Project Management tactics for TBD – To Be Determined. Project management is filled with uncertainties and unknowns. All of these unknowns cannot and should not be immediately resolved. Therefore the term To Be Determined (TBD) can be a common part of the Project Management landscape. Additionally, blanket requests or expectations for detail from project teams are counterproductive. Use of detail should be a strategic decision to make sure the team is not overwhelmed providing information that may be of little use. One of the ways to control excessive detail is the effective use of TBD.
It is simply common sense as program or project manager for you to have rules for TBD use by your team. There is nothing wrong with TBD as long as the TBD is not lonely and TBD is time constrained.
Why is Risk Identification so Important in Project Management?
With all of the knowledge and experience we have with regard to risk as a project management community our performance is not good.
Sure there are some companies and organizations that excel at it but for the most part our risk management as part of managing projects has serious opportunity for improvement. You may think that is a bold statement but it is easy to make because I regularly survey project managers from Anchorage Alaska to Amsterdam.
The graphic below shows the results from a recent survey from the PMI Delaware Valley Chapter from a Risk Management Training course conducted at their Professional Development Day this year. Look at the data – 55% Poorly or Disastrous! 39% Adequate!
Stakeholder Management – How do you Deal with the Yelling-Screaming-Obnoxious Stakeholder?
In the Q & A portion of my The Art of Stakeholder Management presentation to the PMI Puget Sound Chapter an attendee asked how to handle a problem stakeholder situation. He has a powerful stakeholder that yells and screams. He said an “expert” told him he needs to respond back at an equally emotional level. I have heard this “expert” advice before and maybe in certain cases it may work, but the bottom line is I disagree with it.
In my lifelong journey to become a better leader I have learned the value of ancient, tried and true wisdom teaching. Wisdom that hasn’t changed through the centuries. Human behavior has not changed for thousands of years.
Ten Take-Aways for Project Managers from John F. McDonough ‘speech at the PMI Chicagoland PDD
John McDonough revitalized the Chicago Blackhawks sports franchise. Forbes has called it “The Greatest Sports-Business Turnaround Ever.” The Blackhawks won the 2010 Stanley Cup championship under McDonough’s leadership.
For me McDonough’s keynote for project managers was the highlight of a great Professional Development Day hosted by the PMI Chicagoland chapter.
Below are my Take-Aways for project managers from McDonough ‘speech
- Set High expectations and have a plan to get there!
- He was in the question asking business
- He handles problems like a locomotive… head on! (A writer once described him as a bulldozer on steroids)
- Once is a trend… don’t look the other way if you sense a problem
- He likes things comfortably uncomfortable
- He likes laughter in an organization but in the end it is about results.
Free Range Project Manager or Caged by Process?
You may have heard of “free range chicken” or “free range livestock.” In this context free range means “permitted to roam without being fenced in.” I am using free range to describe a project management culture where the project manager is not subservient to the process/methodology.
There are many project managers that are slaves to a project management process!
Process (in the right amount) is necessary. However, process is not the answer for everything. A Free Range Project Manager™ has the power to use his of her judgment to circumvent the project management process when it makes sense to do so.
Yes, boys and girls the process is not always right!
I have created a LinkedIn group titled “Free Range Project Managers™.” I would like to invite you to be among the first to join this group but it is not for everybody so….
As a Project Manager is Your Focus a Fallacy?
Human Beings Over Focus on What Is Irritating
As human beings we easily are distracted by something that is irritating, or perceived as incorrect, inefficient or unjust and it becomes our focus. I have dealt with project managers in organizations that blame the project management methodology for all their problems (because the methodology is irritating) but the methodology wasn’t the problem… they were the problem.
What is Irritating You is Often Not What is Most Important
As a leader you must constantly pay attention to what you are focused on…what your team is focused on…and what your leadership is focused on. Always put the focus in context with other challenges and goals to determine if it truly warrants the focus (time, resources, energy) it is getting.
My last blog “Have you suffered from Project Failure due to being the victim of a “Bait Project?”” drew a response from a long time colleague Dennis Peters of Siemens. See his response below…
I guess I’ve been the “police” in this role play before. Sometimes as the sponsor of the project you really do think the PM can handle it, and get lulled into the sense that “this one will be better.”
Options for the PM?
1. Politely refuse to take the project. Of course, that is tantamount to political suicide. All projects are tough. All have longish hours. I think this is a bad option, as you likely won’t get asked again, or get forced into it. I know I didn’t ask people a second time.
Have you suffered Project Failure due to being the victim of a “Bait Project”?
There is a popular reality TV show called Bait Car. In this show the police leave a nice car on the street with the keys in it, tempting an unsuspecting robber to jump in and steal it. The police then lock them in the car and take them to jail.
In Bait Car the victim goes to jail. On a Bait Project the project manager suffers unnecessarily on a project that is likely predestined for project failure. The generic scenario for the “Bait Car” that sometimes happens to project managers in a “Bait Project” situation is…
- The victim/PM is presented a “great opportunity” and has initial excitement
- The victim/PM then gets an inkling or feeling that all is not as it seems
- This inkling then turns into knowing and a sense of being locked in with no escape from project failure
- The same people/Stakeholders that set up the victim/PM then ask the victim/PM with a straight face “what happened”
Here are the common statements from sponsors that may clue you in that you are being offered/assigned a “Bait Project”
• This project may require long hours but that is only short term…
• You will get to keep your other responsibilities also, but the stakeholders will be understanding if there are delays…
• The critical team members will be on board soon…
• The budget authorization should happen shortly but we would like you to proceed…
• The customer is still not exactly sure what is required…
• The completion date has been set but there is plenty of flexibility…
• Even though this is a global project, travel requirements are minimal…
• You have our full support as this project has the highest visibility…
Please feel free to share any other “Bait Project” clues.
Project too Large to use Three Point Estimates for Risk Management?
Recently I received a question from Michael Floriani PMP, a previous participant from my Risk Management class. He agreed with one of the premises in the training class, that use of Three Point Estimates is a good Risk Management tool. After the class and back in the work environment Michael was challenged with a blanket application of Three Point Estimates given the size of his projects. He followed up with me and his question and my response are below:
Our projects are composed of many activities and, as a result, the project schedules are very large. In determining the durations using a Three Point Estimate (and altering the formula to fit our environment), it would be extremely time-consuming to obtain the Optimistic, Most-Likely and Pessimistic values for each task.
Should a Project Manager have an Assistant?
At a few presentations to PMI Chapters this year I stated that as a project manager I would not use a tool like Microsoft Project or any PM software tool . For some reason a good portion of the audience thought this was shocking or incomprehensible. Some asked how I would even manage projects if this were the case…. The project management role and the project administration role are two different skill sets… Use of the Tool is an Administration Function…