ensure you’re understood. When information flows with the right messaging, at the right time, to the right person, through the right channel, almost any hurdle can be overcome.

Planning Skills

Project scheduling is a core project management skill, but one that surprisingly, many managers do not pay much attention to, says Elizabeth Harrin of Project Management Perspectives. But really, what is a project manager without a plan? Our ability to organize tasks in the right order, to hit the right outcome at the right time is a major part of our jobs as project manager, isn’t it? It is absolutely critical that as project managers, we give scheduling the serious attention it deserves, and along with it, monitoring progress as the project moves forward and making tweaks to ensure that everything stays on track.

Proper planning means everything from meta to micro. There’s the large scale obvious planning we need to get right to  create great meeting plans, statements of work, estimates, timelines, resource plans and briefs, to the more mundane – planning out your day, who you’re going to talk to first, and how you are going to make time to keep your status documents up to date. Planning is all about finding ways to do all that you need to do as efficiently as possible.

The extent to which you’re able to effectively plan will directly impact the project’s ability to be successful. No matter how good you are at executing, without being able to properly plan a project, the project won’t succeed.

The project management planning skill to master is planning to the extent that you’re always ten steps ahead and always know ‘what’s next’. That means not only for success but for the disasters too. As a skilled project manager, you’ve always got a plan up your sleeve.

Time Management

As project managers, a huge part of our job is determining and communicating how other people will spend their time. But it’s equally important to be aware of how we are managing our own time. Steven Covey’s quote, “The enemy of the best is the good,” applies really well when it comes to the project manager’s management of time (theirs and their team’s). There are a million and one good things you could be doing, but a good project manager recognizes that only a few things fall into the category of “best” and these few things are what need to come first each day. Knowing when to say “No” is a critical project management skill.

The problem is that important tasks usually get trumped by urgent tasks. So if you’ve got a limited amount of time in your day, how can you make sure you set aside time for important tasks so you don’t get totally stressed out?

It’s all about nailing the difference between urgent and important and Eisenhower’s famous prioritization matrix mapping. As Eisenhowever pointed out, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.

Meetings are some of the biggest thieves of time. Between meetings that (unjustifiably) overrun their allocated time to those that are totally unnecessary, we have learnt over the years to save valuable time by engaging critical thinking skills that help us weigh what is important and what is not, and so have developed the ability to know when not to have a meeting or to simply pull the plug on a meeting that’s gone off the rails. This is a valuable aspect of time management and a critical skill for project management that every good project manager must develop. A good strategy that works really well in managing meeting time it to always have an agenda and stick to it.

Successful project managers also respect their teammates’ time, so being able to read the body language of people in the room is also critical to ensuring that you’re staying on course. Lastly, look for opportunities to delegate responsibilities, multi-task, or rearrange your schedule as necessary.

The project management time-management skill to master is doing the right thing. If you can make sure you don’t get caught up in wild goose chases on your projects and can stick to focussing the best part of your time on the important things everyone will win.

Risk Management

Project managers are always an easy target when projects don’t go to plan. Regardless of the circumstances, everyone wonders whether the project manager could have foreseen and prevented the risk before it became an issue.

Project sponsors hate surprises and good risk management is one way of avoiding surprises, especially the nasty ones. Risks are often not urgent which means many project managers fail to consider risks as seriously as they should. You can stay on top of your project by controlling risk, and actively mitigating against it as far as you can.

The skill for effective risk management is really experience – it’s knowing what could go wrong. And having the humility to ask your team too. You obviously first need to identify risk and the earlier you do that, the better your chances of avoiding the risk occurrence.

It doesn’t end there, however. Risk identification must be followed by a risk plan for what to do about them. This involves assigning a probability, a cost, an owner and using mitigation strategies that are suitable for the risk and the appetite for the client for things going wrong. These action plans need to be incorporated into your main plan and tracked as well.

Effectively managing that risk has massive benefits. Your clients are going to be happier because you  are able to improve delivery for your clients and be more efficient with your clients’ resources to provide them with better value for money. But it’s not all about them – you get get the added benefit of finding yourself spending less time juggling hot potatoes and unnecessarily firefighting unwelcome surprises.

The project management risk management skill to master is the ability to identify risks well before they become issues, and come up with effective mitigation plans so that the risk of them ever becoming issues is nullified. 

Negotiation Skills

Project management is somewhat like politics; it often brings together a disparate group of people, often with competing interests, and our job is to get these different interests on the same page, so that we can accomplish project goals. In other words, a good project manager must be an excellent negotiator.

“Negotiating the use of resources, budgets, schedules, scope creep, and a variety of other compromises that are unavoidable” for a project manager says Cesar Abeid, and “[k]nowing how to negotiate well so that all parties are satisfied is a key skill for the successful project manager.”

As project managers we can find ourselves negotiating with just about everyone, every day. Whether we’re negotiating for resource from our fellow project managers, negotiating for support from senior management, negotiating with 3rd party suppliers or with clients – there are always disparate interests that we need to try and align. The key to successfully negotiating is to ‘win’ without burning any bridges. After all, unlike sales negotiations, we aren’t usually lucky enough to just be able to walk away from a deal if the terms aren’t right. We have to find a middle ground.

Our negotiation skills require that we invest time to understand relationships and stakeholders’ interests, so that we can clearly identify what is needed to move our projects forward. Failure to do this puts us at risk of ignoring critical relationships, which will, unfortunately lead to failure.

Discussions about budgets, resource allocation, and timelines can become adversarial and counterproductive if not handled tactfully. Successful project managers know how to find compromises where possible and how to hold a firm line without damaging their workplace relationships.

The key project management negotiation skill to master is finding that middle ground – working out compromises so everyone that matters feels like they’ve won!

Subject matter expertise

Even if you think you’ve got those other project management skills nailed – subject matter expertise is always an area to grow in because the world of digital is moving so fast; there’s always something new to learn. A good project manager needs to know enough to first come up with a plan and then to execute and manage it properly, and lead the team into success.

Effective project managers need to know, ‘just enough to be dangerous’ about the work that their teams execute. You need to know the platforms and systems your teams use, and the possibilities and limitations of those so that you can have intelligent and informed conversations with clients, team, stakeholders, and suppliers.

You’ve got to have a solid knowledge of the process of delivering and an understanding of how and why it’s done that way, even if your job is not actually technical. Knowing technically what’s feasible, and what’s not and even more importantly, how much work might be involved in a type of project is invaluable.

It means you can very quickly give estimates as to the length of time and cost of a project. It’s also very helpful when you’re managing developers  – coming up with workarounds to issues or being able to ascertain whether or not enough progress is being made as it should. It also very useful in client facing situations as it gives you the confidence to explain where a project is really at, rather than having to give vague answers about the project being ‘in development’.

Critical to gaining sound knowledge is putting in the time to learn.  Learning is important. Not only does it give us better grasp of the projects we lead, it helps us to better understand and interact with our teams, clients and stakeholders and the functional leaders within the organization. The result is successful project delivery every time.

It’s worth trying to develop subject matter expertise not just for project management and your project management toolkit, but across the full project lifecycle. That means understanding how things work in strategy, service design, product design, creative concepting, user experience, design, content development, front end development, back end development, QA, hosting, content delivery networks, SEO, analytics, CMS, social media, or media (yes even banner ads). And that’s just the start. That’s a lot to get in your noggin!

The key project management subject matter expertise skill to master is just about everything when it comes to digital. If you can be the designated expert on everything from apache Solr and algorithms to Weibo and web hosting (no I couldn’t think of anything beginning with a z!), not only will your team and agency love you, but your clients will too. 

Conclusion

Creating realistic project plans, budgets, estimating time and effort, etc. are all things that a good project manager must do. But keeping your work organized and your teams informed and happy is critical to your success and these skills are what you need to achieve these. We hope you will incorporate these skills into your work if you’re not already doing so, and if you are, well, keep at it. They’re great skills that will help you become the best project manager you can be. So, how good are your project management skills? Test yourself and see what areas you may need to work on.

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Deliverable based Project Schedules

People build many different types of project schedules. There are the massive checklist and the one liner varieties. I’ve seen them with Phases, Activities, Tasks, Sub-Tasks, Sub-sub-tasks and sub-sub-sub-tasks. Some have randomly bolded Milestones and still others fail to communicate anything.

For projects that span more than a couple of months and a handful of individuals, a deliverable-based project plan offers the best way to track and report on it. Over the next several entries we’ll look at:

  • Definitions
  • Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
  • Creating the Schedule
  • When is enough too much?

 

Definitions

Since there are 3 words there are obviously 5 definitions that we need to review.

Deliverable – pre-defined, tangible work product. This could be a report, document, web page, server upgrade or any other building block to your overall project. The size of a deliverable may depend on the size of your project, but typically they should be between 4 and 6 weeks in duration and spread evenly across the project length. There is another huge discussion we could have on acceptance management at this point.

Project – temporary endeavor to produce a unique thing. That thing can be a product, service or some thing.

Schedule – tool that defines what tasks are to be done, by whom and when. This is different than a Project Plan, which explains the need for the fourth definition.

Project Plan – formally approved document that lays the ground rules for how the project will be managed. The schedule management is a part, but it also includes change management plan, risk management plan, resource management plan and other pieces to guide project execution and control.

A Deliverable-based Project Schedule then is a tool to define and track the delivery of a unique product or service. Ideally all of the activities and tasks within the project will roll up to be part of the one of the project’s deliverables. Any tasks, then, that is not part of a deliverable may be out of scope for the project.

Work Breakdown Structure

The WBS is a planning tool that documents the breakdown of the project into deliverables. The is accomplished by taking the ultimate product of the project and breaking it into smaller, more manageable pieces until you have identified all the building blocks of the project. If that project were to create a new home page, the final deliverable would be the completed page.

Get the team involved in this exercise. As the project manager, you should facilitate and document these brainstorming sessions. The key is to know when to stop drilling. One indication is based on the fact that deliverables are nouns. If you start listing verbs you are at the activity and task level and should stop. There may be a couple of key tasks you want to jot down as a reminder but you aren’t looking to detail the tasks at this point.

There are multiple ways to capture this information. Initially the diagram method works well for a whiteboard session. Using a spreadsheet or document works, too. Although it may seem logical to use a project-scheduling tool it may be premature. The tool will prompt you for more information on each piece and distract you from getting the team’s ideas out.

From our example the deliverables identified were the Design, Format, Sections 1, 2, 3 and 4. Each of these can be defined and handed to an individual or team to create.

Creating the Schedule

There is a certain order to the creation of the schedule. The steps are Enter All Tasks, Determine Predecessors, Estimate the Work, Estimate Duration, Assign Resources and Add Constraints.

But before you begin putting tasks to schedule you need to decide the most appropriate way to lay out your schedule. The answer to this depends on what your reporting needs are. Set the schedule up so that it minimizes the effort needed to extract the information for status and other reporting.

The two main ways to put a deliverable-based project schedule together are (1) by Phase or (2) by Product. You can set up your schedule to switch between the two but it is far too complicated for this venue.

Phase structured schedules follow a standard development lifecycle (Requirements, Analysis, Development, Testing, UAT, Implementation and Support) and divide the main deliverables into pieces that are accomplished in each phase. From our example of the new Home Page, the deliverable for Section 1 would have requirements, analysis, development, testing and implementation. These pieces would be combined for each of the deliverables and called out in each phase. So the Requirements Phase would produce a Requirements Document that would have a part describing the needs of Section 1. The Requirements Document would, in fact, be a separate deliverable as would the Technical Design Document, Test Plans and other combined efforts.

Product structured schedules are strictly set up based on the deliverables identified in the WBS. Each deliverable would be self-contained with Requirements, Development, etc. baked into it. This method is also useful if the deliverables are really unrelated and have no overlapping phases. A simplistic example of this would be scheduling a conference. There are many aspects (ex. Location, Entertainment, Speakers, Catering) that run parallel and are self contained. Each of these deliverables would have milestones along the way to track progress against.

So, although it is tempting to start typing tasks down, it helps to take a look at the structure before you add the substance.

Enter All Tasks

The next step is to fill in all of the tasks associated with the identified list of deliverables. Those deliverables may be the list from the WBS or, like the Phase structured schedule; it may include the separate building blocks (i.e. Requirements Document, etc.).

Drill down to the task level for each deliverables. You can use the WBS or other tool, but eventually you will need to switch to the scheduling tool. Although we are not ready to assign effort to the tasks, the general rule of thumb for the size of a task is between 4 and 80 hours per resources. Anything less than 4 hours is a pain to track and doesn’t offer much payback for the effort. Anything greater than 80 hours is hard to grasp. We are pretty good at understanding and estimating things that can be done in 2 uninterrupted weeks (= 80 hrs). Anything larger becomes difficult to estimate and should be broken into smaller pieces.

Each deliverable should be reviewed with the group or at least the individual that will approve it so include the task Review Deliverable and the milestone Obtain Approval for each one. (Note: a milestone is a task with zero hours and zero duration used to mark an important event or accomplishment.)

Add another deliverable at the bottom of the schedule for Project Management. The tasks under it should include Project Status Reporting, Individual Status Reporting & Time Keeping, Team Meetings, Client Meetings and Management. Some people track project management time as part of each deliverable but it is easier and cleaner to pull it out as a separate item.

The ultimate goal is to have all of the tasks neatly tucked in as sub-tasks under one of the deliverables. Collectively the deliverables constitute the whole of your project scope and anything not part of a deliverable would then be out of scope. However, as you complete your list of tasks, there will be some that don’t seem to fit. There are several possible reasons for this:

  1. A deliverable has been missed. Something needs to be added to the scope of the project. If the scope has been agreed to you may need a change request to add to it.
  2. The task might have been dumped on you when it should really be out of scope. This might require some push back to define your responsibilities.
  3. It may be a legitimate task but the responsibility of another group. You may want to track the completion of the task but not the effort.
  4. The process or lifecycle may require the task (ex. creating internal assessment documents, updating review committee checklists, etc.). Since the deliverable is a product of the process, these types of tasks can be incorporated into its creation.

You may have to get a little creative with some tasks, but to effectively use the project schedule to track and report progress you don’t want a rambling task list with no structure.

Determine Predecessors

When you are setting up your project schedule, enter the logical predecessors. These are the tasks that legitimately belong linked, like creating the document before you review it and ordering the hardware before you receive and install it. Fake predecessors are based on resource availability or just a random decision because something has to go first. These have their place throughout the project, but not when you are initially setting up the schedule.

The more tasks you can link with predecessors the better your scheduling tool can… well… schedule.

Estimate the Work

You may have noticed we haven’t assigned any resources yet. As you estimate the work for each task, think in terms of 1 person doing the work on that task uninterrupted. So, even if you anticipate it would take 2 people a week to complete a document, set the Work value to 80 hrs. Later we will add the specific resources.

While you are assigning the Work, you are probably thinking of a certain skill level or specific individual. These thoughts influence the estimate. Because of this you should document them as estimating assumptions and include them as part of your proposed schedule. No, this isn’t a fancy word for excuses. If you are expecting an expert Java programmer and end up with a novice, your assumptions were wrong and therefore your estimate will be off. With your estimating assumptions outlined you can recognize the impact and make adjustments accordingly (i.e. more or different resources, additional training, obtain more time, etc.).

Estimate Duration

“Why are we worried about the duration before we add the resources?” you might ask. Good question. The reason is productivity. It is easier to bake it in up front than to try and force it in later.

Mentally everyone knows that, unless you work overtime, an 8-hour task takes more than a day to complete. This is a factor of our productivity. Over the course of a year people are, at most, about 80% productive. This is based on the following calculation.
2080 hours in a year (52 weeks * 40 hours / week)
– 72 hours for holidays
– 80 hours vacation
– 48 hours sick time
– 24 hours training (non-project related)
– 52 hours status reporting (1 hour / week)
– 52 hours team meetings (1 hour / week)
– 88 hours interruption (1.5 hours / week)
1664 hours remaining (80%).

Obviously some people have more vacation, others don’t get sick, some have more training, etc. but in general this holds true. Without taking this into account at the task level you are setting yourself up to be late.

Some project managers do this by assigning all of their resources at 80% available. In MS Project there is a resource field named Max Units that they set to account for the productivity factor. Unless someone is assigned to my project only part time, I keep them at 100% available and set the duration of the individual tasks to account for the extra time. After all, they are still expected to work 100% of the time.

MS Project allows you use a custom field to automatically calculate the 80% rule. To do this use the Duration 1 field and create the formula [Work / 0.8]. This will calculate 8 hours as 1.25 days and 40 hours to be 6.25 days. If you place the Duration 1 column in the schedule beside Duration, you can easily copy and paste the estimated values into the Duration column.

You can also type it manually for each task using the 8 and 40-hour duration estimates as guidelines.

When we add multiple resources to a task, they are each assigned at 80% to it. They will still be assigned 40 hours of effort for the week, but the tasks will be spaced to account for interruptions, status reporting, overlapping tasks, etc.
The resulting durations are starting points. After you add resources and begin to use and refine your schedule you can make adjustments to them.

Assign Resources

Just do it. Make sure at least 1 resource is assigned to each task and turn them loose. There are 2 tips I would throw out, though.

First, as I mentioned before, assign the resources 100% to your project unless they are physically on a different project for a set amount of time. This gives your scheduling tool the most options when calculating assignments.

Second, enter dollar values for your resources. If you are not tracking the value of your project you are not effectively managing your resources. A blended rate doesn’t truly cut it. If everyone cost you the same for your project wouldn’t you always pick the best ones? Think about professional soccer. What if you could get David Beckham or Tom Cutting for the same price? Not really a question, eh? My point is that each resource brings different strengths and different expenses to the mix. If you have a budget you need to balance both sides of the equation.

Add Constraints

Once you have the resources entered the final step in setting up the plan is adding the constraints. This includes updating the scheduler’s calendar with holidays, filling in vacation time, setting target dates with milestones, etc.

Wow. You have officially created the first pass at a deliverable-based project schedule. Which, of course, means it is scheduled for twice as long as you have and three times the budget. Now you need to go back and balance the resources, adjust the dependencies and make modifications to bring it into alignment with reality. But, these are all great topics for another day.

Before we run off, though, let’s recap. The objective was to build a plan based on deliverables. All of the tasks role up into one of the deliverable. Because we applied the 80% productivity factor we have a realistic view of the length of the project. We even added cost to the resources.

Assuming you baseline the original schedule and track it with Actuals and Estimates to Complete you can accurately report progress and project completion for each deliverable. Add columns to display the baseline and planned values for the start / end dates and costs and you can tell if you are within schedule and budget. This is the information management needs to determine the health of your project.

When is enough too much? We touched briefly on this when we were breaking down the tasks. The level of detail and amount of tracking you perform should be comparable to the amount of benefit you gain from it. If no one cares if you finish on time or within budget, then why bother tracking? Enough becomes too much when the effort outweighs the benefit gained from doing it.


 

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Calendar of Events

The PMI- Bayarea chapter looks for opportunities for our members to get involved and meet other project managers in the field. Whether you're new in the area or looking to grow your professional network we have something for you. 

See our March calendar of events or contact us for additional details on upcoming events. 

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Volunteer Opportunities

The PMI SF Bay Area Chapter is looking for volunteers to help meet the needs of its members. If you are interested or know someone who might be interested in these opportunities then please contact vpvolunteermgmt@pmisfbac.org for more information. Currently we are seeking volunteers for a variety of positions including: 

  • Marketing Manager
  • Social Media Manager
  • Events Manager
  • Evening Programs Manager
  • Newsletter Editor

 

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Did you know?

Did you know… Large projects are twice as likely to be late, over budget, and missing critical features as small projects. A large project is more than 10 times more likely to fail outright, meaning it will be cancelled or will not be used because it outlived its usefulness prior to implementation. (Source: The Standish Group: CHAOS Research Report 2013)

Did you know… Despite being the top driver of project success, fewer than 2 in 3 projects had actively engaged project sponsors. (Source: Project Management Institute: Pulse of the Profession 2014 – The High Cost of Low Performance)

Did you know… 68% of projects don’t have an effective project sponsor to provide clear direction or help address problems? (Source: KPMG New Zealand: Project Management Survey 2010)

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Membership Certification

5 Ways to Boost Your Project Management Career

Professional development is all about the long game. But you can get noticed in the short­term with these simple career hacks. Building the skills and experience organizations look for in a project leader takes years of focused effort. But there are also small steps you can take in the short term to position yourself for success. Here are five project management career hacks that can help you showcase your skills — and stand out from the pack come promotion time.

1. Map Out Your Future

Create a personal development plan that lists your career goals and outlines how to achieve them, says Ali Kaabi, PMP, general manager of global practice at MSC Mobility Solutions, a mobile technology company in Sydney, Australia. “Start with your three­ to five­year plan, either creating a list of organizations you’d like to work for or a list of positions you’d like,” Mr. Kaabi says. “Then conduct the necessary research to draw a career map to the top. Recently, I created a similar plan for my team members. I drew up an eight­level plan that started at project coordinator and tracked them all the way up to project management office (PMO) director.” At each level, identify the skills, certifications and individual competencies associated with the position. This will help you pursue the right development opportunities and make strategic career choices along the way.

2. Strategize and Specialize

Having an area of expertise is a great way to stand out from the crowd. And if you can develop a specialty that will stay in demand, that’s even better. For instance, in the United States, the need for project managers in business services and healthcare is expected to increase in the near future, according to PMI’s Project Management Talent Gap Report. “Leveraging the experiences that are gained from taking on a specialty can prove really beneficial,” says Angel Cutruzzula, PMP, manager of implementation operations at HR software company Zenefits in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. “Not only does it allow the project manager to bring unique value to the team, it offers them an area where they can educate others.”

3.) Team Up with a Mentor

If your organization doesn’t have a formal mentoring program, ask someone who has a job on your career map if they’d be willing to take you under their wing. This way, you can better 10/29/2015 MAY 2015 Archive http://www.pmi­sfbac.org/about­us/newsletter/archives/may­2015­archive/ 3/4 understand what it takes to succeed in a position you’d like to have one day. “I received excellent advice from a vice president who was willing to mentor me, and she really helped me think outside of my particular role to have a bigger vision within the organization,” Ms. Cutruzzula says.

4. Network, Network, Network

Surrounding yourself with passionate project managers is a great way to pick up skills that can help you jump to the next level in your career. “Participate in like­minded groups, such as your local PMI chapter or another specialty interest group,” Mr. Kaabi says. He also recommends setting a networking goal. Whether you aim to reach out to one connection each month or attend two networking events per quarter, this helps make sure you’re constantly expanding your professional reach.

5. Walk Away from Work

Spending all your time in the office can sap your inspiration and lead to stale project plans. Recreational distractions that take your mind off of your project can provide some muchneeded perspective, Mr. Kaabi says. “It’s important to have a release to take your mind off the problem of the day,” Mr. Kaabi says. “I do that by participating in a team sport or listening to my favorite music while I take a walk. It’s necessary to refresh your mind and start the next day on a productive note.” While nothing can take the place of long­term planning and preparation, these simple steps can show your supervisors you have the potential to make a great project leader.

Acknowledging Chapter Members’ Achievement of PMI Certification

by Mark Franks, PMP

As PMI members almost all of us are familiar with the PMP certification — in fact, we try to publish monthly the list of members who have recently achieved their PMP certification.  What has gone under appreciated until very recently is that many of our members are attaining the other PMI certifications.  Due to the membership database structure we cannot easily distill monthly data for these achievements; however, acknowledging the effort and accomplishment of these successes is important. We will strive to recognize our fellow Chapter members’ achievements semiannually by listing all those that attain certification at the newsletter link

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Toastmasters

Toastmasters is not just a forum for better speaking skills, it's where we build tomorrow's leaders.  This is also a great venue for discussing, practicing, and perfecting communication techniques for all types of situations, from meeting facilitation to professional networking. The Scopemasters chapter adds a project management focus to the mix, and the result is avaluable, PDU earning, meeting that can pay big dividends for the time invested. If you are interested in finding out more about Scopemasters please send an email to our VP of PR, Gretchen Peters and include your contact information.We’ll get back to you with more details about how tobe a part of this exciting organization.

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Newsletter Team

 

Editor-in-Chief: Vacant

Editor: Vacant

Web Layout Editor: Lola Akanmu

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Have something to share? You are encouraged to submit notes, articles, or interesting tidbits on relevant Chapter happenings or PM topics. Submit content to CEO@pmisfbac.org We reserve the right to: edit content to fit space constraints, reformat to Newsletter style and decide appropriateness of submission. Return to Top

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Newsletter Archive

Click here to access our archived newsletters. Return to Top

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