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Showing posts from October, 2010

Project Termination

“It’s not over ‘till the fat lady sings.” Operas and projects have much in common, and the final phases of each are super-important. This chapter addresses just how we successfully complete those projects we have been discussing throughout the course.
There are four fundamental ways to terminate a project. These are well explained in the text:
Termination by extinction. This is when you have a successful project, but you don’t keep it in-house. Or it might be where you have an unsuccessful project that is cancelled. And then, there’s always the special case of “termination by murder.”
Termination by addition. This is where the project actually adds a division or element of an organization.
Termination by integration. This is where the project is integrated within the organization, but not as a separate unit. The text lists some principal aspects to be considered in integrating a project into the organization.
Termination by starvation. This happens by simply not giving the project enough r…

Project Auditing

Now we’re into the final parts of the project life cycle. What happens at the end? In this session we look specifically at the role and importance of audits and evaluations.
A project audit – what is it? A project audit is a more or less formal inquiry into any aspect of the project. Its starting point is to be explicit about the project’s goals. There are two types: direct and ancillary.
Direct goals of a project are addressed with recommendations that:
Identify problems earlier.
Clarify performance, cost, and time relationships.
Improve project performance.
Locate opportunities for future technological advances.
Evaluate the quality of project management.
Reduce costs.
Speed the achievement of results.
Identify mistakes, remedy them, and avoid them in the future.
Provide information to the client. And,
Reconfirm the organization’s interest in and commitment to the project.
But projects also have “ancillary goals.” These can include recommendations that:
Improve understanding of the ways in which …

Project Control

The project is well-planned and you’re busy monitoring and evaluating it. What happens next? You control it! In this chapter we take a hard look at what to do and what not to do in designing and implementing control systems.
There are two fundamental objectives of control:
o Regulation of results, And
o Stewardship of assets.
The first of these is self explanatory, but you might ask the question: What assets? The text does a good job of explaining this. There are three types:
o Physical assets
o Human resources
o Financial resources
Three types of control processes exist:
o Cybernetic: These controls involve feedback loops. (Any time you hear the word “cybernetic,” think “feedback.”) If it acts to reduce deviations from standard it is called a negative feedback loop.
o Go/No-go: This might be a gauge for a part; or a theater ticket. And, lastly,
o Post Control: An after-action report, for example.
Phase gates are a form of Go/No-go control that is gaining popularity. Rather than waitin…

Monitoring and Information Systems

Well, the project is planned, organized and scheduled. Now we’re going to work! The next two chapters look at the planning-monitoring-controlling cycle; specifically at the last two. This chapter covers monitoring and evaluation. In particular, it deals with variance analysis, which is a critical aspect of evaluation.
Monitoring, Evaluation & Control. Just how do these definitions differ?
Monitoring is collecting, recording, and reporting information concerning any and all aspects of project performance that is needed to be known.
Evaluation is just that – processing the information and making judgments about it. And,
Control is doing something about what we’ve learned.
There are some factors to keep in mind while looking at the planning-monitoring-controlling cycle. They are:
The control process is a closed loop system.
It should be an internal part of the project, not something external to and imposed on it, or worse, in conflict with it.
The first step in setting up a monitoring syste…

Resource Allocation

We have previously, in our scheduling exercises, looked at allocating time. Now we’re going to examine how we allocate physical resources as well – how we use resources to speed up a project, and how we smooth out the resource usage over time.
Crashing is a term that is used in network scheduling to denote shortening the critical path of a project. It has nothing to do with utilizing float on non-critical activities. When you crash a project, you either add more resources to get it done faster, or you change the way it’s done in the first place. Crashing usually has a cost, and the cost of crashing needs to be weighed against the advantages of getting it done earlier. The cost per unit of time to crash an activity is called the “Activity Slope,” or “Cost Slope,” of that activity. Also, crashing has a limit. There are many aspects of jobs that have practical limits as to how fast they can be done. In his groundbreaking work on software development, Brooks (see Chapter 7) showed that d…

Scheduling

Tools and techniques are presented throughout the course, but the schedule is right up there with the Work Breakdown Structure as the really important tool in project management. As a matter of fact, the WBS, the schedule and the goals and objectives of the project really constitute the project plan, with a few bells and whistles added!
Just what is a schedule? A schedule is the conversion of a project action plan into an operating timetable. As such, it serves as a fundamental basis for monitoring and controlling project activity and, taken together with the plans, WBS and budget, is probably the major tool for the management of projects.
Network scheduling is the basic approach of all scheduling techniques. It seeks to form a network of activity and event relationships that graphically portrays the sequential relations between the tasks in a project. Tasks that must precede or follow other tasks are then clearly identified, in time as well as function. The WBS is frequently used to …

Budgeting and Cost Estimation

We frequently hear that some project is “over budget.” The budget is simply the project plan in another form. It is an expression of organizational policy, and it’s also a control mechanism. The basis of that budget is the estimate of the costs that go into it, and accuracy (or at least a clear understanding of the lack of accuracy) of the cost estimates is absolutely critical.
There are two basic types of budget preparation: Top-down and Bottom-up. They each have their advantages. Top-down budgeting has these:
Aggregate accuracy. And
Corporate policy is reflected.
Bottom-up budgeting also has its own set of advantages:
They are the same as participative management.
It is a good training vehicle for the team. And,
The details are more accurate.
In reality, it is a combination of both that is the most advantageous, with a certain amount of negotiation going on between the top and the bottom.
Know the difference between activity-oriented vs. program-oriented budgets. This is another way to categ…

Project Activity Planning

“Planning, in general, can best be described as the function of selecting the enterprise objectives and establishing the policies, procedures, and programs necessary for achieving them.” This is one author’s definition of planning, and it’s as good as any. What we have to remember about planning is its paramount importance in the scheme of project management. It is many times more important than any other phase of the project, and it deserves by far the most attention by executives and project managers.
Who does it? Upper level management must be involved in setting objectives and selecting among alternatives, or they cannot give the requisite support to the project manager. It is upper management’s job to identify and decide about the strategic variables that affect their organization and their project(s). The project manager also should be a key player in the planning process. Study after study has shown that, statistically, the degree of success of a project is directly related to t…

The Project in the Organizational Structure

Understanding the pros and cons of the three basic organizational forms for project management is absolutely essential to really know the subject. This chapter does that, and also takes a look at how conflict changes during the life cycle of a project.
Why do we need project-oriented organizations? As pointed out in the text, a new kind of organization structure has appeared in growing numbers: the “project organization” or the “enterprise project management” organization. A great many firms have traditional business that is carried out the traditional way, but anything that represents a change is carried out as a project. There are many reasons for this, including:
Speed and market responsiveness are absolute. Be “First to market.”
Development regularly requires inputs from diverse areas of specialized knowledge.
Rapid expansion of technology in almost every area of enterprise destabilizes the normal structure. And,
Transforming non-routine activities into projects allows accountabilit…

Negotiation and the Management of Conflict

Since project management is the management of change, conflict is endemic (particularly in the dominant form, the Matrix.) This chapter deals with that phenomenon -- conflict. Groups may have different goals and expectations. There may be uncertainty about who has the authority to make decisions. The text points out that “even when the project is relatively small and simple, planning involves the interaction of almost every functional and staff operation in the organization. It is virtually impossible for these interactions to take place without conflict…”
Conflict Resolution – What is it? The text takes an interesting position on conflict resolution when it states that “Conflict resolution is the ultimate purpose of law.” It notes that a party to a conflict will be satisfied when the level of frustration has been lowered to the point where no action, present or future, against the other party is contemplated. When all parties to the conflict are satisfied to this point, the conflic…

The Project Manager

Voila! A project manager. Most management is not project management. In spite of the fact that there are training courses in the field, etc., most project managers start their career much as the text indicates. "A PM generally starts her career as a specialist in some field who is blithely informed by a senior manager that she is being promoted to the position of Project Manager on the Whizbang project."
The fundamental nature of the duties change when someone assumes the title of project manager, because the functional manager uses the analytic approach and the project manager uses the systems approach. Further, the functional manager is a direct, technical supervisor. The PM is a facilitator.
The three major questions that await the Project Manager in her task of synthesis are:
What needs to be done?
When must it be done? And,
How are resources to be obtained?
Determining the answers to these questions invariably brings the PM into conflict with functional managers – a conflict…

Strategic Management and Project Selection

This chapter starts us along the life cycle of a project by looking at the initiating processes. Nothing can be more critical to the success of a project than selecting the right one in the first place. Just how is this done? This chapter describes the process.

Project Management Maturity Models are a relatively new phenomena. For a number of years, various authors have developed "Maturity Models" wherein, after extensive surveys of an organization, that organization is rated (on various scales) as to the maturity of its management culture and processes. Recent years have seen the same concept applied to project management in the publication and application of "Project Management Maturity Models."

Why are we interested in Project Selection? There are at least two reasons. First, it introduces us to the concept of "Systems Analysis" in a practical sense. Systems Analysis is used throughout the life cycle of a project, but it has a major role at the incepti…

Projects in Contemporary Organizations

Welcome to the world of Project Management! This provides an overview of material covered in Chapter 1 of the text and introduces us to the scope of project management as defined by the Project Management Institute. After the subject of project management is introduced, the various critical elements associated with the discipline are covered in summary form. This sets the stage for exploring each of those elements in later sessions.
To begin the class, you should take a few minutes and read through how the text is structured. You should note that it roughly follows a life cycle in a project:
Part I focuses on Project Initiation.
Part II considers Project Implementation.
Part III concerns Project Termination.
Project management is relatively new. Later discussion will treat the beginnings of project management as a discipline; however, it’s really only been around as an identifiable body of knowledge since World War II. Getting impetus initially from the Government because of modern weapo…