Friday, February 28, 2014

PMO Creation - Week 2

The creation of the PMO is not my full-time job. I am still working on projects, making sales calls and staying on top of our operations. But I did accomplish a few things this week. I met with the two IT Project Managers who now report to me and are part of this organization. They are two very enthusiastic young PMs who are excited to be granted the structure of a PMO and the ability to assist in the building.

The first thing we did was decide on the mission of this PMO. Only one of my team was with me but we ran the result by the other and made some adjustments to come up with this:

The QPharma PMO will improve Project Management by:
  1. Prioritizing internal projects
  2. Authorizing baselines
  3. Communicating progress
  4. Managing change control
  5. Managing interdependencies
  6. Distributing templates
  7. Training Senior Staff, Project Managers and Team Members
  8. Facilitating monthly steering committee meetings
  9. Managing RAID (Risks, Assumptions, Issues, Dependencies)
  10. Tracking financials
  11. Assessing completed deliverables
  12. Storing documents and lessons learned
I typed this up and distributed it to my team and the company owner. No complaints so far!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Feb 24, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I'm having a real problem getting the documents we produce on our project approved. More people want to review the documents in the second round than who reviewed it in the first round. Any suggestions?

Runaround Sue in Cambridge, MA

Dear Runaround Sue,

A great tool for this is the Responsibility Matrix. The Cadence version takes teh activities shown on the Work Breakdown Structure and determines who will provide active contribution to the completion of each task. This visual tool can help you explain your problem to the management who can do something about this.

When they see, graphically, that rather than funneling down the review from a large number to a subset to one or two who approve the document, a broadening of reviews, they should understand your concern. If not, ask them the question: "Won't I be wasting time on the first set of edits if the whole set of reviewers doesn't look at it the first time?"

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Eightieth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          When the sun’s early rays woke him and he flexed his sore back from lying on the rune all night, he was happy to find that Grainne’s face was still snuggled in the crook of his arm. His heart swelled with love at finding this woman still with him. Did this signal a change in our relationship?
         They made love again, long and languorous, and Gwilym noticed that for the first time, Grainne let herself go. This time was wonderful because it felt like there was real love being expressed on both sides for the first time. It reminded him of more the comfort he had found in Kaitlyn’s body than the excitement he had found in Fatima’s.
         They lay together, kissing, not speaking, caressing, stroking until they heard someone walking up the stairs of the tower. They rose and dressed. They heard Jac’s voice below them. “Da, will you come to break fast with us?”
         Gwilym looked at Grainne with a question. She nodded and they both went down and walked together toward the tavern. He greeted his Dad with the usual morning kiss and hug, and then held out his hand to Grainne. “Good morning Miss Grainne. Did you sleep well?”
         “No I did not, Jac.” He looked shocked. “Your father and I have been up talking most of the night, and I have decided to join you boys on your travels to the next tower. It is near my home so I’ll let you escort me there. Then, while your Da is building the next tower, you can play with Madoc and Brice. Will that be fun?”
         Jac’s eyes widened at this and he looked at his father. Gwilym was staring in disbelief at Grainne who looked with a placid expression at Jac. Gwilym was first to break the silence. “That’s wonderful, Grainne. I’m looking forward to the travels. And where is this next tower?”
         “I should let Sir Kay tell you. He will arrive by dinner. Now, I’m famished, Jac. What will they serve us in the tavern?”
         “Eggs and turnip mash. But you can sometimes ask the man to cook eggs the way you like it.”
         “And what is your favorite way?” she asked.
         “I like it fried soft so I can mix it with my turnips. I don’t like the taste of turnips. Llawen likes his boiled hard. Bleddyn likes to scramble his when he fries it.”
         “What does your father like?”
         “Oh, he’s nice. He will take it any way we like it so that we get turns getting it made our way. But he puts hot spices on his eggs, not salt.”
         “Is that so?” she asked, looking at Gwilym with new eyes. “And does he spice a lot of food?”
         “Aye. Sometimes too much for me but other people like it. Father Drew liked it a lot. Are you going to marry my Da?” He stopped and looked stricken at his father.
         Grainne reached out and held Gwilym’s hand with one of hers and patted Jac on the head with the other. “Perhaps so. But he hasn’t asked me yet so I’ll wait until then.”
         “Sorry, Da,” whispered Jac to his father as they entered the tavern.

         After Sir Kay and his three men had inspected the tower and were satisfied, he told Gwilym of his new assignment while handing him the new charter. “The steeple of the Abbey of Glastonbury has become damaged and must be rebuilt. We also would like to make it taller and add a capstone to the top. Go there now. We are finishing the King’s new castle nearby in Camelot. You can come to us for regular reports and get a monthly budget allowance. We cannot give you all the gold up front since we are preparing for a major war with the Saxons this year or next.”
         The next morning, both families packed up. Grainne drove Gwilym in the first cart. Bleddyn drove the second cart with his four brothers inside.
         None of them were prepared for the ordeal that faced them in their travels to Glastonbury.

         “That was better; it looks like the threat worked.”
         “Was that the threat or was it genuine? And is she breeding again?” asked Merlin.
         “Yes, the man is potent and her timing is perfect. All those lovers she’s had, yet only Gwilym can quicken her with children.”
         “What will you do with her oldest? He is too old for Avalon.”
         “Foster him out,” replied Viviane
         “She’ll refuse.”
         “What about letting her leave? She seems to like this Gwilym.”
         “That will never work, there are too many differences.”
         “Either way, the boy cannot return to live in Avalon.”
         “Have you given up on her, Viviane? Who will follow you?”

         “Someone loyal.”
To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

Friday, February 21, 2014

PMO Creation - Week 1

While I've been the head of Project Management at my company for the last 13 years, the owner has not wanted the 'bureaucracy' of a Project Management Office. I've busied myself with many other tasks in the meantime: Training our PMs, running projects and programs, planning customer projects etc.

But last week the owner asked me to set up a PMO for the commercial operations portion of the business. He has a lot of IT projects that are either for internal purposes or for sale to our customers and he has recognized that the lack of discipline here is delaying these projects. He gave me almost carte blanche to set it up in the way I thought best. He told me I could be dictatorial in handing down rules in which we should operate.

The downside is that the owner is very entrepreneurial and may chafe under these new rules so I expect a few fights in the future. Nonetheless, I am stepping forward to create this PMO from scratch.

Seems like a perfect source for some interesting posts on how this works versus the plan. So here goes. Check in as I post on a weekly basis showing my strategies, tactics, successes and disappointments, challenges and triumphs.

The first challenge will be getting these IT projects prioritized, fully resourced and completed on schedule. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pope shows how to lead with humility

Pope Francis has been exciting Catholics and non-Catholics worldwide through his humble dealings with the laity and his tough dealings with the Vatican bureaucracy. Yet this humble man is concerned with the rock-star following he is receiving due mainly to his humble approach to the public. He now has a celebrity magazine bearing a centerfold in each issue. 

Still, he relishes his ability to reach the public, even reaching out to atheists recently. He uses his popularity to good effect, and is making important changes for the better in the church and the world at large. Three cheers for a wonderful example of servant leadership. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dear PM Advisor, Feb 17, 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 taking the test transcribing this on the pieces of paper they give you. 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:
Quite often, the test will ask you which of the following is not a tool or technique in a particular process. The first thing you need to do is decide if one of the answers is not even a tool or technique. You can determine that by looking at these two rules:
  • Tools or Techniques = doing something
  • Inputs or outputs = something you can hold

So if you look at an option, picture it in your mind. Is it something you do or something you can hold after someone has done something? If it is the former, it's a tool or technique. If the latter, its either an input or an output. 

Let's look at an example randomly flipped to in the PMBOK. Here is the Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis Process.
  • Risk Management Plan
  • Scope Baseline
  • Risk Register
  • Environmental Enterprise Factors 
  • Organizational Process Assets

Tools & Techniques
  • Risk Probability and Impact Assessment
  • Probability & Impact Matrix
  • Risk Data Qualification Assessment
  • Risk Categorization
  • Risk Urgency Assessment
  • Expert Judgment

  • Project Document Updates

Do you see how the Tools and Techniques groups are things you do? Assessments, Filling out a Matrix, using Expert Judgment, Categorizations. 

This trick won't help in all cases but it should narrow your choices to one in half of those types of questions. 

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

India's efficient space program

India has a space program with project budgets less than the movie 'Gravity.' They have successfully launched a spaceship that arrives in Mars orbit this September. Cost? $75 Million! Wow!
How do they keep costs down? 
Although costs for engineers are $1000 a month, that alone cannot reduce the costs to the level they need. So they use a lot of typical Indian cost savings:
  • Repurposing old technology into new. Rather than starting from scratch, they refine 1970's propellant technology to work today. 
  • Modularity. Everything fits together like lego blocks across all their projects.
  • Less testing. (Yikes!)
  • Younger engineers
  • Unpaid overtime due to a motivated workforce
The projects seem to be working and I believe there is a lot we can learn from this program.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Dear PM Advisor, Feb 10, 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 calculations 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 use these rules. 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

Schedule Performance Index, 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 the one or two questions that require TCPI or ETC, you just have to memorize the formulae. More on these in a future post.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Seventy-ninth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          This time, when he removed the last wedge, leaving the tower supported by the river jade, he did it without looking at his last few hammer blows. He did it by feel, watching the capstone behind him for Grainne’s appearance. First he saw her fingers grip the stone’s edge. Then he saw her feet swinging up, then her legs and the rest of her body as she flipped herself through the air, landing nimbly on her feet. It was a dangerous move but accomplished with the perfection of one of the King’s acrobats. Her arrival coincided with the last tap of his hammer. There was no magic involved. Just perfect timing and an athletic leap.
He welcomed her with a warm hug. She was wearing the same clothes as this afternoon. A slight breeze pressed the loose cloth against her body, revealing the curves beneath. “I’m glad to see you, Grainne.”
          She gave him a wry smile and glanced up at the quarter moon. “Gwilym. If I promise you we’ll talk after the lovemaking is over, will you not ask me any questions until then?”
          He took her chin in his hand and looked deep into her eyes. Then he slipped his hand around her neck, luxuriating in the thick hair. He bent and kissed her softly, then harder and deeper, slipping his tongue between her lips and meeting hers. His other hand dropped to her full breasts and caressed them through the cloth of her dress. She reached up and pushed her hands under his shirt, running her fingers over his chest and squeezing the muscles of his shoulders. He parted from her long enough to remove his shirt and then took her back in his arms.
          She loosened the drawstring on his pants and peeled them over his hips and off. She grasped his shaft in one hand, marveling that her fingers couldn’t meet around it. “By the Goddess, Gwilym, you are a man! Make love to me hard, now. I want to feel this for the rest of the year.”
          She led him to the rune and coaxed him into lying down. Then she stripped off her dress and stood above him, straddling his hips. He marveled at her rounded perfection, her muscular calves and thighs, her tight belly that belied the two babies she’d hosted. Her large, firm breasts with their small, pink nipples. She lowered herself further and further down onto him, guiding him deep within her. Then she raised herself with exquisite slowness, him bemoaning the loss of her warmth with every inch of extra exposed flesh. When he was almost completely out of her, she lowered herself again, warming his body and making him shudder in ecstasy.
          She repeated this pattern again and again, each time increasing the pace a little, each time lowering herself more and more onto him until her pelvis was grinding against his. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she stayed there, quivering with the thrill of her climax.
          Gwilym gave her time to recover, and then her rolled her over onto her back in the center of the rune. He mounted her and made love to her hard and strong, each stroke eliciting a small moan of pleasure. He sensed her coming orgasm and timed his own to coincide. A groan emerged from deep in his chest.
          He opened his eyes to see when the fog arrived. Not here yet. But as he pulled out of her and their mingled juices touched the rune, the fog appeared around the top of the tower. It was the thick fog of a spring morning that obscured their view of the village.
          He reached for their discarded garments and used them to make pillows for their heads. “I’d like to marry you, Grainne. What do you need to know about me to make you feel comfortable that it’s the right thing to do?”
          “I need to know that you won’t try to foster your religion on me or my sons. I’d like to know what you think of the Goddess.
          “I am still questioning all that myself. I’ve no plans to push my religion on anyone since I don’t know what I believe yet. I’ve seen the magic that Celts can perform. I have also seen miracles that Christians perform. I believe both preach respect for others and the Druids emphasize respect for natural things. These are all good virtues. Was Jesus the Son of God? So far, I believe it.”
          Her face darkened at this but he didn’t pause to allow her to argue.
          “Is God a father or is she the great goddess? I think it is what you feel comfortable imagining. I picture a large, fierce, white-haired, bearded old man. You may picture a woman.”
          “A dark woman,” added Grainne. “What do you think about the afterlife? Do good people go to ‘heaven’ and bad people to ‘hell’ or are we reincarnated into different bodies?” she asked.
          Gwilym shook his head. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “The priests of both of our religions differ there but they agree on the only thing that matters. What we do in this life determines the quality of the life that follows. Therefore, let’s each do the right thing here on earth and we should end up in whatever we consider heaven. Perhaps they’re both right. Christians will end up in the presence of the Father and Celts will end up in the body of a righteous person of the future. That way, they both feel that their religion was correct and the other wrong.”
          They talked on, long into the night. As Grainne learned of Gwilym’s own search for religion and he learned of her doubts about her own, her attitude towards him seemed to lighten. They made love twice more, Gwilym falling asleep soon after the last time, her lying snug in his arms.
To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Americans should obey Russian rules while visiting.

The opening ceremonies in the Sochi Olympics held a few entertaining moments. The German team came attired in rainbow colored uniforms to protest the anti-gay rules imposed in Russia. And the Olympic rings failed to open completely, leaving the ring that is traditionally red unopened. Was this a failure of Red communism or the failure of pink to bloom in Russia.

All this hoopla about the no gay-propaganda during these olympics demonstrate a basic difference between Russian and American culture. Americans culturally are individualistic while Russians are collective. While both countries have minorities, Americans believe that anyone can become whatever they want so there is a feeeling that everyone should be given a fair shake. Members of minority groups can protest and be awarded equal rights in this country. From religious freedom to the civil rights movement to the current gay marriage question, the majority has yielded to the minority and granted equality.

Not so in Russia. There the culture is that the majority is paramount and that minorities can be quashed. Gay rights marches are met with protestors who feel free to disrupt the demonstrations with support from the police, government and church. Putin stands behind this policy that the majority shall not be bullied by the 'obnoxious minority.' That is the Russian way.

Is this right? Not from an American perspective. We all believe in equal rights for all. But we are not Russians. They look at our system and scoff that we should cave our feelings to the minorites that are 'destroying our culture.' It all depends on one's perspective.

It is not our place to criticize other people's cultures, just as we bristle when other people criticize ours.

But what happens when an international event like the Olympics takes place in a country where rules differ from those at the visiting country? I believe the host country should make concessions to the visiting countries' tastes such as providing food and lodgings acceptable to them but they shouldn't to change their way of life completely. Part of the allure of traveling is to experience different cultures.

While traveling I try not to be the ugly American. I take off my shoes in Japanese restaurants and businesses. I refrain from drinking alcohol in Muslim countries. I'm respectful in other religions' temples. I don't stick my thumb up when hitch-hiking in Italy.

The American athletes are guests in a country with certain rules. While they shouldn't actively discriminate against gays, I believe they should respect the rules in Russia and not actively propagandize for gay rights during the two weeks they are being hosted by a country with that rule.

It is fine to send Billy Jean King as a representative to Sochi, but if she starts raising banners and encouraging homosexual behavior, she is breaking the local laws and being that ugly American. Just behave. We don't allow Russians to drink in public when they come here, we should obey their laws while in their country.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dear PM Advisor, Feb 3, 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

Send your questions to