Shewhart did PDCA and Deming did PDSA and in reality what I saw today was PDCSA!

Shewhart coined the term PDCA; plan, do, check and act which was modified by Deming to PDSA; plan, do, study and act.

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Is PDCSA more appropriate in the present day world?. We plan things, do things as per the plan, check to see the status, and then study. That is exactly what happened in todays retrospective meeting I attended. We studied the burn down chart for potential learning opportunities.

Whenever my students achieve something, my mother’s words ‘they must be intelligent’ rhymes in my ears. Really they are :-)

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Congratulations Amal. Wish you great success in all your future endeavours. Now you have the professional and social reponsibility to put all these into practice.  That will be a bigger win. Good luck.

The sellers dilemma in an outsourced environment

Whenever people speak about ”challenges in outsourcing”, they generally look at things from the buyer’s perspective only, ignoring the seller’s perspective completely. Being from India, the outsourcing hub of the world, and after spending almost three decades in I.T industry as a programmer, consultant, manager and business owner, I have been hearing, solving or living with these challenges most of the time. I strongly agree with the statement ”Projects fail at the beginning, not at the end”. By confronting these challenges during the planning stage itself (project manager takes control only at the planning stage), the probability of success of projects can be improved. Here are some of the key challenges one has to address collectively (both the buyer and the seller) especially for outsourced / off-shored projects;

  1. Selection of a wrong contract type – How true PMI is, when they say ”Project’s fail at the beginning, not at the end”. Very often the pre-sales team, without much awareness of the customer’s awareness level of the scope of work, and the kind of technology being used, recommend a fixed price contract along with a waterfall model to a customer who is not very clear about his requirements (high volatility) and the technology is very new to the team and customer. Not much thought is given to the contract type and the development life cycle. Once fallen into this trap, it is very difficult to recover, unless someone shows the grit to admit this problem as early as possible and correct it.
  2. Wrong estimation by the pre-sales team – The project manager comes into the picture after the organization has bagged the order from the client. By that time, the end date of the project, the contract type and the major milestone dates are already finalized by someone, and is imposed to the project manager. Now the project manager is bound to abide by these constraints. If a WBS (work breakdown structure) based estimates are not available during the planning stage, the project manager must initiate a WBS based estimate. At the end of it, one may realize that either the estimates imposed on to the PM by the pre-sales team or the WBS based estimates are correct. If there is a mismatch between these two estimates, it has to be confronted, and the right one must take precedence over the wrong one. No project management methodology will help us to recover from a wrong estimate which is on the lower side :-).
  3. PM being accountable for profitability – Most of the services organizations make the project managers believe that they are accountable for the profitability of the project. This is terribly wrong. For all fixed price contracts, Price = Engineering cost + Margin. As a project manager, ones responsibility ends with engineering cost. If the engineering cost is lower than the quoted price, the project will make a profit, else it will end up in a loss. As a project manager, if one has completed the project within the ”agreed upon cost”, then he is successful.
  4. The project management methodology is also dictated by the client – Very often, the customer chooses the project management methodology as well. If the client is from USA, most probably they will ask for either PMI based or Agile. If the client is from UK, their preference will be either PRINCE2 or Agile. For the rest it could be anything, with a bias towards ad-hoc project management. That means, I want absolute freedom to indiscipline. I will tell you what to do, before I go to bed, and when I wake up, I want to see it.
  5. Tailoring the processes for better control than collaboration.
  6. Forget about co-location, most of the product owners have not even seen all their project team members even once.
  7. Intellectually obedient crowd– Most of the outsourcing destinations are English speaking and the reason for this was colonies. The hangover continues still. The only way out of this is co-location of all the team members including the product owner (customer’s representative) at least during the early stages of the project, and the celebrations of the early milestones.
  8. The blind, leading the blind – Very often we hear things like, we are following SCRUM, but….(scum buts). We are following scrum, but a tailored version of SCRUM, and the tailoring has removed the pillars. This is not uncommon. Both the customer and the supplier do not understand the method completely, and the supplier is willing to listen to the customer in the name of customer satisfaction.
  9. Lack of respect for time – In most of the outsourcing destinations, working overtime without additional pay is the norm. Most of these organizations have time accounting systems which captures the time utilization of the team members on a daily basis. Irrespective of whether one has worked for 6 hours / day or 14 hours/day, what is captured is only 8 hours/day. In the longer run, this affects the physical fitness and the morale of the team.
  10. Everyone talks like a CEO – Every one is wrongly mentored to talk about cost and profitability only. No one is talking about project strategy, execution, engineering cost..May be an offshoot of the fixed price contract type. In the process the focus on scope and time gets a back seat. Encourages the sellers to cut corners to make profit, even if it is to the discomfort of the project manager. Here, a project manager who is ‘flexible’ scores over the project manager, who is ‘right’. This can be avoided by ‘demonstrable product increments’ linked payments based on time and material with a cap. The contract type can be a combination of T&M and fixed price as well. Till one gets a hang of the technology and scope it should be T&M, and the rest could be fixed price.
  11. Lack of understanding of the business case – Very often, the team, including the project manager is not aware of the business case of the project (Why the customer is doing it?, What is the impact of the project on the customer’s business?). This deprives the team of the opportunity to look at the project from the customer’s perspective, and for each and every change/suggestion the contractual terms gets precedence over the value of the change to the customer’s business, leading to frustrations building up at both ends. By understanding the business case and by sharing it with the team, the project manager can change the perspective of the team from ”Carrying stones” to “Building cathedrals”.
  12. Country club manager’s outlook – Very often I have to drive this point hard to the Indian project manager. Professional project management is all about doing the right things for the success of the project, than doing the nice things to please people. Majority of the project manager’s from the outsourcing hubs are inclined to please people than doing the right things for the success of the project. They are unable to say ‘No” ‘to anything. Even when they disagree, they say ”Yes”, and if you mistake it for a real ”Yes”, you are in trouble. The new generation in these countries have changed a lot, and do have own views about things, both engineering and managerial, and about the whole world itself. That is a welcoming change. Unfortunately they are oppressed by the manager’s who belong to the previous generation, who are still aligned to ”pleasing people than doing the right things”.
  13. Cultural differences – In India, the focus is always on protecting the weak, and very often it happens at the cost of the strong. In highly capitalist societies, the trend is towards protecting the strong. For an Indian manager, sacking someone very weak at work is something very painful, where as for a project manager from some other capitalist society, that is very normal. So, even when the head count is high in project team, all need not be productive, and the strong will end up compensating for the weak, leading to the burn out of the strong. The associated risk is the lack of transparency into the real teaming issues. Only those nice to get discussed gets discussed. The chronic problems and the associated corrective actions will not be encouraged. This has more to do with the culture than anything else, and anything linked to the culture takes a lot of effort to get sorted out.

Conclusion

By the time a project manager takes charge, the contract type with the customer is already decided, the effort/cost estimates, milestone dates are already agreed upon. The product owner (customer’s representative) remains as a voice or image. Very often, the customer imposes their way of working to the project teams. Man with money always get an upper hand, when it comes to decision making, ending up with poor project management decisions. The customer even tries to impose their work culture to the team, and the Asian project manager, very often is in the business of pleasing people than doing the right things. Most of these things are detrimental to the project. The only way out is developing mutual respect, and that is possible by;

  • Co location of the product owner
    with the team during the early stages of the project
  • Celebration of successes, even small ones
  • Explaining the place holder of the project to the customer’s business strategy
  • Re-estimating the project efforts, during the planning stage, and confronting the issues upfront
  • Understanding the cultural differences
  • Setting up a stage for fearless communication by promoting ‘we are in the business of doing right things and not the nice things’
  • Applying the collective wisdom to develop the project strategy
  • Aligning the contract types and payment terms to match the project strategy
  • Work planning for only 7 hours / day, excluding holidays and leave
  • Developing (gaining) in-depth understanding of the project management methodology for the project, before implementing
    them
  • Projects do not fail at the end, projects fail in the beginning. By taking care of the above points, we can reduce the probability of failures.

PMdistilled e-learning with 35 contact hours

The PMdistilled e-learning with 35 contact hours is designed for the busy professional like you in mind, who do not have access to my 3 day PMdistilled workshops. Sometimes, professionals who do not want to wait untill the next PMdistilled classroom training, start with the PMdistilled e-learning and if required come for the 3 day classroom workshop, just by paying the difference in fees.

Study Plan

PMdistilled e-learning is an instructor led e-learning program, which will take approximately 35 hours of effort from your side to complete it successfully. That means, if you can devote approximately 1 hour, every working day (1×5) and another 5 hours during the weekends, you will be able to complete the program in 4 weeks time. If you are able to spend more time, then the course duration will reduce, accordingly.

To be successful in the PMP(r) certification, knowledge of project management as per PMBOK(r) and exam practice (the final exam comprises of a 4 hour online test, where you will have to answer 200 questions – that means approximately 1 question per minute) is a must, irrespective of your present experience level and knowledge of project management. So let us start with an open mind, assuming that we are here to understand project management as per PMBOK(r).

The course is logically divided into two sections;

The Phase-1 introduces you to key best practices of professional project management.

The Phase-2 gets you ready for the PM certification exam

Upon successful completion of these phases you will receive the certificate from The Project Management Research Institute indicating your successful completion of the 35 contact hours of instructor led training.

Total course effort – 35 hours

Phase-1 – Understanding project management as per the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK)

The following is the study plan

PMessentials (Time required – 8 hours)

This section explains the basic workflow and definitions of project management. This section comprises of 8 modules. Each module comprises of self reading material, videos and online tests. You are allowed to take the online tests multiple times, till you are satisfied with your scores. Once you are happy with your scores, you can submit it for evaluation by the instructor. Then, the instructor evlauates your progress and provides credits against the module.

PMdistilled guide lesson tests

Module-1 Programs, Projects and Subprojects ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test

Module-2 Investing in the right projects ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module-3 The project management life cycle ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module-4 The project management knowledge areas ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module-5 Initiating a project

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Complete the first scheduled online discussion with the instructor before this stage.

Module-6 Planning a project

* Read the course material

Module 6.1 Scope elaboration ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 6.2 Decomposing the detailed scope into a work breakdown structure (WBS) ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Complete the second scheduled online discussion with the instructor before this stage.

Module 6.3 Quality planning ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Sumbit it for evaluation

Module 6.4 Human resource planning ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 6.5 Communications planning ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 6.6 Risk management planning ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 6.7 Plan purchases and acquisitions ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Complete the third scheduled online discussion with the instructor before this stage.

Module 6.8 Activity definition ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 6.9 Activity sequencing ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 6.10 Activity resource estimation ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 6.11 Activity duration estimation ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 6.12 Schedule development ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 6.13 Cost estimation and budgeting ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 6.14 Document project management plan ( 1 hour)

* View the video
* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module-7 Executing a project ( 1 hour)

* Read the course material
* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 7.1 Perform quality assurance and quality control ( 1 hour)
# View the video
# Read the course material
# Take the online test
# Submit it for evaluation
Module 7.2 Acquire and develop project team ( 1 hour)
# View the video
# Read the course material
# Take the online test
# Submit it for evaluation
Module 7.3 Information distribution ( 1 hour)
# View the video
# Read the course material
# Take the online test
# Submit it for evaluation
Module 7.4 Request seller responses ( 1 hour)
# View the video
# Read the course material
# Take the online test
# Submit it for evaluation
Module 7.5 Select sellers ( 1 hour)
# View the video
# Read the course material
# Take the online test
# Submit it for evaluation
Module – 8 Monitoring and controlling ( 1 hour)
# View the video
# Read the course material
# Take the online test
# Submit it for evaluation
Module-9 Closing a project ( 1 hour)
# View the video
# Read the course material
# Take the online test
# Submit it for evaluation
Module-10 Professional responsibility of a project manager ( 1 hour)
# View the video
# Read the course material
# Take the online test
# Submit it for evaluation
Complete the fourth scheduled online discussion with the instructor before this stage.
Phase-2 Exam readiness module (knowledge area wise)
Module -11 Strategy for preparing for the exam ( 1 hour)

* Watch the video
* Read the reference material (experience sharing)

Module 12 – Project integration management ( 1 hour)

* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 13 – Project scope management ( 1 hour)

* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 14 – Project time management ( 1 hour)

* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 15 – Project cost management ( 1 hour)

* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 16 – Project quality management ( 1 hour)

* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

Modue 17 – Project human resource management ( 1 hour)

* Take the online tests
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 18 – Project communications management ( 1 hour)

* Take the online tests
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 19 – Project risk management ( 1 hour)

* Take the online tests
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 20 – Project procurement management ( 1 hour)

* Take the online tests
* Submit it for evaluation

Module 21 – Simulation test (4 hours)

* Take the online test
* Submit it for evaluation

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Comparing PMBOK V3 to V4 – Post#1

Very often during training, I get this question these days;

“If I prepare for the exam based on PMBOK V3, and write the current exam, will I pass?”. Yes, still you can pass. For that matter, even if you prepare based on V2, still you may pass, as the crux of the body of knowledge have not changed much, and it cannot change as well. The key changes are in the structuring of the document, and it there are some deletions and additions to improve clarity. For the benefit of all, who is looking forward to bridge the gap between V3 and V4, quickly, I am planning a series of posts in this blog. Hope it will benefit some one, some where.

Here we go!

PMBOK v3 had 44 processes, where as PMBOK v4 has only 42 processes. The 9 knowledge areas remain the same as;

* Integration management
* Time management
* Cost management
* Scope management
* Quality management
* Risk management
* Human resource management
* Communications management
* Procurement management

The process groups remain the same as;

* Initiation
* Planning
* Execution
* Monitoring and controlling
* Closing

Under Initiation, as per V3, we had two processes;

* Develop project charter
* Define high level scope

In V4, this is changed to;

* Develop project charter
* Identify stakeholders