Project Management News Digest from PM Advisor

ProjectPlace Launch ToDo, Freemium Stepping Stone

The long established collaboration tool has made a new stripped down Kanban based shared task system called ToDo.  The tool starts with  free basic module and offers to grow with you.  The system has web access as well as an iOS app.
You can read a fuller review over at here.

Communication: The Essential Ingredient for Good Project Management

Bruce McGraw offers super advice for 3 key aspects of project communication:
  1. Transparency,
  2. Team member communications & meetings, and
  3. Stakeholder/sponsor communication.
This is worthy of a read project managers.  Sticking with communications you may also be interested in the next story.
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How to Make Communication Central to Project Management

Jeff Miller of Interstates Control Systems Inc. hits the nail on the head with this introspective on necessary PM behaviours in an automation retrofit project, and offers good advice for all project managers.  Agile proponents will love the quote “.. you have to have a game plan for handling new information that comes to light after months of work based on incomplete information.
On the subject of Agile, we recently came across this following gem from Sam Price.

Agile not Fragile

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In the post, Sam concludes “In short, agile provides flexibility, not frailty. Any lack of documentation and planning are the faults of the manager, not agile. Given the propensity for change and the increased stakeholder engagement, project management fundamentals are vital to success.”.
Of course we agree with Sam but we do find some who struggle to understand where an agile approach can work, and importantly where it will not.

How Project Managers Keep Calm and Stay Efficient

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In this super article by  Rebecca Leitch, she looks at levels of stress (good stress vs bad stress or distress) and how it can be positively leveraged by project managers to maximise productivity.

5 Big Project Management Problems and How to Solve Them

Chad Brooks looks at the five key reasons  two US researchers uncovered for why projects flop:
  1. Employees don’t accurately report when projects are failing,
  2. People misreport for many reasons – and those reasons matter,
  3. Audit teams help to proliferate misreporting,
  4. Putting a senior executive in charge of a project may increase misreporting, and
  5. Executives often ignore bad news,

KPIs – Good and Bad

Dr Lynda Bourne offers some solid advice for PMOs when setting KPIs to ensure good project communication.

Project Panorama – A WordPress PlugIn for Project Management

The claim: “Project Panorama is a simple, easy to use WordPress project management plugin designed to keep clients and team members informed of project progress”.  The Lite version is free, and Professional is $49.99 (initially reduced to $34.99).

5 Reasons To Use Mind Mapping Software

Mindmapping is increasingly popular with project managers.  Elizabeth at PM Tips offers a useful set of arguments for convincing that mean line manager to loosen their grip on the IT budget:
  • It saves time,
  • I can create your WBS,
  • It’s visual,
  • It keeps everything centralised, and
  • It’s easy to search.

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.