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Thursday, 04 May 2017 19:49

The TenStep View of Processes and Templates

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This content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.3.5

The TenStep View of Processes and Templates

I am not sure if it is obvious, but at TenStep we are "process people". We think that organizations that have good processes have a much better chance to be successful than the organization with weak processes. Of course, you have to have good processes and you also have to follow them.

Templates, on the other hand, are secondary and are a derivative of processes. Unlike my prior statement regarding organizations with good processes, I would not state that an organization that has good templates would have a better chance to be successful. In fact, if a manager bragged to me about their templates, I would assume that this meant that they probably have weak processes.

What is the value of a template? Templates are important as a way to document some aspect of a process. For example, part of a scope change process is the ability to track changes throughout the project. This requires a Scope Change Log. Similarly your project may require more sophisticated communication, which can be documented on a Communication Plan.

The important point about templates is that they don't drive a process - they are simply a result from a process. For example, a project manager in your organization might state "My sponsor wants to start this project but we can't until we complete a Project Charter." They may state this as a paperwork burden that must be overcome before they can start the real work on the project.

But is that really what is going on? You should understand the value that the Project Charter provides. It is not just a paperwork burden that must be checked off a list. The Charter represents the work done to define a project. The Charter contains the project objectives, scope, deliverables, risks, assumptions, organization, milestones, etc. If a project manager complains about a Project Charter, they are really saying that they want to start the project before they understand these things. Does that make sense? Do you really want to start a project before you know the deliverables and scope and risks? I don't think so. The Project Charter allows a project manager to understand these fundamental aspects of a project, and then to document this information to make sure that there is a common understanding with the sponsor and other project stakeholders.

Of course, templates need to be scalable. Small projects need small templates. Larger projects need more complex templates since the processes are more complex.

I know of organizations that have very weak processes and so they can only focus on templates as a proxy for some process that is not well defined. In these organizations, the mentality is that you just need to complete certain templates to move past some checkpoint. Then it seems like the template ends up running the process. This is not right.

Summary

When people complain about templates, remind them of the process that the template represents. If the process makes sense, then the template makes sense. If the process does not make sense, the associated template won't either. 
At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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This content is from the Method123 weekly email dated 2017.27.04

Was Your Project Successful - Within Tolerances?

Estimating the time and cost is an important part of project planning. If you estimate a project to cost $230,000, is your project a failure if the actual cost is $230,500? You missed your budget, right? Yes, but this gets into the concept of tolerances. If you delivered within $500 on a $230,000 budget, you should be lifted on your manager's shoulder and paraded around the company as a hero.

Your company needs to establish the tolerance level that they consider to be reasonable for projects. For example, the tolerance level may be -10% to +10%. That is, if you deliver the project 10% over budget, it is still considered a success. For the $230,000 project, that means you could have gone overbudget by $23,000 and still have been considered successful.

Normally there is some room for tolerances with your deadline as well. In most cases, you can deliver a little late and still be considered successful. Of course, not all projects have that flexibility. Some projects do have a fixed end date that cannot be moved. But many projects have some flexibility.

Declaring Success From a Project Perspective

Once you understand your tolerances (if any), you can start to evaluate success from a project perspective. Generally, the project team members can declare success if:

  1. The project is delivered within the estimated cost, plus or minus the tolerance.
  2. The project was delivered within its deadline, plus or minus the tolerance.
  3. All of the major deliverables were completed. (Some minor ones, or minor functionality, might not be delivered.)
  4. The overall quality is acceptable. (It does not have to be perfect.)
Other factors may be important for specific projects. For instance in a construction project, safety might be a key success component.

Declaring Success from a Company Perspective

From a company perspective, success is also based on whether the company received the business value that was promised. There are many examples of projects that were completed successfully, yet are not delivering the value promised. It is possible that the return on investment calculations were faulty, or the marketplace was misjudged by the sponsor. Success against the project business value, as defined in the Business Case, is ultimately the responsibility of the sponsor - not the project team. 
At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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This content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.26.4

Frustration Culture
When Actions and Principles Don't Align


Believe it or not, there are many fine companies in the world that have great products and treat their employees well. There are also many companies that are just plain rotten. Of course, most companies fall somewhere in the middle.

One of the reasons that employees don’t like working at their companies is that their companies are not intellectually honest with them. They say one thing and do another thing. They have lofty ideals or principles on paper, but they do not follow through and actually implement policies and processes to back up their words.

“Frustration Culture”

In a broad sense, the term culture refers to “how we do things around here.” Culture refers to the formal and informal policies and procedures that define how you do your job. This includes how you relate to your managers, peers and clients.

The term “frustration culture” can be used to describe the way employees feel when a company’s actions don’t follow their words because frustration is the most common feeling that people have in those circumstances.

Here is an example to see how this happens. Company A is a consulting company with a fine Mission Statement that explains that their people are their number one asset and that they invest in their staff to ensure they are well trained and capable. However, in reality, it appears that people are their number one asset only while profits are strong. When profits fall, training and employee development are the first things to be cut.

Company A is an example of a place with a frustration culture. Their problem is that they say one thing and do another. Their literature talks about their commitment to employees, but that commitment is only an inch deep when company profits are on the line.

Good companies usually tell you up-front what is important to them and, in fact, try to follow through on those commitments. They tend to set and manage expectations very well.

Managers should honestly evaluate their company’s actions and words. This includes their own personal actions and words. If the words don’t match up with the actions, then lobby for change. Each manager has a limited ability to change the entire culture, but they can start be changing their own organization. Start the change now. Start in your own organization, then look for ways to move it outward.
At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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This content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.19.4

Use Cost Accounts to Manage Budgets with More Precision

Many projects have one overall budget that includes all of the project labor costs, equipment costs, materials costs, etc. This is fine for smaller and medium-sized projects. However, as a project gets larger it helps to have the overall budget broken down into smaller portions. This is a similar to the decomposition technique of breaking down project deliverables into smaller pieces using a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). It is easier to understand and manage things that are smaller instead of things that are bigger. Having your budget allocated at a more granular level allows you to keep better control of the details and may point out potential budget trouble quicker than having everything rolled up into one consolidated project budget.

Cost accounts are used to allocate the budget at a lower level. Your budget is allocated in each detailed cost account and the actual project expenses are reported at that same level. The cost accounts can be established in a couple of ways.

  • By resource type. One way is to create a cost account for each resource type.  In this approach, you could have a cost account for internal labor, external labor, equipment, software, training, travel, etc.
  • By WBS work package. Another way to set up the cost accounts is based on the WBS. You may set up a separate cost account and budget for each phase,  milestone, deliverable or work package.
  • By both WBS and resource type. If you set up cost accounts for work packages on the WBS, you can also track the resource types within each work package. these various resource types can be tracked with sub-account numbers within the cost account. Of course, the more detailed your cost accounts are, the more work you will have setting up, allocating and tracking the cost account budgets.
All of these techniques allow you to allocate and track costs at a more detailed level. If you manage the entire budget as one large chunk of money you may not see potential budget risks.

For example, let's say your estimated cost is one million dollars. You can allocate the budget into the different works packages on your WBS. For example:

·      Work package A - $20,000

·      Work package B  - $50,000

·      Work package C - $100,000

·      etc...

As the project progresses, it may turn out that Work Package A actually costs $40,000. Because your budget is allocated at this lower level, you can see immediately that you are trending over budget. This same $20,000 overage might be harder to detect of you only have one large one million dollar budget. You might end up catching this problem, but you may not see the trend early enough. Cost accounts give you a more detailed level of precision. 

At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Last modified on Thursday, 20 April 2017 21:34
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389Click Here to Listen to the Interview: http://bit.ly/PMPodcast389
Read More: http://bit.ly/PMPodcast-389

Conflict in project management is inevitable. In fact they say that the only way to not have a project management conflict is to have a one-person project. And even then, some people have a tendency to argue with themselves.

Karin Brünnemann (https://www.linkedin.com/in/karinbrunnemann) recently gave a presentation on the topic of Managing Conflict in Projects to the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Slovakia Chapter. And because it was such a success she suggested that we bring it to you as well!

Karin’s presentation and our interview is full of solid advice and best practices you can apply to the conflicts you will inevitably encounter. We will discuss: Definition & Characteristics of Conflict

  • Conflict in the Context of Project Management
  • How to Analyse a Conflict
  • How to Manage Conflict

A big part of the interview is actually focused on that last part -- the actual project management conflict resolution. We are, however, not going to talk about conflict resolution on multicultural projects. That’s reserved for next week.

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