The Project Notebook

Handling Project Re-work

A reader at asked:  How do I account for project re-work in the project plan? 

In anticipation of us all doing the right thing, there really isn’t any formal guideline for handling re-work in a schedule which is universal.  Every organization sets their own norms.  In fact, I’m not sure I would want to call it out as a separately tracked item unless there was an ongoing issue with re-work from a project team, which does happen.  The expectation for any properly managed project is that some tasks will come in early and some will be late for a variety of reasons, including re-work.  The end result is that you hit the mark at the end of the project, or at least come close (within 10-20%).  Perhaps the better question is: How do I keep all my projects on track?

I have used a few different methods myself in the past:

  1. After the project schedule is complete, add a portion of your contingency time to all tasks resulting in deliverables.  If re-work isn’t significant or required to be tracked separately, this is ideal and you just track the schedule and actual time spent in the plan without doing anything special.  In general, as time on the project progresses, some tasks will come in early and some will be late (for many different reasons including re-work).  In some environments (e.g. software/technology) there will be other documents such as bug tickets from which you can derive the project time on re-work if necessary. Track in a separate spreadsheet if necessary.
  2. Possibly in conjunction with #1, and if re-work tracking isn’t important, just track the rework as actual time against the original task or the QA task for the deliverable being re-worked.  Without the contingency, your performance against baseline will not be good, but you will have accurately captured the project timeline status.
  3. If re-work tracking is important to the project and your organization, add new tasks and deliverables to the project without re-baselining.  These too will be deviations from the baseline.  If the deviations become too significant, then you may want to consider re-baselining the project which will mean re-estimating all tasks going forward.

The bottom line is that estimates are exactly that — estimates.  We don’t need to tell people “no rework allowed”.  At the same time, we need to maintain the expectation that everyone is doing the right thing and trying their best to minimize re-work.  Well managed projects tend to “hit their mark” because some tasks are early and some are late.  If you are not experiencing this, there may be some issues with your estimating process or scheduling process, and you need to reflect on how to best manage that.  If this is allowed to go on for too long, you will tend to build dysfunction into the project team and the organization.  The PMBOK® Guide tells us that the result of poor quality and a lot of re-work is a demoralized and low performing team.

Another possibility for frequently missed projects is that expectation setting may need adjustment.  I’ve always set the expectation, especially on software and knowledge projects, that if you are going to be late (for any reason) that you will “go the extra mile” and put in a little overtime to bring the project back on track.  I don’t put this out up front — if someone is repeatedly missing the mark I will ask they meet this expecation in the future.  Over time, this usually helps improve the estimates and inputs into plans — after all, who wants to work nights and weekends all the time?  This is a gentle and fair way of encouraging the team to perform.

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Controlling Project Costs and Risks – Spring 2011

My popular UCSD Extension course, Controlling Project Costs and Risks,  is going to be available online through the BlackBoard Academic Suite platform beginning Monday, April 4th. It’s a true anywhere, anytime learning course with a guided, asynchronous discussion.

Project management and control is simplified by good planning right from the start. The course is totally online and includes 27 hours of instruction.  The course is offered a limited number of times each year, and covers the following topics:

  • Introduction to the BlackBoard System and Course
  • Selecting and Planning Projects
  • Controlling Project Costs with Estimates and Contracts
  • Measuring Project Financial Progress
  • Controlling Project Scope and Changes
  • The Role of Communications in Controlling Costs and Risks
  • Controlling Project Risks
  • Risk Management Tools
  • Cost and Risk Case Studies
  • Miscellaneous Topics
    • Conducting Project Reviews
    • Relationship Between Schedules, Costs, and Risks
    • Managing Projects with Fixed Constraints
    • Why Do Managed Projects Fail?
    • The Relationship Between Projects and Products

More information and online enrollment is available from the course catalog at: Controlling Project Costs and Risks.

Here’s what learners are saying about the course:

“I was so impressed with how organized Ray is. I hope he teaches more classes soon!”

“Ray is one of the best instructors that I have come across via ‘online’ learning. He is very well organized, knows the material inside out, and encourages students to learn as much as we can by providing very valuable and informative information. I highly recommend Ray as an instructor.”

“Enthusiastic about the material. Brought quite a bit of supplemental material to the course. It was nice that you could read as much or as little of it to augment the learning that you were doing.”

“Thank you for creating a class that was stimulating to the point and enjoyable.”

“PLEASE ask the other instructors to follow his lead. His course materials are well written, organized and make sense from the start.”

More information and online enrollment is available from the course catalog at: Controlling Project Costs and Risks.

Hope to see you online at UCSD Extension soon!

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You Know You are the “Knighted” Project Manager When ….

With the widespread recognition of Project Management as a valuable corporate core competency, the current economic client, and the continued challenges of doing more with less, I continue to observe more and more project managers that have been bestowed the title (either by themselves or their managers) without the proper support and training to truly fulfill the role in a way that will help them and their organizations succeed. Here are the top 10 ways you might determine if you have been put in this position:

10. You feel you are spending more times in meetings than doing anything else
  9.  You don’t know what PMP® or CAPM® stand for
  8.  You believe the primary responsibility of the project manager is to produce a Gantt chart
  7.  You believe senior executives will read your Gantt chart
  6.  You have a copy of the MS Project documentation, but not a PMBOK® Guide
  5.  You have trouble balancing your checkbook let alone a budget
  4.  You believe that “managing by influence” includes financial payments
  3.  Your status reports contain nothing but issues
  2.  You don’t know that there are ANSI and ISO standard for the practice of project management
  1.  You aren’t aware there is an organization with more than half a million stakeholders serving an estimated market of 19M project management practitioners worldwide

If more than 2 or 3 of the above apply to you, please come back and visit this blog frequently as well as visit our partner sites!

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What’s in Your Management Planning Meeting?


What's in Your Planning Meeting?

Did you meet all your expected business outcomes in 2010? Were you “promise keepers” that made “raving fans” of your clients and other stakeholders? If not, perhaps one agenda item for 01/01/2011 should be a review of your management planning meetings. How are they conducted? What is the agenda? What are the desired outcomes? Are these status and “look back” meetings? Or forward looking planning meetings?

Let’s take a quick look at the words and see what they tell us about what the meeting should be. We’ve all heard the quote about management being about doing things right (vs. leadership as doing the right things). Is there an emphasis in your meeting about doing things right? Planning implies a forward look at the business outcomes and the resources, time lines, and budgets which will be applied to achieve them. These definitions set the stage for consideration of how your management planning meeting might be reshaped. As Stephen Covey says in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind.” The meeting purpose (Management Planning) should determine the focus and the agenda.

Status and “look back” are important. Where you have been should at least have some consideration in where you are going next. But status and look back shouldn’t consume the entire meeting. I can’t say I can tell you a percentage, however one way of reducing this to zero is by having short (no more than a half page) written status reports that are shared with your Board or other senior leader colleagues in advance of the planning meeting. The status updates should be shared at least a day or two before the planning meeting so issues can be considered while forming forward looking strategies.

That allows the management planning meeting to have a forward looking agenda. It would be appropriate for each department to state the objectives and outcomes they plan to meet in the coming week(s). Special emphasis should be given to collaborative or cooperative needs. That gives everyone a chance to have a voice and discuss any resourcing or budgeting issues which may arise. There is not just a focus on planning, but on problem solving.

The other important ingredient of your Management Planning Meeting is that all the required participants be present. This should be set aside as a sacred time so that critical decision makers and those required to solve problems will be present. If everyone cannot be there, then in most cases the meeting should be postponed to avoid improperly considered decisions. Not finding a time when this is possible? Then the agenda of your first planning meeting in 2011 should be to solve the problem of making this possible.

Don’t be shy about providing meeting pre-work. Pre-work isn’t about passing out the PowerPoints so that the meeting just rehashes them. Its about providing background documentation and information for the decisions that must be made and the problems to solve. This will help participants to be prepared to more effectively meet the goals of the meeting.

During the meeting, a volunteer or appointed scribe should take notes on the actions and outcomes agreed to. A five minute debrief will allow the scribe to read back the notes and actions for accuracy. The meeting should close with a quick check on the meeting progress and what, if anything, should be modified to make the next meeting more effective.

Your effective use of meeting time will build enthusiasm and commitment — two of the essential ingredients of building a high performing team. The well planned and faciliated meeting promotes better follow up and follow through, and set the stage for the meeting results needed to improve execution and ability to meet the planned outcomes. Well planned and implemented meetings will yield achievable and predicatable results going forward. Isn’t this, after all, what you really set out to accomplish?

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© 2010-2012 Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP, CCP