Monthly Archives: December 2008

Welcome to the Stakeholder Blog

Dr Lynda Bourne, a contributor to this blog has started her own blog focused on successful stakeholder management using her SRMM® and Stakeholder Circle® methodologies and tools. To read more, see http://www.stakeholder-management.com/blog/

Scheduling For Effect

A few thoughts for every scheduler’s New Year resolutions.

  1. You can’t change the past, the present is being managed by the project workforce, the only thing you can influence with your schedules is the future. To achieve this, the schedule needs to be an effective communication medium that can be easily understood by the project workforce if it is going to have any impact on their future actions.
    Resolution #1 – I will make my schedule reports easy to understand!
  2. Useful schedules are useful because they are used! For a schedule to be used, the scheduler needs to design it so that the right information can be given to the right person (stakeholder) at the right time.
    Resolution #2 – I will set my schedules up in such a way that it is easy to extract focused reports for each of the key stakeholders that are easy for them to use.
  3. There is no point in communicating with someone if you don’t want then to act on the communication. Communication without expecting an action/reaction simply wastes everyone’s time, particularly yours.
    Resolution #3 – My schedule reports will be focused on communicating useful information that will encourage relevant action on the part of the receiver.

I will leave the other resolutions such as establishing a better work/life balance, doing more exercise and losing weight to you.

Two things triggered this blog, one was reading a post from ‘Ask E.T.’ (Edward Tufte) on Project Management Graphics (or Gantt Charts) – see http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=000076&topic_id=1&topic=Ask%20E%2eT%2e  Tufte is one of the leading thinkers of the graphical presentation of data and has a few neat ideas.

The other was finishing off two papers for presentation next year:

  • Scheduling in the Age of Complexity (undergoing peer review)
  • Improving Schedule Management (available for download)

Both can be downloaded from http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Planning.html#Papers

All of the above have a common underlying theme – we need to make our schedules more useful in 2009 if we are going to improve project delivery.

Wishing you all a great New Year.

Scheduling Update

Mosaic’s scheduling home page has five core scheduling papers available for free download:
The Attributes of a Scheduler
A Guide to Good Scheduling Practice
Dynamic Scheduling
Links, Lags & Ladders
Schedule Levels

All of these paper have been upgraded in the last few days based on the work undertaken to write two major papers for presentation in 2009:
Improving Schedule Management accepted for the PMI Asia Pacific Congress: Kuala Lumpur in February and
Scheduling in the Age of Complexity currently undergoing a peer review process for the PMI College Of Scheduling, 6th Annual Conference: Boston, USA, in May.

If you are interested in scheduling you are welcome to download and use the information and contribute comments to this blog.

There are rather a lot of links in this Blog; hopefully the referenced information will spark some interest. Mosaic has very limited commercial interests in scheduling these days, but after 30 years working in the business I definitely want to see the practice of scheduling return to the level of competence prevalent the 1980s and this wont happen without information on good scheduling practice becoming more readily available.

See you in Kuala Lumpur

PMI Global Congress Asia Pacific 2009

PMI Global Congress Asia Pacific 2009

I’m pleased to say my paper for the PMI Asia Pacific Congress is finished at last…. it’s focused on effective schedule management in the 21st century. To pre-view the paper go to http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Resources_Papers_081.html

Apart from my scheduling paper, Mosaic’s other contributor to this blog, Lynda Bourne, will be presenting the official PMI OPM3 presentation: ‘Optimizing Organizational Performance: Harnessing the Power of Project Management’ and also our workshop ‘The science and art of communicating effectively’ as part of the PMI SeminarsWorld following the congress.

So with all of the hard work done, we are now starting to plan our travels to Malaysia for February 2009. The PMI Congress is being held at KLCC from 9th to 11th Feb. We have both been regular visitors to KL over the years and are looking forward to returning to a wonderfully vibrant city.

Between us, we have been to all of the PMI Global Congresses in the Asia Pacific and find them both educational and enjoyable – if you can make the Congress, we would certainly enjoy catching up.

Shane Warne the Musical

This blog is nothing to do with our focus on project management and training but we went to see Shane Warne: The Musical last night and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

I know many readers of this blog will be oblivious to the game of cricket – if this is the case read no further. Also if you live in Adelaide or the UK (poms cop a verbal bashing) the show probably won’t be all that popular. For the rest of us, if you are visiting Melbourne in the next few weeks (or if the show travels to other cities), and you like cricket, outrageous comedy and music theatre the show is definitely worth seeing. For more information visit: http://www.shanewarnethemusical.com.au

More normal blogs will resume as soon as I finish my paper, Improving Schedule Management, for the PMI Asia Pacific Congress in Kuala Lumpur– its late already……

Learning from your Mistakes

I have had to confront a couple of different aspects of people getting things wrong recently. The experience triggered 2 or 3 thoughts……

The first was the advice given last century by (from memory) Fred Daly MP to a new member of parliament ‘always leave the back door unlocked’ – no matter how sure you are of the correctness of your position in an argument always have a way to back out gracefully.

Every one wants to employ experienced people but very few employers tolerate mistakes…. To quote Denis Waitley: “Mistakes are painful when they happen, but years later a collection of mistakes is what is called experience” and Franklin P. Jones “Experience is that marvellous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again”. You cannot attempt something new without occasionally making mistakes – the skill is to use your experience to recognise a pending mistake early and short circuit the error.

Lesson’s Learned should be the repository of ‘other peoples’ mistakes that you can draw on to avoid repeating them yourself – as quoted in ‘The Knack’, “A smart person learns from his or her mistakes. A wise person learns from other people’s mistakes.”

And then there is the question of what to do about your mistakes. The generally accepted process for getting over a mistake is:

  • Acknowledge it (“my mistake”)
  • Make restitution if needed (eg apologise)
  • Learn from it
  • Move on, only people who have never made anything have never made a mistake.

In moving on though, make sure you take your enhanced experience with you.

One last thought from Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.”  The same idea applies to making decisions; every decision you make may be wrong but in the long run no decisions are usually worse than wrong decisions and your decision may be correct (but it helps if you can leave the “back door unlocked”).

PMI Exam Planner

PMI have released a nifty new tool to help candidates for any of the PMI Credentials including CAPM, PMP, PgMP and PMI-SP, determine which of the PMI standards to use for their exam preparation based on the planned date for sitting the exam.

All credential exams reference the PMBOK® Guide to some extent, and PgMP candidates also need to study The Standard for Program Management

Which Edition Do I Study? is an interactive web-based tool that allows the user to select:

1. the exam they are taking;
2. the date they plan on taking the exam and
3. receive a personalised study recommendation

View more information at the following link: http://www.pmi.org/Resources/Pages/2008StandardsUpdate.aspx

As far as we can tell, PMI are still on track for the release of all four standards by the end of 2008, including PMBOK® Guide 4th Edition, and ‘second editions’ of The Standard for Portfolio Management, The Standard for Program Management and the OPM3 Knowledge Foundation.

For more on the changes see our earlier blogs:

One of the big jobs in our schedule for the first part of 2009 is the progressive updating of our courses to work in with the changes to the exams….. this is not too hard for our classroom courses but will require careful management with our Mentored Email™ students who can take two to three months (or longer) to work through their CAPM or PMP courses on a very part time basis.

But that’s for later the immediate issue is making sure we take enough time off to enjoy the holiday season but there will be time for at least one more blog before then…..

PMOZ Program Update

PMOZ

PMOZ

PMOZ will introduce a new, interesting and dynamic program for the 2009 conference to be held in Canberra, Australia from August 11-13.

The elements to be included in the program structure are:

  • The core of the program will be pairs of selected papers from academia and industry practitioners, each paper will be 45 minutes (total session time 90 minutes). These sessions will be immediately before and after lunch; streamed by industry and focus.
  • 60 minute Keynote and locknote presentations from internationally recognised experts, at the beginning and end of each day.
  • 30 minute ‘quick hits’ briefings, updates and short papers focused on points of interest.
  • 90 minute mini-workshops, including skill development for advanced practitioners and foundation sessions focused on core PM skills
  • Half day pre-conference workshops.

The final shape of the program will evolve based on responses to the Call for Papers and the requirements of our keynote speakers. Check back here for details of keynote speakers, workshop presenters and later, accepted session speakers. 

For additional information:
PMOZ – August 11-13, 2009 [www.pmoz.com.au]

Surviving the credit crunch

Depending on where you are in the world your economy is either in recession or sinking towards recession, with only a few exceptions such as China where growth has merely slowed to a moderate rate of expansion.

However, after more than 20 years running SMEs (small to medium enterprises) I definitely feel the doom and gloom in the press is greatly exaggerated. To a very great extent, it’s when the going gets tough, the tough get going! Not to build empires, but to position themselves for the inevitable upswing.

This blog is written from the perspective of sole contractors and small professional consultancies and is very much what we are doing in Mosaic Project Services to win through yet another downturn. It’s rather long, but I hope you find it useful.

Unemployment

The first thing to consider is unemployment. In a recession unemployment tends to double and the number of people ‘not seeking work’ also increases. In Australia this means rising from the 2% to 3% range to maybe 4% to 6% an increase of some 4% at the maximum. Double this again for the number of people on the margins ‘not seeking work’ and you could say 8% of people who are likely to have a job in good times won’t have one in a recession. This suggests around 92% of people who are likely to have a job in ‘good times’ still have a job in bad times. Therefore as an individual contractor or small business your challenge is to make sure you are part of the 90% still working – looks at this way, the challenge is not so hard.

Cash Flow

The next issue is cash flow. In the good times we all ran up too much credit and the temptation is to eliminate debt. The bad news is that now is a bit too late! There are several challenges to consider in order:

  • The first issue is to minimise fixed outgoings (these are the real break points if your income stops for a period)
  • The second is to build up some cash reserves or liquid assets (essential to cover ‘fixed outgoings’ if you income stops for a period)
  • Only then should you consider major debt reductions. Remember, one of the good points in a recession is interest rates drop.

We are not in a position to offer financial advice but we have noticed it is much easier to re-engineer your finance if you still have a job and with proper advice there are a range of opportunities ‘out there’ because the banks and card companies are chasing business as well.

Maintaining an income is the other side of cash flow management. This requires a careful balancing act……

  • Most employers / clients are feeling the squeeze and will employ the ‘golden rule’ (He who has the gold makes the rules). Don’t let your pride stand in the way of negotiating a rate cut but at the same time make sure you are still being paid at the ‘right rate’ for today’s climate.
  • If you are between contracts make sure the rates you are asking for are consistent with ‘today’s market’. Yesterday has gone and tomorrows rates are likely to be lower still.

Keeping a Job

‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ – a moderately paying job now is worth more than the possibility of a higher paying job later. Consider this simple equation: if you turn down a job today at $650 because you feel you are worth $700 per day minimum and eventually after 4 weeks you are successful and win the $700 job you will have foregone 20 days at $650 = $13,000. This means you will be working for the first 260 days in the $700 job before you break even with the income you would have earned at $650 per day. This is 1 year’s work (52 weeks) and in a recession most contracts are for 6 months or less. To make matters worse, if at the end of the day you take a job at $650 or even $600 you never make up the lost income. Unfortunately, the business world will be well into recovery before contract rates start to rise significantly.

Marketing

Keep on marketing. The competition to keep your existing contracts or win new work in a recession is definitely more intense. To keep in front of the pack and minimise reductions in your contract rates you have to be offering a ‘better package’ to employers and really be out there selling your capabilities.

Most jobs go to people who know people they are never advertised, the approximate ratio in ‘normal times’ is 80% to 20%. The reason job ads drop so dramatically in a recession is the fact most businesses can easily fill most jobs by word of mouth and personal contacts. A certain proportion are obliged to advertise (eg, governments) but if there’s no policy in place mandating advertisements, businesses won’t wast money.

The answer to winning jobs before they go to market is networking. Attend meetings, attend workshops and conferences, catch up with old colleagues and be seen. There are two critical rules to networking.

  • Start before you need your network and keep networking
  • Add value to the network. You must contribute as well as take from the overall network; no one likes a sponge who soaks up everything for his/her self.

There are lots of websites with hints on networking – do your homework.

Developing a ‘better package’ for both individual contractors, and consultants running small businesses, has a range of facets:

  • Qualifications help. Organisations have to filter 100s of applicants for each job; the easiest first step is to discount ‘unqualified’ people. More importantly acquiring a relevant qualification shows a willingness to invest in your future. Many employers will read this as a strong positive indicator of your overall willingness to maintain a positive approach to your career.
  • Be seen as a useful expert. Useful experts contribute practical assistance to their peers and industry. Write papers, mentor colleagues, assist on committees, etc.
  • Be easy to find. People won’t ring back in a recession, email, telephone, social network sites, etc all help you to be easy to find and you distribute these contacts via every reasonable means.
  • Have a strong brand. People need to know who you are and what you (or your business) stand for. Reputation really matters.
  • Be flexible. Make sure your skills are transferable and within reason you are ‘transferable’ and can go where the work is. This may not be ideal but maintaining an income matters.

A last thought is to strap on your parachute on before you are asked to jump. Almost every item discussed above and particularly networking is easier if you are in a job. Certainly in my experience it is always easier to find another job when you have one. The challenge is to ethically manage your career and survival through the next few months; reputations matter in good times and bad.

The good news is if you manage all of this and come through the recession successfully, you will be ideally positioned to take advantage of the next growth phase and accelerate your career to new heights.

Good luck and good networking.

Interesting Blogs

PMI have started two interesting blogs that are worth a read…..

http://blogs.pmi.org/blog/a_chief_executives_perspective_on_project_management – posted by Gregory Balestrero, President and CEO of the Project Management Institute. Personal insights from one of the few world leaders in project management.

http://blogs.pmi.org/blog/voices_on_project_management – posts from a wide range of PMI members managers and others covering a whole variety of topics.

If you are interested in PM, these are definitely worth a read.