Tag Archives: Scope

How I Learned to Balance the Project Vital Signs

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff

I named the key project factors of Time, Cost, Scope, Talent, Risk and Quality the Project Vital Signs nearly thirty years ago. I named them to evoke the signs one measures in the Emergency Room at a hospital, not measure if the patient was dead yet, but to determine whether he or she was improving. My rationale: Effective project managers use those factors to manage for success, not just to identify when the project failed. But I did not originally learn the importance of balancing those Vital Signs in the project world; instead, I learned it in a number of early formative experiences. This article is about one of those experiences.

Growing Up In the Cherry Capital of the World
I grew up in The Dalles, Oregon, the fresh dark red, ripe, sweet cherry-producing capital of the World. Other competitive regions included Italy, California, and Michigan, but our orchards produced the largest, richest-flavored cherries. They were so much in demand, that flights to Paris would next-day deliver our cherries to such noteworthy gourmet places as Fauchon. One part of our packing process was to box the cherries in elegantly foiled and lined wooden boxes, so they made a classy image in the shops. And one of the choicest jobs, once I turned 18 years of age, was to be one of the workers who made those boxes.

The box-making process involved standing at a large, noisy machine, and following these steps:

  1. Insert two ends (called heads) and one side into the machine, and push the nailing pedal. A large mechanical device containing the hammers would rapidly descend and nail the parts. Caaarrrunch!
  2. Flip the box over and place the lid on the assembly (the boxes were filled from the bottom, with the top several rows carefully arranged by packers, the goal being, when opened, the customer would see exquisitely-perfect rows of artfully placed cherries). Press the nailing pedal; caaarrunch, went the machine.
  3. Flip the mostly-assembled box to its final position, add the last side, push the pedal; caaarrrunnch!
  4. Place the finished box on the slanted track behind me, where four people added the foil, cardboard, and poly liner, while I began to repeat the cycle.

Those four steps required 6-10 seconds for each box. Continue reading

Who Really Manages Your Projects?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff

In many organizations today, competent and experienced Project Managers, Senior Project Managers and Program Managers (all referred to as PM or PMs in this article) have the responsibility and authority to deliver the organizational changes and benefits expected by Senior Managers, Executives, and internal and external customers. Those PMs are a credit to their organizations, those Managers and Executives are incredibly effective, and those organizations (Government and Enterprises) thrive as a result. We shall call this phenomenon Exhibit A.

The IPMA-USA Advanced PM certification program, based on IPMA’s* World-recognized offering, is perfect for those competent and performing practitioners. And our PRO program, IPMA-USA Performance Rated Organization, is a perfect match for the Exhibit A organizations.

And then we have the other organizations, that we shall call Exhibit B. In the Exhibit B organizations, it is usually several layers of Managers, rather than the nominal Project Managers, who are directing Time, Cost, Scope and Talent, leaving the PM to be a mere controller; despite his or her best efforts. The result: Poor PM Performance, and Executive Managers who blame the practice of PM, rather than the misplaced authority.

Who Sets Time, Budget, Scope and Talent?
Some of those Exhibit B organizations depend more on team heroics than deft management; project managers are identified after timelines and budgets are set; scope is never quite “nailed down”, and promised talent never appears, while cherished talent disappears. Much to the chagrin of PMs, requests for some flexibility somewhere are met with the classic excuse “we just have to do more with less” which almost always results in delivering far less with less. Continue reading