This week I continue the “highlights of highlights” series: I include some excerpts from the Project 2010 Step by Step chapters and elaborate on them. This week: Chapter 14, "Getting Your Project Back on Track."
After work has started on a project, addressing variance is not a one-time event, but instead is an ongoing effort by the project manager. (pg. 299)
Broadly speaking I see two large steps one takes on the road to Project expertise: (a) moving from just planning to planning and tracking progress, and (b) developing tracking strategies that add value to the project and don't become too onerous. I know of many cases (and have caused some myself) where tracking progress at unnecessary levels of detail became a major distraction to the project rather than an essential practice. I think the most common cause for this problem is not adhering to this rule: Track progress just to the degree that you do no harm.
Working with the project triangle provides you with a good method to analyze the trade-offs that nearly always must be made. (pg. 300)
This excerpt comes from a discussion of framing trade-offs in the trianlge of triple-constraints model. Good project management isn't about avoiding compromises, but about making the most informed compromises. The Project triangle model gives you a workable vocabulary to employ when evaluating trade-offs. More on this below.
In projects where you’ve entered cost information for resources, you might find that you must fine-tune resource and assignment details to address cost or budget problems. (pg. 307)
I am a big advocate of entering pay rates for work resources in your plans. I know that many people get nervous when handling pay rates. But you might be able to work with values other than real pay rates. Many large organizations for example work with what's called a burdened labor rate, which is an average cost per employee that factors in average salary plus overhead costs. A burdened rate applies to everyone in general but no one specifically. The benefit of accounting for resource-driven costs in your plan is that it gives you another type of data with which to measure performance and progress. This strategy can lead you to highly exacting techniques like Earned Value Analysis (EVA), but even the simplest resource cost tracking in a plan can give you new insights.
After project work has started, managing its scope usually requires making trade-offs: trading time for money, quality for time, and so on. You might have the goal of never making such tradeoffs, but a more realistic goal might be to make the best-informed trade-offs possible. (pp. 311-312)
This is an echo of the point we made at the beginning of the chapter: making smart trade-offs or compromises is smart project management. The substantial database of information you build and churn on in a Project plan can help you gain insights into best matching the performance of a project with the top priorities of its sponsors, customers and other stakeholders.
On a related note, I believe that a key reason Agile frameworks like Scrum have enjoyed such success is that Scrum, if practiced rigorously, makes the whole discussion about optimizing and compromising the work of the project a team-wide discussion that goes on daily. I'll have much more to say on this subject in future posts.
Previous posts in the "Detailed Commentary" series:
Part 1, Simple Scheduling
- Introduction of Project 2010 Step by Step
- Chapter 1, "A Guided Tour of Project"
- Chapter 2, "Creating a Task List"
- Chapter 3, "Setting Up Resources"
- Chapter 4, "Assigning Resources to Tasks"
- Chapter 5, "Formatting and Sharing Your Plan"
- Chapter 6, "Tracking Progress on Tasks"
Part 2, Advanced Scheduling
- Chapter 10, "Fine-Tuning the Project Plan"
- Chapter 11, "Organizing Project Details"
- Chapter 12, Tracking Progress on Tasks and Assignments"