The Project Notebook

A Fresh Start for an Old Project

By: Susan Peterson, M.B.A., PMP
Copyright 2010, Susan Peterson, All Rights Reserved

As we ring in a brand new year full of promise, we may feel the incentive to make resolutions to improve our lives in a variety of ways. Just as the calendar gives us an “excuse” to start anew in our personal lives, it can also give us the impetus to re-think the current projects with which we are involved. It’s easy, particularly with a lengthy project, to feel trapped in a rut. The meetings all sound alike, the progress is miniscule, and the personality conflicts abound. Or perhaps the project is progressing as planned, but people seem to be sleepwalking through their tasks. While keeping the goals of a project intact, there are some easy actions that can revitalize a ‘tired’ project.

A good place to start with a fresh approach is the actual project work to be accomplished. A quick, high-level overview of what’s progressing, what’s lagging, and what doesn’t seem to be moving at all can often pinpoint tasks that can be dropped or at least modified. Generally, at the beginning of a project there is a tendency to list every possible task in order to ensure that nothing will be missed. As the project progresses, at least some of these tasks become superfluous, redundant or meaningless. Since other tasks surface as the project progresses, the team members as well as the project manager can experience a sense of being overwhelmed. The overview can identify tasks that can be dropped, leaving everyone with a sense of relief.

A common challenge on project teams is that there is little or no “cross pollinization” among team members with regard to activities and responsibilities. The start of a new year is a good time to make some changes in who is doing what. The team can provide input with regard to new assignments so that the project manager is not faced with merely rearranging the Gantt chart resource allocations. While there are some people who would not willingly accept a different assignment even if it meant a 50% raise, the majority will welcome some change that they have controlled. New perspectives are bound to surface.

What would a project be without meetings? Now is a great time to look at the actual purpose of each scheduled periodic meeting that is connected with the project. Consider the following questions:
1) What is actually getting accomplished in each one of these meetings?
2) Are the meetings poorly attended?
3) Is the attendee list growing while the output is dwindling?
4) Are the same things being re-hashed at every session?
If the answer to #1 is “very little” or “nothing” and at least one of the remaining questions can be answered with a loud “yes”, it’s time to revamp the meeting, eliminate it or use a more effective method of communication.

Now that everyone is back from the holidays, it’s a good time to re-energize projects by capitalizing on the renewed energies of the manager and the team. A little overhauling can produce major positive results.

Best wishes for 2011!

Susan Peterson, M.B.A., PMP, is a consultant who manages diverse programs and projects in both the private and public sectors for individual organizations and consortia. She also conducts enterprise assessments of project portfolio management practices. Prior to establishing her consulting practice Susan led major efforts for Fortune 100 organizations throughout the United States. She teaches the Project Management Simulation capstone course as well as the Project Portfolio Management course in the University of California, San Diego, Project Management certificate program and is a member of the curriculum committee. She can be contacted at

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PMP® Challenge Question – 9/15

The 9/1 challenge asked you to name at least 6 communication blockers. Some of them on my list include:

– noise
– interrupting
– blaming/accusing
– insulting
– judging or stating opinion as fact
– ignoring

Did you have others on your list? Drop a comment to this post or email

Now for the new challenge question – we’ll make it easy this time — what project document is created by decomposing the project scope into smaller, more manageable deliverables?

See you 10/1!

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PMP® Challenge Question – 9/1

Our 8/15 challenge asked — in an organization, who is responsible for quality? The answer is the whole organization! The Project Manager has the responsibility to ensure there is a plan for quality of the project, but each team member is also responsible for checking their own work. Senior management has the responsibility for quality in the organization as a whole. Work needs to meet the requirements and testing should be done prior to completion of each deliverable.

For our next challenge, can you name at least 6 communication blockers? See you on 9/15 with the answer.

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PMP® Challenge Question – 1/1

Watch for the next PMP® Challenge Giveaway beginning on 2/1/08!

The 12/15 Challenge was pretty straightforward — name at least 10 different types of information a Project Manager must communicate. Of course there are many different things you can put on your list, but here is mine (in no particular order) to compare to:

  1. Project Charter and purpose
  2. Project Plan
  3. Work Breakdown Structure
  4. Welcome and directions to first project team meeting
  5. Meeting agendas
  6. New risks and issues
  7. Earned Value report
  8. Project budget
  9. Project lessons learned
  10. Project expense report

Since its a New Year, I thought I would do something different for the first challenge of 2008. First, go ahead and jot down the 5 project phases (according to the PMBOK). Got it? Now read this article [*** sorry! this link is no longer available]and watch the video below. Under each project phase, jot down some of the activities you observed. What was the approximate project budget? I’ll be back on 1/15 with the answers — I hope you find it at least entertaining!


PMP® Exam Eligibility:

– Have 35 hours of Project Management training. For those who have learned “on the job”, many PMI Chapters offer PMP Exam review classes which have at least 35 contact hours to help you meet this criteria.
– With a Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent: Have a minimum three years’ professional project management experience, during which 4,500 hours are spent leading and directing project tasks, within an 8-year period.
– Without a Bachelor’s Degree, the hours are increased to 7,500.

Perhaps more daunting than the exam itself is the application. You will have to create a detailed resume showing the experience project-by-project. Each entry requires a reference contact. In general, the steps to take are:

1. Join PMI and your local PMI Chapter (this will save you money and provide important resources for assistance).
2. Fill out the detailed online application and pay the (reduced for member) fees.
3. Take the 200 question multiple choice test at a Prometric testing center. You will know your status as soon as you pass the exam and upon passing will automatically be added to the online registry of PMPs. Prospective employers and clients have access to this registry to verify your certification.

If you require further assistance with certification, please leave a comment or drop me a line at

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