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Newsletter - Feb 2015

 
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PM Essence

Managing Human behaviour in Critical Chain Project Management

 

By - Sujata Sahu, PMP
One of the most important aspects of Project Management is managing schedule and resources. In a typical project the task scheduling is done by estimating the task duration and padding them with some extra buffer, sequencing them, assigning resources and then estimating the project completion or final project delivery time. There are tasks which could be done in parallel and there are tasks which are dependent on other tasks, hence done in sequence, leading to many paths in project network diagram from beginning till end of the project. In a traditional Project Management critical path is managed to keep the project on track but it doesn't take into account the human behaviour. Only, the dependent tasks on critical path define the lower limit of lead time and project cost.
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The biggest enemy of any project is uncertainty. It doesn't matter whatever estimation method had been used and consulted with experts and team members to determine the duration of task and hence of the project, there is always uncertainty in finishing a task on time. It can be finished either before time or with some delay, predominantly caused by human behaviour. But this uncertainty can be reduced by looking into the symptoms and fixing them. Critical Chain method provides one such tool. It was proposed by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. Let's look into some other facts before we explore further about Critical Chain method. Some facts about project schedule and human behaviour are:
 
Fact 1: According to Parkinson's Law, the work takes all the time allotted for the task. This can be considered as human tendency. So while planning, even if the task has been given extra buffer time to finish, there are chances that it will take the entire time to complete it or even delay sometime.
 
Fact 2: Even if there are chances that the task gets finished before the scheduled time, the next task will not be started early and the reason could be that the developer doesn't want to be punished for finishing task early as the Project Manager might give her the tighter schedule in the next project, looking into the current efficiency. On the other hand, if the task is finished before scheduled duration, the next task cannot be started due to unavailability of resources. Early finish of the task can't be used to offset the delay by other task.
 
Fact 3: Student Syndrome prevents the developer to start the task until the last moment, causing it to finish just on time or late.
 
Fact 4: Switching from one task to another task may also delay the project, especially if the tasks are from different projects. However, all multitasking are not bad, though it is advisable to assign the task from one project. Similarly, it is also possible that the programmer may get bored working on one task the whole day. So if they are given one task for the first half and another task for the second half, she will complete it more efficiently or else the team member will be stuck with the one task for the entire day and wasting the full day for performing a half day task.
 
Fact 5: Integration of tasks can create some crunch in the buffer. For example, completion of task 1 is 80% and completion of task 2 is 80% too. The completion of both the task together is 0.8*0.8=0.64, which is 64%. The buffer time reduces for the other tasks in the path and causes the time crunch.
 
Critical Chain method considers the above facts to provide solution. Critical Chain consists of sequenced dependent tasks and these tasks can be scheduled in most efficient way to achieve the project benefits in terms of cost and duration. Critical Chain manages the project uncertainty by:
 
Estimating the task duration to half of actual duration. Allot less time for the task but keep the extra time in the end of the critical path and to paths feeding in to critical path, as a buffer and share it with everyone. This buffer time is also cut into half.
 
Schedule backward from the project end date.
 
Using buffer management to track the project progress.
 
Focusing on resource management.
 
Dependencies that are used to determine critical chain in Critical Chain scheduling are: 
 
Finish to start dependencies: Next task can't be started unless the first one is finished.
 
Resource dependencies: Next task can't be started until resource is freed from the previous task. This is also known as “resource constrained critical path”.
Buffers are introduced in critical and noncritical path to avoid any variance in critical path. Safety buffer is most important aspect of critical chain scheduling. It protects the project due dates from variation to the Critical Chain. There are 3 types of buffers: Project buffer, Resource buffer and Feeding buffer.
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Project Buffer - Project buffer is the total pooled buffer in the end of critical path. It can be 50% of the total project duration. Each task duration is cut by 50% and rest is added into this pool.
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Feeding Buffer - They are the pooled buffer in other paths that feed into the critical path - they serve as feeding buffer to critical path. Pooled buffer in noncritical path has some flexibility to start the next task as soon as the previous task is finished without affecting the critical chain. In an environment where multiple projects are running together, the Capacity buffer protects key resource performance variance in one project from affecting another project.
 
Resource Buffer - Resource buffers are used to avoid the impact of resources on project progress. It is a virtual task, just before the Critical Chain that requires critical resources. This indicates that the resources are available to start the critical task without any delay.
 
The progress of the project is measured with utilization of buffers and critical chain is recalculated. However, there is no standard method to calculate and optimize Project Buffers. Implementation of Critical Chain scheduling can be another challenge. An immense trust in management is required by team members while chopping off the task duration by 50%. Team members must be educated properly about Critical Chain method. It is needed to ensure that team gives the roadrunner performance and complete their work as quickly as possible and start with the next task. Hence, provide the team with activity start time and resources rather than the milestone. It will help them to handover the completed work quickly and start with the next task.
 
Basically, the difference between Critical Path and Critical Chain is that the critical path spans from start of the project till the end of the project while Critical Chain ends with a project buffer assigned to the project. Critical Chain Scheduling is performed in Critical Chain (taking into account task and resource dependencies) while Activity Sequencing is done in Critical Path (taking into account only task dependencies). The Critical Path is obtained as a result of activity sequencing to achieve certain milestones or deadlines. Normally, it doesn't take resource utilization into account. Hands off dependencies are given the precedence. While in Critical Chain, it is more of resource oriented set of project tasks.
 
In brief, Critical Chain method focuses on resource utilization. The sequence dependent tasks define the project time but the resource utilization plays important role in keeping the project timeline. Though this is not the ideal case everywhere, the Critical Chain scheduling can fit best for resource intensive projects.
 
References: Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Critical Chain
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PM Essence

Social Media and Project Management

By - Sunand Sharma, PMP
Introduction
 
Social media has gained an immense popularity among the Project Management personnel with its emergence in public domain.
 
In the sphere of Project Management it has been used in varied ways and has played a vital role in establishing a clear understanding of its purpose and intent in a given project scenario.

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Utility of the Social Media
In different scenarios, the social media has provided benefits over traditional communication channels. For Project Management, the following features have been identified in particular:
 
 • Discursive: These kinds of platforms provide functionality for initiating the discussion forum with question and answer format – they have several main uses in a project context, the following uses have been counted.
 
First and foremost utility of social media has been for sharing the best practices. The best practices which emerge from learning or identified in one project gets replicated in other projects.
 
Secondly, sharing of lessons learned from the lessons which come out from the experience of managing a project are provisioned for discussion among the community of project managers. Which is very similar to the aforementioned sharing of best practices.
 
Thirdly, use of social media has been found in stakeholder management. In this scenario, the variety of purposes have emerged which are dependent on the size of the projects and the number of stakeholders.
 
• Networking: This is the most common functionality of the social media, wherein the Project Managers use to communicate with each other and the wider project community. The use has grown increasingly to source the information as well as for sharing the resources, expertise and skills from different projects and/or businesses
 
• Events calendar / task scheduling: The utility of event calendars, shared collaborative conference websites which serve to provide a meeting platform has been viewed as another functionality of social media wherein the project team organize meetings and get connected to teams of different work streams.
• Collaboration Tools: The various social platforms which serve the purpose for managing the project artifacts and for controlling the versions of project documents, have made the communication between different work streams simpler and the management more effective. 
 
Various challenges related with social media in project management
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• Embedding: Promoting use of social media among the colleagues has always remained as a challenge. It has to be brought in as a change in the work culture.
 
The organization faces challenges for motivating the project stakeholders for using the social media for communication.
 
• Time: The time has always been the constraint for the project personnel and the team members for utilizing the social media for communication, as it requires a minimum level of competency to harness the potential and appreciate the utility of social media. The effectiveness of the communication through social media requires a certain level of commitment by the entire community.
 
• Privacy: The various project managers used to confine the project information within the closed group. The perception of risk associated with the sharing of sensitive information on social platform has always been the inhibitor for the use of social media. There have been various methods through which many organizations have tackled the challenges associated with the social media.
 
Solutions
These methods largely involve the best practices implementation more than targeting the problems associated with risk to privacy.
 
• Demonstrate value: The demonstration of the values associated with social media like questions getting answered frequently, quick updates on the important issues and the online brain-storming on the common issues are few of the benefits of the social media.
 
• Appoint platform advocates: Advocates of social media play a vital role in communicating and popularizing the usage of social media among the colleagues and teams. These advocates of social media use to prompt the others through frequent emails, useful updates, and interesting discussions. They are helpful in creating an ecosystem conducive for usage of social media.
 
• Competitions: The employees can be actively motivated for utilizing the social media by rewarding them. There can be multiple activities designed to encourage the professionals to use the social media in their daily activities.
 
• Add social media to project planning: Any program which has to be proliferated within the organization needs to be supported by the organization strategy. Social media utilization should be the part of the project planning. The project managers should inculcate the usage of social media in their plans, should define the usage and clarify the communication plan to the stakeholders about the intended use of the social media. The project framework should rest on the assumption that social media will be the appropriate channel for communication, which will encourage the participation of the users.
 
Conclusion
To promote the use of social media, the challenges and the inhibitors need to be addressed and the plan for including the social media in the Project Management should be part of the organization strategy. The idea should be communicated with the help of the advocates of the social media that project goals can be easily and effectively matched by the usage of social media. Various methods can be utilized for mitigating the risks associated and issues of privacy can be handled judgmentally. To begin with, the discussion amongst the organization leaders and the Project Managers should happen for the usage of social media, to understand its importance and should develop a strategy to promote its usage for achieving project goals. 
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PM Essence

How a Broken Racket Changed My Game Forever!!

 

Pradeep Chankarachan, PMP
Few years back, I used to play badminton regularly, took it very seriously from a fitness perspective as well as on the skills of the game. Though I had a sporty bone from my childhood, playing cricket for hours in the backyard, it was tough to get that rhythm back in my body. When we started, I and my colleague Diwaker Sharma used to give way to the experienced players in the court. PMArticle2Img1
We were astonished to see some folks with brilliant rhythm and a sense of professional approach to the game. Some of them were not ready to play with us when we started. They balanced the team skills by mixing the team with us to play doubles and kept up the level of game. Slowly we graduated to play singles with them and at the end the other duo became irregular and withdrew from the game as they couldn't keep up or saw us in better rhythm. More than enjoying this small achievement, the journey to reach this stage taught me a great lesson to enjoy the moment without worrying the end result. I always wondered how the Nadals, Federers and Tendulkars of the world are able to focus and enjoy the game one ball or a shot at a time. What goes on in their mind while chasing a huge target or defending multiple match points. Just worry about this moment not the end result-easier said than done. This true experience helped me realize and practice it to a certain extent. It was one of the days, when we played a rather long match, completed three games (I lost 2 of the games). As a sort of compensation, in order for me to come back with some winning moments, I suggested to play half games (10 pointers). Even in those games, I was making repeated unforced mistakes and my colleague was exploiting it to the best. In a weak moment, I lost my calm and threw my Yonex racket, which I was passionately attached to, that was the end of it. I had lost to myself, to my frustration, to my anxiety, to my lack of patience and game plan. It was at this juncture, that we realized that too much concern with winning was making us vulnerable. We were making poor selection of shots and were not able to enjoy a quality game. We shared this feeling and came up with a new way of practicing the game. No more 21 games, no more winning or losing. We planned an unconventional way of tracking points. We would start the point-games from 100 and then would countdown to zero, every point following the normal badminton rules, but with no ultimate goal. The goal was to play for 45 minutes with high quality 100 points. We further complicated the point system to allow re-serve, and randomly changed the serving pattern to confuse our own mind and to keep from worrying about how many I won or the other won. This helped drastically improve the quality of the game, there were more rallies than ever before, and we were excited on the last 10 points, put across the best skills to that. I call it countdown 100, a live-themoment- game-plan, teaching us not to worry about shadow but follow sun; can we extend it as our plan for life to be successful yet not getting worried about it?
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PM Essence
Faster Time-to-Market for Industrial Manufacturing companies

Economically, things seem to be getting better, but slowly. For manufacturers, it's a climate of opportunity. New measures of economic value are emerging that make the supply chain a key indicator of growth. Manufacturers that can accelerate their new product development (NPD) process, and reduce time-tomarket, will establish strong and sustainable leadership positions. How to gain visibility, collaboration and control for agile NPD? http://goo.gl/NrTDvT

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PM Essence
DidYouKnow
Q. This describe the purpose and structure of a project, committee, meeting,negotiation, or any similar collection of people who have agreed to work together?

A. Terms of Reference or TOR describe the purpose and structure of a project, committee, meeting, negotiation, or any similar collection of people who have agreed to work together to accomplish a shared goal. The terms of reference of a project are often referred to as the project charter.
 
Terms of reference show how the scope will be defined, developed, and verified. They should also provide a documented basis for making future decisions and for confirming or developing a common understanding of the scope among stakeholders. In order to meet these criteria, success factors/risks and restraints should be fundamental keys. Very important for project proposals.

Creating detailed terms of reference is critical, as they define the: Vision, objectives, scope and deliverables (i.e. what has to be achieved) Stakeholders, roles and responsibilities (i.e. who will take part in it) Resource, financial and quality plans (i.e. how it will be achieved) Work breakdown structure and schedule (i.e. when it will be achieved) They should include: Success factors/risks and restraints.

[Source - Internet]

We like to hear what you think!!

Please complete the sentence below with your thoughts in 10-15 words and send them to. The best entry will win attractive goodies from PMI Bangalore India Chapter.

"It is imperative to identify the critical stakeholders at the inception of the project itself as/because............"

Please provide your response by 27th February 2015

Chapter will select the best slogan and felicitate the winner during a Chapter event.


In our last edition, we had asked you to express your thoughts in 10-15 words to continue the following sentence

Operations” keeps the lights on, while Project Management.............

and the best response is . . . "brings new lights on-board"

... and the Winner is - Vivek Saurabh, PMP, Gyansys Inc.



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