The Project Notebook

PMP® Challenge Question – 6/15

This is number three in a series for the latest giveaway (see Challenge Questions for 6/1 and 5/15 for more details. Be sure to submit your answers to before midnight, June 18th. Good luck with the Challenge!

The PMBOK® Guide mentions the term “corrective action” multiple times. What does it mean to “take timely corrective action”? Hint: While this is more of an essay question,there is one critical word which must be included.

I’ll return on 7/1 with the answers and the winners.

Software Without Limits: More is Never Enough

Today’s “tale” may seem oriented to programmers and the software industry, but I am sure there are analogies in other industries. If this looks familiar to you, please drop me a note as a comment or by email.

One lesson I learned long ago in the mainframe world still applies today — one more is never enough. Users and clients will ask for one more item, one more element, one more word of storage. But this will never satisfy the insatiable need for more.

I wrote an assembler that allowed for approximately 4,000 labels. Before you know it, I had a request to bump it to 8,000 — my assembler was fast and the programmers were able to write larger programs. When that wasn’t enough, I took the hint and made the number of labels unlimited, subject only to the amount of storage available. The program ran for close to 12 years without maintenance. And they never ran out of storage for labels or complained the programs couldn’t be big enough.

So when software teams ask me to ask the client or user “how many?”, my answer is usually “as many as you can give” or “anticipate unlimited”. Think big! We can get faster and more storage inexpensively, so its ideal to minimize the need maintenance and the inconvenience of a wait for an update to add “just one more”.

Time, Deliverbables, or Outcomes?

Last week I discussed the right amount of governance, so this week its only appropriate to take a brief look at how governance should function. On several occasions during the week I came across statements and questions about managing by time, deliverables, or outcomes. One person I spoke with mentioned switching to a “deliverables based organization”. Ideally, you will need a balance of each. Each has their positives and drawbacks, so achieving a balance can make a difference to the effectiveness of the management team.

Managing by time alone has an obvious drawback. You may never achieve a deliverable or outcome — the organization will just “mark time” in the configuration you are managing to. Yet I need to manage time to make sure my schedules are correct and recognize events which require corrective actions. In a similar manner, deliverables and outcomes get things to happen, but not necessarily in a timely manner. They are required, however, to get things done. Achieving the balance will get you the on time, on budget, and satisfied customer project delivery.

I’ve noticed the “triangle” concept can be applied in many ways to an organization. Having worked in a company that had customer satisfaction and high availability (99.999%) of its services, I can tell you the most effective plan developed was one that looked at revenue (made sure the money was still coming in), availability (99.999% goal), and customer satisfaction (based on a weekly client services rating of customer “health”). All key company communications carried this message in some form, there were progress charts posted weekly, and bonuses and performance plans were tied to it. Once in a while, a 99.998% was overlooked, but most of the time a “miss” generated sessions to uncover what went right, what contributed to the issue, and a go forward plan of corrective action. The message here is that on time, on budget, and satisfied customers doesn’t reflect the highest values, you may need to modify them to ensure you are looking at the right set of metrics.

Of course you can relate this discussion to metrics and KPI (key performance indicators) as well. Take a look around and see if you can determine what combination will help propel your projects forward to success.

If it is to be …

[Just enough time to squeeze in a short entry this week … I’m getting ready for the company quarterly planning meeting next week and wrapping up a very long to-do list from the PMI Region 7 Leadership meeting last weekend. Be sure to drop in a comment if disagree or agree with this message.]

Neil Whitten as the keynote speaker at the PMI Region 7 Leadership Meeting last weekend. While some of the feedback indicated his message wasn’t relevant to Region 7 Leaders, there was a very powerful underlying theme which shouldn’t be overlooked by any Project Manager. In fact, he spelled it out at one point as 7 very powerfully arranged two letter words: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Business owners hire us as Project Managers expecting business results. If we spend our time whining and complaining about situations — we don’t have enough resources, there’s not enough time, we don’t have the budget for it, headquarters isn’t helping, the field office isn’t cooperating, ad infinitum — we’re missing the point. In spite of adversity, its up to us to do our best and get the job done in a thorough, professional, and quality manner. Neil related one project where he drove to the airport to intercept an executive to escalate a project need. Now we don’t all need to go to these lengths, but the message is important. Buckle down, clearly identify and back up needs with business cases, and escalate in a responsible manner if you are not getting what the team truly believes is needed and can responsibly demonstrate project impact.

So on our next projects, let’s all make sure we understand — “the buck stops with us”!

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