Project Management, Processes, Procedures and PMBoK

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Hi,

today I’m going to describe some problems with Processes and Procedures within Projects. First of all what is Process, and what is Procedure?

A process is a set of activities that interact to achieve a result. A procedure is a document written to support a “policy directive”. A procedure is designed to describe who, what, where, when, and why by means of establishing corporate accountability in support of the implementation of a “policy”.

Now, for managing Project almost every company has prescribed Processes and Procedures. And that is good. Without that one severe problem will occur during the Project. Every single time when new Project starts, Project Manager and the Team will have to start from the scratch. With this said I mean that instead of Planning the Project, PM and the team should start with: “How will we do it? Which tools should be best, which approach should be best, etc”. and this is waste of time, which they  do not have. On the other hand, if there are Processes and Procedures prescribed for managing Projects, PM and the Team will be familiar with them, and therefore they will know exactly how to manage the Project upfront. It doesn’t mean that it will leave them without usual problems in the project, but it will help you with Planning, Execution, and most important, Monitoring, Controlling the Project and when problem occur, fixing it!

As usual, there is always – BUT! I saw many time that Processes and Procedures are burden to the Project. why is it so? According to PMBoK: “Project is temporary endeavor undertaken for creating unique product, service or result!”. U N I Q U E! There is no such a thing like two SAME Projects. They can be similar, but they cannot be SAME! Therefore each and every Project should start with the simple, but important question: “Which Procedures and Processes should we change (adopt), which we should throw away, and which must be added as new ones for this particular Project?”. Procedures and Processes are not written in a stone. They are here for help PM and Project Team, but they should be adopted to every single Project. If Management insists to use every single Process and Procedure for every single Project, then they are on the wrong way.

Finally, PMBoK- The Project Management Body of Knowledge by PMI. It is framework which has a lot of Procedure and Processes inside. But also you can find inside remarks which says that they should be used if you need them, and how you need them. Of course, there are some exceptions. For example, Project without Project Charter could not exist, neither without Project Plan, WBS, etc. But other parts should be used if, and how you need them.

Regards!

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How to avoid unnecessary Resources in MS PROJECT 2016

Hi,

as you may already know, you can put Resources in MS PROJECT in many different ways. Sometimes this is good, but sometimes it can be very annoying. I will show you one example with MS PROJECT 2016!

First I’m going to create new Project:

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and some Resources:

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Now I will assign some of them to the Task 1 through Gantt chart View:

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and I will get:

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Now let’s say that I want to assign Johnny Cash to Task 2, but I accidentally type Jonhhy and hit the Enter key:

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As you can see MS PROJECT let me do that, and if I now look at the Resource Usage View I will find new Resource in it, even if I didn’t want it because this was obviously a mistake:

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So, to correct this error I should erase Jonhhy form this sheet. If I do  not want MS PROJECT let me to enter Resource which is not already in Resource sheet, like in example above, I should disable it like this:

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and:

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and then:

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Now, for example if I want to add Mary to Task 3, I will get:

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when I hit Enter key:

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Now I can choose if I want or not add Mary to my Resources, because she doesn’t exist in Resource Pool.

also be aware that this will apply only for the current Project on which I’m working at. If I want this option to be applied on al new Project I should choose:

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Hope this helps.

Regards!

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Project Manager, Manager, and Micromanagement

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Hi,

today I want to discuss with you about Micromanagement. What is Micromanagement anyway? It is a Management style whereby a Manager closely observes and/or controls the work of his/her subordinates or employees, or project team. Is it bad? YES! YES! YES!

Who can do Micromanagement in Projects? Managers, and Project Managers. Whoever does it it is evidence of lack of trust. Why? If you need to control every single detail, every single line of code (in SW development), every decision, than you do not trust the person who make those decisions.

Now let’s first focus on Project Manager. It’s role is not to have every single detail under the control. NOT AT ALL. He/she is responsible for control Project as a whole! It means he/she should know is the Project on track (within time, budget, scope, quality), what are the Risks, what are the problems in the Project, and finally to manage Stakeholders. Are they getting what they asked for? Is everything OK with your team?, etc.

Remember, if you are Project Manager, than you are supposed to let your team to make decisions how to make their Tasks in the best way. So, if we are talking about software development, you must be aware that you team is developing it following standards which are set up upfront. Your job is NOT to check every single line of code. Let your team breath! And help them. You are not in the Army. Command and control doesn’t work. It never did, and it never will.

In my region we have a lot of SW companies which have a Micromanagement problems with company Managers. Why? Because those Managers has started their companies in “garage”. What does this mean? It means that they were developers at the very beginning. And there is nothing wrong about that. But, their company is big now. And they are dealing with Management. And Management is the administration of an organization, whether it is a business, a not-for-profit organization, or government body. Management includes the activities of setting the strategy of an organization and coordinating the efforts of its employees (or of volunteers) to accomplish its objectives through the application of available resources, such as financial, natural, technological, and human resources. To be a Manager you should be educated. PERIOD! E D U C A T E D! If you were excellent developer, and company owner, it does NOT mean that you are now (when your company is large) good Manager, just because you are in that position. And more important, you should STOP acting like developer! Because you WERE developer, and now you are suppose to be MANAGER!

So, prerequisites for good manager are:

  1. Take the education about Management
  2. Set your mind in a way that you are not Developer any more
  3. Do not interfere in your Developers everyday work

Not so long ago I was external PM in one famous company in the region. And I was told what to do, and what I’m not supposed to do! I have no freedom to do my work for what I am educated for. After three months I left! Why? Because I was supposed to be responsible for a Project but without authority of making decisions.

Believe me, I know what I am talking about.

Regards,

Nenad

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Predecessors, Successors and Task form in MS PROJECT 2016

Hi,

How often do you have a large Project with lot of Tasks? Hundreds of them. And your schedule is very complicated. And then, suddenly you have to change something. Maybe relations within Tasks, maybe your timeline is too long, or something like this. And, of course to change something you need to se every single Successor and Predecessor for every single Task. Let me show you how to see those in a best way.

Here is first solution (I am showing you example of complicated Project. Please do not look if this Schedule has or has not sense):

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As you can see at the picture above, there are two columns: Predecessors and Successors where you can see them. But when you have a large Project Successors and Predecessors ID is more or less – worthless, and this is not going to be of much help.

Instead of that, much better is to use Task Form:

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and you will get:

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In the picture above you can see, for example, for Task 9, all Predecessors and Successors with ID and their name. And if you give to your Tasks meaningful names you will know exactly what do you have in relationship, how, why, and of course, what to change if you need to change something.

It is very powerful, and I strongly recommend it.

Regards!

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Project duration and Task Estimations

 

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Hi,

how often did you hear questions like those two:

  1. How much time do you need to fulfill this Task?
  2. When do you expect Project to finish?

Those two questions are most common when we talk about time in Project. And yes, they are regular, and expected. Where is the problem then? The problem is that someone who ask those question will rely on your answers. And if you are going to be late, that person (we also call them: Management, Customers, Clients) will tell you: “But you told me that you will be finished until….”

Let’s face it! When you are in IT, you know that it is impossible to promise that something will be finished as you told. Why? Because when we are preparing answers on questions mentioned above we are doing estimations! Read again – E S T I M A T I O N S!

What is estimation, anyway? Estimation (or estimating) is the process of finding an estimate, or approximation , which is a value that is usable for some purpose even if input data may be incomplete, uncertain , or unstable. The value is nonetheless usable because it is derived from the best information available.

Based on definition above, you will find that estimation is always unstable, because you are estimating something what should be done, what is unique (no matter how many times you did a similar task before). Yes there are many estimation processes. PERT is one of them. In PERT you will estimate Optimistic, Pessimistic ans Most Likely time, and standard deviation. For example your Task has:

  1. Optimistic time = 1 day
  2. Pessimistic time = 9 days
  3. Most Likely time = 2 days

PERT is (Optimistic Time + Pessimistic Time + 4 * Most likely Time)/6 = (1+9+4*2)/6 = 18/6 = 3 days! And Standard deviation is (Pessimistic time – Optimistic time)/6 = (9-1)/6 = 8/6 = 4/3 = 1,333 days. So, your final estimation is 3+/-1,333 days which mean that in best case your Task will have 1,67 and in worst case  it will have 4,333 days of duration.

BUT! How did you get your Optimistic, Pessimistic or Most Likely time? You think, and think, and talk to you colleagues (if you have them, and if they have enough knowledge), and then – make an unreliable estimation. Something the real time spent on your Task will be very close to your estimated time, sometimes it will e far away, and sometimes (HURAAAA) it will be exact the same as estimated time.

Now, who should make the estimation? Of course – the person who will do the work on the Task (NOT YOUR MANAGER OR SALESMAN WHICH IS OFTEN A CASE). If there are many of them (persons who will work on the Task – not Manager nor Salesman :-)), then they should do the estimation together. But, what if estimation is made by senior or junior developer? They can overestimate or underestimate, and they often do (you know the story: “I am experienced and I can do it in a day, or I am young and I need 35 days). And what about risks? We are talking about technology here. So, we are talking about Murphy’s law: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” How many times did you got something as: “Unexpected error c759$%lklk0400333%&&&”? Of course, clever guys will tell you that this should be in a Risk Register. And it should. But, you should also estimate contingency time for solving those errors. And then you are in the same problem: Estimation! What will you answer a person who will ask you: “If some unexpected error occurs on Task 345, how much time will you need to overcome this error”. Read this very carefully: For unexpected things you cannot estimate solving time? Why. Because they are UNEXPECTED, UNKNOWN, NOT PLANNED!

I could write about that a Bible. But I will stop right now. And I will tell you. When you are doing Task estimation, and then the whole Project estimation the only concern which you have is: HOW FAR AWAY FROM REAL TIME WHICH WILL BE NEEDED AM I?

And YES! Always expect delays!

 

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Junior Project Manager and expectations

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Hi!

How many times did you hear about job role called: JUNIOR PROJECT MANAGER? Friend of mine (who is very, very experienced Project Manager) always gets angry when he hear this. He says: “There is no such a thing like Junior Project Manager. It is Project Assistant”. But, let’s not argue about naming convention. Junior Project Manager is a person who has a little (if any) experience about Managing Projects. This person should become Senior when he/she will get enough experience to Manage Projects alone.

BUT! Very often I see an ad, when someone is looking for Junior Project Manager, and the job description is something like: “We are looking for Junior Project Manager who will be responsible for managing complex Projects in complex environment. This person should have a very good knowledge about PM and: SQL server, C#, Database administration, Network security, .net, UNIX, Windows,…..”. Yes, I’m not kidding. That is what I usually find. I would fire the person who wrote that kind of ad. Why? Because, no matter if you are junior or senior, you cannot have all this knowledge. And, btw, why should PM has those knowledge? To write a code? To administer network? To administer database? This is insane. Project Manager should Manage Projects. He/she is responsible to fulfill requirements, to be on time, on budget, to solve many issues which will come on the way. Project Manager in complex projects has enough work on this issues whole day, every day and other members of the team are responsible for the rest of the work mentioned above.

Now, JUNIOR! If you are junior than you must have a mentor! On your first, second, third… Project your Mentor is to guide you, to teach you, to help you, to correct your actions. And only after you (as a Junior Project Manager) will pass few Projects with your Mentor you will be able to manage your first Project alone. BUT not large and complex one.

If you disagree with that, let me set a scenario for you. Let’s say that you have to go to surgery. And you have a young, junior surgeon. And you know that he/she is without experience (or with a little experience), and he/she will running very complex and complicated surgery on YOUR BODY. Will you agree with that? Will you let that unexperienced surgeon to tech himself/herself on your body? No, you will not! And did you ever hear that in a hospital junior surgeon is running complex surgery? No, you did not!

So were is the difference between surgery and a Project? In a surgery there is a great chance that a patient will die! And nobody what to accept that huge Risk!  In a Project, there is a great chance that a Project will fail and you will face angry client. But still we often see Junior Project manager running complex Project! Why? Because it is much cheaper to hire Junior than senior. Is it? At the end of the Project it is NOT! And second reason is because Manager has greater influence on Junior than on Senior. Senior will always fight back! And he/she should! That is the job of Project Manager. To protect the Project against anyone!

For the end, who is Senior Project Manager? Is it someone who run 100+ Projects, on which more than 90% failed? Or vice versa? Senior Project Manager is experienced person who know how to run Projects, who can proof that he/she has run a lot of those with success! Anything else is wannabe Project Manager.

Have a great day!

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Agile – is it possible or not?

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Hi,

I’ve got a comment from my friend and fellow MVP Peter Kestenholz:

“Hi Nenad, great article. I believe that not all in sales are like this. Especially the last years things have changed a lot. On the other hand, selling a timebox/agile delivery would solve most of the issues you address. However, this requires procurement to stay out of the negotiations as they are always pushing for a locked scope.”

Well, yes Peter you are right. And wrong at the same time. First of all, I think that Agile approach in Software development is great. Just great. And if you compare Agile approach against Waterfall approach it is even greater. BUT! For agile approach several serious prerequisites must be fulfilled.

First and most important is TRUST! and in this Post I will cover only this prerequisite, because without this one, everything else doesn’t matter, and with it everything else is much much easier.

When you have external project (e.g. Project with external customer for which will pay for the Project), than Budget, Scope and Time are important. In the region where I live it is very hard (I didn’t use the impossible word), to get approval for this approach. Why is it so? Because customers want to know upfront three things:

  1. Wat are we going to get (e.g. each and every Deliverable)
  2. Where are we going to get them (e.g. Project finish date)
  3. How much is that going to cost us (e.g. precise Budget)

And to fulfill those three thins you must have strict PROJECT PLAN, and Agile is exact the opposite thing. Agile is all about role wave planning. It means that, because in IT Projects, especially Software development one, the scope is impossible  to define upfront, and then it is also impossible to define End Date and Budget. Scope is define for few Sprints (iterations), and based of results of each previous Sprint, next Sprint with desired functionalities is created. And therefore it is impossible to predict Project End date, and Budget.

On the other hand if you have restricted budget and time, in Agile approach Customer will get what is possible to get in limited timebox and Budget. but he is able to decide what are the best functionalities (or TOP funcionalities) which will suit for him in those limitation.

But, when you have customers like I do which want to know EVERYTHING upfront, than the only thing you can do is to have so called Hybrid approach. And this approach is:

1. The whole Scope is predefined
2. The Scope should be split in Iterations (Sprint)
3. After each Sprint – Sprint Review should be don to show to the Customer what is done
4. If customer wants to change the Scope – follow strictly defined Change request procedure,and change the Scope. In that case estimate cost of those changes and Time, and do the negotiations to your customer and change the Project plan

In most western Europe countries, and USA, Canada etc. Agile approach is accepted and adopted, and this “chemistry” is unnecessary. But, here in my region there is a long way to accomplish that.

All the Best,

Nenad

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