PM Dashboard -Time Management

Folks, welcome back to my Project Management Dashboard blog series, where I’m walking you through Project Management Institute’s 9 knowledge areas (Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, Human Resources, Communications, Risk, Procurement, and Integration), to help you identify which metrics you should be actively monitoring. In the end, after collecting the relevant metrics for each knowledge area, I’ll show you how to aggregate this information into a dashboard that you can use to quickly communicate the health of your project.  Last time we talked about Scope, now let’s discuss Time.

Work Breakdown Structure
This goes without saying, but when you’re developing your schedule you should first create a work breakdown to sufficiently split large work items (or deliverables) into smaller items so you can more effectively estimate the time and resources need to complete the task.  For example, estimating the time and cost to develop an F-22 Raptor Fighter is much more difficult than estimating the time and cost to develop the F-22’s landing gear.

Network Diagram
After you’ve broken down your project’s workload, you can then create a network diagram.  The network diagram is used to identify the critical path of your project by incorporating optimistic and pessimistic estimations.  The significance of the critical path is that if any work item on your critical path is delayed, then your overall project is delayed.  The second diagram illustrates a work breakdown structure for an aerospace project. 

Gantt Chart and Resource Diagram
Next it’s time to create a Gantt chart and resource diagram.  There are a handful of software packages out there available for you to use.  In the second diagram I used Microsoft Project for the same aerospace project as the first illustration.  The software you use will likely depend on the organizational or PMO (project management office) standard.  Like I mentioned before, all the metrics you need, to create a project management dashboard, are probably already being recorded by your underlying business processes.. which makes this process easier than most people think.  Join me on Thursday as we discuss Cost Management.

You’re Fired – Episode 2 of The Apprentice

Folks, if you’re not tuning into The Apprentice, Then You Are Definitely Missing Out!! This season the show is doing a theme based on the down economy, therefore all of the contestants are unemployed professionals. As such, the sense of urgency is like no other and the competition is fierce! No worries if you miss an episode.. I’m doing a weekly blog to recap each episode, and highlight the real world lessons that practicing project managers can apply to their careers.

The challenge
This week’s challenge was to sell ice cream on the streets of New York City, with the winner being the team that generated the most revenue. The women chose Poppy as their PM and David volunteered to be the men’s PM. As soon as I heard the challenge I thought ‘Women Win’, and when David volunteered I thought ‘You’re Fired’.

Pick Your Battles
David, David, David…. Last week you proved to everyone how cocky you are when you openly criticized your project manager (Gene), which surely would have landed you in the boardroom had your team lost. That being said, I’m still surprised that you guys didn’t lose last week! You could learn a thing or two from the human resources lesson in my Project Management Basic and PMP Exam Prep classes! This week, you proved that in addition to being cocky, you’re also an idiot for thinking you could outsell 7 attractive women! Time and time again I talk about project failure, and how good project managers can anticipate projects that are doomed from the onset, and avoid them, which in turn saves your organization valuable resources and jump starts your career. David, I wonder if there is a reason that you’re unemployed????

Control Your Team
Despite the women doing everything in their power to lose the challenge, they still won, which further emphasizes David’s bad decision making! Poppy you are very bright, and very cute, but you have a thing or two to learn about project management, and leadership at that. Stephanie showed her true colors this week and is a cut-throat competitor, on a side note.. I also think she’s crazy but let’s stay focused here =) Poppy, there are two things that you need to learn: #1) How to manage negative stakeholders and #2) How to be an effective leader. Stephanie’s number 1 priority was not your project, but rather her objective was to throw you under the bus! Therefore, she is a negative stakeholder and you should manage her accordingly. At EPIC Project Management we teach that you should confine your negative stakeholders to passive communication domains. Another words, don’t let them voice their negative opinion of your project. If I were the project manager, I would have found a meaningless task for Stephanie and would have sent her off to Dodge to accomplish it.. in order to keep her away from my project team! That being said, you need to learn how to lead and inspire your team. When your team senses that you can’t lead them, you invite destructive people like Stephanie to push you out of the way and foster all kinds of chaos!

I would love to hear your opinion on Episode 2! Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at

Thoughts on the Economy

On Monday the National Bureau of Economic Research announced that the recession ended in June 2009, 18 months after it began. This has sparked a wave of responses that question the legitimacy of the report, because to many, ‘it sure doesn’t feel like the recession ended’. Steve Chapman with the Chicago Tribune does a good job of clarifying the National Bureau of Economic Research press release.

A recession begins when the economy starts shrinking. It ends when the economy stops shrinking and resumes growing — nothing more. The conclusion doesn’t mean we’re getting rich. It merely means we’re not, as a nation, getting poorer. –Steve Chapman

At least from the reports, and their interpretations, it seems that our economy has ceased its decline, but is surely taking its time climbing back up. I don’t want to speculate though and would love to hear your opinion and experiences in the project management field. I’ve always felt that project managers provide a great barometer as to economical fluctuations, because they are so involved with the investing of organizational assets, or lack their of.

Please send me an email at, I would love to hear your thoughts on the economy and the news that the recession is over. Please include what industry you’re in, I’ll be writing a blog early next week to report your responses and a survey of what industries are doing better than others.

In more recent news, on Thursday The House approved a $42 billion bill aimed at helping small businesses and championed by President Obama. On one hand, I think it’s only fair that the little guys get some help too, after the White House bailed out the banks and big three auto manufacturers. That being said, my ever increasing concern is our national debt. When you don’t have money, spending MORE money you don’t have only digs the hole deeper, yet Washington consistently ignores this common sense, regardless of the political affiliation of the administration. We need to take a step in the right direction! I would love to hear your thoughts on the national debt too!

Colorado Rockies

I know what you’re thinking, ‘What the heck do the Colorado Rockies have to do with project management!?’  Well I’m glad you asked that question, look no further than to our beloved manager, Jim Tracy, for the answer.

Robin Hood Syndrome – Take from the Rich and Give to the Poor.

As project managers we are often times responsible for managing several concurrent projects, with a static amount of resources that are to be allocated amongst each of these projects.  In my project failure blog I mentioned that some projects are doomed from the onset, and how a good project manager will identify these failing projects and terminate them ASAP.  However, many project managers fall into the trap of trying to salvage these ‘doomed’ projects by giving them additional resources from their ‘good’ projects.  This is definitely a catch 22 situation.  On one hand you’re throwing good money at a bad project, and on the other hand you’re suffocating your well performing projects by moving their resources elsewhere.

How the heck does this relate to Jim Tracey and the Rockies?

Jim Tracy has an overall strategic objective (winning the pennant) – which is similar to the strategic objectives of many organizations.  In this case his goal is to get to the postseason.  The thing I like about Tracy is that he does a great job of keeping this overall (strategic) objective in mind, while managing each of his sub-projects (each game).  He doesn’t throw unnecessary resources at healthy projects, for example, when the Rockies are playing a team that they overpower, Tracy gives our stars some time off (PS Carlos Gonzalez I love you!).

You got to know when to hold ’em, 
Know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away,
And know when to run. -Kenny Rogers

On the other hand, I like how he plays to win in 9 innings.  If you don’t win in 9, then your chances of winning come at the great cost of diminishing your resources (the bullpen) for the next project (tomorrow’s game), which ends up hurting your overall strategic goal (winning the pennant).  In summary, you need to identify your poor performers and nip them in the bud; doing this will save your organization valuable resources!  This sounds a lot like natural selection, apparently Charles Darwin was a project manager at heart…

C’mon Rockies… I’m ready for Rocktober!

Servant Leadership

I was planning on taking the day off from blogging, but I got my first blog request this morning.. time to dust off the old type writer =)

Brian Dornsife, MBA, PMP writes: “An interesting topic you might consider blogging about is project leadership. There are obviously many different styles and no one way to be successful, but what is the most effective consistently? When I first came to Octagon, I was a total hard-ass based on my experiences from Dell Computer Corp. I realize today from my experiences here at Octagon and also from my readings (and maybe maturity), a more positive leadership style lasts longer. I am working really hard to learn more positive leadership traits and how to build teams and teamwork with a commitment to each other, not just the project. This subject is a never-ending source of fascination to me. It would be interesting to know how you operated at the Dept. of Defense, and what styles you found to have the most consistent success.”

Leadership Failure

Brian, I too started my project management career as a total hard-ass, and it darn near led to full blown leadership failure on my part.  I’ve always been one of those overachiever push-the-envelope types.  While this led to having completed my Masters degree and getting promoted to my first PM position at the age of 22, my aggressive nature set me up to be a horrible leader.  Beginning my first PM job, I felt unprepared and was facing some major HR obstacles.  My entire project team was over twice my age and had a lot of resentment that I was the one that got promoted because I was so young and had no PM experience.  The first two weeks were hell for everyone.  When I was watching The Apprentice last week, I actually related to Gene in this particular situation, as I was trying to muster confidence and ended up stepping all over my team’s toes.  I was overwhelmed by the combination of having a lack of PM training/experience and the fact that my project team resented me.  Thankfully I had a mentor that took me under his wing and taught me a thing or two about servant leadership, which I believe is consistently the most effective method.


There are a bunch of other effective leadership methods though, that all have their time and place: Authoritarian, Promotional, Facilitating, Conciliatory, Judicial, and Servant Leadership.  These are all covered in our PM Basics and PMP Exam Prep course.

Like I said earlier, all of these leadership styles have a time and place.  Using the wrong leadership method in the wrong situation can be detrimental.  Authoritarian leadership is very effective in the military where strict chains of command are required to keep everyone focused on the task at hand in the midst of hostile environments.

The main focus on promotional leadership is cultivating team spirit.  This works great for sales teams and also for revitalizing an overworked project team.  Team recognition goes a long way, and is something I think project managers overlook all too often.

When you’re managing a project in a domain where you lack significant expertise, facilitating leadership is warranted.  You want to guide your team, but stay out of your engineering team’s way!

In situations where there is either political or personal hostility amongst the project team, conciliatory leadership can be an effective (temporary) leadership method used to get things under control.  I ended up using this method in my first PM job I described earlier.  I had to develop a rapport with my team before we could move forward.

There are times that you need to make difficult HR decisions that require sound judgment.  I once had a valuable team member who was having a REALLY Bad Day!  I asked him to sit out of a certain meeting and take the afternoon off for fear that he was going to tee off on our customer and that I would lose him.

Servant Leadership
Leading by example is one of the most desirable traits a leader can have, and is a major part of what we describe as servant leadership.  In functional and weak matrix organizations where project managers don’t have much authority, this is the only method for motivating (and guiding) your stakeholders.  Also, in my first PM position that I described above, where my project team resented me because I was half their age and had no PM experience, servant leadership was the only effective method.  Had I not discovered it in time I probably would have lost my job!  Thankfully I learned quickly, and had what ended up being a successful 7 year project management career with the Department of Defense. 

Servant Leader King
One of my all time favorite servant leaders is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Without using an ounce of authority (or violence), he completly changed our nation!  I mention him because I think he exemplifies just how powerful servant leadership can be.

Brandon Beemer, PhD, PMP

Decision Quality

Over the past few years we’ve seen a lot of companies go out of business and a lot of changes in the way surviving companies are doing business.  Hind sight is always 20/20 so we might as well use it to see what lessons can be learned from our failures in that past, to foster success in the future.  An umbrella statement that could be used to describe the cause of our current economical woes is ‘poor decision making’.  A couple years back when gas prices were consistently reaching the $3 and $4 range, it was probably a poor decision by Ford to sell the Excursion SUV, a 11mpg gas guzzling machine with a 7.3 liter Powerstroke engine.  Toyota was way ahead of the curve with their Prius hybrid.  However, their decision to cut costs by reducing quality turned out to be a very expensive one.  Business week is reporting that the resulting recall will cost Toyota 2 billion!  Another poor business decision that has affected us all was sub-prime mortgages.  Ughh! 

My point for raising these issues is by no means to say ‘I told you so’.  Like many others, I did not realize these events were going to happen until they were already taking place.  However, the organizations involved do have legal and ethical responsibilities to their stock holders.  What’s done is done, but I sure hope these organizations are proactively learning from these poor decisions.  As project managers we have a similar responsibility to anticipate problems and forecast effective solutions.  That is if we want to stay employed as project managers!  In my classes I always reiterate that project management is a sink or swim profession, because it is!

When I was finishing my PhD at the University of Colorado this past year, my research focused on leveraging IT to increase decision quality, while decreasing decision time.  If you’re interested in this topic, this is a good read.  However here, I’m going to discuss this in terms of project management.  A friend and recent student of mine, Brian Dornsife, is a project manager for Octagon Systems and manages circuit board development projects.  By the way, Congrats to Brian on recently passing the PMP exam!  During the discussion in our class he told me that each circuit board project he works on shares 85% to 90% common ground with previous projects. 

I think this is probably true to a plethora of different project management domains!  My guess is that when Boeing builds a new commercial jet, it’s going to have a cockpit, fuselage, wings, engines, and landing gear, like every other commercial jet before it.  That being said, lessons learned from a current project, will likely have significance in subsequent projects.  That’s where knowledge based system’s come in.  A knowledge based systems captures current knowledge (or experiences) and then disseminates this information to future decision makers. 

A knowledge based system can be a complicated multi-million dollar enterprise application, or it can be as simple as a project dashboard developed in Excel that organizes relevant metrics, risks, and resolutions.  In my project management dashboard blog series here at I’m walking you through the 9 knowledge areas and describing which metrics you should collect and efficient ways of putting this information together.  Last week I discussed Scope, and this Tuesday I’ll be discussing Time. 

Remember, our goal as project managers is to increase our decision quality while decreasing our decision time.  Putting a project dashboard together will help you accomplish both of these goals.  See you Tuesday!

I would love to hear your feedback on future topics you would like for me to discuss.

Brandon Beemer, PhD, PMP

You’re Fired – Episode 1 of The Apprentice

Last night I watched the first episode of this season’s The Apprentice.  I must admit, I’ve never gotten into this show before, but really enjoyed it and how relevant it is to our discussions here at EPIC Project Management.  I think there are a lot of things we can learn from this show in terms of what NOT to do, I’m serious folks these people don’t know the first thing about project management!

As with usual The Apprentice tradition, the teams were split up by gender.  The men named their team ‘Octane’, I kept waiting for Tim the Toolman Taylor to jump out for a grunting cameo =)  They nominated Gene to be their project manager and the women named their team ‘Fortitude’ and nominated Nicole as their project manager.  The tasking was to develop an ultra modern office work space.  At first I thought the men were in trouble given the ‘design’ nature of the project, but was really surprised at how dysfunctional both teams were.  Let’s look at 3 lessons we can take away from this episode.

User Involvement is Key!

Whenever a project includes a design component, it’s really important to get your customer’s opinion involved!  After seeing both office spaces, the first thing Donald Trump said was ‘I don’t like either of them!’  Neither team asked Donald what he was looking for.  Another opportunity to get feedback was when Ivanika and Donald Trump Jr. came to visit the teams, but neither team took advantage of the visits or solicited feedback, they just kept their heads down and did their own thing.

Servant Leadership

Nicole if you’re out there reading this, listen up!  In weak matrix and functional organizations where the project manager doesn’t have a lot of authority, servant leadership is a critical skill for project managers to be successful.  This also applies to small project teams, like the teams on The Apprentice, where the project manager is involved in doing the work.  What is servant leadership you ask, it’s approaching your team with a ‘How can I help you’ attitude.  Nicole’s approach was contrary to this method in everything from decision making to actually the doing work.  She continually told her team ‘you decide’, and then was never around when the heavy lifting was being done.  As we would expect, Nicole’s team tore her to shreds in the board room on these points.  I was not surprised to see her get the boot.

Building Trust

Gene on the other hand was not much better at playing the project manager role.  The first day or two he looked like a deer caught in head lights.  Then we saw an abrupt change, like he was trying to muster confidence, but this resulted in him stepping all over his team’s toes.  An example of this is when he delegated the wall painting to James then came over after he had finished taping the designs and told him to start over.  Ummm Gene, if there’s one thing you don’t have.. it’s style, let alone artistic ability, over compensating for your insecurities is going to get you fired buddy.  You’re lucky it didn’t happen this week.

Join me next week as we discuss Episode 2 and learn what NOT to do.

Brandon Beemer, PhD, PMP

Scope Management

Over the next few weeks I’m conducting a series on developing a project dashboard that can give you a live snapshot of your project’s health.  As I mentioned last week, in order to develop a dashboard you need to collect metrics and organize them according to PMI’s 9 knowledge areas: scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, communication, procurement, risk, and integration.

Today I’m discussing scope.  In our PM Basics and PMP Exam Prep  courses we discuss in great detail, the cascading influence scope has on the other knowledge areas such as time, cost, and quality.  Unfortunately, scope is one of those things that tends to only hurt you and your project’s chances for success.  When is the last time your customer approached you wanting to reduce your project’s scope or increase it’s budget?  Never!  Instead, we project managers, are continually bombarded with requests to increase scope with no moderating change to the schedule, budget, or quality.  Managing these catch-22 situations is what this section is all about.  By collecting and managing a few signed documents you can manage scope creep and keep your project on schedule and within budget.

Executive Summary – Always remember who is paying for your project: YOUR PROJECT SPONSER!  Your executive summary needs to be quick and concise, and detail the business objectives of the project, followed by how the project will accomplish these objectives.  In this tight economy, resources are scarce.  Having an effective executive summary close by will help you to remind your executive why they committed to your project in the first place.

Project Scope Statement – This should be directly derived from your executive summary, and could be called your preliminary scope statement.  In one or two sentences, what is your project delivering?  This is more for those situations when you find yourself in meetings with negative stakeholders that are trying to undermine your objectives.

Major Milestones and Scheduled Dates – What are the top 5 to 10 milestones of your project?  If you’re operating under a waterfall methodology it’s going to be something like, plan, design, develop, test, deploy… Done and done!

Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) Budget – From a similar high level perspective, this should be aggregated to the overall project budget, but should not be broken down granularly.  (e.g. Preliminary Design $$$$, Critical Design $$$$, Prototyping $$$$, Prototype Testing $$$$, Fabrication $$$$, Test $$$$, Total Cost $$$$).

Initial Organization – What engineering teams are involved? (e.g. aerodynamics, controls, software, electronics, CAD, testing, fabrication, structures)

Product Description – This will be more elaborate than your preliminary scope statement above, which includes work that is not directly deliverable (prototyping etc).  Here we’re looking for 100 to 300 words that get to the point of the product you’re delivering.

You should be able to put all of this together on a single page, as illustrated above.  Remember, scope can only hurt you, and is one of your greatest enemies at that.  As such, pay due diligence to managing scope and you’ll set yourself up for success.

Brandon Beemer, PhD, PMP

I would love to hear your feedback and topics that you would like me to cover in future articles:

Project Failure

Today we are talking about Project Failure.  One of my grad students (Ankita Chaturvedi) pointed out an interesting discussion on project failure by Cornelius Fichtner, I encourage you to check out here.

Generally speaking, any given project can be placed into 1 of 3 categories: 1) Successful, 2) Challenged, or 3) Failed.  Successful projects are described as being completed on time, within budget, and include all of the originally planned features.  On the other hand, challenged projects are in fact operational, but are delivered over budget, behind schedule, and with fewer functionality than was originally planned.  Where as failed projects are those that are cancelled before completion.  While much praise is given to projects that are deemed successful by the above criteria, I feel that some projects are doomed from the onset, and furether more, an effective project manager will cancel (or fail) a project that Is NOT showing promise towards successful completion.  Money saved is just as good as money earned!

So what then, are factors that project managers can use to anticipate a successful project?

The following four success factors account for 60% of a project’s success:

Executive Support 18%

User Involvement 16%

Experienced Project Manager 14%

Clear Business Objectives 12%

I would like to hear your opinion and experience regarding failed projects that you’ve been involved with, and these (or other) success factors that you feel are relevant.  Remember, some projects are doomed to fail from the onset, and successful project managers have the vision to cancel doomed projects as soon as possible.. which in the end prevents the organization from losing valuable assets.

I would love to hear your feedback on future topics you would like me to cover, you can email me at

Project Management Dashboard

The down economy has affected all our personal lives in one way or another, and for those companies that are fortunate enough to still be in business, it has affected the way they do business.  One discipline where this is especially true, is project management, because it is directly focused on the management of organizational resources.  As resources become more and more scarce, internal competition between project managers for those resources has become prevalent.  To maintain stakeholder support of your projects, it’s important to provide useful information regarding the performance of your projects.  Yet time and time again, we see projects being managed without utilizing valuable metrics that are already being recorded by the underlying business processes.

Over the next couple weeks I’m going to show you how to build a project dashboard (like the one pictured above) that can effectively communicate (and justify) the healthy status of your project.  Before we can develop the dashboard we must first organize the project metrics into Project Management Institute’s 9 knowledge areas (time, cost, quality, human resources, communication, procurement, risk, and integration).

There are many books out there that merely tell you how to make your own metric templates.  If you are not a skilled statistician this can be a long and arduous process.  As such, I’ve developed a set of metric templates that drive a project dashboard, and you can purchase this toolkit at  I’ve designed it to be easily adaptable to any project you may be working on, and is preprogrammed with all of PMI’s Cost and Schedule forecasting formulas.  If you’re looking for that next big promotion, or want to show off your skills for that next big interview, this is a must have!

Join me over the next few weeks as I break down the 9 different knowledge areas, and help you identify what metrics you need and where you will find them.

Brandon Beemer, PhD, PMP