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Wednesday, 16 August 2017 14:48

Use Five Steps in a Comprehensive Training Approach

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This content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.16.08

Use Five Steps in a Comprehensive Training Approach

Training is usually provided as the project solution is about to be deployed. However, on many projects the team does not start thinking about training until the end of the project. This is much too late. The key to an effective training approach is to start the planning process early. If you wait to consider training needs until the end of the project, you will not have enough time to do it the way you would like.

Training has a mini-lifecycle of its own. Some organizations call this a "workstream". In other words, training is not project management work. It is done in the lifecycle. There are five main steps. 

1. Start with the strategy (maybe)

First think about whether you need a Training Strategy. You would want the strategy if your project is complex and there is a large training component. All strategy documents on a project are typically done up-front in the Analysis Phase. The strategy includes an understanding of the stakeholders, type of training needed, the desired outcome of the training, assumptions, risks and the overall training approach. 

2. Create an overall Training Plan (for sure)

The Training Plan is created during the Design Phase. If you have a Training Strategy, the Training Plan simply contains the additional details required to make the classes real. If you do not have a strategy, then the Training Plan typically has some initial aspects of the strategy, and then quickly gets into the details as well. The Training Plan would include a description of the classes, number of classes offered, timing, the delivery mode (in-person, virtual, e-class), content development process, etc.  

3. Develop the training content

You develop training content at the same time that you are developing the rest of the solution. Isn’t that a novel concept? 

4. Test the training content (optional)

You can test your training content and delivery in a controlled class delivery. The test training is offered to the internal team, or perhaps to an initial customer group as a pilot test. This serves as a test of the material and helps prepare the instructors so that they will be more comfortable delivering the training to customers.

5. Implementation

The training classes are delivered based on the timing specified in your Training Plan. You should have developed (and perhaps tested) your training content, and you should be ready to go regardless of when the actual training is needed.


What you see in this approach is that the training process follows a mini-lifecycle. You analyze (Training Strategy), design (Training Plan) construct, test and implement the training. This lifecycle allows you to have all of the components you need as you need them. 
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 or contact us at
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This content is from the Method123 weekly email dated 2017.10.08

Use Two Criteria to Determine Your WBS Estimating Threshold

When you create a schedule you generally don’t know enough to enter all of the detailed activities the first time though. Instead, you identify large chunks of work first, and then break the larger chunks into smaller pieces. These smaller pieces are, in turn, broken down into still smaller and more discrete activities. This technique is referred to as creating a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

How small should the activities be before they do not need to be broken down further? This is referred to as your “estimating threshold”. For example, if your estimating threshold was 80 hours, you would continue to break the WBS into smaller entities until all work was less than 80 hours. No work would be left at a higher level.

There are two criteria for determining the threshold.

  • Better understanding the work. If you leave schedule activities at too high a level it may not be clear what is required to complete the work. You need to make sure the work is granular enough that it is understandable and it is clear what is required to complete it. For example, if you assign someone an activity that is 240 hours, there may be a lot of work to do for completion, and it may be confusing. If you assign four activities of 60 hours each (or 6 activities of 40 hours each) it should be more clear what is expected for each piece of work.
  • Better able to manage the work. When you assign work to a team member you don’t know for sure how he is progressing until the due date (or the completion date if it comes first). For instance, if you assign a team member a piece of work that is due in eight weeks, you are not going to know for sure whether the work is on time until the eight-week deadline. Until that time you can just approximate if it appears things are on schedule. However, eight weeks (or longer) is too long to wait to know for sure if the work is on track. A better approach is to break the eight-week activity into four two-week activities. Then you will know after two weeks if the work is progressing on time or not.
Activities that are to be worked on in the distant future may not be able to be broken down less than the threshold because there may be too much that is unknown about the work itself. The future work can be left at a level higher than the threshold. However, if you leave future work at a high-level, it is still critical to break the work into smaller pieces at least two to three months before you need to start executing the work. This is referred to as "rolling wave" planning. 

These two factors – understanding the work and your ability to manage the work effectively - should drive your decision on how small to make your activities.

Last modified on Friday, 11 August 2017 16:09
Friday, 11 August 2017 00:43

Five Important Things to Know About Critical Path

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This content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.09.08

Five Important Things to Know About Critical Path

Some people think the critical path is where the critical work is performed. Similarly, it was just a few weeks ago that a project management stated that she needed to pick the "right" critical path for her project. Both of these definitions are incorrect.

Critical path refers to the longest path through the schedule and represents the shortest time it takes to complete the project. The work on the critical path might or might not all be "critical". The critical path is determined by the work and the dependencies of your schedule. You do not pick the "right" critical path.

The critical path is an important aspect of your project schedule. Here are five things to know about critical path.

1. Float refers to schedule flexibility

On every project, no matter how complicated, there are always some activities that can be started earlier or completed later without jeopardizing the final completion date. This flexibility between the earliest time an activity CAN be completed and the latest time when it MUST be completed is called "float".

2. The critical path has no float

Now let’s look at those activities where you do not have the flexibility in the start and end-dates. These activities cannot be completed earlier because they are pending the completion of another activity. They also cannot be completed later without causing all the succeeding activities to be late. All of these activities back up tightly against other activities that precede or succeed them. In other words, the critical path has zero float.

3. The critical path is the longest path

The various network paths in your schedule have various lengths. The longest path is the critical path. Since it is the longest path, every other path will, at some point, have to wait while the critical path work is completed. This "wait" time is the float.

4. You need to understand critical path to manage the project with precision

If the project is trending late it is very important to identify the critical path activities. Unless you are able to accelerate activities on the critical path, the end-date for the entire project will not change. Applying additional resources to activities that are not on the critical path will not affect the overall project end-date. Your chance to make an impact on the projected end-date relies on your ability to identify and shorten the critical path.

5. The Critical Path May Change

Given that there are many, many paths through the schedule, it’s possible for the critical path to change. For instance, say you have a project with a critical path (longest path) of 22 activities over nine months. Let’s assume that there is another path of work that has 19 activities and takes 8 ½ months. There are two weeks of float on this path. Let's say one of the activities on the 8 ½ month path ends up taking an extra four weeks. Because there was only two weeks of float in the path, it will now become the critical path and force the entire project to complete in 9 1/2 months.

You will not be able to calculate critical path unless you are sequencing all activities. However, all project managers should understand this concept - even if you are not able to actually calculate one for your project. 
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YazClick Here to Listen to the Interview:
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This is another episode where I’m asking: Are you currently studying or thinking about studying for your PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam? Wonderful. That’s what we are going to be talking about.

In this interview you are going to meet Yazmine Darcy ( Yazmine is not only one of my students and coworkers, she is also the project manager in charge of developing the sample exam questions that we use in our PMI-ACP Simulator. And so, if you not only want to know how to prepare for your own PMI-ACP Exam but also want to hear about all the work that goes into creating one of the training tools you could be using, then you have come to the right place.

As you know, the rules of all Project Management Institute (PMI)® exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam. But we can discuss her overall experience, general thoughts on the process and her recommendations to you. So you can look forward to an experience and tip filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI-ACP Exam.

Full disclosure: Yazmine Darcy and Cornelius Fichtner both work for OSP International LLC, makers of The Agile PrepCast and The PMI-ACP Exam Simulator.

Friday, 04 August 2017 11:11

Use These Seven Steps to Calculate Duration

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This content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.02.08

Use These Seven Steps to Calculate Duration

When you build a schedule you need to understand how to estimate duration. If everyone worked eight hours per day, and was 100% productive for all eight hours, you could easily calculate duration by taking the number of effort hours, divided by the number of resources. For instance, if an activity was estimated at 80 hours, and you have one person assigned, and he works eight hours per day, the duration would be (80 / 8) = 10 days. Likewise, if two people were assigned full time, the duration would be (80 / 2 / 8) = 5 days.                           

However, that perfect productivity is not indicative of how work is actually performed. Therefore, you can convert effort hours to duration activities using the following process.

1. Estimate the productive hours per day

Normally the first step is to determine how many productive hours of work you can count on each person working per day over time. Using a factor of 6.5 productive hours per day will help you take into account socializing, ramp-up time, going to the bathroom etc.

2. Determine how many resources will be applied to each activity

In general, the more resources you can apply to activities, the quicker the activities can be completed. (These are called resource constrained activities.) You need to estimate how much duration can be saved with additional resources. Obviously two resources may be able to complete an activity faster than one person, but it may not be twice as fast. Similarly, a third person may allow the task to be completed sooner, but not in one-third the time. Each additional resource may shorten the duration incrementally - up to a point where additional resources actually will result in a longer duration.

3. Factor in available workdays

Take into account holidays, vacations and training.  This was not included in the productivity factor in the first item, since this non-project time can be scheduled and accounted for in advance. For instance, on a three-month project, one team member may be out for two vacation days, while another may also have ten days of vacation. To make your schedule more accurate, take into account any days that you know your team will not be available to work on the project.

4. Take into account any resources that are not full-time

Factor in any resources that are not full time. For instance, if you have a resource allocated 50% of his time, it will take at least twice as long to do any individual activity. If you have an activity that has an estimated effort of 40 hours, and you assign a resource that is only allocated 25% to your project, the resulting duration will be at least four weeks, if not more.

5. Calculate delays and lag-times

Some activities have a small number of effort hours, but a long duration. For instance, a deliverable approval may take one hour, but might take two weeks to schedule the meeting. You need to take this lag time into account for your estimated duration.  

6. Identify resource constraints

When you build your initial schedule, you identify the activities that can be done sequentially and those that can be done in parallel. If you have enough resources, all of the parallel activities can, in fact, be done in parallel. However, you can only do the activities in parallel if you have the right resources available at the right time. There may be a set of activities that can be done in parallel; however they need to be worked on sequentially because only one person has the right skills to do the work. Be sure to factor in resource constraints. This adds additional duration.

7. Document all assumptions

You will never know all the details of a project. Therefore, it is important to document all the assumptions you are making along with the estimate.

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