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Project Management News, Links & Resources

 
Schoolcraft College Continuing Education and Professional Development continues the partnership with Q'vive in 2015, offering Project Management Essentials and Exam Preparation, based on PMBOK® GuideFifth Edition, as well as the completely redesigned Project Management Basics course. 
 
 
 
 
Schoolcraft CEPD and Q'vive are offering a ten-week, intensive project management training program:
Project Management  
Essentials and Exam Preparation
 
Registration for Fall 2015 classes begins on July 22.
Classes begin on September 29.

Attend the Information Session on September 15 from 6-7:30pm in JC 103.

brochure   
                  
 
Project 
Management
Basics 
 

Are you a part-time project manager, accidental project

manager, or someone interested in project management who wants to gain new knowledge and complement your skills? Learn the basics of project management, and how to apply them.  Group exercises and classroom discussion focus on practical application of project management concepts and techniques necessary to successfully initiate, plan, execute, control and close a project.

 

More about Project Management Basics  

Brochure with all Schoolcraft CEPD Project Management courses. 

 
Fast forward ... you've passed the exam, now what?
  
One of the things you need to focus on is maintaining your status, which means conducting activities that qualify for Professional Development Units or PDUs.  You need to rack up 60 PDUs per 3-year cycle.  I came across some great resources, which summarize a number of ways to do this FOR FREE.  Follow this link to an article that explains how to do this, and this blog for another list.  Note that PMI has changed the PDU categories as of March 1, 2011.
 
There is an additional way to earn free PDUs, and that is to mentor or coach a study group.  This is a category E5 activity and has a maximum of 45 PDUs.  You can download the PMP® handbook here and find it on pages 41-42.  If you are being coached you can claim that as a category C activity, see page 40.
 
The LinkedIn PMI Credentialed PMPs Group has a sub group dedicated to earning Free PDUs
 

 
Project Management insights shared on LinkedIn
 

Key Stakeholder vs Regular Stakeholder? The Project Manager Network Group.

Key stakeholders control your constraints.  Key stakeholders typically end up with high power on the power/interest grid.  Their decisions are based on the perception of the project and relative importance compared to other projects and operational work.  So you need to manage expectations as well as perception, and pick the right means and frequency of communication.

 

Eric van der Meulen, PMP

*****

 

"What's Wrong with PMI's PMBoK Guide?" The Project Manager Network Group.

Going back to the original intention of this discussion...re-iterated by Bill in his response to Michele's list of gripes yesterday.  Which PMBOK "issue" would cause problems for your project?

 

I have experienced more than once that failing to capture foundational assumptions during initiating (i.e. in the charter) is a serious omission.  The first mention of assumptions in PMBOK is on page 20, where the need to revalidate assumptions before moving into the next project phase is recognized, which is great.  The first appearance in the “process flow” is as part of the Scope Statement (in 5.2 Define Scope).  No mention of capturing and/or revalidating assumptions anywhere in 4.1 Develop Project Charter.  In my opinion this is a serious issue, as it allows a project to be approved without any regard for assumptions.  The discussion of the Business Case (4.1.1.2 on page 75), which would contain foundational assumptions, totally misses the point in this regard.

 

Solution: capture foundational assumptions from the business case and/or gather this information from stakeholders, and make it part of the charter.  This requires stakeholders to be involved in 4.1 Develop Project Charter - and they already are as “experts” in Expert Judgment - so the solution is to create a link from 10.1 Identify Stakeholders (stakeholder register output) back into 4.1 (input), which creates a nice chicken-and-egg dilemma…

 

Eric van der Meulen, PMP

*****

 
"In Communications Management what is the difference between Distribute Information and Report Performance processes? They both seem to be reporting performance to stakeholders." PMI/PMBOK Self-Study Group.

Focus on the flow to gain clarity.  Report Performance (in Monitoring & Controlling) has as inputs work performance information from Execution (Direct and Manage Project Execution), and work performance measurements from “Control” processes in Monitoring and Controlling.  The output is performance reports, so the focus of this process is creating the reports.

These performance reports are an input to Distribute Information (in Executing).  This is where the communication to stakeholders happens.

 

I know that the PMBOK Guide language can be confusing, especially in the first paragraph of 10.5 (p. 266), “Report Performance is the process of collecting and distributing performance information…”.  However, the distribution happens in Distribute Information.

 

Did you know that Distribute Information is the only process in all process groups except for Closing, that has no outputs that are direct inputs to another process?  The only - important - output is organizational process assets updates, which for the occasion is broadly defined to include project reports and project records (which are really project documents).

 

Eric van der Meulen, PMP

*****

 

"How would rate the maturity of risk management within P3 (Portfolio, Programme, Project)? How important do you think RM is and how do you manage this on daily basis?" Certified Project, Program & Portfolio Managers Group.

My take is that the maturity of risk management is proportionate to the amount of contingency you as a PM are allowed to build into your planning. If no money, time, and resources are set aside for risks then risk management is only lip service.

Very closely related, and oftentimes the reason for project failure, is (mis)management of assumptions. When done right this will be part of risk management. Every project, program or portfolio is built on and justified with a number of assumptions. Validating these must be an ongoing activity, just like risk management. Once a fundamental assumption is proven to be false, the basis for the project has to be reassessed and this will have an impact to the program, and shift the balance in a portfolio. Maturity of the organization is proportional to the willingness of sponsors and stakeholders to share assumptions with project (program, portfolio) managers, and make these an active part of the plan, again with contingency planning where necessary.

I welcome any comments and insights particularly to the role assumptions play in risk management.


Eric van der Meulen, PMP

***** 

 

"Tools and techniques you can share for identifying assumptions that project team or you might be making w/o knowing assumption are being made?" In the PMP Credentialed PMPs Group the question is asked how we can effectively manage the risk introduced by making assumptions (which is human nature) without even being aware of it.

Assumptions have to be captured at the start of the project and then validated as early as possible, ideally before major commitments are made.  This sounds pretty straightforward, but what does it mean in practice?

 

Ask yourself this simple question.  What is the justification or basis of the project.  This can be a customer request, a strategic initiative, a change in regulatory requirements, a need to expand production capacity, etc.  Find out what about it is certain, and what is uncertain.  How?  Talk to the sponsor and stakeholders.  These people have answers, but obtaining them can be challenging.

 

When you interview stakeholders listen for any factors and future events that are considered to be real, true or certain, without proof or demonstration.  For instance, any estimates, guesses, extrapolations, and results from modeling are assumptions.  You may have to do some digging, and break through some resistance, but it is worth the effort.

You will find out about risks too, since risks and assumptions are closely related.  An assumption that changes from true to false has to be treated as a negative risk.  

 

The main tool I’m using is the question “Why?”.  When used repeatedly you will find the assumptions.  I then capture the assumptions in an excel spreadsheet that looks very much like a risk register, including impact, probability, triggers and responses.  Reviewing this assumption register is on the agenda of each project meeting.

 

Eric van der Meulen, PMP

*****

 

"How much time do you spend on Risk Management?" The Project Management Network Group. 
The person posting the discussion stated: "So, what do I think, regardless of the size of the project, you must build a placeholder in the planning schedule for 20% of the time to spent on risk."

I want to add another perspective on risk here, one that has consistently proven to be an effective project killer: ASSUMPTIONS.  Project teams have to realize that assumptions are risks in disguise.  When an assumption changes, you have a new risk that needs to be addressed.  Many (if not all) projects are based on a number of assumptions.  Assumptions about the market, consumer behavior, technical capabilities, competitive environment, suppliers, resource availability, the list goes on and on.  Project teams have to capture and address these assumptions at the start of a project, the same way you plan for risks.

 

Now to the question about time spent.  I am afraid this cannot be answered quantitatively without generalizations.  If you think 20% is enough for risks, try 50% for risks and assumptions together.  How you spend this time is more important than the how much time you spend.  Stakeholders are key to identifying assumptions, so it is important to spend quality time with your stakeholders, have the right kind of conversations and listen for, capture, and dig for those assumptions.

 

The more time you spend on risks and assumptions at the start of the project, the less you have to clean up during the project.  Project team meetings, review meetings, stage gate meetings, whatever your meetings are called, make sure to have risks and assumptions on the agenda.

 

Eric van der Meulen, PMP

*****

 

"How should small companies start implementing project management practices?" in the Project Management Link Group.

I want to add an organizational perspective (...) I'll try to be brief, but bear with me ... this is a challenge.

 

There are small companies and then there are SMALL companies.  I think the official definition of a small company is up to 500 employees. Intuitively most people think of a small company as something much smaller than that, maybe 10-100 or so, which I will call SMALL to distinguish.  Why is this important?

 

It has to do with hierarchical distance from project team to executive leadership or company ownership, who are the ultimate stakeholders.  The greater the amount of layers, as well as the amount of projects, the more the organization will benefit from a more standardized approach to project management.  This has to do with the ratio of collective time spent on project communication management versus time spent on delivering results.

 

When stakeholders (business owners) of SMALL companies are very close to the action, and there are few projects, communication can be much simpler and more direct than in a more hierarchical situation with more projects.  Since much of project communication management has to do with managing expectations, adopting some form of common project management approach will pay off big time once the amount of projects (and hierarchy) increases.  This way review meetings have a better chance of being “predictable” in format and more focused on content.  This will motivate the teams, who don’t have to feel like idiots anymore when the presentation gets derailed after the introduction slide, and more importantly will communicate confidence to the stakeholders that the team understands what they are doing and why they are doing it, and are actually getting it done.

 

Since the original posting is asking the practical “how” questions, here’s my view:

1. Define a simplified format for a project charter.  In my experience working with small businesses, a project 4-block works well.  I have posted an example, with basic definitions here http://qvive.biz/links.aspx (look for the blue sidebar on the right, the third download from the top).

2. Find a way to capture assumptions, risks (excel spreadsheet) and justification (score card) and make these a recurring agenda item.

3. Now the obvious: develop work breakdown structure, activities, resource planning (Gantt chart).

4. Based on scope, deliverables, and organizational structure/culture, decide which other processes and tools from the project management framework (it’s not a methodology) are necessary to deliver results, and implement these as well.

5. Agree on a way to manage changes.

 

This may look like an oversimplification, but it’s a start.  Lots of SMALL businesses don’t have a stomach for an institutionalized and rigid methodology, so flexibility is key.  When challenged, make sure you can always answer this question, regardless of the context: “What are you doing and why are you doing it?”

 

Eric van der Meulen, PMP

*****

 
"What is the most important leadership quality a Project Manager should have?" in the Project Manager Networking Group.
Great discussion!

 

Let me try to answer this by comparing the project with a car, the stakeholders (especially sponsor) with the driver and the project team with the wheels.  Where does this leave the project manager?

 

The project manager as a leader has to PROVIDE CONFIDENCE both ways.  The wheels have to take the car where the driver wants it to go at the desired speed.  So the PM represents the engine and drive train of the car, providing the capacity to translate instructions from the driver to the wheels so there are NO SURPRISES.  This will build confidence for the ability to deliver results (sponsor perspective) and the ability to provide direction, tools, best practices, (team perspective).  This is the foundation of the project, based on which you – the project manager – stand a fighting chance to be successful in delivering results.

 

NOTE: The above viewpoint is solely commenting on the leadership aspect.  Obviously the project management "framework" – including COMMUNICATION – plays a big role as well, but this is outside the scope of the discussion.

 

Eric van der Meulen, PMP

*****

 
About the importance of assumptions in the "most important lesson you would teach in a Project Management 101 class" discussion in LinkedIn's Project Manager Networking Group:
The "most important lesson" - so let's cut to the chase - is understanding what ASSUMPTIONS are at the basis of the project.  Go ask your stakeholders and sponsor and find out. Treat assumptions as RISKS, and plan for the assumptions to change the way you would do risk in planning.  An assumption that changes from true to false is a negative risk.  Failing to manage this will do damage to the project - if not derail it completely - and obviously reflect negatively on you as the project manager.
The fun part is getting the stakeholders to put the cards on the table.  In my experience it pays off to have the tough conversations before the problems start showing up.  The level of pain is exponentially higher the later in the project you are.
Be courageous, and be successful!

 

Eric van der Meulen, PMP

*****

 
Understanding project constraints, follow this discussion in LinkedIn's PMI Credentialed PMPs Group:
A project must be managed to the constraints (PMBOK: An applicable restriction or limitation, either internal or external to a project, which will affect the performance of the project or a process).  I subscribe to the triple+, which are scope, time, cost AND quality.  Other determining success factors, such as risks - and assumptions for that matter - are not constraints, but will have an impact on the constraints when managed in the project plan.  Managing risks and assumptions does consume resources (time, money).  The other way around is also true: constraints will cause risks in projects.  A tight timeline and/or budget contribute to the risk that quality or scope suffers.

 

Eric van der Meulen, PMP

*****

 

"Why is there still a large percentage of projects that either hit serious bumps along the way and/or fail in the eyes of one or many involved?" discussion in Project Manager Networking Group:

I like to add a broader perspective.  The lower the level of specificity, the higher the number of assumptions.  Your chances of success largely depend on your ability to clarify assumptions upfront, in communication with stakeholders/customers, and manage assumptions throughout the project.  Assumptions are dealt with primarily in risk management and change control.  Many project environments lack an effective change control mechanism, which is another discussion in its own right.  Some assumptions will change from “true” to “false”, which means a risk response has to be executed, involving change control.  Since at least one of the project constraints is affected, consequences and alternatives have to be evaluated, and a decision made – agreed upon, approved – on how to proceed.  If you have planned the project with this in mind, there is sufficient contingency reserve to deal with the critical assumptions this way.

If not, your project will be the next statistic…

 

Eric van der Meulen, PMP

*****

 

"What is the Single Biggest Problem Facing Project Management?"  Project Management Link Group:

In my opinion the biggest issue is the lack of an effective way to deal with assumptions.  Assumptions have to be managed proactively, and treated as negative risks (threats) when they turn out to have changed or not to be true.  Sometimes the problem is at the start of a project, when stakeholders don't share their assumptions that are at the foundation of the project.  PMs need to have that input!  Of course when you as a PM are developing the scope, you list all assumptions, right...

And making lists is only the first step.  Every list, log or register has to be reviewed periodically to check if anything has changed.  For the PMPs out there, since there is no "Assumption Management" process, this may not get the proper attention.

 

Eric van der Meulen, PMP

*****

 
"WBS versus the GANTT chart" in LinkedIn's Project Manager Networking Group:
You can treat the "work packages" of the WBS as milestones or deliverables in the Gantt chart.  In order to complete the deliverables you have to carry out the activities (or tasks in MS Project) that lead up to these milestones.  For planning purposes this makes a lot of sense, because it separates the deliverables (product of the project in its various components or stages of completion) from the activities.

 

Eric van der Meulen, PMP


 
Project Management Software

 

The question about project management software frequently comes up.  Usually people are familiar with MS Project or OpenProj, which is free and has similar capabilities.  These capabilities are centered around scheduling and resource management.  A high level comparison with all the links to the software websites can be found here

Q'vive has developed a very affordable basic training for MS Project and OpenProj.

Reference & study materials for PMOs,
Project Managers, and PMP® students
Based on PMBOK® Guide  Fifth Edition
 
Q'vive has developed the following Project Management reference resources:
  • PMPrimary Formulas 
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  • PMPlan'n' Docs 
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  • PMTerms Defined 
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  • PMRoles Defined 
  • more about this download
  • PMPrep'n' Plan 
  • more about this download

  • PMProcess Flow™
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    Project Management Training and Workshops

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    ·      project management fundamentals

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    Project Management applied to New Product Development

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