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 brandon.beemer@epicpm.org.

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 brandon.beemer@epicpm.org, 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!

Anticipatory Leadership and Time

In my last post we discussed the power of small wins in effecting significant and systemic change.  Small wins and trimtabs.  Timtabs can turn the QM2 but you have to strategically plan and have the right time to make the turn.  The point is anticipatory leadership.

Wayne Gretsky is an example of this.  Widely regarded as the best hockey player of all time, he fundamentally change the game.  He has been asked what made him as great as he was.  His response was:

“Most players skate to where the puck is.
I skate to where it is going to be.”

Leadership that can identify opportunities for small wins and take small wins to scale, in the 21st century, does so by anticipatory leadership and reading Time.  A Project Manager who leads – leads by anticipation – by understanding and anticipating Time.

Time in ancient greek had two forms:  Chronos and Kairos.  Chronos is linear, clock & calendar time.  Kairos is the fullness of time, the right time,  pregnant time.  Leaders understand Kairos, anticipating opportunities and taking small wins within Chronos to transformation in Kairos.

So the pace of small wins (timing and amount of time) is important.  So also is “reading” the time, anticipating and leading at the opportune time.

From a leadership perspective, to see a project simply within Chronos time is to miss the fullness of time.  My partners here at EPIC PM have talked about project failure.  Projects can be a failure in Chronos at any given moment but a leader who reads time (Kairos) can see small wins turn to success.  Consider several projects that at several points of Chronos time may have been considered failures but in Kairos are now seen as successes.

The American Revolution: Almost no battles were won by the colonial troops in the American Revolution.  Leaders and members of the Civil Rights Movement were jailed, beaten, denied access and killed.  In each of these cases the movements were a failure…. until they won.

The leadership of both these movements had a strategic vision and guiding set of principles that allowed them to persevere in the midst of perceived failure and in the end show that these failures were filled with small wins aligned with the vision and values of the movement and its leadership.  So having a strategic vision and clear values is important if “failures” are to be built into small wins that turn the tide.  In the case of the American Revolution this strategic vision can be seen in the casting of the Liberty Bell twenty years prior to the Declaration of Independence.

Vision and leadership of that vision are very important in managing and weaving failures and small wins together into transformative change.   And a key component of the type of leadership needed is the component of time and how that is viewed and understood by leadership.

So “reading” the time (Kairos), anticipating and leading at the opportune time to bring transformation to fruition is key to leadership and is connected to vision and values. Reading “time” and seeing ourselves in time and space is difficult and fraught with distractions.  But a lesson from Quantum physics can help.

Because all time (chronos) is related to motion, we are able to make the following statements for a “Rocket man” traveling through space:

If we send our Rocket Man out into space at 130,000m/sec and he tracks his time traveling and returns to Earth in 5 years time, 10 years will have passed Earth in relative time.
What would have been 10 years on Earth will have only been 5 years for the Rocket Man via the theory of relativity – time related to motion.

If he travels at 150,000 m/sec, 1 day for Rocket Man will be a 1000 years on Earth.

If he travels at 180,000 m/sec; the speed of light, time will stop for Rocket Man, everything will be “now.”

“Now” is the quintessentially existential moment; it is that moment that separates the past from the future and yet is not a part of time itself.  You cannot say that this second is “now” for by the time you say it, that second is no longer “now.”  You cannot say the next half-second is “now” or the next billionth of a second is “now.” You cannot even tell me what you are thinking “now”, because by the time you have a chance to reflect on it to tell me it is no longer “now.”  “Now” is the most real moment to us and yet does not exist in time.

Being in the “now” gives a leader a chance to escape the pressures of time (chronos and Kairos) and reflect.  Here is the chance for a truly free act – the ultimate small win – out of which change can be affected and to perceive failures and small wins not as random or micro but connected in a purposive way.  Out of these moments of “now” a leader can “skate to where the puck is going to be.”

A Project Manager, who is also an EPIC leader (Empowering, Preparing, Inspiring an Connecting), leads small wins, like a timtab, by operating in chronos and reading the opportune time (Kairos) through reflecting in the “now.”

Next post we will look at a framework for leading project teams by an EPIC rubric that addresses the whole person.

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