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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