Monthly Archives: September 2010

Project and Program Sponsorship

Effective sponsorship is a key element in the successful delivery of projects and programs; the way a sponsor interacts with the project and other managers can create or destroy value. The Mosaic White Paper Project Sponsorship describes the role of the sponsor as the link between corporate direction and accountability and the management of programs and projects. The sponsor transmits management information and decisions downwards to the project and represents the project in senior management circles, communicating important information upwards.

The organisation appoints the project sponsor who will normally be a senior manager with a relevant area of responsibility that will be affected by the outcome of the project and should be involved with a project or program for far longer than the appointed managers.

Improving project and program sponsorship will directly contribute to improved outcomes for the organisation. Surveys have consistently shown a strong positive correlation between the effectiveness of sponsors and the success of projects and programs. However, sponsorship does not exist in a vacuum, the organisation needs to ensure that their sponsors have appropriate support in terms of training, clear authority, access to decision makers and adequate resources. Success is created by the partnering of the sponsors senior management skills with the project manager’s technical knowhow.

This is the focus of an executive half day workshop we are developing for release in early 2011. For more information see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Training-Sponsor.html

Program Management Competency Standard

The GAPPS Program Manager standard has been finalised and released in exposure draft for public review. The draft standard can be downloaded from, and details are on the GAPPS website at www.globalpmstandards.org. The GAPPS team would like as wide and varied feedback as possible in the period through to 11th October 2010.

GAPPS (Global Alliance for Project Performance Standards) is the world’s only independent body that brings together industry, PM associations, governments and academia to develop performance based standards for project management and map standards and certifications/qualification for project managers globally.

Feedback on the Program Management Competency Standard is in three parts
1.General Comments
2.Comments on the role description (section 3 of the exposure draft standard)
3.Comments on specific Units, Elements or Performance Criteria

You can submit as many comments as you wish. If you have more comments than the survey has room for, just come back and complete the survey a second time. If you have no comments for one of the sections, click the submit button to move on to the next step.

After downloading and reviewing the standard, to provide feedback go to http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22B6R5JG452

We will be reviewing the GAPPS standard with a view to enriching our PMI PgMP (Program Management Professional) coursework. For more on PgMP see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Training-PgM.html

Managing to Avoid Detailed Expectations

One of the keys to project and program success is managing stakeholder expectations. Unrealistic expectations are unlikely to be fulfilled and when the project or project manager fails to live up to the unrealistic expectations they are seen to fail.

One area project managers regularly do themselves and their projects a major disservice is in preparing time and cost estimates. It is simply impossible to accurately predict the future (if we could casinos would go bankrupt!). However, far too many project managers seem willing to create schedules that state implicitly that a task will complete at 3:30pm on a Tuesday afternoon in 4 months time or the total cost of their project will be $10,986, 547.55. These pseudo accurate estimates based on detailed calculations are no more accurate then estimates made in more general terms and covered with an appropriate range indicator.

$10,986, 547.55 is no more valid than $11million +10% -5%. Achieving a detailed estimate for a $10 million plus project to within -5% to +10% would indicate a very careful estimating process in a stable, well understood environment. What is different is the precisely inaccurate number calculated to the nearest cent will raise the expectations of a range of stakeholders as to degree of accuracy possible leading to ‘perceived failure’ when the stakeholder’s unrealistic expectations are not realised.

Similar problems arise if a project is scheduled in hours and the work extends for more than a few days. Certainly scheduling on an hour by hour basis for a high intensity project that has a total duration of one or two weeks (or less) is sensible and desirable. A typical example would be a maintenance shutdown at a major facility. The cost of every hours production lost can be many thousands of dollars.

However, taking the same approach to a project running over several months simply produces a mass of inaccurate data once you get beyond the first few days but the stakeholder’s expectations as to the degree of accuracy possible from scheduling will have been raised to unrealistic levels. Again, when the project fails to achieve this degree of control over the future implied by the excessively detailed schedule, it will be seen to have failed.

We have just posted two White Papers focused on a practical approach to estimating activity durations and costs, they can be downloaded from:
http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1051_Cost_Estimating.pdf
http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1052_Time_Estimating.pdf

Practical estimating is only one aspect of managing stakeholder expectations. Your stakeholders may already have unrealistic expectations of what is possible from previous projects that ‘failed’ (there was nothing wrong with the detailed estimating processes just all of the inept project managers…). Dealing with this issue requires effective management of your senior stakeholders by ‘managing upwards’. This is the topic of my next book due for publication next year.

Reframing the PMBOK® Guide

Is the  PMBOK® Guide a guide to the project management body of knowledge or is it a guide to the body of knowledge needed to manage a project? The traditional view is the PMBOK is special and the knowledge uniquely project focused; but is this true?? Consider these two challenges:

Challenge 1: name ANY process area that is unique to project management. Everyone plans; quality is ubiquitous, cost management and time management are practised by every home keeper, scope is fundamental to supplying anything etc.

Challenge 2: name ANY area of the PMBOK (or any other PM standard) that develops value without human interaction. The most perfect schedule is completely useless – has ABSOLUTELY NO VALUE AT ALL – unless its contents are first communicated to the right people and secondly, those people buy into the idea they need to implement the schedule and work to achieve it.

If we assume PMBOK = project specific body of knowledge the contents are likely to drop to a very few basic processes such as EV, WBS and maybe scheduling (but remember Henry Gantt was involved in manufacturing, not projects…).

I would suggest a reframing is needed PMBOK = the knowledge needed to manage a project successfully! This means allowing a range of useful management processes into the PMBOK such as motivation and leadership. Let’s face it, technical skills are the provenance of technicians. People skills are the provenance of management, and in case anyone has failed to notice, the person leading even the most technical of projects is called a project manager!

Numerous studies have shown that the core skills for any successful project manager are the ability to develop a successful ‘high performing’ team, and communicate effectively to influence key stakeholders. These are soft skills and very hard to achieve competence in. ‘Soft’ does not mean easy. Hard skills have an easy to learn framework that does not change. The ‘soft’ in soft-skills refers to the need to adapt their use to every new context. For more on this see: Confronting soft Skills

This reframing is important because well over 90% of project failures can be directly attributed to people issues, including headline disasters such as the original Hubble Space Telescope launch and Challenger (read the reports on the NASA web site). For IT read any of the Gartner reports on project failure.

The simple fact is we can continue to underplay the importance of soft skills because they are not ‘project specific’ and continue to see well over 50% of project fail every year or we can recognise the core elements that characterise projects are totally useless without people and start giving stakeholder management and the soft skills implicit in successfully managing them the prominence needed in the body of knowledge needed to successfully manage projects.

What do you think??

Using a Risk Management approach for Assessing Claims

One of the more difficult management decisions is how hard to pursue a contract claim. The claim will inevitably have a deleterious impact on a key stakeholder relationship and any significant claim will have proportionally high costs associated with legal and other expenses. Balancing the inevitable costs against the possible gains is a difficult but necessary decision before moving forward. Usually, the potential yield of a claim is given as a subjective assessment based on experience.

Dr. John Lancaster of Hill International has recently published a paper that seeks to remove the subjectivity from the assessment of which claims are worth pursuing (see 1 below). Lancaster proposes using a risk assessment approach to determine the likely range of outcomes and which claims contribute the most to the likely settlement. He suggests using the following factors:

  • Entitlement confidence:
    • The strength of the contractual argument for entitlement; and
    • Contractually compliant notices.
  • Magnitude confidence:
    • The quality and quantity of supporting records;
    • The quality of the project schedules (and any necessary corrections and/or repairs), cost records, etc; and
    • The certainty with which the effect/s of each event is known.

Applying a percentage weighting to these factors and using Monte Carlo analysis the likely range of cost and time outcomes can be assessed and the key claims identified.

It is important that the right people complete this assessment: the entitlement confidence categories should be assessed by counsel and the magnitude confidence categories assessed by the domain experts with input from the project staff.

The results of this analysis will identify:

  • The likely outcomes under the prevailing entitlement and magnitude confidence ratings;
  • The probabilities of securing different outcomes; and
  • Identifying the claims that are the most important to the overall claim and which ones require more work.

Based on this assessment and after factoring in the costs and consequences of making the claim, pragmatic decisions can be made on:

  • whether or not to pursue a claim;
  • where to set negotiation limits (see 2 below); and
  • which of the claims, with more work on establishing entitlement and/or substantiation, could contribute the most to a robust claim.

In an ideal world effective stakeholder relationship management would remove the need for contractual claims. When they become necessary, Dr. Lancaster’s ideas will help remove much of the unnecessary ‘heat’ from the assessment process and provide a pragmatic baseline for managing any claim in a professional and business like way.

  1. Lancaster, John, “The use of risk analysis techniques to evaluate potential delay claim outcomes,” Project Control Professional: The Journal of the Association of Cost Engineers, February 2010. The full article is available on request from johnlancaster@hillintl.com.
  2. For more on dispute management and negotiating see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1049_Dispute_Management.pdf

Definition of Construction Management

Developing definitions for context sensitive processes such as project management is difficult [see paper]. Over the last year I have had involvement with the efforts of the CIOB UK to develop a similar type of definition for Construction Management. The final definition is rather long, but is I would suggest both accurate and concise.

Construction Management is: The management of the development, conservation and improvement of the built environment; exercised at a variety of levels from the site and project, through the corporate organisations of the industry and its clients, to society as a whole; embracing the entire construction value stream from inception to recycling, and focusing upon a commitment to sustainable construction; incorporating a wide range of specialist services; guided by a system of values demonstrating responsibility to humanity and to the future of our planet; and informed, supported and challenged by an independent academic discipline.

The result of this work is now available for download and sets the benchmark for project mangers to aspire to achieve [download the CM definition].