Writing a blog is a time consuming passion and, while I love it and enjoy looking back at the fruits of my labour, it is (unashamedly) satisfying when it is being acknowledged and appreciated by others.

It is in that context that I have been notified that quantmleap has been nominated as one of the Top 100 Business Blogs in the category of Operations Management

Even more satisfying is the fact that quantmleap appears alongside some of the finest project management sites in the world, quite a few of which I have known for some time now, and others which I have just now come across and would certainly take the time to further explore.

This, certainly, gives me the added motivation to continue doing what I love the most, writing.

See you soon.

I’ve been very busy lately. In addition to doing my day job, attending to my family and home duties, consuming a number of books (one of which I am about to include in a post I have started drafting) I have also been working (with two of my colleagues) on drafting an easy-to-digest Earned Value Management Guide, where we attempted to write key components of the ANSI/EIA-748-B-2007 and AS 4817-2006 in a language that can be read and understood by simple-minded people.

Having had the opportunity to socialize this work with other project managers it has become clear that while many project managers are aware of the term Earned Value Management, or even EVM, many are confused when it comes to understanding the distinction between the terms Earned Value, Earned Value Management and Earned Value Management System.

Let’s see if we can sort out and clarify this confusion:

Earned Value is a single metric that represents the Budgeted Cost of the Work Performed.

Earned Value Management is a set of performance management metrics that integrate cost, schedule and technical performance into a combined set of (backward and forward-looking) performance indicators.

Earned Value Management System is the combination of tools and processes that enable the recording of planned cost, schedule and technical performance data, and then the subsequent measurement of progress, identification of variances and the forecasting of the project performance going forward. This cycle of plan, measure, forecast is then used to elicit any corrective action required to bring the project back on track.

 

Businesses in London and other UK cities are facing potential disruption during the Games due to a massive increase in overseas visitors, according to a website set up to advise about travel disruption during the Games.

According to getaheadofthegames.com, deliveries will be difficult during the Games due to restrictions on some of London’s major roads. Staff will have difficulties getting to work as all transport options will be affected. Boarding times at major stations are expected to be more than 30 minutes and severe overcrowding is expected.

The web site suggests that companies avoid non-essential journeys, plan deliveries in advance of the Games, stockpile goods where necessary, and ask staff to take alternative forms of transport, for example by bicycle or walking.

Whilst businesses near to Games venues will be the worst affected, businesses across London are likely to be affected to some degree.

Knowledge Train, which delivers PRINCE2 training in London, has put together its own light-hearted, fictional risk analysis of a business planning how staff will get to work during the Games. The cartoon is free to share and to re-publish, providing a link is given back to the original website (http://www.knowledgetrain.co.uk/).

Author’s Bio: Simon Buehring is an experienced project manager, consultant and trainer. He is the Managing Director for Knowledge Train which offers PRINCE2 and project management training. Simon has extensive experience within the IT industry. Contact him via email – info@knowledgetrain.co.uk

 

Every project manager, every business and everyone involved in a project, whether it’s a small local project or a highly complex global project, wants it to be a success. Successful projects are good for our careers and sense of achievement and well-being – something worth celebrating. But how can you be sure your project has been a success. We’ve all been involved in projects that have come in on time, on budget and on scope (more or less) and yet had the nagging doubt that it wasn’t really as successful as it claimed to be. Maybe it’s those slightly dissatisfied end-users or a new process that’s not as slick as it could be or a new product that falls short of expectations.

If we want to be truly sure a project has been a success we need to be able to define what project success means for our project – as Glen Alleman puts it “knowing what DONE looks like”. And that means knowing what DONE looks like before we see it. Managing projects is not like driving to a once-familiar area and thinking “I’ll know the route when I get there” – the route needs to be planned before you start the journey.

So the success criteria need to be clearly defined and should include specifics not simply statements such as “the new process should be more efficient and cost-effective” but actual measurements of the improvement in efficiency or the cost savings in meaningful terms such as “the new process should enable a team of 6 to manage an additional 30 client accounts at no extra cost”.

But defining and measuring success is not just about being able to categorically state that the project was a success and know that statement to be true. By formally defining (and, of course, agreeing) the success criteria we are also giving the project a better chance of achieving its goals because knowing the goals allows the project manager to steer the project towards them – to adjust tasks, when necessary, if they are veering off course. Too often project tasks are defined and the goal then becomes to complete the task, without looking at how much closer this takes us to our defined success goals.

As Pinkerton (2003) states, ‘Using traditional criteria for evaluating project success is

like using the time of a single runner to determine whether or not a relay has been successful’. This is a great analogy that highlights the need to incorporate other dimensions into determining project success.

The Definition of Project Success

Firstly, it is important to recognise that there are different types of project success and a particular project may require some or all of these different types of success criteria. The major success categories are:

  • Business
  • Project Management
  • Technical

Typical time, budget and scope definitions will appear as part of these major categories but in “Defining and Measuring Project Success” (van der Westhuizen & Fitzgerald) the authors discuss why these traditional project management success criteria are insufficient and why success criteria should also include other factors such as:

  • Client satisfaction
  • Achieving business goals
  • Technical quality
  • Business benefits
  • Impact on the organisation
  • Impact on the end-user

Plus a whole range of other factors depending on the type of project. A delivered project may meet the initial business requirements but true project success is also about meeting these other aspects of a project.

Organisations with a mature, well-developed approach to project management will often distinguish between the different categories of success although, clearly, a project that has not been a business success is unlikely to be rescued from failure simply because it was successful on a technical or purely PM level unless there are major mitigating factors.

The importance of both defining and measuring project success was identified way back in the 1980s by the Project Management Institute (PMI). It is essential knowledge if we want to improve our delivery of projects and realise greater value from those projects, both from a personal level as a project manager, but also to improve project management practices across an organisation.

Whilst there is a huge variety in types of project, types of organisations and types of project manager and project management styles, there are, nevertheless, common factors in every project that will contribute to success:

  • Document the success criteria at the outset
  • Obtain stakeholder agreement of the success criteria
  • Measure achievements against the success criteria on a regular basis
  • Adjust the project work on an ongoing basis to meet the success criteria

Author’s Bio: Michelle Symonds has many years experience in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of external project teams. She is now a freelance consultant writing about project management and other topics and is editor of the PM News Site www.projectaccelerator.co.uk

I totally resent the fact that although I have already collected 72 PDUs in the current ‘PDU Cycle’, none of the surplus PDUs I have collected can be transferred in lieu of the next cycle. The result is that bad planning on my behalf is going to ‘cost’ me 12 hours of effort that I mistakenly thought would go towards my future allocation.

The good news is that although the PDU market place is saturated with providers willing, ready and happy to sell their PDU earning services, some for a hefty fee, there are also organizations that provide this service absolutely free.

I have just finished listening to a series of PDU earning webcasts, generously provided for FREE by IAG Consulting. Their On Demand Webcasts page features 10 webcasts that can earn you 12 PDUs, as listed below:

Thanks IAG Consulting for providing this service, it is much appreciated.

Dear L.J.

We have barely met and had only the brief and passing opportunity to exchange a mere few words before a daunting and sombre thought entered my mind. I realised that I have once been in your place, metaphorically speaking of-course. Just like you, I have once been enthusiastic, spirited, passionate and full of energy – ready to enter the world, rustle with it and ultimately leave my mark behind.

Having acquired a large body of knowledge in training institutions and having further opportunities to bask in the shadow of people of whom I had high regard as being successful project managers, I have assumed the mantra that the world is my oyster and, yes, I was ready and willing to go.

You may not have realised yet but eagerness to succeed is an illusionary cloak as most often than not it drives you towards achieving a goal you have not yet even had the opportunity to contemplate, let alone – define. So, before you jump on your horse, marshal the troops, and march forward, lets work out what the word SUCCESS means to YOU. What ever your definition of SUCCESS might be, it should be used as your personal compass and dictate your personal rights and wrongs.

There will no doubt be those who tell you that, in the context of project management, SUCCESS can mean but just one thing – a project success. Accordingly, so they would argue, YOUR SUCCESS is intrinsically linked to the project’s success. Consequently, should the project be deemed to have failed, you have failed as well.

I will make it clear and simple for you – such notions of success and failure are to be ignored at all cost as they are unproductive, vindictive and, quite frankly, irrational – as they assume cause-and-effect where one does not necessarily exist.

Determining what should constitute of success is a tricky one as most often this would be a culmination of personal experiences, moral and ethical values. And as the famous quote (by Herbert Bayard Swope) says, “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure–which is: Try to please everybody” 

There are many facets to project management that are clearly important and are logically and naturally self explanatory. The most important aspect of which is the need to be able to manage the project – and nothing I will later say is meant to take away from your need to be able to simply manage the project. There are, however, a number of additional aspects, the mastery of which will ensure that not only will you be able to live with the outcomes of the project but you will also be able to live with your self:

  • Know and internalize the contextual and conceptual differences between being accountable and being responsible;
  • Accept the basic notion that when all is done and the dust is settled you might still need to greet some of your colleagues in the street – so treat them like human beings, not like a factory production line machinery;
  • Treat other people’s money with respect and always ask your self: “would I be doing this if it was my money?”;
  • Equally important though is the appreciation that just because someone pays for your time it does not mean they own your conscience. Don’t forget to take stock of your actions and decisions and confirm their compatibility with your own value system.

I can’t promise you or guarantee that all your projects will be formally successful. Like many other project managers that came before you, you too will most likely have your fair share of challenges with some degree of project failures – this is ok, and statistically expected. What I am comfortable advising you about though is the appreciation that if you follow the guidelines I outlined for you above you will keep your integrity and energy to try and try again, regardless of what project life will ever be able to throw at you – and remain who YOU are at the other end.

Respectfully yours,

Shim Marom

In today’s post I am going to pick a bone with one of my favourite bloggers, Glen Alleman from Herding Cats. The discussion will focus on Glen’s dismissiveness of the ‘touchy-feely’ side of project management and will attempt to refute his categorical refusal to accept the merits of ‘touchy-feely’ considerations in the context of managing projects.

The term ‘touchy-feely’ refers to a “human interaction that emphasizes physical closeness and emotional openness. The phrase is often used disparagingly in contexts where hard and businesslike behaviour is the norm” (source).

Glen’s argument against ‘touchy-feely’ can be best summed-up by a quote from a post titled “Jack Welch’s Leadership Attributes, where he concludes with the following:

…Forget all that “touchy feely” stuff. It’s useful but it is subordinate to these 4 attributes. Energy, Energizing, Edge, and Execution are all about “getting thing done.” Getting things done involves people and people must be dealt with in ways that allow them to “get things done.”

But without a deep understanding that projects are about getting things done. The right things. On-Time, On-Budget, and meeting the buyers needs kind of “done.” All that touchy feely stuff being talked about at PMI symposiums is pretty much worthless without getting to “done.”

Other, worth noting quotes include:

…Seems these days we focus more on the avoid of conflict and the touchy feely aspects of managing projects than actually getting the deliverables out the door. (from How to Manage in the Presence of Uncertainty)

…Forget all the touchy feely crap first, that doesn’t say what DONE look like, produce a Plan, provide Resources, remove impediments, or measure progress. It is necessary but VERY FAR from sufficient for getting to DONE (from The Cult of DONE Manifesto)

 Eberhardt Rechtin died today. Rechtin was a Director DARPA, helped create the Goldstone Deep Space Network, was the Chief Engineer of HP, the CEO of Aerospace Corporation, and Assistant Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His book The Art of Systems Architecting is the basis an many a Systems Engineering Management Plan (SEMP). His Systems Architecting of Organizations: Why Eagles Can’t Swimis a Systems Engineer’s view of organizational development. No touchyfeely pseudo-science here but good basic engineering practices applied to business process improvement. (from Rechtin Dies)
 The common theme in all the above quotes is the strong emphasise on results. The main (and perhaps only) concern in delivering a project is in meeting the project’s objectives. If you waste your time on touchy-feely aspects while not focusing on what or when you achieved a DONE status then not only did you waste your time but you obviously wasted other people’s money.
The truth of the matter is that on its face the anti touchy-feely attitude seems to make perfect sense. Projects are not the place to carry out social policies and project resources, selected for the job knowing what they were put up to, should simply do their job, Full stop. Furthermore, given that in most situations, projects are about spending other people’s money, their focus should be on delivering greatest value for that money, leaving no room for considerations seemingly secondary to the main delivery goal.
The fallacy in this argument is that it, incorrectly, assumes:
  1. that behaving humanly is contrary to the best interests of the project;
  2. that should a project manager show touchy-feely behaviour he/she might lose sight of the grand picture and neglect to ‘get things done’;
  3. and that ‘touchy-feely’ considerations are, by definition, secondary to all other project considerations.
One of my favourite quotes addressing the above issue comes from the book True Leaders by Bette Price and George Ritcheske:
Gone are the days when a company’s success could be measured by profits alone. Today, a successful company must balance human values with economic values. Managers who lead with an awareness of this convergence of people and profits seek significance in their own lives as well as financial success. They are true leaders.
In The ROI of Human Capital: Measuring the Economic Value of Employee Performance, the author, Jac Fitz-Enz, refers to a study performed in the mid 1990’s by the Saratoga institute, where they were looking to
uncover the human resources programs and employee related financial practices that separated top performers from all others…The finding regarding effective practices were surprising. Rather than identifying a series of human resources – based programs that led to top performance, the results showed that the most effective firms shared a common set of eight beliefs, traits and operating stratagems…The prime hallmark was an effort to consistently balance financial and human values.
Just to wrap-up this theme, I will bring a quote from BNET UK reporting that
Three out of five of the 300 middle managers surveyed from large national and international businesses in the UK and Ireland agreed an engaged workforce improves the company’s performance…
I hope it is clear that the theme arising from the above quotes is that human considerations are, by no means, secondary to other – mostly financial – considerations. In fact, the opposite is true – attention to human values is a prime contributor to financial success.
Think about it.

One of the least understood distinctions in the project management domain is the one between Accountability and Responsibility. The confusion surrounding these two terms can be clearly understood given that in many dictionaries, the respective definitions for each of these terms results in circular references that makes any unambiguous understanding of the differences between them difficult to attain. From my experience this lack of clarity directly results in communication misunderstandings, disagreements, arguments, conflicts, finger-pointing and accusations – all of which are not very conducive to good harmony and positive working relationships.

The key to understanding and internalizing the difference between the two terms is to understand the key questions that each of these terms is attempting to address:

  1. Who is the person(s) who will actually complete the task?
  2. Who is the person who will ultimately be answerable for the activity or decisions associate with it?

A good way to figure this up is to look at the way we raise children and the terminology we normally use on the way. A key challenge in children education (and from my own personal experience this goes well into their early adulthood) is to teach them to be responsible. If you are a parent you will recall the many occasions when you had to actively think about the best way to make your child internalize and accept the need to be responsible for certain activities. In my house, my children are responsible for keeping their respective rooms in a reasonable level of tidiness and clean-ness. My children are lucky enough to each have their own room, so they each have sole responsibility for tidying up and cleaning their rooms. Had they been sharing rooms, they would have each had shared responsibility as none of them would have been expected to (or indeed volunteer) to carry the full responsibility for this activity.

Should my children neglect to carry out their responsibility and their rooms deteriorate to a point where their health and safety become a matter of concern, it is quite likely that the authorities will send in the inspectors and ask me and my wife to explain how we let the situation deteriorate to this point. From a law enforcement perspective both me and my wife will be seen as being accountable the health hazard developed in the house. The fact that neither myself nor my wife were responsible for cleaning the rooms would not save us from prosecution as, unlike our young children, we are accountable for their actions and in that respect the ‘buck stops with us’.

With the above in mind we can now conclude this discussion:

The Accountable person is the person who is ultimately answerable for the activity or decision. This includes “yes” or “no” authority and veto power. Only one Accountable person can be assigned to an action.

The Responsible person is the person(s) who actually complete the task. The Responsible person is responsible for action/implementation. Responsibility can be shared. The degree of responsibility is determined by the  person with the “Accountability”.

Think about it!

In an earlier post about ethical consideration in project management I referred to a book written by Max H. Bazerman and Ann E. Tenbrunsel, titled “Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It” (note: affiliate link).

“Blind Spots” is a refreshing and highly recommended book for anyone who has the slight inclination to better understand the social and environmental pressures affecting our ethical behavior. The key question the authors are attempting to deal with is the obvious one: Most people will rate their values, attitudes and behaviors as being ethical. If such is the case, how can this get reconciled with the fact that some of these claiming to have behaved in an ethical manner are judged by society as being unethical?

The authors introduce us to a number of key definitions:

Ethical Fading – “the tendency for otherwise ethical people to make unethical decisions because the ethical implications have faded from their decision“.

Bounded Ethicality – “the systematic way in which people engage in unethical behavior without their own awareness“. Bounded Ethicality refers to our “cognitive limitations that can make us unaware of the moral implications of our decisions”.

The authors explain the reason for which ethical and codes of conduct cannot deliver the results for which they were published. The key reason why these do not work is because such Codes are predicated on the false assumption that individuals recognize an ethical dilemma when they come across it or when it is presented to them. The reality, however, is quite different as the forces of ethical fading and bounded ethicality work against us and blind us from seeing the ethical dilemma, with the result being that our response can lack the ethical dimension is rightly deserves.

While it is the responsibility of individuals to make decisions and thus adhere to and follow ethical principles they are subject to and operate within a set of formal and informal ethical ‘vibes’ they flow through their respective organization.

While organizations, in the main, are committed to following and implementing ethical codes of behavior, these are not the main determinants of how employees are likely to behave. Examples are abound in the book, but to summarize; if the culture in the organization is not “pro ethical” and implicit messages are ambivalent or discouraging; the chances are that employees will take it as a sign of encouragement that ethical behavior is not important.

It is easy to see how this might transpire in a project environment. When management is breathing down the project manager’s neck and demanding him or her to do “what ever it takes” to get the project delivered “on time”, what are the chances that the PM will cascade that pressure on to the project team and thus put the team in an untenable situation where they are forced to work long hours, weekends, etc. such that their personal lives are sacrificed and compromised in the name of the project’s “greater good”?

It is exactly at the junction point where “business considerations” are pushed to the forefront and ethical considerations are ignored that such unethical decisions are likely to emerge.

The book suggests a number of “remedies” to deal with such likely behavior, and I will mention one these approaches here:

As mentioned in an earlier post, our decision making process is subjected to the influences of two systems: System 1 and System 2. System 1 is the one we invoke when we make automatic, seemingly thoughtless decisions. System 2 is the one we invoke when we make conscious and rational decisions. “Our intuitive System 1 responses are more likely to be immoral than our more reflective System 2 thoughts“.

One of the ways to prepare oneself for the decision time is to think and prepare in advance about the motivations that are likely to influence oneself at the time the decision will be made. This level of preparedness is likely to result in System 1 responding in a manner more in-line with the person’s value system, compared with one who has not gone through this initial mental exercise.

The book is full of gems and detailed studies and field cases relevant to the topic of understanding how we are likely to behave and the impact that society and our organization is having on our likely ethical behavior.

Highly recommended reading.

I follow quite a few blogs using my RSS reader. Although time does not permit me to thoroughly read each and every blog post, it does allow me to scan and look for those gems that warrant further reading.

The things I am looking for are simple:

  • The subject line needs to be enticing
  • The content needs to add value, it needs to make me think and it needs to appeal to my intellect.

With the above in mind I have come across an article / presentation titled “Factors for Successful Projects“. I knew, even before I started reviewing the presentation, that it will get me annoyed. I find it irritating when people claim to have all the answers, and having been in this industry more years than I care to remember, I have yet to meet that genius that, apart from preaching what others should be doing, can actually demonstrate impressive success rate that can be replicated and emulated in all domains.

The ensuing presentation outlines a number of factors shared by all successful projects:

  • Clear and agreed objectives
  • Committed and effective team
  • Planning
  • Management controls
  • Repeated reappraisal
  • Communication

I am not going to go into any further details regarding the above. If you are after the details check the above link.

All I want to say is – duh:

  • Is the above not obvious?
  • Does it require elaboration?
  • Is it not obvious that to achieve 100% success everything needs to be 100% right?
  • Can we actually learn anything tangible from that list, change anything in our behaviour or attitude, such that our chances of success increase over time?

Having recently read Kailash Awati and Paul Culmsee’s book “The Heretic’s Guide to Best Practices” I have even less sympathy for people or organizations claiming to represent or be the proud owners of best practices.

So if you are in the business of preaching methods, tools or techniques and you want to sell me the next best thing after the invention of the wheel don’t bogher telling me WHAT needs to be done to be successful but HOW it is practically done and WHERE you have done it before.

Think about it!

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