From April 2018 to January 2019, I have attended 6 training courses about Project Management. I wrote a post after the first course. Now it’s the time to reflect on what I have learnt from the training as a whole.
- Project Development Framework Introduction
- Project Controls
- Benefits Management
- Risk and Issue Management
- Stakeholder Management
- Planning and Scheduling
First, what’s the difference between a project and daily business-as-usual work? The key project characteristics are:
- It introduces change that has bigger impact on the business
- It is temporary that have a set lifecycle
- It is unique that each project is different
- It is uncertain and with risks that need to be managed effectively.
As a project introduces change, what are the benefits of doing it? What considerations and activities are need to be undertaken in ensuring that benefits are effectively realised? Here we need to clarify three terms: output, outcome and benefits.
- Output is any of the project’s products.
- Outcome is the result of the change derived from using one or more of the project’s completed products. Outcomes are always achieved after outputs.
- Benefits is measurable improvement resulting from an outcome that is perceived to be advantageous.
I used diagrams below as an example to help understand and remember the differences between the three terms. So in this example, I cook cheesecakes (output) to help kids grow, be happier and healthier (outcome). How do I know whether the kids would be impacted after having cheesecakes. I need to identify, analyse, track, and optimise of the kid’s changes, which could something like the kids become enjoy attending outdoor activities 1 hour per day more than they did before (benefits). (NB: images are from Ann-Murray Brown’s presentation, see reference below.)
Second, all project objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound). What do we want to achieve? What do we need to do to ensure that the change a project intends to deliver is achieved on time, within budget and meet the business requirement? This comes to the project management controls that manage six project management constraints – scope, time, cost, quality, resources, risk. Otherwise the project is going to be risky.
Why define the scope is important? Because it clarify what will be delivered, what will not, and what stakeholders can expect. When define the project scope, we need to ensure the requirement is well-specified by following these rules:
- uniquely identifiable: it addresses only one core requirement;
- current: it is up to date and relevant to the business need;
- consistent: it does not contradict any other requirement;
- understandable: concisely stated and not open to different interpretations;
- verifiable: compliance can be verified through inspection, demonstration, test or analysis;
- traceable: the requirement can be traced from the originating need, through the plan, to what is delivered;
- prioritised: its relative importance is understood. We can use the MoSCoW analysis to prioritise requirements.
Third, having a clear plan and schedule with the project breakdown structure and the work breakdown structure will make the actual “build”/”conduct” stage much easier and manageable as we can see which part of the plan has a problem. Do not forget to apply the RACI model when assigning responsibilities. I really had a visual and hands-on experience in the training session about planning and scheduling which has helped me to understand how these work.
- Responsible: The person who does the work to achieve the task. As a rule this is one person; examples might be a business analyst, application developer or technical architect.
- Accountable: The person who is accountable for the correct and thorough completion of the task. This must be one person and is often the project executive or project sponsor. This is the role that responsible is accountable to and approves their work.
- Consulted: The people who provide information for the project and with whom there is two-way communication. This is usually several people, often subject matter experts.
- Informed: The people kept informed of progress and with whom there is one-way communication. These are people that are affected by the outcome of the tasks, so need to be kept up-to-date.
Fourth, one important work to prevent project failure is to engage stakeholders. Stakeholders are anyone who are interested in the project, who can be affected, may be affected, and potentially would be affected by the project. Using a stakeholder map will help us to classify our stakeholders in relation to their power and their interest in what we are doing. In the activities of engagement, it requires many soft skills such as emotional intelligence, active listening skills, negotiation skills, and seeking for win-win ground.
Fifth, as a project is new, uncertain, and unique, it cannot be without risks. What we need to clarify specifically here is two things: risk and issue. We can use risk identification techniques such as risk workshops, stakeholder interviews, checklist/lessons from earlier projects and prompt lists. I particularly like (1) the Fish-bone diagram that helps us to work out potential causes of a change and (2) the Probability Impact Grid which helps us to analysis risks and focus on the risks that matter a lot.
- risk is an uncertain event which may have an impact on the achievement of project objectives should it occur. It means the possible consequences. It could be either a threat or an opportunity.
- issue is an event that has occurred which is having an impact on the achievement of project objectives.
Last but not least, the new terms are listed here.
Project complexity assessment (Define stage) – It aims to assess the level of assurance and control that will need to be put in place for the project via answering questions like strategic context, business impact, delivery capacity and technical factors.
Float – time by which an activity may be delayed or extended without affecting the total project duration.
Critical path – The route through the project along which there is the least amount of float.
Scope creep – Adding features and facilities without addressing the impact to a project’s time, cost, and resources or without the customer’s approval.