Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Gantt Chart and Daily Project Coordination

All project managers have used or at least heard of a Gantt chart. The Gantt chart was created by Henry Gantt around 1910 and still widely used today. It was used in major projects like the Hoover Dam. Henry Gantt designed the Gantt chart to help manage project scheduling and work progress. If you read his book, Work, Wages, and Profits (1916), you will note that Gantt believed it was imperative to communicate daily schedules to key players and by not doing so rendered schedules useless. Gantt thought it was important to be a project coordinator, to coordinate activities, and reduce conflicts. I think this is an important and often overlooked part of being a project manager. We often look at the larger picture and fail to identify “Daily” influences that cause project slowdowns. We should have daily expectations and identify barriers to those expectations each and every day.

Reference:
Gantt, H. L. (1916). Work, wages, and profits. San Diego, California: University of California Libraries.

Project Driveway Snow

So I got home around 10:30 last night and there already was about four inches of snow on the ground. As I pulled into my garage, I know my truck is packing the snow on the driveway into hard ice. That is nearly impossible to get up. Then I thought…hey this is a job for the Project-team blog. Before I hit the sack I sketched out a rough project plan to start first thing in the morning.

6:00A.M.- emailed the team to begin the day announcing immediate project escalation for driveway snow removal by end of day.

Pete, my lead engineer: The driveway is 25’ x 40’ long and the snow is 6 inches deep. Please determine the cubic feet of snow removal and determine the most cost efficient shovel for the job. Oh, and we may have packed ice under snow. Find a tool for that, too.

John, our labor liaison: Get with Pete and determine the number of man hours needed to remove the snow…will we need one, two…three labor resources to complete on time? Remember, we need the job finished by 5pm today. Please provide estimated labor expense accordingly.

Les, in materials procurement: Please let Pete know if any ice melt is available. Please advise as to whether there are any has mat concerns and what costs are associated with procurement.

To All: I will be on site to assess progress and will be available throughout the morning. The plan is to begin removal by noon…let’s get to work…my wife has Christmas shopping to finish!

9:00AM: received message from Pete. He has located a shovel at Lowes for $15.99 and a tile remover for the ice, $34.99.

Pete: please get a P.O. together and have Dave Johnson and Allison Fields sign off immediately. We need their signatures by 10:30 A.M. because Betty Thomas (CFO) has an 11:00 AM. and is heading straight to the airport for Christmas break. We have to have Betty’s final approval before we can purchase equipment from Lowes.

10:00AM: John sent IM stating we can only get one labor resource because all the others are currently working at 98% capacity. We can only have the one available person from 2-4pm.

10:15AM: Pete: Just ran the numbers and we can have the ice removed utilizing one person in 3.5 hrs.

10:20AM: I replied to Pete…SCOPE CHANGE! I forgot we need to include the front side walk and porch. We are talking an additional 70 square feet! Please get back to me on man hours needed.

10:40AM: Message from Pete: We will need an additional 30 minutes for the sidewalk and porch… almost a 15% increase. I will get with John and see if we can secure additional resources.

11:00AM: Email to Pete…Have you got the P.O. approved…what is your ETA for getting equipment to site?

11:10AM: reply from Pete: We only have Allison’s signature, Dave is out sick. I will need to get Eric Jansen to sign off in place of Dave. Then I still have to catch Betty for her signature…working on it!

11:45 AM: Message from Pete: I have Dave’s signature trying to catch Betty before she leaves the building.

12:20PM: Message from John: I can’t get additional resources. I know we are behind on our project plan, but it looks like we have to go with what we have.

12:27PM: Message from Pete: It looks like I missed Betty, her 11:00 A.M. meeting was cancelled and she took an early flight. Can you get a petty cash disbursement for the equipment? (I don’t know why I didn’t think of that sooner!)

12:30PM: My reply to all:

Project Snow Team,
Due to a minor scope change and lack of funding the snow removal project has been delayed and it looks like I will just have to do it myself. Take the rest of the day off and have a Merry Christmas!

How to use Overtime in MS Project

Admittedly, overtime is a clunky feature in Microsoft Project.  I like the simplicity of Standard Time better.  But here are some steps to help understand and master overtime usage in MSP.

Start by assigning resources to your tasks.

  1. Right-click in a column header
  2. Choose Insert Column…
  3. Insert the ‘Resources’ column
  4. Enter names for employees that will work on each task

Assign cost rates to resources

  1. Choose View, Resource Sheet
  2. Enter currency rates for ‘Std.’ and ‘Ovt.’

Enter overtime hours

  1. Choose View, Task Usage
  2. Right-click and insert ‘Work’, ‘Cost’, ‘Overtime Work’, and ‘Overtime Cost’ columns
  3. Enter hours for the Work column
  4. Enter a portion of those hours that will represent overtime work

You will notice that the ‘Duration’ value shrinks for tasks with overtime hours, and that the ‘Cost’ and ‘Overtime Cost’ values are update accordingly.

 

–newshirt

Small Bites

I like keeping project tasks really, really short.  A week-long task is sometimes too long, but obviously satisfying when finished.  I also like keeping product releases very short.  A release might have only a few of these short tasks.  That ensures that the product is always within a few days of release.  Project scheduling is simpler when tasks are short.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analysis uses historical records to predict future trends or outcomes.  That got me thinking; could that be applied to timesheet records?  The most common field for predictive analysis is credit reporting, where lenders hope to predict a buyer’s ability to pay.

Do you have a 900 credit score?  Me neither…

So, back to timesheet data…  What could we possibly learn from predictive analysis of timesheet records?  Here are some possibilities:

  1. Cost and duration of certain projects in your portfolio
  2. Employee contributions to strategic projects
  3. Typical project contribution histogram overlaid on today’s projects

–newshirt

Let’s do a meeting!

Does your company do too few meetings?  Yeah, you heard me right… too few.

If you’re like most corporate employees, you’ll answer, “Definitely not!”

Most of the scenes in the Dilbert comic are in meeting rooms.  That should tell you what Scott Adams thinks of them.  Meetings are the first signs of death in a once vibrant company.  But beware; lack of meetings may spell the same results.

Meetings done right should get your blood pumping for action.  You should go away wanting to try something new, or hoping for change, or at least inspired to follow.  Make that the aim of your next meeting!

Project Documents

A project manager has many things to administer…time, scope and cost, to name a few. These items are always considered in the very basics of project planning. It’s second nature.

What about managing all the various documents involved with project planning? Some software will accommodate document management, while many others do not.

It is important to have critical documents available to key resources, or all resources. Standard Time allows you to attach files to tasks. This makes related documents easy to locate and available for viewing when necessary. Many document management companies utilize Standard Time for their time tracking and project management. When considering project planning, make sure you have a solid software system that will help you be more efficient with document management.

Timesheets are boring

Why get passionate about a boring timesheet tool?  They are little more than cells and dropdown choices that collect your time and expenses.  An endless bucket.  Pointless.  Employees reluctantly fill in those monotonous little cells every Friday afternoon or Monday morning for the week prior.  Time tracking is a chore with little value.

Okay, that’s one perspective…

But have you ever viewed them as an investment?  Like pouring value into your organization that you can mine later?  Consider that for a moment.

What if you could magically predict how long your next project would take?  Or cost?  What if you could walk into the next meeting with hard evidence that your company talents are unfocused and distracted?  That you are fighting too on many fronts?  And in too many battles without clear endpoints?  Wouldn’t that be worth documenting your time for.

That’s what time tracking gives you, among other things.  Still see it as a boring chore?

Define: Percent Complete

Percent Complete: The portion of a project task that has been finished.  Calculated by dividing the duration by the actual work.  In most cases, this the portion of the task with timesheet hours actually logged for.

Example: a 200-hour task with 50 hours logged is 25% complete.

Why is it called ‘Waterfall?’

Warren has been expounding on project management methodologies lately, so I figured I’d throw in with him.  Consider this explanation of the ‘Waterfall project management model.’  It might be useful to some.

Here goes…

Why is the old project management model named ‘Waterfall?”  What, exactly, does that mean?

I believe the term stems from the notion that water falling over a dam is hard to scoop back up to the top.  Virtually impossible, one might argue.  The term ‘herding cats’ comes to mind.

So how does that apply to project management?

In real life, some projects are like that.  Not all, but some.  Consider building a skyscraper, for example.  You absolutely have to get that foundation right the first time, because you cannot go back and work on it after the ironworkers have laid a million tons of infrastructure on top of it.  In other words, reworking the foundation would be as hard as scooping up water that has already fallen over the Hoover Dam.
But are all projects like that?  How about software?

No.

Software is malleable.  You can work on any part at any time, even after the product ships.  So the Waterfall model doesn’t apply as neatly.  Or at all.  But it’s still applicable to certain projects where it’s hard to rework ‘foundational’ stages.

–newshirt