Have you ever had an executive ask how long a project will take before the project started? Yeah, I've been there too.
When asked, PAUSE. Be careful about how you respond.
Why? Because your credibility is at hand. Let's talk about the challenges of schedule estimates and three estimating techniques that can help us do a better job with our estimates. Lastly, we'll look at how to respond to future requests for estimates.
What happens if someone estimates a task to take 10 days when it should only take 5 days? Work expands to fill the time alloted.
Conversely, what happens when someone estimates a task to take 5 days when it should take 10? People rush their work. The results are poor quality, rework, higher costs, and adverse impacts on the schedule.
During and after each project, compare your actuals to your estimates. Do you see a pattern where certain team members estimate too high or too low? Consider how you can work with these individuals to improve estimates for future projects.
Each estimating technique has its strengths and weaknesses. Project managers should understand and apply each estimating technique appropriately.
I wish I had a dime for every time that I have been handed a project with a deadline of yesterday. You've been there too? Well, let's talk about some practical steps that we can take to quickly start a project.
Jumpstarting a new project requires time and focus. Clear your calendar as much as possible. Secure a project administrator to help you with your administrative tasks. Delegate activities on existing projects. I also work during hours where I know that I will be least distracted, for example, early hours of the morning.
What Happens When You Get Behind
“No project recovers from a variance at the 15% completion point. If you underestimated in the near, you are generally off on the long term too.” – Gregory M. Horine
Do you know the 5Ps? Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. If this is true, why is it that some project managers put so little time in developing a project management plan?
One of the reasons is that project managers may not know what to include. I’ve developed this checklist to help you develop your project management plan including baselines, subsidiary plans, and ancillary plans.
Every project is different. Select only the planning elements that are appropriate for the size and complexity of your projects. The project plan may be general or detailed depending on the needs of the project team.
Focus on keeping the plans simple and practical. Engage your team members in developing the plans. This will greatly improve the quality of the plans and the buy-in. Otherwise, people will ignore the plans.
First, let’s look at three baselines that you may wish to include: the scope, schedule, and cost baselines.
So, what exactly is a baseline? A project baseline is a snapshot against which all future measurements will be compared. For example, a project manager can compare actual completion dates of activities to an approved schedule baseline.
Think about this. Without a baseline, how will you monitor and control your projects?
Do you feel uncertain about your project schedule? Does something see out of order but you just can’t put your finger on it. In this article, let’s look at five causes of schedule risks and ways to avoid or reduce these risks.
Many times, it starts with pressure from a sponsor to deliver the project early. For sure, project managers have a responsibility to work with their sponsors to understand the requirements and to complete the projects within the sponsor-imposed deadlines. Rather than wasting our time complaining about the deadlines, how can we work with our sponsors and team members to find solutions to schedule issues?
My friend Colin Gautrey has some wise advice on 8 Ways You Can Better Respond to Unrealistic Demands.
As we work to develop and compress our schedules, let’s be aware of the common causes of risk. We will be in a better position to manage the risks and deliver our projects on schedule.
Question: What other ways have you seen project managers unintentionally create schedule risks?
Some project managers struggle to identify scope risks. Why?
First, individuals may lack a concrete understanding of scope; scope seems to be a nebulous concept. WHAT exactly is scope?
Second, individuals may not know HOW to identify scope risks.
Either way, the failure to identify (and manage) scope risks can be costly. It’s like an overdrawn bank account. There are all kinds of penalties and fees if you know what I mean.
Risks are uncertain events or conditions, that if they occur, will have a positive or negative effect on the project objectives. What are some examples of scope-related risks?
Keep in mind that scope is the sum of the products, services, and results to be delivered through the project. Product scope includes the features and functions of the products, services, and results. Project scope is the work required to create the deliverables.Continue reading
How often have you neared a project implementation date, only to find new requirements? Or perhaps your team said they had gathered the requirements, but in reality, the team had hastily rushed through the requirement process resulting in rework, missed deadlines, and another blown budget.
If you want to improve your chance for project success, focus on improving your requirement processes. You can’t overcome all the issues overnight, but here are a few things to consider.Continue reading
The Standish Group says three of the biggest factors that lead to failed and challenged projects are:
We should attack these threats with a vengeance. How can we do this? We add skilled requirements analysts to our teams.
The role of the project manager is to achieve the project’s goals or objectives. Who performs the business analysis tasks for the projects? That depends.
For small projects, the project manager may assume many roles including but not be limited to:
For larger projects, project managers must find ways to complete project tasks through others. They must not fall into the trap of doing everything themselves. Wise project managers recruit team members with the necessary skills and talents.Continue reading
How big of a deal are project requirements?
The Project Management Institute says, “47% of unsuccessful projects fail to meet goals due to poor requirements management.” –Requirements Management, A Core Competency for Project and Program Success
In his book — Just Enough Requirements Management — Alan Davis shares, “Various studies suggest that errors introduced during requirements activities account for 40 to 50 percent of all defects found in a software product.”
Stakeholders hear the term “requirements” but interpret the meaning in different ways. Before we can manage anything, it’s critical that we have a working definition.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge defines requirement as “a condition or capability that is required to be present in a product, service, or result to satisfy a contract or other formally imposed specification.”
Karl Wiegers — author of Software Requirements — shared this definition: “Requirements are a specification of what should be implemented. They are descriptions of how the system should behave, or of a system property or attribute.”Continue reading
Poor project quality can have profound effects on projects resulting in rework, schedule delays, higher cost, frustration, morale problems, and lack of customer satisfaction. Project managers cannot afford to miss the mark here. Quality matters.
When buying eyeglasses, what do people look for? One person may focus on features such as the frame style. Another person may want anti-scratch coating or UV-blocking treatment.
Others also look for a great customer experience—how they are greeted, how easy it is to find their frames, and the fast, accurate checkout process.
Projects are similar–project customers, whether internal or external, want great products and service. How do your customers describe your service? Are they getting the product features they want?
Here are some common quality management mistakes. Overcoming these seven mistakes can greatly improve your chance of success. Continue reading
Earlier I wrote about eights ways to treat risks. One of the risk responses is avoidance. The focus of this strategy is to ensure the risk does not occur by eliminating the cause of the risk.
It was Fall, and I had raked the leaves in my backyard into three piles. I was trying to decide what to do with them. I knew there was a ban on burning in my area since we had been extremely dry for months.
What were my options? I could bag the leaves. I could haul the leaves into the woods. Or I could burn the leaves.
I decided to take a chance and burn the leaves. Later, I soaked the areas with water to fully extinguish the remaining embers.Continue reading