Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Pope criticizes the Curia

I respect a leader who is not afraid to expose the weakness of the organization he is trying to clean up. Listen to the 2014 Christmas address to the Vatican elite. He describes '15 ailments' the curia suffers.

The disease of feeling 'immortal' or 'essential''A curia that does not practice self-criticism, does not keep up to date, does not try to better itself, is an infirm Body'. The Pope mentions that a visit to cemeteries could help us see the names of many who 'maybe thought they were immortal, exempt and essential!'. It is the disease of those who 'turn into masters and feel superior to everyone rather than in the service of all people. It often comes from the pathology of power, the "Messiah complex" and narcissism'.

The disease of excessive activity
It is the disease of those who, like Martha in the Gospel, 'lose themselves in their work, inevitably neglecting "what is better"; sitting at Jesus' feet'. The Pope recalls that Jesus 'called his disciples to "rest a little", because neglecting necessary rest brings anxiety and stress'.

The diseases of mental and spiritual 'petrification'
It is the disease of those who 'lose their internal peace, their vivacity and audacity, to hide under papers and become "procedural machines" instead of men of God', unable to 'weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice!'.

The disease of over-planning
'When the apostle plans everything in detail' and believes that, through this, 'things progress effectively, thus becoming an accountant. Good planning is necessary but without falling into the temptation of wanting to enclose or steer the freedom of the Holy Spirit... it is always easier and more convenient to fall back on static and unchanged positions'.

The disease of bad coordination
It is the disease of members who 'lose the community among them, and the Body loses its harmonious functionality' becoming 'an orchestra producing undisciplined noise because its members do not cooperate and do not live communally and have team spirit'.

The disease of spiritual Alzheimer's
That is a 'progressive decline of spiritual faculties' which 'causes severe disadvantages to people', making them live in a 'state of absolute dependence on their, often imagined, views'. We can see this in those who have 'lost their memory' of their encounter with the Lord, in those who depend on their 'passions, whims and obsessions'.

The disease of rivalry and vainglory
'When the appearance, the color of  the vestments and the honors become the first objectives of life... It is the disease that leads us to become false men and women, living a false "mysticism" and false "quietism"'.

The disease of existential schizophrenia
It is the disease of those who live 'a double life, a result of the hypocrisy typical of mediocre people and of advancing spiritual emptiness, which degrees or academic titles cannot fill'. It often strikes us that some 'abandon the pastoral service and limit their activities to bureaucracy, losing touch with reality and real people. They thus create their own parallel world, where they set aside all that the others harshly teach' and live a 'hidden' and often 'dissolute' life.

The disease of gossip and chatter'It takes hold of a person making them "sowers of discord" (like Satan), and, in many cases, "cold-blooded murderers" of the reputation of their colleagues and brothers. It is the disease of cowards, who do not have the courage to speak upfront and so talk behind one's back... Watch out against the terrorism of gossip!'.

The disease of deifying the leaders
It is the disease of those who 'court their superiors', becoming victims of 'careerism and opportunism' and 'live their vocation thinking only of what they must gain and not of what they must give'. It might also affects the superiors 'when they court some of their collaborators in order to gain their submission, loyalty and psychological dependence, but the final result is real complicity'.

The disease of indifference to others
'When each one thinks only of themselves and loses the truthfulness and warmth of human relationships. When the more experienced ones do not offer their knowledge to the service of less experienced colleagues. When, because of jealousy or cunning, we rejoice in seeing others fall, rather than lift them up and encourage them'.

The disease of the funeral faceIt is the disease of people who are 'scowling and unfriendly and think that, in order to be serious, they must show a melancholic and strict face and treat others - especially those, whom they think are inferior - with rigidity, harshness and arrogance'. In reality, adds the Pope, 'theatrical strictness and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity about themselves. The apostle must strive to be a polite, serene, enthusiastic and joyful person...'. Francis invites people to be full of humor and self-irony; 'How beneficial a healthy dose of humor can be!'

The disease of hoarding'When the apostle seeks to fill an existential void in his heart by hoarding material possessions, not because of necessity, but only to feel secure'.

The disease of closed circlesWhen belonging to a clique becomes more important than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, than belonging to Christ himself. Even this disease starts from good intentions, but in time it enslaves all its members becoming "a cancer"'.

The disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism
'When the apostle turns his service into power, and his power into a commodity to gain worldly profits, or even more powers. It is the disease of those people who relentlessly seek to increase their powers. To achieve that, they may defame, slander and discredit others, even on newspapers and magazines. Naturally, that is in order to show off and exhibit their superiority to others'. A disease that 'badly hurts the Body because it leads people to justify the use of any means in order to fulfill their aim, often in the name of transparency and justice!'

Francis ended by recalling that he had once read that 'priests are like airplanes, they make the headlines only when they fall, but there are many who fly. Many criticize, and few pray for them'. He said this statement was 'very true, because it highlights the importance and the delicacy of our priestly ministry, and how much a single priest who 'falls' may hurt the whole body of the Church'.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Gaming theory helps place NYC Students in school of choice

The NY Times neatly reported on the use of Nobel Prize winning gaming theory in the perennial problem of matching New York's high school students with the school of their choice. Since all 75,000 NYC Middle-school students have the option of attending any of the 426 NYC schools and there are many over-achievers, a simple priority list like the college acceptance process used to result in many unhappy applicants.
So a group of professors got together and modified a gaming theory called "The Stable Marriage" for this purpose. In the early 1960s, the economists David Gale and Lloyd Shapley proved that it was theoretically possible to pair an unlimited number of men and women in stable marriages according to their preferences.
By running a series of rounds of proposals and acceptances with tentative acceptance sometimes being trumped by a rejection and acceptance of another suitor, all the men and women get matched up with someone within their range of preferences.
Below is a nice graphic showing the process simplified to ten students, three schools, each of which have three slots, three preferences and three rounds. In reality there are more of each variable but, with computerization, the process works the same.

In 2003, New York City changed its method for matching eighth graders to high schools with a system, called a deferred acceptance algorithm, that was designed by a team of professors, including one who later won a Nobel prize in economic science. The key feature was mutuality: Students submit a list of preferred schools in order, and schools prepare an ordered list of students whom they want or who meet their standards. After rounds of computer matching, schools and students are paired so that students get their highest-ranked school that also wants them. Here, in simplified form, is how it works. In this example, each school can take three students, although it can list more, and each student can list up to three choices.
Sources: Academic papers, with assistance from Parag Pathak, Massachusetts Insitute of Technology

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Nov 24, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I am studying the Procurement Section of the PMBOK and don't understand the term: Privity of ContractsCan you explain this term in layman's language? 

Private in Peshwar

Dear Private,

Privity of Contracts sounds like something you do in the bathroom. 

I'm no expert on procurement so I first looked through the PMBOK and couldn't find the term. I Googled it and it says, in effect, that a contract exists between a buyer and a seller and a person further down the line is not privy to this contract so he cannot sue one of the contracted parties. For example, a manufacturer sells to a distributor, they sell to a retailer, they sell to a consumer. The consumer is not privy to the contract between the manufacturer and distributor so he cannot sue. Of course, tort suits can still be filed if the product is defective. 

But looking over my words, I'm not sure how that helps you in your case. So I asked my friend Bala who deals with these contracts often. Here is his response: 

Privity of Contracts protects the buyer by preventing the seller from subcontracting out the work to a third party. 

Aha! In this way, the buyer ensures that the work contracted out is done by the firm they have contracted with, not some fly-by-night subcontractor. That make sense to me. How about you? 

Good luck,

PM Advisor.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Columbian Leadership

A hilarious article in today's NY Times detailed a story over 250 years in the making. A story of leadership, arrogance and come-uppance. I encourage you all to read the full article.
Colombians dressed up for Independence Day, including one as the one-legged military hero Blas de Lezo.
                        Credit Andrea Bruce for The New York Times       
In 1741, a 186 British warships and 26,000 men, including 4,000 American colonists, tried to conquer Cartegena, protected by 6 warships and 6,000 men. The Columbian leader, Blas de Lezo, repulsed the men, losing an eye and a leg in the battle. His statue marks the site of the battle, incorrectly portrayed as missing an arm as well.

All was as it should be until October 31 of this year when Prince Charles of England visited and unveiled a black granite plaque hailing “the valor and suffering of all those who died in combat whilst seeking to take the city” was placed at the colonial fort where British troops were repulsed nearly three centuries ago.

This display of arrogance was not lost on the Columbians. “In London, why don’t they put up a tribute to the Nazi pilots that bombed the city during World War II?” asked Juan Carlos Gossaín, the governor of Bolívar, according to local news media.

On November 5th, Jaime Rendon, a local animal rights activist and gadfly took matters, and a small sledgehammer, into his own hands. He smashed the plaque, was arrested, quickly released and is now a national hero.

“You don’t play around with history here,” Mr. Rendón said. “You’re not going to put up a plaque in New York in honor of the people who knocked down the twin towers, isn’t that right? For us it’s the same thing.”

Now the pedestal on which the broken plaque stood has become a tourist attraction and source of national pride.
Photographing the pedestal that held the plaque honoring British attackers.
                        Credit Andrea Bruce for The New York Times

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Nov 17, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I'm learning about the different types of contracts: Fixed Price, Cost Plus, etc. I'm curious what my current project would be classified as. It is a Turnkey EPC (Engineering, Procurement & Construction) Contract with a Price Variation Clause. 

Various in Varanasi,

Dear Various,

I'm not sure what the Price Variation Clause is on your particular project but it usually varies depending on certain commodities like the price of oil or steel. If that is the case, you are dealing with a Fixed Price - Economic Price Adjusted type of contract. 

In these contracts the price of the work is set and agreed to by both parties but the commodity is split out and varies based on the world price over the course of the work. As people use oil and steel, the buyer pays that commodity price in addition to the work being done. 

Good luck,

PM Advisor.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

My wife's first WBS

I'm so proud! My wife has a lot of things to do between preparing for Thanksgiving and the big church retreat. She was explaining them all to me so I told her she needed to create a Work Breakdown Structure. I started her off, showing the difference between projects, deliverables and activities. Then I headed outside to do some work. By the time I returned, here is what I found:
She did everything right and is using it to complete all her work. Deliverables are all nouns, activities are verb-noun format.
Good job Kathy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Big idea for LaGuardia

If you've ever flown into or out of LaGuardia or JFK, you might be forgiven for thinking you weren't in the airport of the greatest city in the world. These airports and their connections to the city are just awful. Newark is better but it is in New Jersey with few connections to New York City. Most large cities have much better connections to their airports.

There is a competition to develop a better plan for these airports with a $500,000 prize.

This guy, Jim Venturi, has a BIG plan that may be what we need, rather than the Band-Aids others are applying to the systemic problem that is air travel into and out of New York.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Nov 10, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

A low level team member on my team is the brother-in-law of the company's Managing Director. How do I treat him on my project?

Stepping on Eggshells in Bangalore

Dear Eggshells,

I guess it really depends on how much the Managing Director likes his brother-in-law and what his plans are for him. Does he plan on grooming this team member as his replacement or is he just finding a job for him as a favor to his sister? Does the Managing Director want him to succeed or fail? Does he view it as your job to make him look good or are you required to test him to see if he has what it takes to make it in this company? 

The bottom line is that the Managing Director is a major stakeholder of your project. You need to talk to him. First about the project like you would with any other stakeholder. Ask the typical stakeholder questions:

  • What does he want to have the project accomplish? 
  • What are some potential pitfalls?
  • How often does he want communications about the project, what type and in what media? 
  • Who else cares about this project? 

But add another question just for him:

  • What is your goal for your brother-in-law over the course of this project?

You may not get a truthful answer so you also need to ask other high-level stakeholders the same question: 

  • What is the Managing Director's goal for his brother-in-law? 

Then set out to manage his expectation just as you are trying to manage all the other stakeholder's expectations. 

Good luck,

PM Advisor.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Election Graphics

The New York Times did a great job with a lot of data, showing the swings from Democrat to Republican in the House and Senate over the years from 1944 to this last election. With a very simple graphic and a few words, they show the weight towards Democratic and the shifts over the years as representatives clutched on presidential coat-tails or were ousted as their presidents lost popularity.

I'll let the graphs speak for themselves below.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Nov 3, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

What percent of questions need some calculation in the PMP exam?

Math Geek in Mumbai

Dear Math Geek,

I wish it were all of them. Because I know when I get those correct. The philosophical questions test to see if you can think the same way as the PMI so there is more uncertainty there. 

That being said, let's see what questions are likely to require calculations:

1 - 2 about number of communication channels (just remember C = n(n-1)/2)
1 - 2 Earned Value scenarios, each with 3 - 5 questions associated
1 - 2 Net Present Value questions 
2 - 3 Cost Plus Fee questions
1 - 2 Normal distribution/6 sigma questions
2 - 3 PERT questions (just remember Pert = (O + 4*ML + P)/6)
And if you consider Network Diagramming calculations, 1 -2 of those with 3 - 5 questions in each

So you are looking at a range of 13 - 32 calculation questions within the 200. Most likely these are all within the 175 questions that count so around 15% of your questions require calculations and you can check your work to ensure you got them right. 

Good luck,

PM Advisor.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Destructive Heroes and Brilliant Jerks

Great article in today's Times about someone we sometimes run into at work: 'Destructive Heroes'. These are the people who are effective at their jobs but abusive to their co-workers. Because of their effectiveness their obnoxious personalities are tolerated by the organization, to the detriment of their colleagues.

Scott McGohan, chief of McGohan Brabender, has dealt with a destructive hero — a persona that once described him. CreditMaddie McGarvey for The New York Times
Rather than just complaining about these people, the article discusses the negative effect these people have on their companies. In one case the company totaled up the hours spent cleaning up the messes created by this high-flier and found that the "Brilliant Jerk' (another name for this type) cost the company more than he made. And that didn't even count the cost to employee morale.

In his training seminars, Mr. Sullivan, president and managing partner at the Shamrock Group, a management consulting firm in Denver, could count on two things whenever he asked, “How many of you have had a destructive hero in your midst?” About half of those in attendance would raise a hand. And of those, “Almost 100 percent said the same thing: ‘We waited too long to deal with it, and it cost us a lot.’ ”
“Get rid of the brilliant jerk as fast as you can,” said Cliff Oxford, founder of the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs in Atlanta, who has registered the and is writing a book to help companies deal with such employees (Mr. Oxford also wrote about the topic for The New York Times’s You’re the Boss blog.)
“Teaching over 100 courses,” Mr. Sullivan said, “I’ve never had one person tell me they converted a destructive hero.”
I have had my own experience with these people and they are not always men or in sales. In my current position, a highly intelligent QA Director who won't suffer fools has intimidated the entire staff until she doublechecks everything done and belittles every small mistake made. The end result is that projects drag twice as long as needed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lithuania declares energy independence from Russia

What do you do when you are a small, former Soviet Republic, trying to make it on your own but tied to Russia's gas monopoly? Lithuania has figured out a way to break this strangle-hold that Russia has used to freeze out Ukraine and threaten to do so to other former Eastern Bloc countries.
The floating natural gas terminal Independence arriving in Klaipeda, Lithuania, on Monday.CreditPetras Malukas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
This article explains how the Lithuanians have brought in a mobile factory for converting Norwegian Liquified Petroleum Gas to Natural Gas and parked it just off-shore. It may cost more than Russian gas but this independence comes at a price that the Baltic states are willing to pay.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Oct 27, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I'm taking a PMP Preparation class. How long do the PDUs I earn in this class last?

Learning in Lahore

Dear Learning,

I'm going to assume you are taking a PMP prep class in preparation for sitting for your PMP exam for the first time. In that case there is no date at which the education your are obtaining runs out. According to the PMP handbook linked here, there are years during which your PM experience apply but your education can be 50 years ago for all they care.

If you are taking the class to earn PDUs for maintaining your certification, you must report them in the next three-year period during which you need to obtain 60 credits.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Oct. 20, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

What’s a WBS Dictionary and how do you use it?

Poor Speller in Chicago

Dear Poor Speller,

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is the oldest tool in the Project Manager’s toolkit and one of the more graphic ones. It is the first opportunity for the PM to express his style as he shows the way he intends to organize the project. Will he organize it by phase, function, or deliverable? How many levels will he go before work starts to be done? I always love watching the way a PM drafts his WBS; it is a look into his mind.

One thing about a graphic tool such as a WBS: there is no room for paragraphs or even sentences. Nouns and adjectives are all you have room to work with. And sometimes a chunk of work requires more than that to allow those executing the work to know what needs to be done. That’s where the WBS Dictionary comes in. It is a tool that provides more detail around a piece of work that is in the WBS. Not every WBS element must be defined, just those that need it.

I don’t strictly use a WBS Dictionary as a stand-alone tool. But when I enter WBS elements into the Gantt chart, I’ll use the Notes tab on that line to enter additional details.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Quarterback Graphic

The New York Times graphic department scored with this beautiful graphic showing touchdown passes plotted against year for 252 quarterbacks.

With 252 quarterbacks and their touchdown passes shown each year of their career, this stunning graphic has over 2000 pieces of data elegantly displayed. The top quarterbacks and the current crop have their curves labeled. By looking at the slope of the curve, one can see which quarterback is most efficient while the height shows the record holders. You can compare quarterback efficiency and production over the decades all the way back to Benny Friedman in the 1930's. 

Get access to the full article here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Oct 13, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I'm a Project Manager working for an electronics firm making laptops. My technical team says our battery is a huge risk in environmental hazards. As PM, should I recommend a change in product or battery use to ensure the company is not penalized due to this project?

Battered in Mumbai

Dear Battered,

Aha! An ethical dilemma! I love it! 

Depending on your project setup you may have somebody on your team representing regulatory or legal who should be making this call. If you do not, or you believe they are acting unethically, it is your responsibility to act ethically and ensure that the company does not violate any rules or regulations. 

As a Project Management Professional you sign a code of conduct that insists you act in an ethical manner. While doing so may hurt your career in the short term, you will always be better off in the long term. And taking short-cuts for short-term gains never pays off in the long term. 

But you don't need me to tell you that. Take any religious text or even Plato and they will agree with me. Below is my personal motto that you are free to take:

Do the right thing
Do the thing right

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Putting the E in Estonia

I really enjoyed Talinn when I visited a few years back. Not only was the old town absolutely gorgeous with one beautiful square leading into another, the people were amazing. Everyone seemed friendly and spoke many languages.

So it came to no surprise to me that Estonians have fully embraced the digital world. According to this article, Estonians microchip technology to embed their national identity and access thousands of services, including banking and medical records.

They ignore concerns about privacy in favor of the greater convenience of full connectivity. Coming out from under the Soviet yoke a generation ago, they welcome the slashing of bureaucracy this electronic connectivity allows.

Look at some of the advantages they gain: 98% of Estonians file their taxes online in 5 minutes allowing the tax department to halve their workforce to 1,500 and issue tax returns in a week. Digital signatures on mobile devices are the norm.

Estonia is leading the way here. Is it the right path to the future? Are we heading to 'This Perfect Day?'

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Oct 6, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I see that the grades I can receive when taking my PMP exam are 'not proficient', 'moderately proficient' and 'highly proficient', Can you explain the value of securing moderately proficient versus highly proficient on my PMP certificate in career perspective?

Overachiever in Delhi

Dear Overachiever,

As far as anyone other than you is concerned, the PMP test is graded Pass/Fail. Nobody asks for your grade. Like most credentials, you either have it or you don't. 

So why does PMI grade it in such a way? Self-preservation.

The PMP exam is a HUGE moneymaker for the organization. $500 a pop for hundreds of thousands of people adds up fast. When I took the exam back in the last millennium (1999), there was a minimum score and they graded applicants with a number. I believe I barely passed which told me I studied exactly enough.

But picture what happens to those who barely fail. They are out $500 and want to argue with the PMI on the correctness of their answers. Especially some of the philosophical questions that ask you what you would do in a certain situation. You can claim to be doing the right thing and PMI disagrees. Who to mediate? 

So the PMI protects itself by not telling you which questions you got right or wrong. It only tells you that you scored each section with a particular proficiency. 

Never mind, just take my advice and pass the test and tell everyone you scored highly proficient. 

Good luck,

PM Advisor.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Sep 29, 2014

Dear PM Advisor, 

What are the ideal numbers of projects a PM should be conferred upon simultaneously to effectively manage the projects?

Overworked in Lagos

Dear Overworked,

The first answer to this question is: It depends. It depends on how big the projects are. If you are working on a huge new drug development project, this may be your only job for the next seven years and you may have a project coordinator/administrator who keeps track of status and updates your Gantt chart and budgets for you. 

If you are managing a self-sufficient team on a small project you may only require an hour a week to stay on top of this. 

Typically you are somewhere between these two extremes and you end up being placed on multiple projects. 

If you plan your projects properly, they Gantt chart should be able to show your manager how many hours of your time are required by each project on a weekly basis and that should be the primary indicator of how many projects you can work on. 

However, keeping all that information from getting mixed up in your head brings you to a practical upper limit of the amount of projects you can manage simultaneously: FIVE.

Don't let anyone assign you more than that.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Simplicity sells

I love Costco. Not just for the prices but for the simplicity. When I want to buy a product, I know that Costco has already narrowed down the many choices to the one or two top products and cut the margin down to a razor thin slice.

Products arrive in boxes and customers walk out with boxes full of products. Pallets are placed on warehouse shelves and it's up to the customers to pull out what they want to buy.

Because of this simplicity I am loyal to Costco and look for that simplicity in other companies. And I'm not the only one. Since 2010, Siegel and Gale has published the Global Brand Simplicity Index which rates companies globally and in the US, Germany and UK for this simplicity factor. Here's the latest list:
My father's favorite company, the German low price retail company, Aldi, heads the list, for many of the same reasons I love Costco.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Sep 22, 2014

Dear PM Advisor

In a small company where the PMO is absent, what should be the role for Project Manager?

Alone in Lahore

Dear Alone,

The Project Management Office has a lot of traditional roles, many of which can be taken over by a Project Manager in a company without the PMO. Let's look at them:

  1. Maintain the PM templates
  2. Keep all the project records
  3. Train the Project Managers
  4. Provide PMs to the organization
  5. Write the Project Management Guide
  6. Facilitate the steering committee
  7. Organize project prioritization 
  8. Decide on Project Organization style
So in your situation you can do roles 1 and 2, get yourself trained and be the PM for the organization. Writing the Project Management Guide should be done no matter what and you can have a streamlined guide in your current role. 

When it comes time to setting up a high-level steering committee and getting the organization to agree on project priorities, your success depends entirely on your personality.  

Deciding on the Organization Style is pretty simple. Your company has already decided on Functional, Projectized or Matrix. If Matrix, you cannot be strong since you don't have a PMO. If you are called a PM, it seems like you are, you are in a balanced matrix. If not, you're in a weak matrix structure.

Take advantage of the lack of structure to do whatever you want to make life as a PM easier. 

Good luck,

PM Advisor 

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Friday, September 19, 2014

The Reasonable Polish Woman

I enjoyed reading the words of Poland's incoming Prime Minister in today's NY Times. Ewa Kopacz likened her country to a 'Reasonable Polish Woman.'

Here she explains:

“You know, I’m a woman,” she said. “I can imagine what I would do if I saw a person waving a sharp tool or holding a gun. My first thought would be: Right behind me, there is my house and my children. So I’d rush back and protect my children.”

A man, she said, would react differently.

“He would think: I don’t have a decent stick at hand, but so what? Am I not going to stand up and beat them up just because they dared to come here and threaten my family?” she said.

This attitude has put her country in good stead with the Ukrainian crisis going on next door. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Sep 15, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

What improvements you have experienced with IT Projects using PMBOK as a reference?

Lighter side in Calcutta

Dear Lighter side,

While I can't claim to be there at the beginnings of PMI, I was one of the first people in my industry to have received the PMP credential. I have seen it become more familiar and progress to the point where people are requesting the credential amongst new hires and even long-term employees. 

Along with this change there there has, naturally, been a greater knowledge of and use of the PMBOK guide. More people are referring to the PMBOK and using the terminology within. So the biggest improvement I have found is the standardization of language. 

Remember that the PMBOK is not a methodology. It tells you what to do, not when to do it or how a particular tool should be used. So the greater improvement I have seen has come from the use of various Project Management methodologies. People go out for training or send their entire team out to the same course and they come back fired up with the way to make projects work more efficiently within their organization. Even better is when a methodology is brought in-house and taught to the entire organization at various levels. 

All these training courses seem to have embraced the PMI terminology so there is more consistency between the courses as to what they call each tool. 

So the real advantage is that PM knowledge transfers easily between companies and even industries due to the standardization of terms championed by the PMI. You can learn your PM skills at one company and move to another without encountering a huge learning curve in these skills. 

Good luck,

PM Advisor.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Why Democrats can't win the House

Very interesting analysis by Nate Cohn in last week's New York Times that showed why Democrats are unlikely to win a majority in the House of Representatives while winning statewide majorities for Democrats.

Democratic voters are clustered in cities giving huge margins of victory to Democrats while leaving many more slim Republican majorities in more rural districts. Look at the voting pattern of a few states to see the situation:

So while Pennsylvania and Ohio will vote Democratic as a state, handing their electoral votes to the Presidential candidate and putting Democrats in the Senate, they will send more Republicans to the House than Democrats. Same goes for many other states, enough to hand the House to Republicans for many years to come.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Sep 8, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

In your Project Management experience, how do you manage the individual working styles? For example I worked in project where the development team is in the UK. The typical problem I faced was a team member who overwrites in my email and sends it back. I spend hours understanding what is his response to my email. 

Muddled in Mumbai

Dear Muddled,

Remember that 90% of Project Management is communiucation. Communication is difficult enough when we all speak the same language. Everyone has developed their own way of communicating and it rarely matches anyone elses. Witness almost every married couple for examples of how people who live together daily miscommunicate. 

It gets much harder on global projects where some use English as a second language. Here are some things I have done to help facilitate communication in these environments:
  1. When English is a struggle, require a translator with the group who uses English as a second language during status meetings
  2. Speak slowly and pause for translations during long speeches
  3. Use as little jargon as possible unless it is well-known by all participants
  4. Set up ground rules for e-mail communication, talking over each other, etc.
This last rule might help with your specific problem. What you are saying the team member does seems pretty reasonable to me not having seen the results. When I receive an e-mail with a lot of questions, I answer next to each question and write "Answers within your text for clarity' in the body of my response.

Perhaps your problem child doesn't format his answers obviously. I recommend using a different color, bold my responses and make sure there is a carriage return between each response. 

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dutch tolerance led to New York's greatness

Great op-ed by Russell Shorto in today's Times showing that the secret to New York's success lay in the roots of the Dutch 17th century tolerance for others. Here is the full essay but I'd like to pull some excerpts here:

 In founding New Amsterdam in the 1620s, the Dutch planted the seeds for the city’s remarkable flowering. Specifically, the Dutch brought two concepts that became part of New York’s foundation: tolerance of religious differences and an entrepreneurial, free-trading culture.
In the 17th century, when it was universally held elsewhere in Europe that a strong society required intolerance as official policy, the Dutch Republic was a melting pot. The Dutch codified the concept of tolerance of religious differences, built a vast commercial empire and spawned a golden age of science and art in part by turning the “problem” of their mixed society into an advantage. Dutch tolerance was transplanted to Manhattan: They were so welcoming that a reported 18 languages were spoken in New Amsterdam at a time when its population was only about 500.
While many economies elsewhere in Europe were still feudal, the Dutch pioneered an economic system based on individual ownership of real estate. That came about because the Dutch provinces occupied a vast river delta, in which land was at or below sea level and therefore constantly under threat. People in those communities banded together to build dams and dikes and reclaim land. The new land was not owned by a king or a church. Instead, the people who had created it divided it and began buying and selling parcels. That incentivized a whole society, fueled the growth of an empire, turned the Dutch into entrepreneurs and made them the envy of other Europeans.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Building a business from nothing

You've got to admire a person who can create a business out of nothing. Barton Steiner saw a potential in selling stuff that the Yankees had used to fans who want them. According to this article, he has talked the Yankees, and a lot of other sports teams, to sell him their used products, from bases to rakes to dirt, so that he can sell them to fans who are willing to pay well for this memorabilia.

So now Yankees groundskeepers change the bases several times a game so Barton can sell them to fans for hundreds of dollars. Very clever!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Sep 1, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I’ve been taking practice PMP tests and struggle with ones where they ask me something is a tool or technique in one of the processes. Other than memorizing every single tool, technique, input and output in every process, how am I supposed to know these?

Feeling like a tool in San Diego.

Dear Tool,

And I mean that in the nicest sense of the word. There are a few tricks I’ve discovered to help you with this problem. The first one is, as you’ve suggested, memorizing every input, tool, technique and output in every process. I have a cheat sheet that you can memorize linked here. It will take a normal person about five hours to do so. If you are willing to spend the time on this, bring it with you in your mind and spend the first 10 minutes of your four hours transcribing this on the pieces of paper they give you when you take your test. Then, when you are faced with these questions, look them up and you know you got another question right.

For those who’d rather spend their time doing other things, here are some hints:
  • Tools or techniques = doing something
  • Inputs or outputs = something you can hold

About half the time, the question will ask which of the following is or is not a tool or an input or an output.

Eg: Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis

Inputs = Risk mgmt plan
Scope baseline
Risk Register

Outputs = Project Doc updates

Tools = Risk prob and impact assessment
Prob & Impact matrix
Risk data qual assessment
Risk categorization
Risk Urgency assess
Expert Judgment

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lottery savings accounts

"Lotteries are a tax on the stupid." We've heard this before but this simplistic statement ignores the entertainment value a poor person gets from dreaming about getting rich by purchasing a ticket. Being down and out is a tough situation and the thought that a $1 ticket can bring you riches is worth the purchase price.

My statistics professor once told me: 'The odds of winning the lottery are tiny, but by buying one ticket, you have improved those odds infinitely from zero to this number. Buying two tickets only doubles these odds so stick with one ticket." I use that philosophy when the mega millions gets above a quarter billion.

But I'm not poor and I already save about 20% of my income. How can we encourage the poor to save while still giving them the hope a lottery provides? A long time ago I dreamed of machines located next to the lottery machines at the convenience stores that people could load their money into a retirement account and see the balance and predicted amount at retirement every time they used the machine. Then they would have a choice between instant gratification and long term savings.

But I like a system even better as reported on in today's NY Times article. Here several credit unions offer 'Prize-linked savings accounts.' A small percentage of the interest rate is dedicated to monthly prizes which are randomly given to people who deposit money into their accounts that month. Not only do you have published winners, everyone else wins because they all save money for their futures.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Columbus the Risk Manager

An attendee at one of my Risk Management Presentations, Paul Juska, shared with me the term paper he put together showing the likely Risk Management activities Christopher Columbus went through to get financing for his trip to the Indies. It was well done and entertaining so I asked if I could publish it on my blog. Paul graciously agreed so I have posted it here for you to enjoy.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Aug 25, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I struggle with all the Earned Value Formulae. Any hints for making this portion of the PMP test easier to study for?

Can’t see the value in Albuquerque

Dear Can’t,

Once you struggle with the more philosophical questions on the PMP exam you’ll see the calculations like those Earned Value ones as a breath of fresh air. But first let me give you some hints to make these easier for you.

You are usually given some numbers and asked to calculate the rest. I’m going to assume you know some elementary Algebra before you take the test. Here are the three numbers you are usually given: 

Planned Value (PV), Actual Cost (AC) and Earned Value (EV). 

If they are evil they will give you one of the below formulae and you will need to use that basic Algebra to determine the missing number from above. Either way, you’ll need to remember the following formulae and below I’ll show you the easy way to do this.

There are four rules to remember:    
  1. EV always come first in the calculation
  2. AC goes with anything that says Cost
  3. Negative Variances are always bad
  4. Indexes less than 1.0 are always bad

So let’s put these rules to the test. You are asked to calculate Cost Variance. You get Variances by subtracting one number from another. Rule 1 says EV always goes first. Rule 2 says AC goes with any Cost calculation.

Thus CV = EV –AC     Simple, right?

What does that leave you with for Schedule Variance?  EV goes first, Rule 2 is not in effect so the only thing left to put in the equation is PV.

Thus SV = EV – PV.

The same two rules apply for the Index calculations.

Cost Performance Index requires EV to go first, only this time the EV goes in on top of the line. 

We’re talking about cost so AC goes on the bottom.

Thus CPI = EV/AC

SPI must use PV since that’s all that’s left.

Thus SPI = EV/PV

Rules 3 and 4 help you convert formulae into reality. If you have a negative SV, you are behind schedule. A negative CV means you are OVER budget. Don’t get confused by the negative number. Negative is bad, being over budget is bad.

Same with the indexes. Less than 1 is bad so a SPI of 0.8 means you are behind schedule. Over 1.0 is good so a CPI of 1.2 means you are UNDER budget.

Remembering these hints will help you with about 5 of the 200 questions you will be faced with. For those that require TCPI or ETC, you just have to memorize the formulae. More on these in a future post.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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