Audit at the O.K. Corral

I really wish I’d thought of this one…¬† ūüôā¬† (See the link below for PMI’s PM Network Magazine.)¬† Two project management auditors gang up on Wyatt Earp, demanding to know why he’s failed so miserably at the O.K. Corral.¬† They examine his project management methods and results, siting all kinds of iregularities.¬† Poor Earp has failed miserably in his famous gun battle, and he doesn’t even know why.

 Article by Michael Hatfield:


The point Hatfield is making is this: sometimes you just have to go out with guns blazing.¬† Some projects just need to get done, regardless of what the experts say.¬† I’ve done enough all-nighter’s, 24-hour weekends, and three-day coding summits to know what he is saying.¬† The big showdown is sometimes what it takes to get the job done, and honestly, you feel like a gunfighter when the dust finally¬†settles!

So, the next time your manager asks how you finished your project so quickly, tell him you went “Wyatt Earp” on it!


Define: Project Stakeholder

What is a project stakeholder?  Any person who has something to lose if the project fails.

This normally includes higher-level people in the organization.  People who would personally fail if the project fails.  This can include customers, shareholders, executives, vice presidents, and even high-level managers.

A complete or partial project failure would cost these individuals something.  It may cost them money, time, or position.

Every project has stakeholders, even small ones.  It is important to identify these people.  Who stands to lose something if the project goes over budget, is late, or is never completed?  Those people will natually want to control the effort, and have the right to do so.  They hold the purse strings, and they go down with the project.

Does that mean a project stakeholder controls every aspect?  No.  They must trust those who execute it.  In other words, there will be engineers, technicians, and other creative people who actually do the work.  Much of the ground-level control is in their hands.  They report to the project stakeholders who direct their overall efforts.


How to: Use MS Project Resource Allocation

This post will help you understand the Resource Graph in Microsoft Project.  The Resource Graph shows a graphical view of when your employees are scheduled to work.  You should also take a look at the Resource Allocation window in Standard Time.  It has additional options to help view scheduled employee hours.


Steps to use the Resource Graph:

  1. Create a new task in a blank Microsoft Project file
  2. Enter 4 hours into the duration column and assign the task to your name
  3. Choose View, Resource Graph
  4. Right-click in the graph, and choose Work from the menu
  5. Notice the blue¬†bar representing the hours you entered (it stops at the “4h” line)
  6. Choose View, Gantt Chart to go back to the task view
  7. Create a second task, enter 5 hours, and assign it to you
  8. Choose View, Resource Graph to see the effect
  9. Notice that the blue bar has a red bar on top (this is the over allocated portion)

The previous steps demonstrate two simple principles: a graphical representation shows when employees are scheduled to work, and over-allocated hours are shown in red.  Standard Time takes this a step farther and shows under-allocated time in yellow.


Steps to add another resource:

  1. Choose View, Gantt Chart to see your tasks
  2. Add another task, enter some hours, and assign it to another resource
  3. Choose View, Resource Graph to return to the bar graph
  4. Right-click in the legend, and choose Next Resource
  5. Notice that the bar chart changes to show the hours for your second employee

Standard Time allows you to see groups of employees stacked on top of each other.  This lets you see allocated hours for the entire workgroup.


Steps to change working hours for a resource:

  1. Right-click on the legend, and choose Resource Information
  2. Click the Working Time tab
  3. Click in the calendar to select a day
  4. Drag the mouse to select multiple days
  5. Change the working hours at the right side (you are overriding the defaults)
  6. Click OK to return to the Resource Graph
  7. Notice that the bars change to reflect your new working hours

Normally, you’ll leave the working hours at 40, and change the start dates of tasks to reschedule them.


We hope this has helped.  Feel free to post comments on additional usage techniques!


Get Rid of T.O!

Yeah, I said it. Cut T.O. (Terrell Owens) from the Cowboys; give a pink slip to one of the best receivers ever. This guy argues with coaches, yells at his quarterback, and then complains to anyone who will listen. He acts like a punk. Imagine dealing with that on your project team! We’ve all been there, because project team dynamics are not much different. All it takes is one bad apple to bring the whole process down.


We look for individuals at the top of their game to help us win. The dichotomy is that¬†sometimes these ‚Äúall stars‚ÄĚ bring a lot of baggage and pull teams down instead of¬†taking them¬†to the next level. Much of the time, people are misunderstood and their frustration builds, causing true problems. Remember the old adage, ‚Äúperception becomes reality when left unchecked‚ÄĚ?


What to do‚Ķthe first thing I recommend is patience and a little communication. We aren‚Äôt babysitters, but we are dealing with people, not robots. A little attention goes a long way. The new coach of the Cowboys, Wade Phillips, is known as a ‚Äúplayers‚ÄĚ coach.¬† He takes time to learn about them individually and does not ride them too hard.¬† I thought Wade was soft and T.O. would run him over. Guess I was wrong. With Wade Phillips as coach, T.O. had one of his best years ever. The Cowboys started winning and have a team capable of going all the way. T.O. toned down his complaining and even won some¬†praise from his teammates. Is it because Wade Phillips handled him like a China doll?¬† Who knows? I bet if they win a Super bowl no one will care!


As you can tell, I don’t like T.O. But right now my team, the Denver Broncos, could sure use his help!




Over Budget! Scare tactic?

If you’ve¬†ever¬†read a project management book, you’ve run across the statistic that 50 – 70% of all projects are over budget.¬† Seen that, right?

What’s up with that?¬† More times than not, I would guess that is a tactic to hook you into something.¬† Maybe, it’s to buy¬†a book.¬† Or, a take a¬†webinar, or buy¬†consulting services.¬† Look closely at the context the next time you see that.¬† I will too.¬† Now I’ve gotten myself curious.¬† ūüôā

But I wonder how they know.¬† First off, only organizations that track their projects (time tracking, resource tracking, etc) know if they are over budget.¬† And most people don’t do that.¬† Instead, they fly by the seat of their pants, relying on hunches.

Secondly, so what?¬† When your project is finished, you’ve probably happy about that, and don’t care to look back – unless you’ve taken a real black eye.¬† It’s usually the fit-and-finish that takes three times¬†longer than¬†anticipated, but you’re always proud of the final product.¬† So why worry about a little extra moolah.

How’s your project coming?¬† Is it over budget yet?


Failure to Launch

How long does it take you to launch a new product? Doesn’t it always seem to take 2-3 times longer than anticipated? I’ve been involved in the launch of over fifty new products, and it’s always the same routine.

We have a great idea, which seems so simple. If we take our existing product and just tweak it a little here and there, we can introduce something new. Simple enough, right? Wrong.

Products take an incredible amount of time to mature. A few tweeks suddenly turns into a handful, and then more. Current products need attention, drawing your resources away from the new one. Excitement wains when people realize the instant payoff won’t be there. This is turning into work… We never expected this!

I’d like to hear your project team experiences with new products, and new revisions. How smooth is it for you?


Optimizing Organizational Performance

Have you heard of the “Optimizing Organizational Performance” webinar PMI is hosting?¬† It’s free, and the¬†blurb looks good.¬† I’ve already registered.¬† Here’s the link below.

Here’s why you should attend:

AstroWix quote: Each year, an estimated $10 trillion is spent on projects around the world and almost 50% of them fail.

I’d like to hear your opinions, after the webinar.¬† What did you learn?¬† Was it over your head?¬† Beneath you?¬† Feel free to submit your comments here – that is, if you remember this blog posting after April 30th.

I personally don’t like heavyhanded project methodologies.¬† Anything heavier than a project plan, timesheet, and regular meetings bothers me.¬† I understand the need for process overhead, but sometimes people get carried away.¬† Of course, the simple¬†approach assumes a top-down buy-in from upper management, something I always have.¬† Other organizations don’t have it¬†so good.¬† So, let’s see how this PMI¬†webinar works!


Don’t Boil The Ocean

When I develop products, I like them foundational.  In other words, simple.  Every release of our products is simple.  They are almost never a week away from release.  That affords a few good luxuries.

First, the products are (almost) alway stable.  There are never any huge releases that introduce a dozen bugs into the system.  Every release has at least a few small bug fixes and polish.  We keep up on that, along with adding new functionality.

Second, we’re nimble.¬† If a customer asks for a new feature, it’s less than a week from delivery.¬† Customers love that, I can assure you.

Lastly, project management is simpler.¬† There are no huge project plans to deal with.¬† Just small to-do lists we can check off rapidly.¬† Does it always work?¬† Yes.¬† Well, maybe not always…¬† Okay, about half the time.¬† But that’s better than deep-dives and unstable products.¬† Wouldn’t you say?


The Half-Pipe Stays

Have you seen the FedEx commercial with the half-pipe?¬† It’s halarious!¬†As employees crash all over the place, the big boss discusses how much time FedEx is saving them, but then asks, ‚ÄúSo why aren‚Äôt we getting more done‚ÄĚ.¬†One of the managers says, ‚ÄúMaybe we should get rid of the half pipe?‚ÄĚ The boss ponders for a moment and says, ‚ÄúNo, the half pipe stays.‚ÄĚ


This kind of environment exploded during the tech boom. The feeling was that all of the dot com’s were going to make millions and competition was not a problem.  In order to recruit young talent, companies offered more than the standard benefits, i.e. health insurance, company car, etc. They offered a work environment that became a place where individualism rules. This is where today’s job market and yesterday’s collide.


When my father entered the work place I can picture an old-timer standing at the front of the office cracking a whip. Nobody likes that. Today we have moved to the opposite extreme. We get free massages and our choice of gourmet coffee. There are ping pong and foosball tables and the most distracting item of all…the internet! It’s easy to spend hours on the web planning vacations, reading articles and checking out American Idol results.


In my opinion Ramiele can sing. I think she was robbed. They should‚Äôve sent Kristy Lee Cook home!¬† But that just makes my point. I am guilty like the rest. I could be more focused, after all what‚Äôs more important: the survival of my job, or playing on a half-pipe? But secretly… I hope Carly Smithson wins. What do you think?



Do Project Plans Work For You?

Do you use project planning software like Microsoft Project¬†to develop project plans?¬† How’s that working for you?¬† I have a problem with it, and I’d like to find an elegant solution.

What’s the problem?¬† Well, building project plans is no trouble.¬† I can lay down the phases and breakdowns, add tasks, and assign them to employees just fine.¬† That’s the easy part.¬† I can even track time to tasks.¬† The problem I have is managing them later.

Let’s face it, project plans go obsolete the first week you create them.¬† Something’s bound to change, and managing all those changes is hard.¬† Yes, I know that’s what the PMO office does.¬† But keeping project schedules current rubs me like a cheese grater.¬† It’s an unnecessary overhead, and almost never gets done right.¬† Tasks move, change scope, go away, get added, etc, etc, etc.¬† You know what¬†a headache it is…

Anybody have a better way?