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Archive for the 'Project Management' Category

Scrum Videos

Posted by Mike on 30th January 2009

I posted this over at Effectual Working, but thought I would add it here too.

I have been doing some research on agile software development methodologies, specifically Scrum, and found the following videos.

Posted in Management & Business, Productivity, Project Management, Software & Computers, Testing | No Comments »

Making a Gantt Chart with Excel

Posted by Mike on 27th December 2007

I needed to create a simple Gantt Chart to communicate a high-level project plan and found this great little tutorial on YouTube.

This is a useful technique to remember. Often project management tools such as Primavera or Microsoft Project are too heavy for communicating at a high level. Most of you stakeholder community needs an easy to understand picture of the project. Excel fits the bill for this.

Thanks to Ralph Phillips for sharing this tutorial.

Posted in Productivity, Project Management, Tutorials | No Comments »

What makes a good Project Manager?

Posted by Mike on 8th November 2007

I have confessed to my peers that it is hard to assess the effectiveness and performance of a project manager in our organization.  It is probably hard in other organizations too.  “On time” and “under budget” are hard to quantify on information technology projects.  Some may argue this point, but I find that no one really knows what a project will be when these two metrics are established.

I read an interesting post by Scott Berkun.  It is titled Are you a leader or a tracker?.  In it, Scott lists a group of questions to ask a project manager in order to understand what that person really does.  I summarize the questions into a couple key ideas.

  • “Professionalizing” project managers has left many of them without relevant, hands-on roles.  I am finding that information technology executives (CIO, CTO) are wanting more hands-on project managers.  In other words, PMs who have a deeper understanding of the projects they are tasked with completing.
  • Leading the team to the goal is more important than pushing them from behind.  If the focus is on tracking, what leadership value are you bringing?  It is easier to track.  (Hindsight is 20/20.)  Most teams need a leader who can put the next steps and the ultimate goal into better focus.

At the very least, if you are in a project management role, do a self-assessment using Scott’s questions.  Your answers may point you in a better direction that will increase your effectiveness and value.

Posted in Management & Business, Project Management, Software & Computers | No Comments »

IT Publications

Posted by Mike on 23rd October 2007

Out of all the publications I receive as an IT professional, Computerworld is the best.  How can I tell?  It is because rarely can I finish an issue in one sitting.  I will try to skim through it first, but usually get stuck on Don Tennant’s editorial.  Then I get caught reading an article and then dog-earring several others to read later.  This magazine is full of valuable information and insight week after week.

Posted in Management & Business, Productivity, Project Management, Software & Computers | No Comments »

Musings on Metrics

Posted by Mike on 27th June 2007

Metrics for project management is an interesting topic.  I have experimented with different forms of metrics, depending on what was important at the time.  For example, when we were first establishing our project management practice, our metrics focused on adhering to the process.  This worked well when the project managers had a specific objective on their annual review for this metric. We have also tried budget and scheduling variance in the past.  However, this was difficult to make meaningful for several reasons.

  1. Project managers learn how to fool the system and beat the metrics.
  2. Often times, estimates are experienced guesses at best.  The practice that project schedules are typically built in a top down or bottom up approach, results in the accumulation of errors from the estimates.
  3. It’s not typical that projects have the luxury of right to left planning.  Usually there is a business need driving the project schedule to a date.  Determining what can be accomplished in that timeframe is the realistic approach.

Although I have not had the opportunity to try this, I believe there is a better way to evaluate the effectiveness of project managers.  Each project should have a satisfaction score sheet to quantify the success of each project. (This can be done on a 1 to 5 scale of satisfaction with a space for specific comments.)

  1. Rate the sponsor’s satisfaction with the project outcome.
  2. List specific business goals that the project was trying to impact and score each one.
  3. Poll project team members on the project manager’s effectiveness.
  4. Ask the project stakeholders about the effectiveness of communication on the project.

The size of a project also matters when looking at metrics.  Small initiatives are easier to control and complete “on time.”  Large, multi-year efforts with sub-projects are more difficult to manage and measure.

If your organization is disciplined in terms of establishing timelines and budgets, you may be able to measure schedule and budget performance.  I am most interested in customer satisfaction.

Posted in Project Management | No Comments »

Bring Yourself to Work Day

Posted by Mike on 14th April 2007

David Schmaltz has suggested a day, modeled after the Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, called Bring Yourself to Work Day. He sets it on the fourth Friday of April, April 27, 2007. I think it is a great idea. It actually might work, rather than wreck havok!

Posted in Freedom, Management & Business, Project Management | No Comments »


Posted by Mike on 6th July 2006

I received a FEEDBlitz email from Hal Macomber that introduced me to a blog by David Maister. He has an article, titled, Why (Most) Training is Useless. If you are a trainer, or a manager who wants to effect change, I highly recommend that you read it.  In my job, I do a lot of training. It is my experience that what David says is very true. Training should be done at the point of change, in full collaboration with top management. Without this kind of support, most training does not accomplish its’ goals.

Posted in Management & Business, Project Management, Software & Computers | No Comments »

Metrics – Gaming the System

Posted by Mike on 4th April 2006

This is not a new problem to establishing meaningful metrics.  I call it “Gaming the System.”  This behavior has been around since people started measuring the performance of other people.  Those being measured will always find a way to make their numbers look good.

I know someone who used to be a cashier for Kmart. They had a metric for average scan time.  Her time was the best in the store; because she figured out how to make her numbers look good.  She would arrange all the customer’s items with the bar codes ready.  Then, she would quickly scan each item and hit the subtotal button.  At first, the other cashiers were angry with her, saying that she made them look bad.  However, management caught on to what she was doing to get great numbers.  Guess what?  They trained all the other cashiers to do the same thing and the store’s numbers became the best in the district!

Yesterday, I was at Sears buying a dehumidifier. After making my purchase, I went to merchandise pickup.  I scanned my receipt and my name was added to the queue.  I looked at the screen and to my delight; the average wait time was 2.20 minutes.  Great!  I will be out of here in no time!  WRONG. I watched the worker and saw quickly that he was “Gaming the System.”  Once orders were added to the queue, he would take his hand-held device and mark all the orders complete.  Then, everyone would wait.  The metric looked great, but didn’t reflect reality.

Sears probably spent some serious money to develop this system, including lovely computerized voice prompts.  They probably use this average service time metric to determine staffing levels.  I can tell from personal experience that this store is probably under-staffed.  I didn’t have my watch on, so I don’t have the exact time of my wait, but it was much longer than the 1.40 minutes that was recorded. (I would guess that I waited 20 to 25 minutes.)

Sears could have the customer indicate that they received their item as the event that clocks the actual service time.  (Perhaps by scanning their receipt again.)  That would eliminate the “game.”  In this scenario, the customer starts and stops the clock.  (Also, the worker didn’t check my receipt. They probably have a shrink problem too.)

“Gaming the system” is easy to avoid.  You just have to observe the system in action and make adjustments.  Don’t set your metrics program to reward speed, unless you have an independent way to ensure accuracy.  Set it up to reward accuracy.  I can tell you one thing.  The workers at this particular Sears Merchandise Pickup area were not motivated to hustle.

Posted in Management & Business, Project Management, Software & Computers, Testing | No Comments »

Expectation Constraints

Posted by Mike on 13th October 2005

Do not let process get in the way of good project management. You need to find ways to achieve what your sponsor considers success. You have to work with your sponsor and stakeholders to deliver what you can within the constraints of their expectations. Have honest conversations to make sure that you and your sponsor understand each other, with the emphasis on you, understanding your sponsor.

Posted in Project Management | No Comments »

Professional Development Day

Posted by Mike on 20th May 2005

I’m a member of the Central Iowa Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Every year our chapter presents a Professional Development Day. This year, David Schmaltz will be speaking. David is the author of The Blind Men and The Elephant. I am looking forward to hearing David speak, as I really like his book and appreciate the message he has for project managers.

The Professional Development Day will be held on October 7, 2005 in Des Moines, Iowa. A copy of the registration flyer can be downloaded here.

Posted in Project Management | No Comments »