As project managers, we are taught to manage the triple constraint of scope, schedule (or time) and … Read More
It’s Not Micromanagement
- A PM asking you scope status is not micromanagement, it’s management.
- A PM asking you schedule status is not micromanagement, it’s management.
- A PM asking you task status is not micromanagement, it’s management.
- A PM asking you risk status is not micromanagement, it’s management.
- A PM asking you budget status is not micromanagement, it’s management.
- A PM asking you testing status is not micromanagement, it’s management.
I’ve changed my mind about benefits realization. We (PMs) should do it.
I used to believe that PMs are responsible for the Triple Tradeoff, scope, cost and time. We didn’t, typically, get involved in choosing the projects. And we are, typically, not involved in what happens after we deliver the project (all scope, on budget on time, of course).
I first changed my mind about the Triple Tradeoff. I now deliver projects with the goal of maximizing value to the organization Maximizing value is more important than budget and schedule. Now I’ve changed my mind about benefits realization.
Most Organizations Don’t Measure Benefits. I assumed that someone else, somewhere else was measuring whether the project actually achieved the benefits detailed in the business case analysis. I now believe they don’t. Projects are delivered and some, many?, fail to deliver. Organizations don’t know. Without this data, they are likely to continue investing in low value-add projects.
Project Management Offices (PMOs) or PMs should lead the effort to determine if benefits are realized. Organizations need this data. PMOs are in a great position to get it. They have the tools to do it. They know about all the projects an organization is doing and has done. And PMOs are frequently less political – they don’t have biases towards treating finance projects better than HR projects for example. They can be neutral.
Liquid Planner has a good article on why a PMP certification is important to you project management career. Here’s what I tell people as President of the PMI Washington, D.C. Chapter:
- Be the best. I joined PMI and participate because I want to be the best project manager. I cringe when I think about the things I did as a young PM. I am so much better now. I am better because I dedicate myself to learning everything about project management. I go see PMI speakers so I learn from other people’s mistakes as well as my own.
- Advice. There are many situations where you can’t get advice from work colleagues. PMI is a great place to review issues that you are having on your project and to get unbiased advice. I use my network to test my ideas and plans so they get better before I implement them for my clients.
Active Learning in the Classroom
Interesting article from Marginal Revolution on active learning. Studies show that active learning (activity-based learning among other things) is more effective than passive learning (listening to lectures). Interestingly, students hate active learning and believe they are learning less. Odd.
The article also refers to the numerous issues with student evaluations. Studies show that male professors are rated higher than female professors and white professors higher than black professors. I read every student evaluation but I am aware of the bias that exists. I don’t think Georgetown uses them for important decisions and I’m glad about that.
How Not to Design a System
Today’s lesson in how not to design a system comes from the U.S. Department of Education (DoE). The system is the public service loan forgiveness program. Congress directed the DoE to forgive college loans for students who went into public service.
In 2018, the GAO found that DoE rejected 99% of applications to this program. They distributed just $27M out of $700M. About 71% of rejections were due to a technical process issue.
What are horrible design! If 71% of your users can’t follow the process, it’s not your users that are the problem, it’s your system! And, by definition, these were all college-educated users! It almost appears like DoE deliberately created a bad system. Probably not though, when the choice is incompetence or maliciousness, it’s almost always incompetence. To its credit, DoE agreed with GAO’s report and recommendations to improve the program.
Further details in the GAO report here.
What Ever Happened to Six Sigma?
A great article on six sigma here. It studies the history of Six Sigma (Deming and Japan), its association with Motorola and GE, a hilarious send-up by the TV show 30 Rock, and the variability of certification.
I remember working with the Six Sigma people at Microsoft. I didn’t understand how it was supposed to work there. Microsoft, like most American tech companies, manufactures nothing. All manufacturing is outsourced. And they produce very manufactured goods outside of the Xbox. It was odd to see Six Sigma applied to order processing and customer service.
You must track time against projects in order to do Schedule Management. Period. There are no alternatives. You must track time.
Most organizations don’t track time. Punching the clock is seen as a blue-collar job requirement, not for us. No! You must track time.
Some organizations think the time tracking is micromanagement. It’s not. The results can be anonymous. You must make decisions based on data. You must know how much time your employees spend on operations so you know how much time is available for projects. On projects you need to know how much time you spend on analysis, on coding, on testing, on training. You must track time.
Some fear that the data will be used to punish employees. Simple fix – don’t do that. Don’t tie your time tracking system to performance reviews or even payroll. Use it solely for increasing efficiency on projects. You must track time.
Some say it’s time-consuming. It’s not! It takes me ten minutes a day to do it. I’ve done it every work day for nearly 25 years. It’s easy. You must track time.
Have we run out of good ideas?
Apple has over $260B in cash reserves. Microsoft has $130B, many companies have billions upon billions in cash. Doing nothing.
This means that Apple, and other companies, have more money than good ideas. They have the money to do virtually anything! And they’re not. The great stagnation, I guess.
The Most Important PM Decision
It’s ironic but the most important project management decision is made before any project management is done. The most important project management decision is deciding what projects to do.
No one knows, or cares, whether the iPhone was delivered on time and on budget. It has delivered tremendous value to Apple. Conversely, it doesn’t matter if the Microsoft Kin mobile phone was on time and on budget. This $1B project was killed two months after launch.
Make sure the projects your organization is doing support your strategy. Kill the one ones that don’t. Measure the outcomes later to ensure the expected results were achieved.
Every now and then I think about NASA’s budget in comparison to other budgets. NASA’s 2018 budget is $22B; Microsoft’s sales and marketing budget is $18B. Close!
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