Archive for February, 2009

Are you managing your project efficiently, effectively, or both? Are you Doing Things Right, Doing Right Things, or doing both? What a project manager is doing throughout the entire lifecycle of his project is actually increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

Going back to the ABC’s of management, management is defined as planning, organizing, leading, and controlling resources (human and other resources) to achieve organizational goals. This definition implies both increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

Efficiency measures how well and productively a manger uses his resources to achieve goals. Project management places heavy focus on how to acquire the right project team to perform project tasks and to close project successfully within the agreed constraints. For example, in Human Resource Planning the project manager proactively boosts efficiency by deciding on the Organizational Structure and Roles and Responsibilities to complete project tasks, then, when he later acquires project team, he obtains the right human resources according to the Roles and Responsibilities, and he decides on any training needs they may require to complete their tasks. Project Manager should keep an eye on the Resource Availability; are resources Overallocated? Is the Resource Usage curve smooth? Project Manager uses Resource Leveling as a tool to increase efficiency by eliminating Overallocation of resources and keeping almost constant or smooth use of resources throughout the span of the project lifecycle. When it comes to the Monitoring & Controlling phase the project manager tries to increase efficiency by resolving conflicts that may arise within project team, and by reviewing his team’s performance so as to enhance the overall performance of the project.

On the other hand, Effectiveness measures the appropriateness of the goals that an organization is pursuing and the degree of achieving these goals. Again, this is a core measure in Project Management since it is all about applying knowledge and tools and techniques to achieve project goals. Building and measuring effectiveness in a project starts when the scope is defined during Planning phase (Scope Management Plan, Scope Statement, and the Work Breakdown Structure-WBS). Scope is built around goals and end-deliverables the customer or sponsor needs. A solid Scope Change procedure is compiled during the Scope Planning process. Through this procedure scope of project is kept under control throughout the entire lifecycle. At the end of each phase, and before moving to the next phase, the PM verifies the deliverables of the phase against the scope baseline to check whether the agreed upon scope is being met and to verify that the project in total is still appropriate and in line with the overall strategies of the company or the customer. As a result of this continuous control over scope corrective and preventive actions are taken to keep the project focused on the original plan or to update the plan itself to cope with the ultimate goals pursued by the customer or the sponsor.

If you think of efficiency and effectiveness this way you will find that these two measures are pivotal in project management profession. Not only do they apply to the cases mentioned above, but also to all project baselines-Scope, Cost, Time, Quality, Human Resources, and Risk.

Learning something useful from unpleasant, as well as pleasant, experience ranges from being an instinctive reaction that you can see in children to being a scientific approach that professionals use in managing their work. Learning from experience is proved beneficial in project management and is now considered a must-use in managing projects according to the best practices of project management. PMBOK goes to the extent of considering the project not closed if lessons learned are not documented and communicated to stakeholders.

According to the PMBOK Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide) Lessons Learned are defined as the learning gained from the process of performing a project. Not only are they identified and distributed to stakeholders at the end of project, but also during the entire project lifecycle and at the end of each phase. This helps improve future phases of the current project as well as future projects coming down the road.

Lessons learned are important input and output of any project. They are part of the organization assets a project manager should use to help him manage his project successfully. If you think of lessons learned as identifying what went right and what went wrong in your project, you will see them take various forms; they could be the ground rules you set to manage your team, or techniques proved effective in resolving conflicts, or recognition events that were useful, or procedures followed in managing virtual teams as well as team building activities.

Lessons learned could take the form of suppliers’ and team members’ performance history that can be used to select the best fit to do the tasks in future projects. Risks and their effective responses are important forms of lessons learned. You can learn a lesson by saving your Microsoft Project plan as Template for future use.

As a project manager embarking upon a new project, imagine that you have been handed all the preceding precious information on a plate from previous projects, how likely will you succeed in your new project than if you do not have these lessons in your hands? How grateful will you be to those project managers who gathered and documented such information? And how strong will your belief be in such a PM Methodology that imposes identifying, storing, and disseminating lessons learned in any project managed under its umbrella?

I have read a story about a company that perceived the PMO function incorrectly and, consequently, deemed it a burden that would do nothing except blowing up its overhead cost with no return on investment.

The story started with an enthusiastic employee in the company who loved the Project Management profession and worked hard to earn the PMP credentials. He encouraged others to follow his footsteps and to become PMP’s. He decided to move on with the new profession and to establish a Project Management Office (PMO) in the company. He initially succeeded in selling the idea to the top management and started to set the PMO up after he had changed his current position in which he served for more than 10 years. He started with selling the idea to other branches of the company through a couple presentations then published the first internal newsletter about PM and the importance of PMO. He compiled a PM Methodology document and published it for people to use.

A few months later the people interested in his work, especially his followers, have not heard any new activities of this to-be PMO. After they contacted the PMO officer they were stunned by the fact that the PMO started to die prematurely. More surprisingly, they received an internal circular that this person (officer) has now been appointed a new position that has nothing to do with PMO! Yes, the PMO officer has changed his career path.

When he was asked about the reasons behind this sudden change he declared that top management had really not been convinced about the idea of the PMO. They claimed PMO would require additional overhead costs that, from their perspective, were not justified especially during times the company imposed cut-cost policies. It would increase manual work. Moreover, executives claimed that their projects do not require a PMO to manage them although they have piles of pending projects.

This story begs the question of who is responsible of this failure in establishing the PMO and selling it correctly to the top management. To me, I would point my finger at the PMO Officer in the first place.

Establishing a PMO in a company is a project by its own. It has to undergo all phases of a project lifecycle. I believe that a thorough feasibility study should precede initiating such a project. This study is the best place to present the values and benefits of having a PMO in place. The project has to have a sponsor who supports the idea and commits to providing the needed resources. Getting the buy-in from the sponsor is not the end of his role in the project. He has to be involved of any obstacles the project manager (in this case the PMO officer) might need help to resolve. In the planning phase of this project the PMO officer should have involved all team members who will participate in building the PMO (other project managers in the company who will eventually be reporting to the PMO). Planning the PM Methodology is the most important part in the project. The PMO officer did not get other members’ buy-in by ignoring their input to the methodology.

The point in this blog is to draw the attention to the importance of using the best practices of Project Management even in establishing a new PMO. It is a project that needs feasibility studies, sponsorship, stakeholders’ buy-in, team members’ involvement, proper planning, executing, monitoring, and closing. If the project fails, it is the Project Manager’s responsibility.

Recently, I have read many comments and blogs questioning the value of the Project Management Professional (PMP) credentials; whether it really makes a difference in a Project Manager’s career, and whether a PMP project manager is more competent in managing projects than a non-PMP experienced project manager. Hence, I would like my first blog to discuss this issue and to shed some light on the value of a PMP.

 

For some people PMP is only a certification gained by passing an exam after which one receives a certificate that he frames and hangs up in his office. This is the argument raised by people who really do not know much about PMP. Others argue that having a project managed by an experienced project manager is safer and more likely to succeed than having it managed by a PMP with little experience.

 

The PMP is not only a certification; it is rather a journey into the Best Practices of Project Management. In order for someone to be recognized as PMP he has to understand and be trained to apply the PMBOK Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide). This guide is a document (standard) of what is globally recognized to be the Best Practices in Project Management.  There is global consensus by SME’s and PM veterans on the effectiveness of these practices that if applied correctly would ‘enhance’ success opportunity for projects. Hence, through PMP you will learn the shortcut to success. I see PMP as a driving license; unlicensed drivers would probably make more accidents than those licensed ones who learned the rules of the game before being involved in it.

 

The PMBOK gives project managers the best practices on a plate! It does not however deny the value of experience nor do I. Experience is important in PM, but it remains lacking the best practices. PMP credential is an agreement to consensus on how to initiate, plan, execute, monitor, and close projects. This global consensus is by far better and more effective than individual judgments on how to manage projects.

 

Some people argue that they have read the PMBOK Guide and they found it not applicable to their industry. Well, I say that the PMBOK Guide is not a methodology on how to run projects in different industries. It is a standard containing processes that YOU need to use when building your own methodology. It is similar to the ISO9001 standard for Quality Management; the standard gives you the clauses needed to build a Quality Management System (QMS) which enhances the possibility of delivering a quality product to your internal and external customers but it does not build to you the QMS itself. Building the PM methodology is the challenge of each firm to develop by adopting the guidelines outlined in the PMBOK Guide. And here comes the role of the Project Management Office (PMO) which I will address in my coming blogs.