The Project Notebook

The Speed and Economics of Trust

To prepare for the PMI Leadership Institute Masters Class in October, I’ve been reading a digest of Steven Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust. He suggests that trust simply means confidence and that trust impacts (in PM terms) time and cost. We can see how this operates in the world around us:

– the cost of drug packaging increased after the Tylenol poisoning case
– the time to get through an airport increased after 9/11
– the decline of trust in corporations arguably began with Enron, resulting in costs and time for meeting Sarbanes-Oxley compliance

The summary I’m reading only gives one example of high trust (a Warren Buffett acquisition), but in thinking back, high trust has had a positive impact on my project management:

– I’ve been frequently called upon to handle failing projects or project gaps where execution was critical
– my projects have had regular reviews (weekly or monthly) while others have had more frequent scrutiny to the point where execution was slowed
– working with teams where trust is strong has helped meet or beat parameters and build high performing teams

Covey suggests that the traditional business formula of Strategy x Execution = Results is actually (Strategy x Execution) x Trust = Results. This would move trust from a “nice-to-have” to a critical position, making it required to achieve results.

The book outlines 13 behaviors exhibited by high trust leaders. The first one caught my eye — its no wonder why most politicians, used car salesmen, and many executives have an issue with trust. The behavior is “Talk Straight”. This means to communicate clearly to make sure there is no misunderstanding. No withholding, partial truth, flattery, spin or distortion of facts. (This one is easy for me… as a former New Yorker, I’m always direct).

Another concept I can readily identify with is that one of the four cores for building trust is results. Jack Welch talks about results as having clout or performance chips on the table. Results are evaluated by past performance, present performance, and anticipated future performance. Low Results = Low Trust.

This is a very difficult book to summarize because there are many dimensions of trust which are explored. So my suggestion would be to go out and get a copy because it will be a great tool for building high performance teams and achieving project excellence.

PMP® Challenge Question – 1/1

For the first reader to successfully email a correct response to two of three challenge questions (12/15, 1/1, and 1/15), I have the following gift:

Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers – The People Skills You Need to Achieve Outstanding Results by Anthony Mersino, PMP.

So without further ado, here is the question:

What does PERT stand for? What company is usually credited with the “invention” of PERT? What is the basic PERT formula?

Good luck and have a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!

A Quick Project Visual

Here is a very clever way to use MS Excel to make a quick project visual of tasks. We all think of Gantt charts as having dependency arrows, a fallacy created by project software. The original Gantt chart did not show dependencies and was a simple bar chart.

Of course we often don’t know the actual duration without knowing the effort of the tasks and the resources which apply, so a refinement would be to add a Work or Effort column and a Units column. The Units column would hold the total number of full time project resources. If a half person is applied, it would be .5. One and a half project resources would be 1.5. Using the MS Project calculation of Duration = Work x Units gets the number you need for duration. If we know the dependencies, we can simply sort the tasks to get the appropriate ordering.

Following the instructions in the video with the suggested refinements and others you might want to make create a quick project visual suitable for sharing with the executive team. An added benefit is they are likely to relate more to Excel than Project, demystifying the schedule.


Herding Cats Not Required

Some people like to refer to project management as herding cats. With all due respect, project management should be more about planning the work and then working the plan. This is usually very easy with a group of dedicated resources working on a single project, but gets to be much more difficult when fractional resources working for multiple project managers are involved.

Without the proper planning and preparation, these projects can become a little like herding cats — you constantly have to be checking in on the team to make sure the tasks for your project are getting the proper level of attention. Properly planned and executed, however, these projects can finish smoothly without the need for micro-management or cat herding.

Here are a few things you can consider to make the management of multi-project, fractional resources an easier management task:

Start with the kickoff meeting — make sure the expectations and ground rules for handling competing priorities and planning are known up front.

Plan the work and work the plan — a thorough plan with well estimated and defined tasks goes a long way to making sure everyone is on the same page. Ask everyone to carefully consider their estimates and the commitment in light of their other work.

Don’t micro manage — encourage the team to follow the plan, but be available if needed to resolve conflicts. Use the flexibility of scope and schedule to negotiate.

Enlist the aid of the functional manager — the functional manager who manages the resources needs to be sure they understand the nature of their commitment.

Handle issues promptly — since there are competing priorities, be sure issues get sorted out as soon as possible to make sure all tasks stay on track.

There will obviously be other challenges, but focusing the team on the plan will help you to spend more time planning and managing than herding cats.

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