The Project Notebook

Happy Weekend!

To my mid-Atlantic friends and clients digging out of snow — stay safe! When the local infrastructure can’t handle the volume, with a short wait nature and some sunlight will. Or try my college approach: host a poker game with friends and neighbors. It passes the time indoors and winner’s car is dug out by the less fortunate. (P.S. There is a downside — as the winner you will become the designated driver to the party until the snow melts).

Weekend brain teaser: If a few feet of snow in DC and NY is dubbed “Snowzilla” and “Snowmeggeddon”, what do you call it when in late April where you find yourself poking in the snow with a stick to find the roof of your car? What would you call a few inches of snow in San Diego (the city only; we have snow on the mountains in the county) or Honolulu?

To all my readers: Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Presidents’ Day. Enjoy the long weekend.

Coming attractions on the Project Notebook:

2/19 – I answer a PM Hut reader’s question on software delivery compliance
3/1 – Finally, the answer to the question that brings the most readers to this blog: So What is a Project Notebook?

Happy Weekend! As always, please feel free to leave comments or drop me a line at

A Happy and Safe Fourth of July

Enjoy the holiday … back next week!

Grateful and Resolute

I recently returned from a 10 day trip to the east coast, visiting clients and attending PMI’s annual Volunteer Strategy and Planning meeting in Philadelphia. In addition to accomplishing vast amounts of work given the availability of a longer day without interruption due to travel and time zone, the trip afforded me some personal reflection time to set personal expectations for the new year.

Of course, I am, as always, grateful for family, friends, good health, and professional colleagues on multiple continents. Probing deeper, however, brought forward the following additional things I am and continue to be grateful for:

– The visitors to this blog. In the last year, an increased number stopped to read at least the most recently posted article and some probed into past articles.
– The experience and learning afforded by volunteerism with PMI. I constantly find new learnings to apply in other areas of my life, including my professional work and this blog. This includes access to the many online courses offered by Harvard Business School.
– The impact I believe my day-to-day work has on education. Improving the education afforded to all students, regardless of age, should be a priority for America and I am able to help introduce improvements, even if only a few teachers and students at a time. This includes continuing to introduce the basics of project management to an industry which has been a late adopter.
– The opportunity to provide high quality education and training to aspiring project managers through an online offering of my Controlling Project Costs and Risks course at UCSD Extension. I no longer have the time to spend in the classroom, but continue to grow my network of students of project management. 2009 will mark the eighth year of this course, which has undergone several major transformations and improvements.
– Susan Peterson, who has graciously allowed me to re-publish her past articles on this blog.
– Fadi El-Eter at PM Hut who re-publishes Susan’s and my articles on his site. Fadi is committed to making PM Hut one of the number one resources for project managers.

After reflecting on this abundance of opportunity, I made several resolutions for the new year to which I will be held accountable:

– After putting together my tax information, I found that 85% of my revenue of my online class was donated to support education, including the PMI Education Foundation and medical research and education at UC San Diego and the University of Hawaii. I will commit to 85% again this year, without limitation. Every student signing up for Controlling Project Costs and Risks will both get a superior project management education as well as contribute to continuing education and research.
– I will extend the online version of Controlling Project Costs and Risks to include a new resource on project management budgeting. While not all project managers are responsible for budgets (and often don’t even know what the budget is), this seems like an important skill in a challenging economy.
– I will promote the concepts of RACI, SMART Goals, and Six Hats Thinking at every opportunity. These very fundamental concepts are useful in moving projects forward. This means they will be integrated into the online class as well.
– For the coming year, the articles of this blog will move more toward advanced project management and PMOs, while continuing to provide challenging questions for aspiring CAPMs and PMPs to consider.
– I will continue to dedicate time to PMI volunteer activities, both as a member of the Governance Committee and as a resource to the new Component Mentor for Region 7.

As always, if you have any thoughts you would like to share, please leave a comment on this post or drop me an email at Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

What if the Holidays Aren’t Happy

By: Susan Peterson, M.B.A., PMP
Copyright 2008, Susan Peterson, All Rights Reserved

Usually my December column has focused on managing projects through the seasonal abundance of joy that can accompany the year-end holidays. However, this year’s holiday season seems to be destined to be more heavily weighted toward gloom rather than toward mirth. “Doing more with less” is giving way to “doing something with nothing” on personal, organizational, and global fronts. Even a well-managed project can rapidly decline in effectiveness when the team members, sponsors, and other stakeholders are constantly bombarded with media reminders of the latest bad news. So with the hope that someday this era will be just a dim, bad memory, this month’s column provides some ideas for leading projects through bleak times.

Focus on success
It’s common at the end of the year to reflect on past events. Assuming that the project has accomplished the majority of its deliverables and met most of its milestones, it is a good time to highlight the major project successes. Rather than just focusing on the achievement of Gantt chart targets, the contributions of each team member and stakeholder can be highlighted across the accomplishments. This recognition can be made in a variety of methods, such as brief descriptions/photos on the project’s website, a special recognition meeting, or a potluck lunch. Funds for more elaborate forms of recognition may be nonexistent this year, but personal recognition is always a nice “present”.

Now some of you may be saying, “What success? My project budget was cut without warning, some of my team was laid off, and we’ve been told that any project could be terminated with or without advance notice.” There still were probably successes, however small, that demonstrated that heroic efforts paid off even in dire circumstances. In fact, sometimes it’s a morale booster to look back at projects that have been through survival mode and to be happily surprised at the level of accomplishments. Some people may even find that they no longer fear certain challenging situations such as having to drastically cut budgets because they know that they have been tested and have risen to the challenge.

When all else fails, there’s always work
This column section is not advocating that becoming a workaholic is a cure for depressing news. However, team members may welcome the need to dig into some intense, short duration tasks that require concentration or that provide mental stimulation. Perhaps there is some vendor assessment that needs to be conducted or a prototype design effort that requires input from multiple team members. The key is to plan activities in segments or phases that can be readily accomplished and that provide a series of opportunities for successes. It is also important to determine which activities are best performed by individuals versus those that will be more effectively completed with multiple personnel.

There are no quick fixes
While we might like to believe that taking two aspirin and getting a good night’s rest will make everything “right” immediately, the more plausible perspective is that recovery is not right around the corner. Rather than wasting energy on twisting with every “up and down”, project managers need to remain focused on project goals.

They also need to continue to assess how the project goals are aligning with changes that the organization may be making in this economic environment. Sometimes critical projects are shelved during declining times only to find later that those projects should have been continued even if they needed some modifications in order to remain relevant. For example, companies need to continue anticipating needs for new products and services. While budgets may be reduced for the foreseeable future, companies need to be ready to bring new offerings to market as economies rebound.

Let us all hope for a positive 2009!

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. An overview of her program and project specialties is available at; select “Resources” then “Consultants”. She teaches the Project Management Simulation capstone 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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© 2010-2012 Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP, CCP