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Project Management - Preventing Project Slips
By Luc Richard
Can Project Managers prevent projects from slipping?
a techie to come up with a schedule for a specific list of activities,
and more often than not, he/she will present a fairly accurate
estimate. Some activities might be underestimated, others
overestimated, but overall, the plan will be fairly accurate.
something happens to these estimates between the time the techie writes
them down and the time the Project Manager publishes a baseline project
schedule. That “something” is why projects slip.
tend to slip for two reasons. Either Project Managers don’t account for
derivative activities such as vacation days when planning the overall
project schedule, or they simply succumb to the pressure from
management to compress the schedule.
The case surrounding
derivative activities is well documented here or on The Project Mangler
(www.projectmangler.com), so I won’t spend any more time on it. The
case surrounding management pressure is not.
your techies have estimated each task and that you’ve considered
derivative activities, your project schedule should be accurate.
Aggressive, but realistic.
Now, present this schedule to
the management team, and 8 times out of 10, the feedback you’ll get is
“that’s too late”. Eight times out of ten, you’ll be asked to revise
the schedule and shorten it.
Project Managers are all too
familiar with the project triangle. We know we can shorten a schedule
by either (a) reducing the scope of the project, or (b) adding more
resources to it. Unfortunately, management either hasn’t seen that
triangle or, more likely than not, simply chooses to ignore it.
Project Manglers who are more interested in pleasing upper management
than keeping honest have come up with their own universal algorithm for
shortening project schedules. Take the number of days that need to be
cut from the schedule, divide it by the number of major milestones, and
then deduct that number from the duration of each milestone. In other
words, if a project comprising of 4 major milestones is estimated to
last 6 months, but you need to reduce it by one month, you’d take 20
days, and divide it by 4. Take the answer (5), and deduct it from the
duration of each milestone. And voila! Works every time.
And at the end of the project, either your techies save the day (by working evenings or weekends) or the project slips.
Can Project Managers prevent projects from slipping? Absolutely. Just stop publishing overly optimistic schedules.
- Get your techies to help estimate the duration of each development task.
- Add time to the overall project schedule to account for derivative activities.
- Don’t succumb to pressure from management
And last but not least…
- Stick to the basic principles behind the project management triangle. In other words, don’t be a Project Mangler.
Luc K. Richard is the founder and editor of The Project Mangler, a Web site dedicated to turning techies into managers. He invites you to visit http://www.projectmangler.com to download articles, project management tools, templates and checklists.
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