Monday, December 24, 2007

Who makes a good Project Manager?

Project Manager has become a valuable title and as with all such things lots of people want that title whether they are qualified or not. Credentials are definitely one way to tell if a person is qualified to be a Project Manager. There are now degree programs at major universities and there is the Project Management Institute certification (PMP) that can help identify the committed professionals.

However you as I have known great Project Managers who don't have any of these credentials and we have perhaps run across a number of persons with the credentials who are ineffective project managers.

So what makes a project manager good?

One point of view is provided here: by Susan McClafferty.

What do you think?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Smart Tips to keep your project on track

Baseline magazine has an interesting article on effective project management called "8 Ways To Save Your Next Project" by Elizabeth Bennett. The article is worth a complete read and can be found here:,1540,2235679,00.asp

The summary is Project Management is an exercise in active and proactive management. What do you think?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is there such a thing as too much staffing?

Many of us learn early in our lives all things, even good things, must be taken in moderation. Staffing for projects is one such good thing. I am sure we have all experienced projects that are run with too little resources. We know the normal symptoms of a project that is resource starved -- delays, quality and morale issues and perhaps failure.

However what would happen with a project that has too many resources? Would Brooks's law, which says that adding manpower to a software project that is behind schedule will delay it further, apply? Lets further complicate the issue by asking what would happen if the project begins with too many people to begin with, i.e. people are not being added late.

There are two common explanations for Brooks's law ( :

1. New staff take time and resources to ramp-up and are therefore not immediately productive and distract the experienced resources.

2. Communication overhead increases as we add more people. The number of different communication channels go up a square of the number of people.

However when the project is new problem #1 (ramp up time) is not a large contributor. However problem #2 -- communication overhead is a killer.

There is a 3rd problem that arises in the most extreme cases over-staffing; when the number of resources available exceeds the amount of work that can be performed at that time. When this happens in a manufacturing process we have idle machines. Machines are not aware of being idle and do not react to their idleness. People tend to be very aware of being idle. Idle machines might be ignored or eventually redeployed, Idle people usually become unemployed. So people start manufacturing work to stop being idle.

Work manufacturing can happen in two broad categories: scope creep and process creep. Scope creep usually refers to uncontrolled changes to a project's scope, but I am using it to mean changes that are not necessary to deliver the business case for this project.

Process creep is like scope creep except the changes are not made in deliverables of the project but the steps used to create the deliverables and manage the project. Of the two process creep is the more insidious because it is much harder to detect and control.