Category Archives: Technical Elements

You Might Be a Project Manager If…

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
Several years ago, I had a bit of fun with the title of this posting; I suggested the usefulness of a Jeff Foxworthy comedy routine for project managers and business analysts to a good friend, Tom Hathaway, of BA Experts. He followed through with the idea at his website. Click his link and see Tom’s results; I think he did a great job!

pm-sat-triThis year, the “You might be …” set-up came to mind as I was putting the finishing touches on an update to IPMA-USA’s PM-SAT; a self-assessment of Project Management knowledge, based on the new, 4th Edition of the IPMA (International Project Management Association) Individual Competence Baseline. What makes this 4th Edition ICB especially interesting is the inclusion of 2-5 Key Competence Indicators for each competence element.

But, before we get into that, and for those who are unfamiliar with the genre, let’s explore the Foxworthy theme. It started with a rather cruel statement, then a series of ‘interesting’ indicators. For example, “You might be a Redneck if…”  followed by something like, “The taillight covers of your car are made of red tape.” Cute, and fun; and not too outrageous. It occurred to me that people who are friends (or family) of project managers probably have similar sayings about us—but are too polite to divulge them to our faces.

Re-purposed For Project Managers: You might be a project manager if …  Continue reading

More on Project Success

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, IPMA-USA Certification Director.

A slightly edited version of a recent LinkedIn post … this all started with a question that asked, “is scope, cost, and schedule enough to determine ‘project success.'” I responded with my usual position that “project success” is not an absolute, and that there were two dimensions to project success: project management success and product success. A couple of others continued to suggest using “project success” as the term for what I call “project management success.”

My most recent comment follows ..’

We’re close … my problem with “project success” is that the users/ owners/ clients/ customers/ sponsors for most projects could care less about how well managed the project was. They want their “thing” so that they can start using it to benefit the business. If we talk about “project success,” they are not going to understand us because the “project” to them is the “thing.”

In your shed examples [one built by hand and another built by a subcontractor], I disagree that different criteria are needed to measure project management success. For example, in both cases, we must select at least one measure of schedule success. There are many options:
— Delivery no later than the initial agreed date.
— Delivery within one week of the initial agreed date.
— Delivery at least one day before the delivery of the stuff going into the shed.
— Delivery no later than the final agreed date as adjusted due to scope changes.

One of these (or some other variant) would be agreed at the start. Once the criteria are agreed, it’s up to me as the PM to decide whether I should build the shed myself or contract it out.

Based on the success criteria, if you are a competent project manager, you may decide to include a contingency for a subcontractor’s heart attack. But if I’m the sponsor, I am not going to assess every decision you make: I am going to evaluate the results. Can you meet the schedule success criteria without being a good PM? Yes. Can you meet all of the PM success criteria without being a good PM? Unlikely without a co-dependent sponsor.

If you decide to manufacture the shed in bulk … that is a completely different endeavor with no relationship to the first one. The development of the product road map, design variants, and the rest is a project. The implementation of those plans is, indeed, product management and (as I have said from the beginning) has different success criteria. The product planning could have been part of the initial scope (with the first shed being a prototype), and we would still need separate sets of criteria for assessing the project management results and the product results.

But even without the bulk manufacturing … there are product/ benefit/ outcome criteria for the initial shed. The specs neglected to specify which model tractor, so the designer made an assumption, and the client signed off. Now the tractor is delivered, and it doesn’t fit. The shed is not fit for use (the “product” is a partial failure) despite the fact that it was well-managed.

One final repeat: the Project Manager is NOT responsible for delivering the product results. Just for being aware of what they are and doing their best to make sure that the project management success criteria support them.

Your Comments?

Are activities part of the WBS?

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, IPMA-USA Certification Director.

I got an email earlier today from an IPMA-USA member who wanted an answer to the title questions above. I told him “yes,” and he then quoted my words from the 1996 version of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge back to me:

“The activity list must include all activities which will be performed on the project. It should be organized as an extension to the WBS to help ensure that it is complete and that it does not include any activities which are not required as part of the project scope.” (emphasis added)

To me, this argument is a total waste of time. This is project management’s version of “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” If I take the lowest level of the WBS, and break it up into 4 activities, why not just include those 4 activities as part of the WBS? Why maintain two lists? Where is the added value?

Why did I change my position? Actually, I didn’t. The words in the 1996 document represented political expediency. During reviews of various drafts, there were a bunch of people who either (a) confused the CWBS with the WBS, or (b) worked in construction where the prime doesn’t develop a complete WBS. Both groups insisted that activities should not be part of the WBS as they understood it. I accommodated them.

So while the activities may be separated from the WBS on some projects or in some application areas, the split is artificial. You can take the drawers out of your dresser and say that the drawers aren’t part of the dresser. But why?

Some may argue that the WBS contains deliverables which are nouns, while activities have a noun and a verb. True enough, but keep in mind that any deliverable can be described as an activity, and any activity can be converted into a deliverable by dropping the verb.

When we certify at IPMA-USA, we are concerned with whether or not a project manager produces results. Whether you include activities in the WBS or not may be interest to people who are writing trick questions for knowledge-based exams, but we’ll stick to evaluating performance.

Your Comments?

How do you define gold-plating?

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, IPMA-USA Certification Director.

The following is adapted from a question I posted on LinkedIn. Some might ask how this question relates to certification. Simple. Level D tests a candidate’s knowledge of project management, so a clear definition of gold-plating would be useful for the Level D exam. Levels B and C assess a candidate’s ability to perform in the role, so evidence of gold-plating could be an indication that this PM is not yet competent.

The original edition of PMI’s PMBoK Guide included the phrase “meet or exceed stakeholder needs and expectations from a project” as part of the definition of project management. In subsequent editions, the “or exceed” was removed on the basis (I’m told) that this encouraged “gold-plating.”

In the current working draft of our NCB update, we are using the “meet or exceed” phrase.

Why?  To me, gold-plating is limited to scope. It means delivering a higher-grade product than the customer needs or wants. Does anyone have examples of gold-plating in the area of schedule or cost? And a related issue … do you think a project manager should be trying to exceed any of the following:

  • Stakeholder needs?
  • Stakeholder expectations?
  • Stakeholder requirements?

Or is it enough to do the minimum?

Your Comments?