Kumar Gaurav About

Notes on Project Management

My notes from the Darden School of Business’ class

The following is also available as .org file here

Project Management

Course Overview

Week 1 - Define and organise

  1. What are projects

    1. Definition
  2. What makes them successful

  3. Project Goals

    1. Scope

    2. Time

    3. Budget

  4. Orgn and stakeholders involved

  5. Project Lifecycle

  6. Case Study - Healthcare.gov

Week 2 - Plan

  1. Planning

  2. Scoping

  3. Task and dependencies

  4. Scheduling, Deadlines, Changes

  5. Case Study - Virginia Festival of Books

Week 3 - Risks

  1. Planning for ambiguity

  2. Risks and Analysis

  3. Case Study - Loomi Juice

Week 4 - Execution

  1. Execution

    1. Modes

    2. Different co.panies and requirements

  2. Human Dependency

    1. Biases

    2. Tendencies

    3. New work processes for different individuals

  3. Case Study - salesforce.com

Define and Organise a project

What is a project?

  1. Building a product

  2. A mega project

  3. Organising events

  4. Shooting a film or festival

  5. What’s common?

    1. Create a specific and unique product or service

    2. Temporary

      1. Start date and end date

      2. Temporary stakeholders

    3. Require multi disciplinary co-ordination

    4. Time, cost or resources constraint

    5. Definitions

      1. A unique service created within a specific time frame with allotted resources

      2. A temporary endeavour resulting in a unique service or product

How do we define a project?

  1. What is the Goal?

    What is the unique service that we are going to provide? Why are we even doing this?

    1. The three objectives

      1. Scope

        1. Requirements

        2. Quality

        3. Specifications

      2. Time

      3. Budget

        1. Cost

        2. Resources

      4. Priorities

          Scope Time Budget

Organisation and stakeholders

  1. Who will do the work?

  2. Who will be PM

  3. Who will pay?

  4. Who is the customer?

  5. Who else is affected?

  6. Stakeholder Management Cycle

    1. Identify stakeholder

    2. Gather Information about them

    3. Identify stakeholders mission

    4. SWOT of stakeholder

    5. Predict stakeholder’s behaviour

    6. Implement stakeholder management

  7. Stakeholder Power/Interest Grid

    Interest/Power Low Power High Power
    Low Interest Monitor Keep Informed
    High Interest Keep Informed Manage Closely

Project Success and Failures

  1. Four Bases for Successful Projects

    1. Technology scale: High tech to low tech

    2. Novelty scale: Derivative to Novel

    3. Pace scale: Regular to Blitz

    4. Complexity Scale: Assembly to Array

  2. Measuring Success

    1. On time?

    2. Scope?

    3. Cost?


  1. Boyhood

    1. Very well thought off

    2. Had the leisure of time

    3. Made with passion

    4. Lesser variables

    5. Artisitic liberty can cover a lot of flaws

  2. BA Terminal 5

    1. Too many variables

    2. Not enough testing

    3. Did not manage stakeholder’s expectations well enough

    4. Did not take into account all the stakeholders such as parking attendent.

    5. Not enough training

Project Lifecycle

  1. Initiation

  2. Planning

  3. Execution

  4. Close-out


Why Plan?

  1. Drucker’s Effective Execution: What is a plan

    1. Plan is a set of intentions but not commitments

    2. It is not set in stone

    3. Evolves as the project evolves

    4. Need a system to check results against expectations

    5. Becomes the basis for executive time management

  2. Components of a plan

    1. Scope

    2. Tasks, Dependencies, Schedule

    3. Resource planning

    4. Clarify tradeoffs and decision making principles

    5. Risk management plan

Detailed Scoping

  1. Activity: Work Breakdown Structure

    1. Brainstorm using whiteboards, sticky notes etc.

    2. Can use tools like WBSPro

    3. Detail down to the level where each task is equal to 5%-10% of the total duration of a single resource

Identifying dependencies

  1. Logical flow is identified

  2. Duration can be imagined

  3. Dependency diagrams

    1. Matrix

    2. Table

    3. Network Diagram

      1. No hanging tasks
  4. Types of dependencies - Precedence relationships

    1. Start to finish

    2. Finish to finish

    3. Start to Start

    4. Finish to start

Completion date and critical path

  1. Estimation Challenges

    1. Parkinson’s law

      A person will take the entire duration allotted to them for a task and not less.

    2. Student’s syndrome

      Procrastination will rule the day. A task allotted 4 weeks maybe completed in the last 4 days because of procrastination.

    3. Overconfidence

    4. Biases

      1. Anchoring and Confirmation
  2. Critical Path

    1. Longest path through the network diagram

    2. Project duration is defined by this

    3. Any delay along the critical path will result in project delay

    4. Developed by engineers at DuPont in 1950

How do we schedule?

  1. As soon as possible - constrained by time, incurring earlier cost

  2. As late as possible - constrained by cost, incurring time penalties possibly

    Looking at historical estimates and expectations, we estimate anchored from these positions

Reducing Schedule

  1. Shorten critical path - Project crashing

    1. Select the least expensive to crash

    2. New critical paths may emerge.

    3. Project crashing is cyclical

    4. We might introduce lesser slack

    5. We might introduce more risk

  2. Scope Reduction

    1. Eliminate unnecessary task

    2. Reduce functionality

    3. Cut corners

    4. Outsource

Reflecting on Common Mistakes

  1. Common Mistakes

    1. No WBS

      1. Incorrect Scope
      2. No Responsibility assigned
      3. Incorrect project duration, critical path and cost estimates
    2. Task durations specified in terms of work and not in terms of resource

      1. Underestimated task duration
      2. Incorrect crucial path
    3. No Network Diagram

    4. Precedence Relationships mistakes

      1. Tasks without pre and succ

      2. Using fixed dates

      3. Tasks should have the correct dependencies. Prone to error

      4. Dependencies between summary and not tasks

  2. Checklist to avoid mistakes

    1. WBS

      1. Available?
      2. Complete?
      3. Discusses upon?
      4. Agreed upon?
    2. Network Diagram

      1. Has a start node and an end node
      2. All activities with predecessors and/or successors
    3. Milestone

      1. One milestone at the start and one project completion milestone
      2. Intermediate milestones? Each one has a critical path?
    4. Gantt-chart

      1. No missing dependencies between activities in correct sequence?
      2. No summary task links?
      3. Tasks with excessive durations - needs to be broken down
      4. Check dependencies(overlaps, time lags)
      5. Check critical path: from project start to finish
  3. Planning Wrap Up

    1. Project planning crucial for project success
    2. It’s a guide and not a schedule
    3. Follow project planning cycle
    4. Make sure that the goal is clear
    5. Ensure project scope is complete
    6. Estimate activity duration overcoming challenges
    7. Decides who owns each activity
    8. Know which are critical activities
    9. Prevent conflict between activities
    10. Project crashing/fast tracking are your tools to be used

Case Study: Virginia Festival of the Book

QnA with students

What are the personality traits of a good project manager?

  1. Social. Capability to emphathise and symphathise with people around you

  2. Ability to help people with fitting their part of the work with rest of the team

  3. Being respectful to individuals and their skills

  4. Communication

  5. Ability to generate enthusiasm for a common goal

  6. Build and maintain relationship

  7. Organised, well balanced

  8. Ability to take crucial decisions

  9. Ability to punt certain things in favour of other things

How does a PM establish control?

  1. A plan of execution

    1. Establish processes

    2. What processes in place? and why?

    3. How progress will be communicated

    4. What meetings?

    5. Set out schedule


What is risky about projects

  1. Sources of uncertainity

    1. Foreseaable Uncertainities

      1. Variability

      2. Alternative paths

    2. Risks - Complexities

      1. Tasks

      2. Stakeholders

    3. Unforceable Uncertainities - Ambiguity

      1. Novel technology

      2. Novel Market

  2. Demand and Technology Uncertainity Matrix

  3. Plan to Match Risk

    Complexity, Ambiguity Variotion Foreseable Unce Unk Unks
    Few Interactions Planning Project Risk Mangement Manage Residual Risk
    Many Interactions Planning and Control Control and Fast Response Parallel Trials, Trial and error learning

Identifying and Assessing Project Risks

  1. Project Risk Management Plan

    1. Identification

      1. Brainstorm, Previous Projects, Experts

      2. Risk Register

    2. Assessment

      1. Impact

      2. Likelihood

      3. Prioritized Risk Register

    3. Response Planning

      1. Identify Response strategy to each risk

      2. Assign Responsibilities

    4. Monitor and Control

      1. Update Risk Probabilities

      2. Execute planned strategy if the event occurs

  2. Risk Assessment Matrix

    Likelihood/Impact Insignificant Minor Moderate Major Catastrophic
    Rare <10%          
    Unlikely 10-25          
    Moderate 25-50          
    Likely 50-75          
    Almost Certain >75          
    1. For some of the above we might have a contingency plan and for some we should have a mitigation plan. For some we might have a backup plan ready.

    2. Risk score = Impact Score * Likelihood Score

  3. A more realistic timeline

    1. Get min and max for a task

    2. Tornado Digram

      1. Concentrate on the tasks at the top of Tornado diagram
    3. Elicit different opinion

    4. Start thinking of project completion date as a range and not a fixed date

    5. Start assigning probability distribution diagram with each point of estimated range

    6. Using tools, one can come up with various charts which will start displaying our confidence level of a task completion within a time period

    7. Criticality Indices associated with each task will emerge which will tell us the probability of a task to remain on critcal path. With this knowledge, one can concentrate on tasks with high criticality index.

  4. Cost Risk Analysis

    1. Contigency for entire project and not for individual tasks


From Plan to Action

  1. Execution

    1. Monitor

      1. Physical or virtual?

      2. Frequency

      3. PMO?

      4. Monitor what?

    2. Report Collection

      1. Frequency

      2. By Who?

      3. To Who?

    3. Correct and Control

      1. What decisions? What actions?

      2. Who is in charge of execution

      3. How will the outcomes communicated?