Believing in lies LO7314

Brian (
Thu, 9 May 1996 03:24:13 GMT

Replying to LO7266 --
[Subject line shortened by your host. ...Rick]

Hello to Cristian, (and hello again to Gene and the rest of the list)

At 10:03 AM 5/7/96 -0400, Christian Giroux wrote in rely to Gene Bellinger's
article, Project management: believing in lies:

> ... My fear is that just what you describe in the article
>happens, people (including me) feel they are pressured for results, lose
>sight of the fact that most of the plan is based on "mostly untested
>auumptions" (or educated guesses - same thing to me), feel frustrated at
>one point for the progress not meeting expectations and finally start to
>cut corners.
>One possible way to avoid some of these negative side effects is to lower
>expectations when revising the plan. But ain't that falling into the
>"Drifting Goals" trap? I feel like I could get sucked in a double-bind,
>accepting less than successful results or letting the goals drift.
>Do you have any clues for me ?

What you are addressing is a problem always on the mind of project
managers. Within the study of Project management it is referred to as
Scope_Managment. In my years as a project manager I can recall few
projects that weren't unique_one_of_a_kind. Two methods have enabled me to
maintain control of these type projects, maintain realistic expectations,
and avoid accepting less than successful results.

The first method is forming an early understanding with the customer and
stake-holders that the project plan is a living document. I always
include, as part of the project lifecycle, revisions and updates to the
project plan at each major milestone. The project plan then becomes a
recording of the state of understanding (learning) at the time of last
revision. The key is to be able to effectively revise the plan while
maintaining expectations and critical success factors.

When first establishing, and later updating the plan I like to use one of
the facilitated methods that places emphasis on the values, interests, and
expectations of the stake-holders. As learning occurs through-out the
project and people's understanding improves, you will see corresponding
changes in all three of these areas. Many times I have seen project
managers break their back rigidly maintaining the scope, cost and
schedule, only to see them fail in the eyes of the customer and
stake-holders. All because they did not account for changes in
expectations resulting from learning (improved understanding). This is
all the more prevalent on larger multi-year projects where stake-holders
and customer representatives come and go.

The second method is based on my work and understanding relating to the
Knowledge LifeCycle. The creation of and maintenance of any plan,
including a project management plan, can be thought of as multiple
iterations of the knowledge discovery process. By clearly identifying what
is well-known and what is not at each stage of the planning process, it is
much easier to avoid developing unreasonable expectations. Each iteration
of the planning process then focuses on what you know can be done, and
what learning needs to occur (and be planned for) prior to the next
planning cycle.

Note that I have not mentioned how to handle those big monsters called
COST and SCHEDULE. Cost and schedule are simply manifestations of the
values, interests, expectations, and understanding of the customer, the
stake-holders, and the project team which we've already agreed are subject
to change.

For customers used to Firm Fixed Priced contracts this type of planning
needs some explanation. The way I handle that is to make each PHASE of
the project (corresponding to the period between updates to the project
plan) a fixed price (and duration) effort. Subsequent phases are then
costed and scheduled based on best approximation, with the limits in
planning related knowledge well understood and documented.

I have found these methods very effective a limiting risk exposure,
dealing with unknown end-states, and managing customer (and project team)
expectations. However, I caution anyone that does not clearly understand
the dynamics of the knowledge development process to proceed with caution!

Cristian, I hope this has been some help ..


---------------------------------------- Brian (Bo) Newman Host and Moderator of The Knowledge Management Forum -----------------------------------------

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