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THE PROJECT MANAGEMENT COLLECTION SELF-STUDY WORKBOOK
INTRODUCTION TO PROJECT MANAGEMENT
As this project management workbook will show you, with the right knowledge, skills and confidence, you can even get to the moon.
Introduction to Project Management
What is this workbook all about? Imagine you are given a project to manage, or asked to join a project team. Even though you have heard a lot about project management, you are not really sure how to start. Or you may find yourself wondering what people mean when they talk about ‘scope’, ‘Gantt charts’ and ‘deliverables’. This workbook is designed to help. We’ve broken the basics of project management into 5 bite sized sections that are really easy to digest.
Who Should Read This? • Anyone who would like to learn more about the world of Project Managers • Experienced Project Managers who want a refresher on the basics • People looking to advance their careers by getting involved in project teams
Key Insights #1 You will discover how a triangle can help keep projects on time, in budget and on scope. #2 Take a look at the six different stages of a project’s life. #3 Find out why project management is a bit like spinning plates. Take your eye off one and it could ruin your whole performance. #4 Why the right project skills can get you to the moon. #5 Finally, you’ll see how better project management could have prevented the most deadly maritime disaster ever.
The Iron Triangle
The key to project success and the fundamental principle that every Project Manager needs to know, is the management of the triple constraint, sometimes referred to as the iron triangle. Successful projects must be: • Within cost • Be delivered on time • And be within scope Let’s break those constraints out further. The time constraint refers to the amount of time available to complete a project. The cost constraint refers to the budgeted amount available for the project. And the scope constraint refers to what must be done to produce the project’s end result. The three factors are often competing constraints. For example, if the scope is increased mid-way through the project, the other two factors (time and cost) will also be increased. It’s the Project Manager’s responsibility to maintain balance between the three constraints using tools and techniques that enable the project team (not just the Project Manager) to succeed.
Test Your Knowledge If you were a Project Manager, how would you go about balancing the triple constraint in the following project situation? Imagine you’re in charge of a project to launch a new car. The customer calls and asks that the launch date for the car be brought forward by a month because they want to showcase the new model to get ahead of a competitor. Which constraint has the customer altered? (Circle your answer below)
TIME COST SCOPE You reply by confirming that you can meet the new deadline, but only if more people are added to the project team and this means increased expenses. Which constraint have you balanced? TIME COST SCOPE Finally, you communicate that some of the cars features will not be delivered by the new deadline. Which constraint have you balanced this time? TIME COST SCOPE (Answers can be found at the end of this workbook – but remember, no cheating!)
The important thing to remember is that you need to balance each constraint to reach a successful conclusion. When the time constraint changed, the cost and scope needed to change too. Change happens during projects, so it’s important you know how to manage it.
Takeaway The major takeaway here, is that you can’t adjust one side of the triangle without altering the other sides. notes
The Stages of a Project
Projects can typically be divided into six stages. If you think of a project as having a ‘life’, each stage of the project life is characterised by a distinct set of activities. This is how you get from an idea to a conclusion. Let’s take a look at each stage in more detail.
DEFINITION A Project Manager must ensure that all stakeholders agree on the defined project goals, objectives, scope, risks, issues, budget, timescale and approach – before the work begins.
INITIATION Once you have a project idea, it can be really tempting to jump right in. However, if you skip the initiation stage, your project could be doomed from the start. Initiation is about agreeing the terms of reference within which the project will be run. Time planning and communicating benefits is not time wasted. In fact, it will help improve the overall probability of success.
PLANNING Here you need to complete a high level work break down structure. Determine the projects high level plan at the milestone level. This is also the stage where you identify and recruit project team members and secure key resources.
EXECUTION This is all about benefit realisation. With all the planning and designing complete, the project team can start to develop and build the components of the project output.
MONITORING AND CONTROL Regular reporting and monitoring keeps you in control of your project when it’s up and running. As part of this phase you need to test the components to confirm that they work as they should.
CLOSURE It’s important that the project lifecycle is closed. During this phase all documentation should be completed and stored. It’s a good idea to complete a post implementation review – so you can see what you did well, and areas for improvement next time.
Takeaway Think of a project as having a life and each stage of the project life is characterised by a distinct set of activities. notes
Project Planning and Scheduling
Imagine you’re spinning 6 plates at once. You’d have to keep your eye on all of them and quickly spot if one was slowing down. If you missed just one, it could spoil your whole performance. Managing the six stages of a project is no different. So it’s really helpful to be able to see everything that needs to be completed at a glance. And this is where our man Henry Gantt comes into the story.
One of the forefathers of project management, you might be familiar with his name, or more likely, the chart named after him. Originally designed in 1910, Gantt charts are one of the Project Managers’ most valuable tools. Gantt charts are used to outline all of the tasks involved in a project, shown against a timescale. People can often get confused or scared when faced with Gantt charts, but they really are quite simple when you break them down. Let’s take a look at 5 reasons why you should use a Gantt chart on your next project. #1 VISUALISE YOUR PROJECT At the starting point of any project it can be a huge advantage to be able to visualise the start to finish. The first step to creating a Gantt chart is to write down or type all the individual tasks that will need to be completed. You can then start to see how long the project will take to complete and map your timeline. #2 BITE SIZED TASKS When you take a look at the project objective it can be overwhelming. But don’t worry, you don’t need to do it all at once. It’s like eating an elephant. When you look at the elephant you think “there is no way I’m going to be able to eat that”, but the only thing to do is take one bite at a time. Using a Gantt chart allows you to break down large projects into manageable chunks. #3 HIT YOUR DEADLINES Project timelines are often altered by the tiniest of changes. It could be a slight change in scope, or a project team member on holiday. If you record all of this on your Gantt chart, you can see how this will change the timing of the entire project – and therefore you can predict actuate deadlines. #4 PROJECT CRITICAL PATH In a project there are tasks which depend on other tasks before they can be started or completed. If you don’t identify these dependencies in a Gantt chart, it is impossible to determine your critical path (or simply, how long the project will take to complete). #5 MONITOR PROGRESS A Gantt chart is a living document. It’s not printed out and stuck on a wall. So as long as you keep on top of your Gantt updates, you can always get a live, up to date view of your project’s progression.
Takeaway Projects can get complicated, so it’s really helpful to be able to see everything that needs to be completed at a glance and the perfect tool for this is the Gantt chart. notes
Project management skills that are out of this world
To be successful, Project Managers need a range of skills. And guess what, there are hundreds of books on the topic. If you read these books you’ll no doubt see phrases like change management and implementation of management best practices. Here’s the thing. Reading lists of skills is boring.
Instead, let’s focus on a guy from history who managed one the greatest human accomplishments to date, and dissect why he managed the project so successfully.
So let’s examine the interstellar Project Manager – Dr. George Mueller who managed to put man on the moon.
GOOD PLANNING AND ORGANISATION As you can probably imagine, sending someone to the moon and back took some serious planning. Mueller managed every part of the Apollo project from the White House to the smallest supplier. People first met Dr. Mueller’s plans with scepticism. But Dr. Mueller explained that “the amount of time it took to convince people that in fact, it was a good thing to do, was necessary”. We’ve all heard the old adage “measure twice, cut once” and while it might be a bit of a cliché, if you choose to rush or ignore the planning stage, it can be a formula for failure.
COST MANAGEMENT Dr. Mueller managed a multi-billion dollar program. Even when an unmanned shuttle went into space, it was hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. You’re unlikely to need to manage such whopping budgets yourself. But cost management is a critical skill for Project Managers. You need to be able to demonstrate that you can deliver your project within the cost constraints by managing the project finances intelligently.
PEOPLE MANAGEMENT Dr. Mueller was famously quoted as saying that “the technical challenges of running the Office of Manned Space Flight were only equalled by the complexities of people management”. People management can be tough. To have any chance of success you need trust. Trust is an essential part of being a Project Manager. You demonstrate trust in others through your own actions – how much you check their work, how much you delegate or allow people to participate.
COMMUNICATION Dr. Mueller was a champion communicator that encouraged others to share and learn. He even launched a review board to evaluate proposed missions. Project leadership calls for clear communication about goals, responsibility, performance, expectations and feedback. Think creatively about the communication channels you have got available to you.
TEAM LEADERSHIP Dr. Mueller pushed through a team reorganisation that meant he was in charge of the Marshall Space Flight Centre, the Manned Spacecraft Centre and the Kennedy Space Centre. At the time all of these centres were going through massive change and growth in facilities and staff. As a no-nonsense leader Mueller introduced management concepts that assured the achievement of landing on the moon. Successful team leadership requires vision, substance and an understanding of team dynamics. You must understand the different team players and how to capitalise on each, at the proper time for the problem at hand.
RECOVERY Project Apollo was not without its problems. One of the unmanned test missions produced engine failures, and on the very first manned test mission in 1967, there was an electrical fire in the cabin that killed the crew. This prompted budget cuts that reduced the Apollo program’s planned missions. As a Project Manager - showing you know how to turn around a poorly performing team and project will certainly set you aside from your peers.
Takeaway Now you’ve listened to the skills Dr. George Mueller put to good use, have a think about the skills you need to work on as a priority before your next project. List them below... notes
Painful Project Management Over 60 years on from the birth of project management, you’d think we’d be rather good at it. But project failures still occur in alarming numbers. Projects often go wrong for the same reasons. So it’s foolish of organisations and individuals to not learn from the painful lessons of past projects. In 1912 The RMS Titanic sank after hitting an ice berg in the North Atlantic Ocean. More than 1,500 passengers and crew died, making it one of the deadliest commercial maritime disasters in modern history.
But are there any lessons to be learnt from this horror story? Let’s consider some key lessons that ‘would be’ Project Managers can take away from the details surrounding the tragedy.
#1 VALID MEASUREMENTS The lack of lifeboats on the Titanic is well documented. Do you know how many lifeboats were actually carried aboard the titanic? The answer is 20. 20 lifeboats that could accommodate 33% of the ships total passengers and crew. Amazingly, this was technically legal. The law at the time based the numbers of lifeboats required on the weight of the ship, not her passenger capacity. Needless to say, these standards changed as a result of the disaster. So although the Titanic had “enough” lifeboats by one measurement – the boat had capacity for 64 lifeboats, a total well over the ships maximum capacity of 3547 people. If you no not have valid measurements for your own project, you too will run into problems.
#2 DISTRACTION AND ASSUMPTION CAN KILL PROJECTS Hours before the Titanic collided with the ice berg that was to sink it, a nearby ship attempted to warn the ships wireless operator of the danger. The operator, Jack Philips, assumed the message from the other ship was unimportant and replied “shut up, I am working Cape Race”. Distracted - sending passenger messages, the crew did not focus on communicating with other ships whilst in a known danger area called “iceberg alley”. How often have you seen things blow up in your face because of an assumption? And I’m sure you can think of a time that work suffered because you became distracted. If your project team is distracted, then you will fall behind and even worse, it could sink.
#3 COMMUNICATION IS EVERYTHING A tragic story about the Allison family highlights the need for good communication. After the ship had collided with the iceberg, the Allison family nurse took 1yr old Trevor from the family room and she and Trevor boarded a lifeboat to safety. Because she didn’t tell Trevor’s parents, they spent the rest of the time looking for Trevor, turning down the opportunity to escape themselves. As a result, both parents and their other 3yr old child died in the tragedy. You must make sure that key stakeholders know about the status and progress of your project. Make it your goal to keep everyone informed so there are no mistakes or surprises.
#4 BEWARE OF MOVING TARGETS The Titanic was a luxury ship, not built for speed. But on its maiden journey the captain was pressured to increase speed. It’s thought that this increase prevented the ship’s crew from reacting quickly enough. The clear takeaway here is you need to be aware of changing targets. Any change is likely to impact other parts of the project. Ensure that targets are clear and expectations are appropriately set.
Activity Think about the last project you worked on (it could be at work or at home). What problems did you encounter? List them below and include how you’d avoid it in future:
Takeaway There’s a saying that goes “there are no new sins”, this means things often go wrong for the same reasons. Make sure you learn from your project mistakes. notes
Final Summary No matter what you do or where you work, it’s likely you will have to manage or play and active role in a project at some point during your career. Investing in your project management skills can really pay off. If you want to be a successful Project Manager, you need to build on the foundations we’ve covered in this workbook. Let’s remind ourselves of the key messages: • Projects are temporary, unique and not part of normal operations – therefore they cannot be managed in the same way, and require specific skills. • Remember that success starts with an iron triangle. • Think of a project as having a life, with different stages. • Henry Gantt gave us a great tool to visualise our projects and prevent us from dropping plates. • With the right skill set, you can even get to the moon. • And finally, it’s important to learn from past projects, to ensure future ones don’t sink.
Good luck on your journey to becoming a perfect Project Manager!
1. TIME 2. COST 3. SCOPE
ANSWERS TO PAGE 5
action plan KEY SKILLS (WHAT ARE THE KEY SKILLS YOU HAVE LEARNT DURING THIS COURSE)
WHAT WILL YOU DO DIFFERENTLY IN THE WORKPLACE?
WHAT OBSTACLES MIGHT GET IN THE WAY OF YOU ACHIEVING THIS?
WHAT, OR WHO MAY HELP YOU OVERCOME THESE BARRIERS?