Doing More With Less

We are all under pressure to do more with less.

If you have a senior role in any organisation, 3% saving here or 8% saving there can be worthy of significant effort on your part.
Bottom Line
Consider for a moment your projects:
  • How many real projects do you have running?
  • Are your projects product developments, strategic initiatives, marketing projects, HR projects, new IT systems, important client projects/contracts/deals?
  • What are these projects costing you, and what are they worth to your organisation?
  • Are you tired of mediocrity from your project managers?
Last year around 70% of business project objectives were not met in the UK (or anywhere else for that matter) – they were seriously delayed, significantly over budget and/or did not meet their specified scope or quality.
By consistently using some simply implemented appropriate project management techniques and discipline, ProjExc clients have easily reduced those 70% failure rates to single figures.  In turn with the huge savings they have made, they have been able to invest in more projects and the benefits that they bring.
Project Management is increasingly recognised as the pre-eminent business competence for the 21st century, and yet all too often an organisation uses different (or no) processes, tools & templates to manage their projects and has project managers at hugely varying levels of competence.

Project Management Matters

Clearly project management matters to your organisation, but when did you last reflect on how much of your attention is focused just on the projects rather than the project management?
John Williams is lead consultant at ProjExc PM Consulting who help businesses realise their desired outcomes, on time, and within budget.

The dangers of Agile evangelism

We always look forward to the views expressed in the “Critical Path” spot in the APM’s project magazine, and John Rowley of TPM sounding off about the Agile evangelists is no exception.
Agile AllianceHe raises a concern that we share, and that is that some individuals like to grab hold of the latest ’toy’ believing that it will single-handedly fix all problems.  The ‘toy’ in question is Agile.  John rightly makes the point that Agile is a super tool for the project manager’s toolbox, but it is not the right tool for all projects.  We observe that a big danger for Agile (Let’s hope the Agile Alliance and their colleagues are thinking about this) is that it is the latest bandwagon which is being jumped on by the training companies who largely ruined the credibility of PRINCE2.  Clearly attempting to discredit one approach to project management in favour of another without considering the context is at best immature and at worst dangerous for both the project and the profession.
Here are the key points which John makes.
I just walked out of an Agile presentation. Not for the first time. This is getting tedious. Don’t get me wrong, I am enthusiastic about Aagile as a potential technique for project managers to use. Sometimes only an Agile approach will do, so I am certainly not against it. But why do people always feel they have to justify Agile by misrepresenting traditional (waterfall) approaches? The logic seems to be: “Some projects go badly therefore all projects using established approaches must go badly – therefore traditional project management must be ‘broken’.
The way these events go the presenters seem to be evangelising for a completely new approach across the profession (reinventing all aspects of project management to fit with their new belief system). 
It would be refreshing if they accepted the strengths of traditional methods, and the limitations of their own approach, and presented themselves as members of the project management profession, rather than as people who appear to want to overthrow it.  In fact many projects using traditional project management methods go remarkably well and in many areas performance is improving.  Indeed many projects might not fare so well if Agile were used.
So surely the message must be: “Project management is good but we need to continue to get better at it.  One way to get better is to understand when Agile (or other) approach may be appropriate, and know how to use it.”  We might then start to look like one profession, and not a collection of competing methods with each new ‘brand’ seeking to undermine the rest.
If you like this Critical path and you are an APM member, make your way over to the APM website and take a look at some of the online archives, or indeed make sure you dip into your monthly Project magazine.  If not, why not join?

Project Management News Digest w45 2013

News DigestNew Project Collaboration Tool, Updatey in Beta


The British RawJam team are going after 37Signals’ Basecamp space, with it’s new tool, Updatey, and judging by the Beta it looks good.

Updatey presentation is really simple, but it still packs a punch.  It’s focus is allowing the project team to visualise & track the progress of your projects, keeping new and existing team members updated both on the project timeline with milestones and the activity line.

Once you have put in your start date and some milestones your project is up and running.  You can then invite team members to join in, by posting and watching status updates and documents to the activity line.


New PM Tool called Updatey

We’re using the Beta at present, with good first impressions, and will post a fuller review as the product develops.

Telerik Extend their Agile Project Management Reach


Version 3.0 of TeamPulse now supports access to multiple data sources via a RESTful API

And Another Project Collaboration Tool – WorkZone


Will Kelly looks at another collaboration tool, which appears to be another “me too”.

Project Managers – Use the Language of Your Audience


Norman Marks provides a salultory tale of the importance of communicating with your audience in their language.

The Integration of Agile and the Project Management Office


Peter Schmidt from ESI provides an insightful insight into the worlds of Agile and Waterfall working together in harmony for organisational benefit.

From To Do Lists to Managing Projects – The Path From Personal to Professional Management


An interesting observational from Lucian Ioan sees the journey of organisation:


Get Organised

  • Know what to do and when
  • Prepare for battle
  • To mix or not to mix
  • GoPro
  • Less tools, more thinking

This is all good stuff, and if you also break the procrastination habit you’ll be suitably organised.

5 Quick Tips for Making Critical Thinking a Habit

PM Champion

  1. Have an open perspective
  2. Keep focused and avoid getting distracted
  3. Ask questions and provoke debate
  4. Learn to multi-task
  5. Control your stress

How to Make the Most of a Project Manager

Tech City News

Wise words concluding that “if you don’t employ a PM, it’s likely your project will still get delivered but at the cost of a lower profit margin, a less satisfied client and a more frazzled team. And who wants that?”.

How to Make Project Management a Learned Skill and Behaviour


Will Kelly interviewed Dean Carlson, CEO of Viewpath, and Avinoam Nowogrodski, CEO of Clarizen, exploring he importance of project management becoming a learned skill and behavior for the entire project team.

Project Management News Digest w41 2013

NewsDigestProject Management Frameworks for SMEs

Project Accelerator

More and more organisations are looking for a Framework for successful project management, and for SMEs PRINCE2 can be overkill.

Handbook of People in Project Management

A new PM book by Dennis Lock and Lindsay Scott looking at one of (and probably the most important) the 3 elements for project success – people.

UK Economy Strengthening – Signs in the Projects World

Two of the biggest indicators that the UK economy seems finally to be turning the corner to us here are:
  1. There is a steadily increasing number of PM jobs being advertised, and
  2. There are more people talking to us about now being the time to take the plunge in that big project, where would they find a good PM, and how would be the best way to apply appropriate governance to the project.
Both suggest that projects are being started, and we all know that projects are huge investments.

Flow Upgrades to Full PM Suite

The web and iOS tool has been updated with additional team functionalities.

The Power of Project Governance

An interesting insight and useful checklist from Anita Potgieter.  We’re not sure that the only project management system is Project Server 2013 though!

APM Launches The PM Channel

A great online resource with on demand PM training & development

Glossary of IT PM Terms You Should Know


Wrike Raises $10m from Bain Capital for PM Tools


New Infographic Shows the Need for a PMO

The Intersect Group

5 Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make As A PM

  1. Omission of milestones
  2. Disregarding your risk log
  3. Failing to communicate
  4. Losing sight of the big picture
  5. Not updating your calendar
5 Best Personal PM Tools
Lifehacker recently asked their readers to describe their best personal project management tool.  The top 5 were.  Some interesting surprises there..
  1. Asana
  2. Troll
  3. Microsoft OneNote
  4. Evernote
  5. Azendoo
5 Best PM Techniques to Steal
  1. Kanban
  2. Scrum
  3. GTD
  4. CCPM
  5. Kaizen
Popular iOS Mindmapping Tool iThoughts Now On OSX

Did we miss something?  Let us know.

Critical Chain Project Management

iStock_000018782205SmallPM Advisor and our consultants at ProjExc are constantly looking for ways to help Project Managers to be more successful, in what we call the Post-PRINCE era of project management.

One “new” methodology that has been growing in popularity for a few years now, albeit mostly under the radar, is Critical Chain Project Management, or CCPM. CCPM is based on the ideas presented by Eliyahu Goldratt in his books The Goal and Theory of Constraints.

CCPM promises the successful delivery of projects significantly earlier, with more confidence and using less resources. The cost for this is a huge leap of faith, and the need to get every department involved in a project (from executives to manufacturing and sales) completely engaged and committed to the concept from the outset and to keep that faith to the end!
That said, a growing number of big organisations are adopting CCPM having recognised a significant opportunity to compete. For example, only yesterday, we read in Business Insider that the 3 books which Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos asks his senior managers to read includes Goldratt’s The Goal.

We have read the books, done the research, and seen, heard and read about a number of success stories, as well as one or two horror stories of implementations gone wrong. It was fascinating therefore to get an opportunity at a recent APM event (The Real Reason that Projects Fail & How to Fix it) to hear from Gary Palmer of Critical Point Consulting, a CCPM consultancy from Kent, explaining the differences between traditional PM methods and CCPM. Clearly a convert to the “teachings” of Goldratt et al, Gary passionately believes that the only way to make projects successful is to adopt the principles and methods of CCPM.

Interestingly, and regardless of views on the suitability of CCPM, we wholeheartedly agree with Critical Point that project objective failure rates of 66%+ are unacceptable, leading to unnecessary disappointment, frustration, poor productivity, late market entry and impact on the bottom line. Liberal application of common sense together with a pragmatic implementation of waterfall, agile or a combination can make a huge difference to success.

What is CCPM?
Palmer sees this as a set of interlinked techniques & tools that work individually and collaboratively to significantly improve the processes and operation of scheduling & execution in projects, portfolios and programmes alike. The key to CCPM is scoping and scheduling. As the project proceeds the main role of the project manager is to ensure that the focus of the whole organisation is to ensure that potential critical/key resource constraints are always avoided at all costs.

The main observed problems in traditional PM:
1. Deadline driven scheduling feeds the impact of Parkinson’s Law meaning that early finishes never materialise,
2. Task level contingencies tend to have a product rather than summing effect, leading to resources adopting student syndrome and having no incentive to start early.
3. Critical Path focus completely ignores resources when planning resulting in frequent changes to the plans.
4. Multi tasking slows everything down, reduces quality and destroys productivity.
5. Poor measures & control tend to only focus on %age complete reported to expectation, and spend to date and subjective retrospective opinions of progress. However does the PM really have objective data to understand is the project on target?

CCPM solves these problems, in turn, by:
1. Creating a dependency “relay race” with no dates in the schedule.
2. Placing a total project “buffer” to be shared by all resources at end of the schedule, before an agreed project “commit” date, thus aggregating uncertainties.
3. Focus on the Critical Chain including resources. This forms resource dependencies rather than task dependency.
4. Single Tasking. Only one task is worked on in the chain, with no interruptions and dedicated resource until complete.
5. Good measures & visible control. Daily reporting of whether a task is complete, or if not how much task time remains. This is reflected in a Fever Chart.

Two other major benefits.
1. CCPM removes the need for schedule changes greatly simplifying life for the project manager, and
2. Each individual problem encountered no longer perpetuates others.

There is a small but growing pool of critical chain project management software meeting the needs of the new market. Some are standalone, some are add-ons to traditional tools like MS Project and additionally some of the all-in-one tools are integrating CCPM. These include:

The key management tool which is easily adopted and communicated is the Fever Chart. This powerfully visualises how much of the critical chain completed, and how much of the buffer has been consumed, and the PM would generally share this with the whole team on a daily basis.

Other Useful Links and Related Resources
Goldratt Books on Amazon.
Kelvin Youngman’s A Guide to Implementing the Theory of Constraints is a super guide with many useful resources.
The Billion Dollar Solution, Robert Newbold’s secrets of ProChain Project Management.
UK Goldratt Consultancy.

Project Management News Digest w33 2013

Trends in Project Management
Why intelligent Project Management is crucial to successful crowd funding
Trello introduces 3 “power-ups”
Namely calendar, card ageing and voting
APM BoK now available as e-book from Amazon
Weekly TWIST memo keeps client projects moving
Thing I need
When I need it,
Impact of missing it,
Silence means what,
Thank you,