Monthly Archives: December 2015

GAO Schedule Assessment Guide released

GAO-TimeOn 22nd December, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued the final version of its Schedule Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Project Schedules (GAO-16-89G), this guide is a companion the GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide published in 2009. The Government Accountability Office is an independent, nonpartisan, agency that exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities, and works to improve the performance of federal government programs.

The Schedule Assessment Guide applies to civilian and defence projects managed by either government entities or private contractors in the USA; it is also an extremely valuable reference for all projects world-wide. On its release, Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO said “A well-planned schedule is an essential tool for program management. The best practices described in the guide are intended to help agencies create and maintain schedules that are comprehensive, well-constructed, credible, and controlled.”

Over the last 5 years, the GAO has worked with experts in cost estimating, scheduling, and earned value management from government agencies, private industry, and academia to develop and formalise scheduling the best practices outlined in the Schedule Assessment Guide. The ten best practices associated with a high-quality and reliable schedule defined in the Schedule Assessment Guide are:

  1. Capturing all activities. The schedule should reflect all activities necessary to accomplish a project’s objectives, including activities both the owner and the contractors are to perform.
  2. Sequencing all activities. All activities must be logically sequenced and linked. Date constraints and lags should be minimised and justified.
  3. Assigning resources to all activities. The schedule should reflect the resources (labour, materials, travel, facilities, equipment, and the like) needed to do the work.
  4. Establishing the duration of all activities. The schedule should realistically reflect how long each activity will take. Schedules that contain planning and summary planning packages as activities will normally reflect longer durations until broken into work packages or specific activities.
  5. Verifying that the schedule can be traced horizontally and vertically. The schedule should be horizontally traceable with “hand-offs” defined. And vertically traceable; lower-level schedules are clearly consistent with upper-level schedule milestones.
  6. Confirming that the critical path is valid. The schedule should identify the program’s critical path.
  7. Ensuring reasonable total float. The schedule should identify reasonable total float on activities.
  8. Conducting a schedule risk analysis. Using a statistical simulation to predict the level of confidence in meeting a program’s completion date. Programs should include the results of the schedule risk analysis in constructing an executable baseline schedule.
  9. Updating the schedule using actual progress and logic. Progress updates and logic provide a realistic forecast of start and completion dates for program activities. Maintaining the integrity of the schedule logic is necessary to reflect the true status of the program.
  10. Maintaining a baseline schedule. A baseline schedule is the basis for managing the program scope, the time period for accomplishing it, and the required resources. Program performance is measured, monitored, and reported against the baseline schedule.

In its 224 pages the Schedule Assessment Guide provides detailed explanations of each of the best practices, supported by case studies and includes ‘key questions’ and the ‘key documentation’ to be used by auditors in assessing schedule compliance.

The development of the Schedule Assessment Guide has been lead by 2014 PGCS keynote presenter Karen Richey, her presentation to the symposium outlining the challenges faced by the USA government auditors can be downloaded from: http://www.pgcs.org.au/index.php/download_file/view/116/
(see more on the Project Governance and Controls Symposium).

The Schedule Assessment Guide validates many of the concepts defined in our scheduling papers and the CIOB Guide to Good Practice in the Management of Time in Complex Projects , see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Planning.html

To download your copy of the Schedule Assessment Guide go to: http://www.gao.gov/products/gao-16-89g

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New Articles posted to the Web #39

BeaverWe have been busy beavers updating the PM Knowledge Index on our website with White Papers and Articles.   Some of the more interesting uploaded during the last couple of weeks include:

And we continue to tweet a free PMI style of exam question every day for PMP, CAPM and PMI-SP candidates: See today’s question and then click through for the answer and the Q&As from last week. You are welcome to download and use the information under our Creative Commons licence

New Articles posted to the Web #38

BeaverWe have been busy beavers updating the PM Knowledge Index on our website with White Papers and Articles.   Some of the more interesting uploaded during the last couple of weeks include:

And we continue to tweet a free PMI style of exam question every day for PMP, CAPM and PMI-SP candidates: See today’s question and then click through for the answer and the Q&As from last week. You are welcome to download and use the information under our Creative Commons licence

Is your steering committee costing $5000 per hour?

The loaded cost of running a committee of senior managers can easily exceed $5000 per hour once the opportunity costs are included.  Productive committees offset this by creating value, hopefully significantly greater than their running costs.  Project and program steering committees should be no different!

Steering_Committee

However, if the steering committee is simply focused on ‘governance’ it is highly unlikely to be generating any significant value.  At the management level where most steering committees operate there is very little governance decision making needed and conformance and assurance usually needs specialists.

The first four functions of governance defined in The Functions of Governance are:

  • Determining the objectives of the organisation: this is done by the organisation’s governing body and implemented through the strategic plan. The project should have been selected because it contributes to achieving the strategic plan, a function of portfolio management, but once the project has started it is rather too late.
  • Determining the ethics of the organisation: this is done by the organisation’s governing body; it is a duty of every manager to support the organisation’s ethical standards and ensure the people they are managing conform. But you do not need a committee to ensure this occurs, just the project manager’s line manager (usually the Sponsor).
  • Creating the culture of the organisation: again this is done by the organisation’s governing body; it is a duty of every manager to support the organisation’s cultural standards and ensure the people they are managing conform. But you do not need a committee to ensure this occurs, just the project manager’s line manager (usually the Sponsor).
  • Designing and implementing the governance framework for the organisation: this should be done before the project is started and include delegations of authority for expenditure and decision making and escalation paths. If it has not been done, one half hour meeting of the sponsor and a few key managers can set the delegations.

In summary, the aspects of governance that determine the way the organisation operates and how the project or program will fit into the overall governance framework does not need a monthly meeting of any type.  There are management responsibilities but these are vested in the responsible line manager, typically the Sponsor (see more on the role of a Sponsor).

The final two functions of governance are ensuring accountability by management and conformance by the organisation.  A steering committee can certainly focus on these aspects of governance but if they do, they are largely wasting their time and most of the $5000 per hour.  There are two fundamental reasons for this:

  1. It is extremely poor governance for a managing entity to seek to provide assurance that the people it is managing are conforming. Assurance oversight should be provided by an independent body.
  2. Most aspects of project surveillance and assurance require high levels of technical skill. It is highly unlikely any of the managers on a steering committee posses these skills (see more on project surveillance).

The organisational entity best suited for the work of surveillance and assurance is a PMO with appropriate support from management. If there is an effective PMO structure in place with the ability to identify shortcomings, backed up by responsible line management there is no need for another committee to second guess the process a few weeks later (see more on PMOs).

Dilbert-committee

Some of the completely unproductive ‘governance’ functions undertaken by ‘steering committees’ include:

  • Validating correct procedures have been followed (properly resourced PMOs are a better and cheaper option).
  • Discussing negative variances and allocating blame (management action is needed not committee discussions).
  • Second guessing management decisions after the event and interfering in the day-to-day running of the project (project professionals are not helped by interference from amateurs – even if they are senior managers).
  • Listening to lengthy reports on what has happened during the last month (effective reporting is all that is needed).

Being involved in this type of activity may make the steering committee members feel important but contributes little or nothing of value in a well governed and structured organisation; if the organisation is not well governed and structured the committee members would be far better off focusing on fixing the real problems.

 

Steering Committees can be highly valuable!

The constitution of most steering committees creates a real opportunity to add value to the overall management of a project or program, but only if the committee focuses on helping craft success. Steering committees typically include members from a range of areas within the organisational affected by the project and its deliverables. Therefore as a group its members are uniquely placed to assist the project manager and sponsor deliver a successful project by helping them steer a path through the organisational politics and stakeholder issues that confront any project or program.

This objective can be achieved by making the members of the steering committee personally responsible for the realisation of value from the organisation’s investment in project, and in particular for dealing with the organisational change and stakeholder issues that are outside of the project manager’s responsibilities. Some of the key responsibilities allocated to the steering committee may include:

  • Responsibility for preparing the organisation for the changes needed to make use of the project’s deliverables and the realisation of value.
  • Managing the interface between the project and the organisational change management work
  • Being available to assist in the management of stakeholder issues escalated from the project and/or identified in areas outside of the direct influence of the project.
  • Ensuring effective benefits management is in place for the life of the initiative (ie, it continues after the project is closed).
  • Dealing with any other aspect of organisational politics that may affect the work of the project or the on-going change initiative.
  • Making value based decisions on complex change proposals, including contributing positively to the resolution of intractable problems, to optimise the value outcome for the organisation.

Obviously the steering committee also needs to take an interest in the project its steering to success. The problem is these are all management activities, not governance activities (for more on this see Does organisational governance exist?).

Effective steering committees work with the project manager and sponsor to identify the external influences causing problems and help the project successfully navigate the organisational stakeholder environment. They also resist the urge to interfere in the actual running of the project or program. There is a world of difference between a collaborative and supportive approach focused on success and the negative approach adopted by so many steering committees that seems to translate ‘governance’ into giving the project manager a ‘hard time’ to ensure compliance with ‘due process’ even if this adds to the existing problems.

Are your organisation’s steering committees worth their hourly running costs?

Directing for Performance. The AICD moves beyond conformance.

The Australian Institute of Company Director’s (AICD) inaugural Australian Governance Summit 2016 focuses on ‘directing for performance’. The summit will explore beyond compliance to frame governance as a fundamental driver of performance outcomes.  A view we strongly support. For more information see: http://www.companydirectors.com.au/ags

The AICD have also identified a range of challenges and ‘disruptors’ that will affect organisations in 2016 presenting opportunities to organisations that can adapt and exploit the situation and threats to those who are slow. The vast majority of the threats and opportunities involve the rapidly changing digital economy which will require a radical change in the way most organisations integrate ICT into their businesses. Rather than being an enabler of business, in a connected world IT will increasingly be the business.

The Gartner IT Hype Cycle. See: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2819918

The Gartner IT Hype Cycle.
See: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2819918

One of the major challenges for organisations of all types identified by the AICD is a chronic lack of IT skills among Board members, with many boards populated by Directors who believe the digital economy will not affect their organisation because that are in the (fill in the gap) industry, not the IT industry.  The simple fact of life in the 21st century is that it does not matter if you are in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, personal services or any other business the successful organisations will be driven by the creation and use of information. Successful organisations will be able to find and use the ‘right information’ from the ever increasing torrent of ‘stuff’ being generated minute by minute:

Internet minuteRecognising the challenges and opportunities is one thing, adapting organisations to benefit from the changes is another!  What’s missing from the AICD evaluation this year is a focus on the central role of governing projects and programs to deliver the performance outcomes. Every change needs a project or program to create the ability to change backed up by organisational change capabilities to realise value.

Governing for change is the focus of ISO 21505, a project I’ve been involved with for the last 6 years, due for publication late 2016. It is also the focus of the annual Project Governance and Controls Symposium (PGCS), held in Canberra each May; see: http://www.pgcs.org.au/.

The challenge for organisations of all types and sizes is to adapt their governance and management structures to exploit the rapidly changing world.

New Articles posted to the Web #37

BeaverWe have been busy beavers updating the PM Knowledge Index on our website with White Papers and Articles.   Some of the more interesting uploaded during the last couple of weeks include:

And we continue to tweet a free PMI style of exam question every day for PMP, CAPM and PMI-SP candidates: See today’s question and then click through for the answer and the Q&As from last week. You are welcome to download and use the information under our Creative Commons licence