Friday, June 29, 2012

Recruitment of Project Managers

One of the most important activities of Program Management is to assign Projects to Project Managers. That's why I often think about ways of recruiting people for each component. The people of Human Resources many times have told me how difficult is, for them, to find persons for this special profile. I have already made a kind of structured advice that I would like to share with whom be interested.

There are good and bad Project Managers, nobody is perfect, but you would be interested in finding the best person that your budget and circumstances allow. My advice is to put attention in three characteristics or skills:
  1. One of these skills is easy to obtain, if the candidate hasn't got this skill, he/she could quickly obtain it.
  2. The second skill is not so easy to obtain, if the candidate hasn't got this skill, he/she could slowly obtain it, as long as somebody else gives opportunities to him/her.
  3. The third skill is so difficult to obtain that if the candidate hasn't this skill, it could be almost impossible to change that fact. Don't waste your time with that candidate.
The three skills are esential part of a good Project Manager and are described as follows.

The first skill, the one that is easy to obtain, is knowledge. If you want to be a Project Manager and you don't have this skill, don't worry, it is very easy to obtain, you can learn. Many trainers are dedicated to help people like you with these themes and you can learn the basics in a short time. For the people of Human Resources, my advice is that you can train people, do never reject a good candidate because he/she hasn't had formal education in Project Management.

The second skill, the one that is very difficult to obtain, is experience. You can't quickly obtain experience. There is an intrinsic contradiction in that. You need to be dedicated, pacient and open minded to get experience. It's slow and are no much things we can do to accelerate that. There is no such a thing as a good Project Manager that has never failed in a project. You get more experience when you fail and easy success creates dangerous people. For the people of Human Resources, my advice is never hire a Project Manager that seems perfect. The best one is somebody that has made mistakes and is still learning about it. Never reject a good candidate because he/she has made mistakes.

The worst part of getting experience is the cost. Not too many organizations want to pay for the mistakes of Project Managers because it is very expensive. You can take advantage of the mistakes of Project Managers in other organizations. These other organizations have already paid the cost of the experience that you can obtain for free. Nevertheless, it is obviously a dangerous bussiness, the next asignment for that person needs to be at the level of the experience that he/she has. A huge challenge is going to burn the person. A tiny one is so boring that you are going to loose the person in the midle of the project.

The third skill, that fact that is almost impossible to change, is personality. According to many definitions, personality is something that define's you, those characteristics that comes with you since your birthday. A good Project Manager is not shy, has good communication skills, is so smart that you can't notice that, is a balanced person and strong in values. It's easy to distinguish, give this person an opportunity and she/he will become a leader. If you are not such a person, let me say that you wouldn't be easily.

The three winners are: knowledge, experience and personality, ordered from fast to slow, easy to impossible, cheap to expensive. A simple recipie for the most difficult dish that you ever have prepared.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Progress Measurement in Activities with Zero Cost

How much is the cost of waiting? Sometimes there is a financial cost because of the frozen assets, at other times there is an indirect cost related with waiting human resources. Nevertheless, this indirect cost is commonly modeled as a general separated work package. In the most common case, there are activities without cost; at least, there are activities without “direct cost”. This is the reason why you can find the field called “delay” in the majority of the project planning tools. See the following example of the second coat of painting.

The Planned Value, as we commonly know it, doesn’t change during the waiting time. This is because the PV is measured in the dimension of cost and the “delay activity” doesn’t have cost. As a consequence, EV1 and EV2 have the same value at t2. Seeing Earned Value, it looks like the project is equally good in both situations. Unfortunately, the project is delayed by time “d” in the second case.

Somebody could say that the solution is to observe earned schedule (ES), because ES is measured in time. Well, my answer is no, according with the most common way to define ES, earned schedule fails too. Let’s take a look, ES is commonly defined as “the time at which the amount of earned value (EV) accrued should have been earned”. Then, when t=t2, ES1 = ES2. It doesn’t help.

My recommendation is to use a measured ES instead of a calculated ES. What does this mean? Well, divide the Schedule Progress Value in units of time to each measurement period. The Schedule Progress will be automatically accredited at the end of the period if the “waiting time” already started, otherwise, if the delay didn’t start, then no progress will be accredited. It’s impossible to have a Schedule Variance in the cost dimension with this method but it is possible to have a Schedule Variance in the time dimension if the delay didn’t start on time. Doing this, when t=t2, ES1 = t2 and ES2 will be t1.

It is important to warn you about people trying to sell “earned schedule calculators”. This problem continues if you use an “earned schedule calculator”. This problem is only solved using “earned schedule measuring”.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Program Management vs Project Management

Have you ever thought that your project would be a program? “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” [Bernard Baruch]. Is your problem a nail or a screw? Is it possible that you see your needs as a project because you know about project management? According with the PMBoK© of the PMI®, a big project can be divided into sub-projects. According to “The Standard of Program Management”© of the PMI®, a program is a “group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually”. I think that sometimes to manage related “components” as a project or as a program is simply a decision. You can manage them in both manners, but this will probably be the most important decision you will take in the process and it is going to significantly increase or decrease your probabilities of success.

In Program Management there are “components” that can be “projects” or other kinds of work, like “ongoing services”. If you need to manage something that can’t be defined as a project because of its continuous nature, then you don’t have a big project, you have a program.

In Program Management you decide to start components if some conditions are satisfied. You are not going to start to build something that nobody can maintain or operate. In Program Management this is always an explicit concern and in Project Management it depends on the project plan. If you need to review the start and finish of components according to superior reasons, you probably have a Program.

In Program Management the promise to the sponsors and stakeholders is more related with benefits than scope. Of course a program has a scope but the emphasis is put on benefits instead of scope. If your promise sounds like “give dwelling to a hundred people” and you are designing a solution for that; or your promise sounds like “generate green energy in an innovative way” and you are visiting innovative facilities in order to decide, then you probably have a program, not a project.

Many Programs are reviewed in decision gates every year and receive new funds after that revision. That’s why a Program manager needs to be prepared for regular auditing processes. If the Program is still useful and is creating benefits, it is probably going to be extended. This seems opposed to the definition of project, however, it is very common in Program Management.

It’s sad to say that I often see managers fail trying to manage programs as if they were projects. I hope you have seen this article before you have to choose and decide wether you need a hammer or a screwdriver.