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Newsletter - June 2016

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PM Essence
Editor’s Note
SoumenDe Dear Friends,

Greetings from PMI Bangalore India Chapter!



Last month saw the culmination of one of the largest and most popular sporting event of the country. It is the ninth season of the IPL, a professional Twenty20 cricket league established by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in 2007. The tournament was played between 9th April 2016 and 29th May 2016 and 8 teams, owned by their franchisees, played for the top spot. On 29th May, the Sunrisers Hyderabad won the Final against Royal Challengers Bangalore at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore. This is the maiden IPL title for the Sunrisers Hyderabad franchise.

IIPL, running almost houseful for 9 years in a row is truly a success story. This is a product that is able to deliver what the market demanded, edge-of-the-seat cricket experience, where the result may not be known till the last ball is bowled. IPL provides the most entertaining form of cricket, the T20 format. The audience gets to see top national and international players in action and their Bollywood actors in the stands. Like any product that produces results year after year, the IPL is backed by both innovation and a robust business model


The most exciting feature of this concept is that the state teams are owned by corporate houses and Bollywood celebrities. Owners are allotted teams through a bidding process and once teams are allotted, cricketers from around the world along with Indian cricketers are put to auction wherein cap for maximum amount is fixed. IPL understood and met the financial expectations for its two important stakeholders, the IPL/BCCI organizers and the franchisees. Sources of IPL gets money from: Auction of broadcasting rights, Title sponsorship and corporate sponsorship, Sale of tickets (20% allocated to IPL), Auction of franchisee rights, Official umpire sponsorship. Source of income for franchises: Share in revenue from broadcasting right, Share in the sponsorship money, Share in revenue from sale of tickets, Revenue from in-stadium advertising, Sale of players to other franchises, Revenue from own sponsorship and corporate sponsorship. The other stakeholders, the spectators, are introduced to various innovations on entertainment on ground (e.g. performances by cheerleaders, spot competitions, mesmerizing music by DJ's etc.) and on TV (e.g. fun interviews from fielding player, exotic visualization of scoring and bowling patterns) to help them enjoy and engage with the game. IPL ads and IPL theme songs tunes are always very popular with cricket lovers and they get innovative every year. We know it is one thing to start an initiative, it is quite another and often much more difficult to sustain it. IPL is a great example for us to acknowledge how a great initiative can be sustained and grown by judicious blend of innovation, stakeholder's expectation management and a robust business model.

Happy Reading.

Thanks and Best Wishes,
Soumen De, PMP
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Technology Support : Ramesh Chandra Pathak, PMP
Editorial Board
Murali Santhanam, PMP
Namita Gupta, PMP, PMI-ACP
Shikha Vaidh, PMP, PMI-ACP
Soumen De, PMP
Sujata Sahu, PMP
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PM Essence

Project Manager Vs Movie Director: Comparing Chalk and Cheese?

                                                                 -Gladstone Leslie Samuel, PMP

I had been responsible for executing global projects in a R&D environment. There is a stark similarity of being a Project Manager and a Movie Director.


The role of a Project Manager has gained prominence in many organizations. The responsibilities are quite challenging and fun- filled as well. I would like to share my feelings that have a story line worthy of creating a blockbuster movie.

Most of our projects adopts the Gate model. The illustration (Fig. 1) depicts the various stages during project execution.

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Gate 0


One fine day out of the blue my boss called me and informed that I will be the Project Manager for a key project. I was excited and daring to go. I felt that I was like a director for a star studded movie. G0 passed!


Gate 1


My first task was to comprehend what the project was all about. I called for a project kick-off meeting with all the concerned stakeholders. I was dizzy by the time the meeting concluded. Now I had a very vague idea of the plot of the movie. G1 passed!


Gate 2


We had an elaborate discussion on the scope, resources, budget, plan, risks, etc. After several rounds of hard negotiations, the stakeholders agreed to provide me the required budget. I now knew that the movie can really be produced. G2 passed!


Gate 3


The next step was to synchronize with the project team. This was indeed a challenging task. I got a feeling as if bringing the movie stars together with inflated egos and implicit expectations. My patience was tested to the hilt. I felt that the script for the movie was in place now.


Now I had to understand the requirements and deliverable expected out of this project. I spent considerable time and energy along with the team members. Finally we were able to unravel the cryptic crossword puzzle. I felt that now the locations, costumes, music, etc., for the movie are ready. G3 passed!


Gate 4


The next phase was to execute the project. The deadlines were fast approaching. The development, testing, documentation and product experts were operating at 100 % efficiency. I got a feeling as if the movie was getting shot in one day. G4 passed!


Gate 5


We are now ready with our final product. Now I had to appear for the G5 meeting. As usual we had to scramble and compile all the documents for this meeting. The entire project team were anxious to know the outcome. However the stakeholders were not fully convinced and raised specific concerns from a quality perspective. My heart skipped a beat. I got a feeling that the film censor board has passed a restriction on releasing the movie to the public. G5 under hold!

The project team had to revisit and address the questions asked by the stakeholders. We were now confident of meeting the expectations. I then called for the G5 meeting one more time. I was keeping my fingers crossed and was elated when our product was accepted and was ready to be released to the market. The project team was happy as well. I got a feeling that the movie is now ready for release and can be watched by the public. G5 passed!


Gate 6


I was keen to know how the product was received in the market. We received very good response from our esteemed customers. Now I had to capture the lessons learnt and disband the project team. All of us had gained experience and were happy to conclude the project. I had a sense of satisfactions that my movie had run for 100 days successfully. Oh.... What a wonderful feeling. G6 passed!


Award Ceremony


I am now happy to know that my PMP credentials helped to draw an analogy between executing a gate model project and producing a movie!

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PM Essence

Dependency Relationships in Project Time Management


                                                                 -SSV Raghavan, PMP

Some time ago, I had an occasion to raise my dissenting voice in these columns, to argue that the instance of PTA in Project Procurement Management should be regarded as a variant of CPIF (Cost-Plus-incentive Fee) type of contract, and not one of FPIF (Fixed Price Incentive Fee) as mentioned in textbooks on the subject. Though there was no feedback in the columns of the PM Essence, the few phone calls I received in support, and the absence of any written rejoinders to my article, make me conclude that my viewpoint is accepted by the readers. This time I feel the urge to discuss another case, that of the dependency relationships in a Network Diagram – a subject belonging to the Knowledge Area of Project Time Management.

relationships in time management
We all know that in the notations F-S, S-S, F-F and S-F depicting the predecessor-successor relationships, the first alphabet stands for the Start / Finish of the predecessor activity and the second one that of the successor. Thus, the second phase of concreting waiting to begin till the first phase gets cured indicates a F-S Lag, while a relay runner taking over the baton from the previous lap runner is a case of a F-S Lead. In both these cases, the dependency is dictated by the predecessor, i.e., the start of the successor is dependent on the finish of the predecessor. Similarly for S-S relationship the example of preparation of a draft and its review, and for F-F, theinstance of preparation of various courses for a meal can be cited.
Difficulty however arises in getting a suitable example for visualizing a case of an S-F dependency. I have made an extensive Google search for this. While the relationship is correctly depicted diagrammatically with an arrow leading from the finish of a successor activity to the start of its predecessor, I was convinced by none of the examples cited ( as for instance the night watchman having to continue doing his duty till his reliever arrives to take over, or the pupils in a classroom - afflicted as they are with Students' Syndrome - continuing with their last minute preparations for a Class Test, and closing their books only after the teacher arrives, even if she happens to be late!). THESE EXAMPLES INVARIABLY INVOLVE THE FINISH, AND NOT THE START, OF THE PREDECESSOR ACTIVITY WHICH IS REQUIRED OF A S-F RELATIONSHIP, AND ARE THEREFORE ERRONEOUS. Consequently, I would regard them only as a VARIANT of the F-S relationship, but with a REVERSE DEPENDENCY, i.e., the Start of the successor driving and determining the Finish of the predecessor, unlike the cases cited above (concrete curing, relay runner).Moreover, the dependency in these cases cannot be defined upfront in a Network Diagram. One instance that was mentioned to me is that of payment being made in advance of the vendor making his supplies, but strictly speaking, will this not be case of a ROLE REVERSAL of the predecessor and successor, and therefore F-S again?


The only way I can conceptualize a S-F relationship is by having a CONSTRAINT (“Not Earlier Than” or “Not Later Than”) attached to the Finish of a Successor Activity which in turn would determine the Start of the Predecessor, having due regard to the respective durations of the two activities.


I shall be glad to have the views of the readers.

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PM Essence

Grow Your Own Best Practices

                                                                 -Steve Bockman

Development Organizations are often concerned with finding out what “Best Practices” they should employ to help ensure a successful product. But practices don't always transplant well. Rather than adopting someone else's practices, you might want to derive your own from basic principles.



The bowling story


Many years ago I took my younger daughter to the bowling alley for an afternoon of fun. I hadn't been to this particular bowling alley before, so was unfamiliar with their policy regarding shoe rental.


When I asked the young lady behind the desk for a lane and shoes, she responded rapid-fire with, “I-need-a-shoe-size-and-a-shoe.” It sounded like all one word.


I didn't understand what she had said, so I asked her to repeat it. Again she said, “I-need-a-shoe-size-and-a-shoe.” This time I caught the words “shoe size,” so I replied, “Ten and a half.”


She plopped a pair of size ten-and-a half bowling shoes on the counter, then said, “And a shoe.”


I was puzzled. “What?” I asked her.


She repeated, “And a shoe.”


“I don't know what you mean,” I responded.


“I need one of your shoes.”


"Oh," I said, then eventually added, “Why?”


Instead of answering me, she pointed to a sign on the front of the counter which said something to the effect that customers are required to leave one of their shoes at the front desk at the time of bowling shoe rental.


I looked back at the young lady (who, I imagine, was probably already tired of dealing with me) and said, “That's not why, that's what.”


A few moments of awkward silence told me that she was disinclined to explain further, so I gave her one of my street shoes, collected the bowling shoes, and walked toward the lane she had assigned us, a little off-balance, one shoe off and one shoe on. (Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John…)

Bowling alley policy – principle vs practice

By pointing to the policy statement, the young lady was indicating the bowling alley's practice regarding shoe rental. That told me the what, but not the why. By the time I arrived at my assigned lane, I was able to infer the why, which likely had something to do with people literally walking off with bowling shoes. (A quick conference with my daughter tended to confirm this hypothesis. She told me that a number of her friends occasionally wore bowling shoes to school.)


Thus I was able to infer the principle involved, which might be expressed as “some customers will steal our property unless we hold onto something of theirs that they value more than our property.”


Practices may not transplant well


Now let's suppose that the owner of another business, say a miniature golf course, decides to enact a similar policy (after, perhaps, speaking to the bowling alley owner who expressed that theft was all but eliminated after implementing the “shoe policy.”)


And let's further suppose that the miniature golf owner hopefully and enthusiastically has a sign made up and displayed prominently, stating that all people playing miniature golf must leave one of their shoes at the counter, hoping to eliminate theft of the occasional putter.


You can imagine the results. Rather than reducing theft, this policy will likely have the effect of reducing revenue, by thinning the golf course's customer base down to those who enjoy playing minus a shoe.


And, of course, no reasonable person would actually implement a policy that was as ill-fitting as this. The mismatch is too obvious. Instead the owner of the miniature golf course is likely to infer a principle from the bowling alley practice, then implement a similar practice appropriate to the miniature golf business, perhaps something like all people playing miniature golf must leave a small cash deposit at the counter.


Principle vs practice in a development environment



Development (and especially software development) organizations seem to like the idea of finding and applying what they call best practices. I'm not aware of any common agreement on what “best” means, but in my experience it almost always involves “something that someone else is doing.”


And while the differences between software development organizations may not be as glaringly obvious as those between a bowling alley and a miniature golf course, suffice it to say that differences (e.g. size, experience level, customer type, product type, etc.) do exist.


Pair Programming is one example of a development practice that's been around for a while now. In pair programming, as the name suggests, two developers work side by side, on the same code at a single computer. Proponents of pair programming cite increased quality, better design and instantaneous code review as some of its benefits.


I've worked on several projects where attempts to implement pair programming were made. Some worked well. Others, not so much. Generally speaking, I'd say that the unsuccessful cases occurred due to social, rather than technical, reasons. In all instances, everyone attempting the practice was technically skilled. But personality or style mismatches sometimes got in the way, making Pair Programming something other than a best practice in those cases.


Looking at principles rather than practices might have been helpful. So what principles might we have been able to infer? These come to mind:

• Having more than one person review code will decrease the defect rate.

• Code that is understandable to more than one person is more maintainable, and therefore less costly to the organization.

• Simpler designs result from collaboration.


From the principles listed above, can you derive some practices that fit the unique composition and characteristics of your organization? I'm guessing that you can. What are they? (I can't say—I'm not in your organization.) The practices that you come up with are based on generally applicable principles, but the specifics of those practices are highly dependent on your particular work environment. (In other words, you'll have to figure them out for yourself.)


I'm interested to hear what you come up with. Are there specific practices you can derive from the principles listed above that would serve you better than pair programming?

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PM Essence

 The Getting Things Done Series –

Moving from Corporate Strategy to Ground Reality

                                                                 -Suchitra Mishra

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results – this famous quote by Sir Winston Churchill often comes to my mind when I participate in strategy presentations. Beautiful slideware beautifully presented for maximum impact – but hey! Wasn't this the vision a quarter back, a year back or two years back and essentially the same strategy couched in the very latest business buzzwords? You may have discovered the same yourself and experienced a sense of déjà-vu – and we are not alone. Multiple business surveys have revealed that more than 60% of corporate strategies never end up getting executed. The best thinkers and strategists could come together and create a superb vision for an organization but it remains just that – a recurring dream – if not followed by flawless execution. But that is no easy job especially in the current turbulent business environment, globally spread and diverse employee base and non-hierarchical organization structures. All the different threads that make up an organization has to be woven together to create an environment where every strategic vision achieves its objective on time.


So, how do you take a single line objective or goal in a strategy (say, develop talent in niche areas or target accelerated growth in emerging markets or create a culture of innovation) and convert that into a reality? I have worked on or observed quite a few of these strategic initiatives and the results have varied – some died a quick death, some petered out and a few gathered momentum and achieved the desired objectives successfully. Here are five steps that I believe contribute immensely to operational agility and are critical to turn a strategic goal into ground reality:


Step # 1: Get organized -


Building an execution plan is the very first step. The plan has to be doable, well-defined, and realistic with clear objectives and time lines. Break up the strategy into four or five tactical goals (too many leads to dilution of efforts) and define the tasks, accountability and workflow for each of them. A structure and the process within the structure helps answer the how, what, who and where behind the high level strategy and goes a long way into making the strategy actionable.


Step # 2: Get Executive Sponsorship –


Most often, implementing a strategy involves working across different functions in an organization and you may or may not have control over their actions. Office politics, inter-personal dynamics, conflicting priorities could ruin your plan even before it gets off the drawing board. So get the full support of the heavy weights behind you – you will definitely need it to enforce discipline and foster collaboration. Get the full buy-in of your top management to make sure that they support not only the strategy, but also the specific plan you have prepared to execute it. Don't even bother to start without this – you will get nowhere.

Step # 3: Get the Right Talent


Build cross-functional teams around each initiative selecting every team member very judiciously based on ability, personal interest and the special skills needed for the particular initiative. Through this, not only do you get the right talent but also create a shared sense of ownership and responsibility thus spreading the commitment within the organization. This will help in building momentum to sustain the initiative from the planning to execution phase. As Hyman G. Rickover said:


“What it takes to do a job will not be learned from management courses. It is principally a matter of experience, the proper attitude, and common sense — none of which can be taught in a classroom... Human experience shows that people, not organizations or management systems, get things done.”


Step # 4: Communicate, Communicate and Communicate –


Communication is the life-giving oxygen at every step of the process. The rationale behind the strategic initiative and the implementation plan, the benefits that are expected as outcomes from the initiative and the impact of failure of the plan all need to be made transparent to the teams. Provide information, invite feedback and conduct training sessions to increase engagement and improve collaboration. Turn passive detractors into active and enthusiastic drivers of the process by using this powerful tool.


"Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment” — Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, Built to Last


Step # 5: Track, Flex and Measure -


Set up a steady state tracking mechanism and a schedule for review with the key stakeholders. Choose the performance metrics that best measure the progress (or regress) of the goals of your initiative. The plan to reach the goals will sometimes need changes to adjust according to the changing business environment.


It is important to track and measure so that you know if you are winning to celebrate (publicly), or not winning to flex and do course corrections on the execution plan (again publicly). This underlines the seriousness of the initiative and helps overcome the “this too shall pass” mentality in some organizations. And of course, what gets measured gets improved, so you end up increasing your chances of execution success.


Transforming a vision into a reality in business or in life is not easy nor is it guaranteed. But then who said business operations was easy? I have seen initiatives succeed using the above steps (and all of them are important for successful execution) and as Marcel Telles said - A company can seize extra-ordinary opportunities only if it is very good at the ordinary operations. So the journey may be tough but the rewards would definitely be worth it – at the very least, you would not have to sit through the same strategy being presented for the umpteenth time in a new shape.


Tell me what I have missed out and where I might be wrong. How do you turn your strategic initiative into ground reality? I would love to learn from you and get better.


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