Project Management

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I've never been comfortable with the concept of "Man Hours," not that it's a gender issue, but rather it implies ignorance of how time is used in the work place and fumbles away some simple management concepts needed to run any business, namely accountability and commitment. Actually, I thought the "Man Hour" concept disappeared with the passing of the 20th century, but it appears to be making a comeback.

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With current economic conditions, companies are striving to do more with fewer resources, both human and material. So it should be no surprise that the fusion of business processes and practices is both relevant and necessary. Over the past two decades business methodologies and corporate programs have established track records that demonstrate performance and quality improvements within their organizations.

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When I’m not consulting or managing projects, some of my time is spent teaching MBA classes at Drake University.  The fact that I teach both project management AND creativity for business creates consternation among some of my friends and colleagues.  After all, can a project manager really be creative?  Aren’t those mutually exclusive skills?

My response is a great project manager also must excel at creativity to remain a viable, valuable asset in today’s marketplace.  Gone are the days of simply managing scope within a budget and schedule; project managers must be multi-faceted utility players.  Project and program managers are being expected to create solutions, to facilitate conflicts, and to motivate resources toward a goal in ways never before anticipated.

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The ultimate management sin is to waste people’s time, Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister told us in their famous book Peopleware [1]. This includes having pointless meetings that prevent people from actually doing anything useful. Nevertheless, some meetings are considered a necessary evil and therefore the so-called “agile movement” in software development has come up with an efficient way of dealing with this: the Stand-up Meeting in 15 Minutes. For those who have just woken up from ten years of hibernation, or having emerged from a cave that had no Internet access, I will explain this briefly.

A stand-up meeting is a daily meeting where people remain standing up to keep the duration of the meeting under 15 minutes. Teams use these meetings to answer three simple questions..

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The short answer: "Because it requires work."

The long answer: People tend to resist gazing into the crystal ball and prefer to react to life as it passes them by. Some people believe planning in today's ever changing world is a waste of time, that you must be more "agile" and accommodate changes as they occur. As anyone who has designed and built anything of substance knows, this is utterly ridiculous. We would not have the many great skyscrapers, bridges, dams, highways, ships, planes, and other sophisticated equipment without the efforts of architects and engineers. Without such planning, our country would look essentially no different than how the pioneers first discovered the continent. Although we must certainly be flexible in our plans, and we will inevitably make some mistakes along the way, little progress would be made if we did not try to plan a course of action and control our destiny.

People often take planning for granted, that someone else will be making plans for us, such as government officials, our corporate management, or even the elders of our families. Consequently we become rather lax about looking into the future. Nor is there any encouragement by anyone to plan our affairs, such as a tax break. Whereas other countries offer incentives to save money for the future, such as Japan, America does not. Therefore, planning is a rather personal activity; we either see the virtue in doing so or we do not.

Author: Tim Bryce

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The pointy haired manager in Scott Adams' "Dilbert" cartoon has become an icon for management incompetence. Although Adams' character may seem like an extreme, we have all encountered various examples of the Peter Principle whereby people have risen above their level of competency. We see this not only in our companies, but also in the nonprofit organizations we are involved in. Basically, these are some very nice people who simply haven't a clue as to what they are doing and stumble through each day making bad decisions which drives their subordinates to madness.

Author: Tim Bryce

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Discusses the use of worker time and how it impacts estimating and scheduling in Project Management....

It's been a while since I've discussed the concept of "effectiveness" but I was recently up in Cincinnati and saw it in action again. This time, I happened to be visiting my brother-in-law who had hired a crew to tear down some dead trees on his property. I went outside to enjoy a cigar and watch the activity. There were three workers who tended to their own individual tasks most of the time; one was busy cutting wood, one was concerned with splitting wood, and one was responsible for hauling it away. When each tended to their own task, they were very productive, but when they grouped together to perform something collectively, I noticed their output dropped significantly as it seemed two watched one work.

Author: Tim Bryce

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A good negotiation method should protect you from making a bad agreement or rejecting one that you should accept. For example, if you implement a bottom line – by establishing in advance your worst acceptable outcome, such as the lowest price you’d accept for an item you’re selling – you’re limiting your options if circumstances should change durin...
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Have you found yourself wondering those exact words just moments after a conversation with a co-worker? Or have you found yourself in a heated discussion because of something you've said to your spouse or loved one? Better still, your teenager gives you the "deer caught in the headlights" look when you ask where have they been so late at night? You...
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Any project that is cancelled, not completed, or fails to meet its objectives and has to be written off, is obviously a waste of organization resources and time. However, it is also not enough just to successfully execute a project to completion. A successful project that is not implemented or used because it doesn't meet the customer's or user's r...
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Having been involved with the systems methodologies field for over 30 years I have been occasionally asked what percentage of time in a project should typically be devoted to a specific phase of work, for example a Phase 1 Feasibility Study, Phase 2 Systems Design, etc. Basically, the reason the person wants to know this is to use it as a means for estimating the remainder of the project. For example, if I were to say Phase 1 represents 10% of the overall project, they would simply multiply the amount of time spent in Phase 1 by ten. This is an unreliable approach for estimating which is why I usually balk at giving out such figures.

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Agile software development teams embrace change, accepting the idea that requirements will evolve throughout a project. Agilists understand that because requirements evolve over time that any early investment in detailed documentation will only be wasted. Instead agilists will do just enough initial requirements envisioning to identify their projec...
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Requirements Risk management could be a useful approach to requirements analysis, and lead to better requirements management.

High level the idea goes like this:

Risk management is an important part of project management
Requirements management is also a critical part of the puzzle
Should we be running a requirements risk management process on our projects?
The purpose of this article is to introduce the topic of Requirements risk into the Requirements Management discussion. Feedback and commentary is welcome and can be provided at ModernAnalyst.com

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Whether you call them Systems Analysts, Business Analysts, Systems Engineers, or Enterprise Architects, it is very encouraging to see this vital function being reintroduced to companies. As far as I am concerned, it was inevitable. I guess companies finally figured out you cannot satisfy your systems problems simply by using better programming tools and techniques.

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The project scope is the core of an individual project. Without a project scope the project will just float. Proper needs assessments and other intricate details will be overlooked. Each project is designed to resolve issues the stakeholders are experiencing in their company. These well meaning individuals will dump data and information charts, lists and figures presumptuously on the desk expecting it to all make sense. The "here's the problem, fix it" attitude can be frustrating. There are numerous feature requirements which must be met. It is unclear as to what to prioritize where. Cost estimates may not be accurate. Delivery dates are tentative. It is enough to make someone through up their hands in desperation and say "I QUIT!". The trained business analyst will just grin and dive in. He or she will know what is needed is a project scope.

Author: Tony de Bree

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