Visually monitoring risks: a supplement to the Risk Register

Often, great ideas just pop out of discussions. Today is a great example. As the class discussed the PMBOK Guide approach for monitoring risks, one of the students shared their experience of managing a multi-million dollar project’s risks using a war room (extra credit if anyone recalls how war rooms are used and which knowledge area they relate to) and this simple graphic:

Risk Radiation Chart

Depicts changes in risk events over time

How do you use it? It is pretty intuitive, no? For additional detail, simply, cross-reference to your Risk Register. All the event details, including its owner, the proposed “a priori” response and results should be listed there (or in the Issues Log).

What is so appealing about this graphic is its simplicity. You see the trend for, potentially, hundreds of risk events without scouring line after line of Risk Register. Very nice!

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Design of Experiments, distilled

If you are preparing for the PMP® Exam, you have probably encountered the Plan Quality Technique of Design of Experiments (DOE). Realizing that you may want this technique distilled down to manageable, exam-appropriate material, consider these points:

Design of Experiments:

  • Systematically blocks project variables
  • To reduce the effects of random error
  • Improving project quality decisions (what to measure, how to measure it and the final deliverable)
  • Saving time and money on the project

Enough to be dangerous. 

Keep at it — you 

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Design of Experiments

I love to cook. I am not always successful in turning out tasty dishes, however.

When I first learned about spices my modus operandi was to use a little bit of EVERY spice in the meal. The end result … a dog’s breakfast. I ended up wasting a lot of time, money and the patience of my family in the process.

Had I known about Design of Experiments, however; my learning curve may have been steeper (which is a good thing). Design of Experiments is a technique (used in the Plan Quality process) to combine project variables in groups and systematically change those variables until the desired outcome, a “blueprint” for the project emerges. That is the gist of what you need for the PMP exam.

For those of you looking beyond the exam and considering what Design of Experiments can do, consider it a discipline worthy of study if you are going into high-tech fields. As proof, several of my past students, members of the military working on weapons systems, described their experience working with Design of Experiments and how they were excited about transitioning into civilian life as several consulting companies were courting them to come and teach Design of Experiments to their clients.

Food for thought?

If any statisticians out there are familiar with and would like to discuss Design of Experiments, we welcome your comments.

As always, You Are Great!

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Vendor Bid Analysis vs. Contracts

An easy-to-overlook technique of Estimating Costs is called Vendor Bid Analysis. It is simply considering the costs (via quotes, bids, proposals, etc) being offered for project work. Once the contracts for that work are finalized, the contract figures are used in the process Determine Budget.

Exam tip:
Vendor Bid Analysis – technique of Estimating Costs
Contract – input for Determine Budget

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Exam mega-themes

A quick, solid foundation for scoring well on both the PMP and CAPM exams is to rehearse these over-arching mega-themes:

The project manager protects the project by:
acting proactively – influencing the factors that would have a negative (or positive) effect on the project
knowing, respecting and following the rules, customs and norms of the project and its stakeholders
timeliness & transparency in communications
acting as the interface for all stakeholder groups, engaging appropriate parties throughout the project
gathering, documenting, organizing, maintaining and gaining formal agreement on project plans and deliverables
I have continued to condense these themes after several years of working with the material in the PMBOK Guide week after week, teaching thousands of people to pass the PMP and CAPM exams. I would be interested in hearing what other people see as their “short-list” of crucial, must-know themes (not facts or definitions) for effective project management.

You are great!

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Trust = …?


Those five letters portend either a positive or negative experience — in family life, romantic relationships, business deals, and projects.

On the PMP exam, trust is a frequent concept. Trust is not a “touchy-feely” thing on the exam (or in life). Trust is transactional. Trust is built over time. Make a promise, deliver on that promise and your build trust. Fail to deliver and you erode trust. Simple as that?

How might trust be a theme on the PMP exam?

Project managers are expected to be proactive, to consider the needs / expectations of stakeholders and to take action prior to problems getting unmanageable.

Team-building: The PMBOK Guide describes team-building as an on-going activity intended to develop and maintain trust and cohesion among team members.

Transparency: Transparency of communications. Presenting accurate information about project progress and results even in when someone encourages you to alter the data so the customer or project sponsor are “more comfortable.”

Full-disclosure: Presenting all the data so a customer can make informed decisions, such as
Life Cycle Costing data, even when this additional data be to the short-term detriment of the performing organization. In other words, if the customer knows the full financial picture of the project deliverable they may decide not to do your project. You, the project manager (and your company), will not get the work.

Non-discrimination: The PMI Code of Ethics stipulates that those associated with the Project Management Institute (credential holders, members and volunteers, all) will assign work to those that are the most qualified for those positions. As PMP credential-holders we are obligated to fulfill this requirement once people join our teams. In a broader sense, if a project operates in an environment in which discrimination is culturally acceptable, the PMI Ethics Code encourages us to educate local leaders on the goal of non-discrimination.

Those are just a few examples. I would welcome your thoughts on other ways
of building trust.

You are great!

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The Big Change is Afoot!

Big change — aarrrgh, right?

Many people are rushing to take the PMP exam prior to the 8/31/11 change-over. Popular sentiment is the “new” exam will be much harder than the current version, which is why there is the rush to beat the deadline.

But is the anxiety warranted?

Hmmm, the exam itself is not changing substantially. The biggest detriment to taking the exam on or after 8/31/11 is delayed gratification — exam results will be emailed 6 – 8 weeks after you take the exam. This is a temporary change. PMI expects to have immediate scoring available in November.

My advice for those studying for the PMP exam is to use your practice exams as your guide. If you are scoring consistently in the 80’s on new questions, take the exam. Don’t let the exam change-over date dictate when you test. Run your race.

You are great!

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