Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (The Process Matrix—Time Knowledge Area)


In the last post, I went through the 5 processes in the Scope knowledge area (chapter 5 of the PMBOK® Guide).

In this post, I go through the 6 processes in the Time knowledge area (chapter 6 of the PMBOK® Guide).

Here’s where we are so far: the boxes in green are what has already been covered, and the boxes in yellow are being covered in this post. (Boxes in grey are to be covered in future posts.)

Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Integration 6

1

1

1

2

1

Scope 5

3

2

Time 6

5

1

Cost 3

2

1

Quality 3

1

1

1

Human Resources 4

1

3

Communications 5

1

1

2

1

Risk 6

5

1

Procurements 4

1

1

1

1

2

20

8

10

2

Here’s the portion of the process matrix that lists the processes in the Time knowledge area, which is chapter 6 of the PMBOK® Guide.

Knowledge area # Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Time 6

5

1

Here’s a description of the six processes that are included in the Scope Knowledge Area, 5 of which are in the Planning Process Group and 1 of which is in the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group.

Process
Group
Process
Number
Process
Name
Process Description
Planning 6.1 Define Activities Identifying actions to be performed to produce product deliverables.
6.2 Sequence Activities Identifying and documenting relationships among the project activities.
6.3 Estimate Activity
Resources
Estimating type and quantities of resources (human and material) required to perform each activity.
6.4 Estimate Activity
Durations
Approximating the number of work periods needed to complete individual activities with estimated resources.
6.5 Develop Schedule Analyzing activity sequences, durations, resources requirements, and schedule constraints to create product schedule.
Monitoring & Controlling 6.6 Control Schedule Monitoring the status of the project to update project progress and manage changes to schedule baseline.

Let’s take a closer look at the process descriptions, taken from the PMBOK® Guide. I think if you pay attention to the essence of what each process is, you will see how they flow from one to the other.

6.1 Define Activities

Okay, in the last planning process for the previous knowledge area, 5.3 Create WBS, the process of work to produce deliverables was broken down to the level of the work package.

This process Define Activities takes it one more step, to the level of activities.

6.2 Sequence Activities

Okay, you have a WBS which is now broken down into activities. In what order to you do them? Do you have to do them all one after another (series relationship) or can you do some of them simultaneously (parallel relationship)? By the time you are done, you know WHAT needs to be done and in WHAT ORDER.

6.3 Estimate Activity Resources

But how long will the project take? To get that answer, you need to find out WHAT RESOURCES you have to do the project, both human and material resources. For example, this process will result in telling you that you have 5 staff members, each of whom can work only ½ day or 4 hours on the project.

6.4 Estimate Activity Durations

Let’s continue with the example from the previous paragraph. If the result of 6.2 Sequence Activities is that the project will take 100 man-hours from start to finish, and you have 8 staff members who work half-time on the project, you can tell that the project will take 100 man-hours / (5 staff members x 4 hours/day) or 5 days.

6.5 Develop Schedule

This is the finalization of the schedule, the end result of the process that started in 6.1 Define Activities. This becomes the schedule baseline of the project.

If you picture what these processes DO, then you can see how the order they are listed in is quite logical.

6.6 Control Schedule

Now switching to the Monitoring & Controlling process group, Control Schedule tells you whether you are proceeding according to schedule, ahead of schedule or behind schedule. If there are changes to the project which require a change in schedule, those changes are managed here.

This is obviously in the Monitoring (check) and Controlling (act) process group with regards to the schedule.

The next post deals with the Cost Knowledge Area.

Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (The Process Matrix—Scope Knowledge Area)


In the last post, I went through the 6 processes in the Integration knowledge area (chapter 4 of the PMBOK® Guide).

In this post, I go through the 5 processes in the Scope knowledge area (chapter 5 of the PMBOK® Guide).

Here’s where we are so far: the boxes in green are what has already been covered, and the boxes in yellow are being covered in this post. (Boxes in grey are to be covered in future posts.)

Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Integration 6

1

1

1

2

1

Scope 5

3

2

Time 6

5

1

Cost 3

2

1

Quality 3

1

1

1

Human Resources 4

1

3

Communications 5

1

1

2

1

Risk 6

5

1

Procurements 4

1

1

1

1

2

20

8

10

2

Here’s the portion of the process matrix that lists the processes in the Scope knowledge area, which is chapter 5 of the PMBOK® Guide.

Knowledge area # Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Scope 5

3

2

Here’s a description of the five processes that are included in the Scope Knowledge Area.

Process
Group
Process
Number
Process
Name
Process Description
Planning 5.1 Collect Requirements Defining and documenting stakeholders’ needs to meet the project objectives.
5.2 Define Scope Developing a detailed description of the project and product.
5.3 Create WBS Subdivides project deliverables and project work into smaller, more manageable components.
Monitoring
& Controlling
5.4 Verify Scope Formalizing acceptance of the project deliverables with the customer.
5.5 Control
Scope
Monitoring status of the project and product scope and managing changes to the scope baseline.

Let’s take a closer look at the process descriptions.

5.1 Collect Requirements

What do the stakeholders require to meet the project objectives? In this process you take the high-level requirements from the project charter and produce a detailed list of requirements.

Main question answered by this process: What do you need to get the project done?

5.2 Define Scope

The purpose of this process is to create a project scope statement, which puts everybody on the “same page”. This project scope statement creates a detailed description of the deliverables of the project and the work required to create them. This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

Main question answered by this process: How do you get the project done?

5.3 Create WBS

The previous process of “Define Scope” gives the final address of the destination, but the “Create WBS” breaks things down like the GPS system in your car which can give you specific instructions like “turn left here”, “go straight 2.0 miles”, etc. that, if followed, will get you to your destination.

All three of the above processes are part of planning, but they go from general to specific in terms of the level of detail. Now for the two processes in the Monitoring & Control group.

5.4 Verify Scope

Verifying the scope means taking a deliverable and asking the customer and/or sponsor to review to make sure it conforms to the customer’s expectations of the scope.

5.5 Control Scope

Control scope means to monitor the status of the project and product scope to see whether the project is proceeding according to plan. What happens if the scope is deviating from what was in the plan? Then changes are suggested to either get it back to the original plan or to adjust the plan accordingly.

So to distinguish these two processes from the Monitoring & Controlling group, Verify Scope monitors the deliverables
and verifies them with the customer. Control Scope monitors the scope and compares it to the scope baseline. If there is a deviation, this is where the project is steered back on course, or the scope baseline is adjusted to make the path the project is now on the new course.

The next post deals with the Time Knowledge Area.

Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (The Process Matrix—Integration Knowledge Area)



 In the last post, I showed how you can use logic and a few numbers to memorize the pattern of where the 42 process groups go in the matrix formed by the 5 process groups and 9 knowledge areas.

Here’s the final result.

Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Integration 6

1

1

1

2

1

Scope 5

3

2

Time 6

5

1

Cost 3

2

1

Quality 3

1

1

1

Human Resources 4

1

3

Communications 5

1

1

2

1

Risk 6

5

1

Procurements 4

1

1

1

1

2

20

8

10

2

Of course, this just tells you WHERE the processes go. The next step of learning the processes is learning the NAME of the processes. Our study group found that it was best to memorize them row by row, in other words, by each knowledge area.

The reason for this is simply that this is the order the material is presented by the PMBOK® Guide. If you are studying the knowledge areas chapter by chapter, then thematically grouping the processes by knowledge area helps you put it together in your mind.

Let’s take the Integration Management Processes first.

Here’s the portion of the process matrix that lists the processes in the Integration knowledge area, which is chapter 4 of the PMBOK® Guide.

Knowledge area # Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Integration 6

1

1

1

2

1

Here’s a description of the six processes that are included in the Integration Knowledge Area.

ProcessGroup ProcessNumber Process
Name
Process Description
Initiating 4.1 Develop Project Charter Develops document that formally authorizes project and documents stakeholder needs & expectations
Planning 4.2 Develop Project Management Plan Documents integration of all subsidiary plans (from all knowledge areas); project management plan is primary source on how to manage project across all PM  process groups
Executing 4.3 Direct and Manage Project Execution Performing work defined in project management plan
Monitoring & Controlling 4.4 Monitor and Control Project Work Tracking progress to meet performance objectives defined in project management plan
4.5 Perform Integrated Change Control Reviewing change requests and managing changes to deliverables, or project management plan itself
Closing 4.6 Close Project or Phase Finalizes project across all PM process groups; formally closes project

In the above table, I have listed in bold those words in the process descriptions that match the process groups they are in.   This may help in memorizing them.   Let’s take a closer look at the process descriptions.

4.1 Develop Project Charter

The Project Charter is the formal “green light” to the project and is done as part of the initiating process. Just think of “green light” and “go.” It’s the high-level statement of what the objectives of the project are.

4.2 Develop Project Management Plan

The Project Management or PM Plan is actually the “mother of all plans”, meaning it combines the individual plans that cover all of the other knowledge areas and integrates them together.

NOTE: All of the processes in the Executing and Monitoring & Controlling Process groups have the phrase “project management plan” in them, so it shows you how vital this process is.

4.3 Direct and Manage Project Execution

What’s in the plan that comes out of process 4.2 gets DONE here. Remember the plan-do-check-act cycle? This is the DO part.

4.4 Monitor and Control Project Work

This is the CHECK part of the plan-do-check-act cycle. What are you checking for? To see if the project is progressing as planned in process 4.2. What happens if you’re NOT on track and you want to get back? Then you go to the NEXT process, which is

4.5 Perform Integrated Change Control

Here is where you evaluate requests for changes to get you “back on track” to complete the project according to the plan developed in 4.2. Let’s say you’re behind schedule, and you want to get back on schedule. Then this process evaluates the request for a change. You may end up changing the deliverables themselves if the scope changes, and you will have to change the plan itself to accommodate this change.

4.6 Close Project or Phase

If the project does proceed to the point where the deliverables are completed within the plan developed in process 4.2, then you get formal closure of the project or phase from the customer and/or sponsor of the project. This process shares the word “formal” in common with the first process 4.1.

If you look at the definitions of the processes and see how they are related, then it is easier to memorize the process names and their order.

Tomorrow I go through the Scope Management Knowledge Area processes.

Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (Chapter 3—Memorizing the Processes) Step 3: The Matrix



 The first two steps assist you in memorizing with the use of logic the 5 process groups and 9 knowledge areas. Now you are ready for step 3 … The Matrix!

What this means is actually memorizing the positions of the 42 processes of project management among both a) the process groups and b) the knowledge areas.

Step 1. Let’s draw a chart or a matrix with the process groups written along the columns at the top, and the knowledge areas written along the rows to the left.

Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Integration
Scope
Time
Cost
Quality
Human Resources
Communications
Risk
Procurements

In filling out the schematic, a gray area means that it is filled with one of the 42 processes. If the area is white, this means that there are no process groups in the intersection of that process group and the knowledge area.

Step 2.

Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Integration
Scope
Time
Cost
Quality
Human Resources
Communications
Risk
Procurements

Going across, integration is the knowledge area which binds all of the other knowledge areas together so it has processes across in all five process groups. That is why the gray goes all across the integration knowledge area row.

Step 3.

Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Integration
Scope
Time
Cost
Quality
Human Resources
Communications
Risk
Procurements

Going down, planning is the process group which covers every knowledge area, because the scope management plan includes the management plan of every knowledge area. That is why the gray goes all the way down the planning process group column.

This gives you the a) row (integration knowledge area) and b) column (planning process group) that cut across the entire chart. Consider it the major spine of the matrix. From here, it is easiest to memorize the pattern going downwards.

Step 3.

Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Integration
Scope
Time
Cost
Quality
Human Resources
Communications
Risk
Procurements

The next largest group going downwards is in the monitoring & controlling process group, which is the process group that does the “check” and “act” portions of the iterative plan-do-check-act loop. It covers every knowledge area EXCEPT human resources; the way we remembered this in our group is that someone has to be DOING the monitoring and controlling, and that person is assigned through—human resources. So adding this column we get the above result.

Step 4.

Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Integration
Scope
Time
Cost
Quality
Human Resources
Communications
Risk
Procurements

Next we take the “executing” column. Here we skip, after integration, the “scope-time-cost” trio of the traditional “iron triangle” of constraints, and we also skip “risk”, which we remembered in our group by thinking “why would you want to execute something risky?” That gives you the almost-final schematic.

Step 5.

Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Integration
Scope
Time
Cost
Quality
Human Resources
Communications
Risk
Procurements

In the initiating and closing process groups, the two “bookends” of our set of 5 process groups, there are only 2 knowledge areas involved. Of course “integration” is one of them, which we know by the rule stated in step 1.

In the case of initiating, the other knowledge group involved other than “integration” is “communication”, because before you can start planning, you need to communicate with the stakeholders to see if the project can even get the “green light” to go forward.

In the case of closing, you would expect to see a “formality” to the procedure, and this is especially true with contracts, which are formal, legal documents. Contracts are involved in a project if there are procurements or supplies that you get from an outside company. So besides integration, closing involves the “procurements” knowledge area.

That’s the complete pattern! Congratulations. Now we go on to the next steps, which are figuring out HOW MANY groups go into which grey box. If it’s a white box, of course, the answer is ZERO.

Step 6.

Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Integration 6
Scope 5
Time 6
Cost 3
Quality 3
Human Resources 4
Communications 5
Risk 6
Procurements 4

2

20

8

10

2

Draw an extra row to the left of the matrix and an extra column at the bottom.

Here’s how to memorize the numbers going across at the bottom.

a. First put a 2 in the first (leftmost) and fifth (rightmost) column.

b. For the number in the second column, take the 2 in the first column and add a 0 to get 20.

c. For the number in the fourth column, take the 20 in the second column and divide it by the 2 in the first column to get 10.

d. For the number in the third column, take the 10 in the fourth column and subtract the 2 in the fifth column to get 8.

Check your numbers by seeing that they add up to 42.

Here’s how to memorize the numbers going across at the left.

The first three numbers are like a telephone area code, 656, with the first and last digits the same.

The fourth number is half of the third number. (This prevents you from erroneously remembering the first three as 5-6-5, because you can’t cut 5 in half to get a whole number.)

The fifth through eighth numbers start from 3, the number right above, and go 1 step higher each time until you get to 6, the same number at the top of the column.

The last number is 4. There’s no real easy way to remember this, but remember that all of the numbers must add up to 42. If you forget the last number is 4, just add up all the other numbers to get 38, and then realize the only number that will fit in that box that makes the ENTIRE group add up to 42 is 4.

The whole purpose of these check digits are so that, when you are doing the brain dump and you write down the processes, you can check whether you’ve put them in the right column (i.e., under the right process group) and in the right row (i.e., next to the right knowledge area).

Step 7.

Just remember four more digits, and the rest of the puzzle is simple to complete.

a. Remember that under Monitoring & Controlling process group, the first two knowledge areas have 2 process groups in them; all the others in that row have only 1 process group.

b. Remember that under the Planning process group, the two knowledge areas that deal with PEOPLE, human resources and communications, have 1 process group each.

Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Integration 6

2

Scope 5

2

Time 6
Cost 3
Quality 3
Human Resources 4

1

Communications 5

1

Risk 6
Procurements 4

2

20

8

10

2

Using just those 4 numbers, you can use the check digits to the left of each row and at the bottom of each column to logically conclude that the number of process groups in each cell is the following:

Step 8.

Initiating Planning Executing Monitoring & Controlling Closing
Integration 6

1

1

1

2

1

Scope 5

3

2

Time 6

5

1

Cost 3

2

1

Quality 3

1

1

1

Human Resources 4

1

3

Communications 5

1

1

2

1

Risk 6

5

1

Procurements 4

1

1

1

1

2

20

8

10

2

If you need a step-by-step set of instructions how to figure that little logic puzzle, send me a comment and I’ll spell it out in detail.

The next step is the name of the processes, which I will do row by row for each knowledge area.

Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (Chapter 3—Memorizing the Processes) Steps 1 and 2


The first two steps you need to in order to memorize the 42 processes of project management is to be aware of which process group and knowledge area they belong to. 

Step 1: Memorizing the Process Groups

The process groups are:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitoring & Controlling
  5. Closing

In class we learned cute mnemonic devices such as “In Projects, Every Monkey Counts Coconuts” to memorize the order, but in our study group, we wanted to go beyond such short-term memory tricks in order to gain a real understanding of WHY these are in the order they are in.

Of course, the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle people are familiar with can be transferred to understanding the order of process groups 2, 3, and 4, like so:

Then process groups 1 and 5 are the “book ends” to this iterative cycle, and the sequence is now complete.

Step 2: Memorizing the Knowledge Areas

There are 9 knowledge areas, and these correspond to chapters 4 through 12 in the PMBOK® Guide. These are:

Chapter 4.     Project Integration Management

Chapter 5.     Project Scope Management

Chapter 6.    Project Time Management

Chapter 7.     Project Cost Management

Chapter 8.     Project Quality Management

Chapter 9.     Project Human Resources Management

Chapter 10.    Project Communications Management

Chapter 11.    Project Risk Management

Chapter 12.    Project Procurement Management

The first one, integration, goes first because it integrates all of the other management areas from scope through procurement that come in later chapters.

The next four are actually part of the “iron triangle of constraints”, the original form of the concept of constraints as formulated by Dr. Martin Barnes in 1969.

If you think of the “scope” as one of the first things you describe in a “scope statement” and then detail in the “scope management plan”, then that makes sense that it is next (after integration).

Then time, cost, and quality are the natural successors to this according to the triangle if you go clockwise around the diagram above.   (Dr. Martin Barnes had “output” as a key constraint, which to him was a combination of “scope” and “quality”.)

So, next after scope, time, cost, and quality, you have to have somebody to do the work, and then a means for them to talk to one another. So that gives you the next two, “human resources”, and “communications”. And why do you want to communicate? What if something goes wrong?  There’s always a risk of that, so that’s why “risk” is the next one in the list.

And finally, you had to have “equipment” to do the work, and that gives you the final area.

If you stick to a logical framework that puts the 9 chapters together in a narrative like this, you will find yourself being able to memorize the knowledge areas without too much trouble in a way that makes logical sense rather than relying on the caprices of short-term memory.

Tomorrow, we put these 5 process groups and 9 knowledge areas together, and we draw: THE MATRIX!

Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (Chapter 3—Memorizing the Processes)



 1. Introduction

 One of the most time-consuming chapters of the PMBOK® Guide is chapter 3, because the 42 processes that make up the flow of project management are introduced.  These 42 processes are listed under 5 process groups and 9 knowledge areas.   Not only the processes, but their interrelationship and all of their contents are discussed.   

I took a PMP exam prep course in May and June of this year put on by the PMI’s Orange County chapter.  Now that the course is over, we have a few adventurous souls who have already taken the PMP exam and passed. They remind me of the brave penguins that are the first to jump in the water after the winter is done. (Hey, look out for those leopard seals!) In any case, some of them have described the general types of questions they have encountered on the exam. There are variations from person to person, but they ALL say that one of the largest numbers of questions they received on the exam have to do with those that require that you thoroughly know the flow of the various project management processes.    A typical question will be:   such-and-such is happening on the project.   What do you do next?

 For this reason, our study group is mastering the 42 project management processes in addition to reviewing all the knowledge areas in a systematic way,  In the next few posts, I want to review the various steps it takes to master the processes, their order, and their contents, which include the inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs (or ITTO).

2. Steps towards Process Mastery

Most of those taking the exam use the 15-minute pre-exam period to write down the 42 processes on one of the sheets of paper that are provided as a memory aid (popularly referred to as the brain dump).   Here are the steps you must take to master the 42 processes and prepare not just for the brain dump, but how to utilize this to the maximum effect during the actual exam.

The next posts will cover these six steps towards mastering what the processes are (steps 1 through 3), what sequence they occur during the flow of project management (step 4), and what their contents are (steps 5 and 6).

I strongly recommend that you study this systematically during the entire course of your review of the various knowledge areas of the PMBOK® Guide. In our study session, we start off with a review of the processes (we are currently in step 4), and then go on to review the material for a particular knowledge area, and end our session with a set of practice exam questions studying that knowledge area.

So starting tomorrow, let’s start with steps 1 and 2: memorizing the process groups and the knowledge areas!

Bill Phillips’ #Transformation Program—Chapter Two (Exercise Rx)



 Medical experts now say inactivity poses as great a health risk as smoking.

 1. Introduction

 If you go through the Transformation program, you realize that he takes a holistic approach, that is, he works on transforming all of the four areas below:

 

The first chapter covers all four areas. Subsequent chapters are usually built around the transformation of one particular area, and the case of second chapter is a “body” chapter that focuses on the specific practices of exercise.

 2. Sea-change in medical community towards exercise

Bill Phillips recounts that 25 years ago, many in the medical mainstream community argued against strength training. It’s hard to believe, but the reasoning was that overdeveloped muscles might limit physical performance by making you “muscle bound”.

The fact that medical science has changed so much on the subject of exercise reminds me of a scene from Woody Allen’s film Sleeper, where he plays a health-food store owner Miles Monroe who is cryogenically frozen and wakes up in the future. Miles is astounded to find that medical science now says something totally different than the things they were telling people in his time, like extolling the health virtues of miracle foods such as “steak” and “cream pies”.

Anyway, the medical community is somewhat keener on strength training than it is on long-distance endurance running, which seemed to be more popular a few decades ago than it is today. But the one thing that medical science is definite about is that inactivity, doing no exercise, poses as great a health risk as smoking. That sentence was the most impactful one of the entire chapter for me, and it’s why I highlighted it at the beginning.

3. Benefits of exercise

The chapter is replete with statistics about how beneficial exercise is, but the key thing to remember here is, if the benefits of exercise could be reproduced in a single pill, it would outsell any other drug (even Viagra, I’d wager). This isn’t Bill’s conclusion, of course, it’s just my opinion, but if you read the statistics, you will be impressed. The reason for focusing on the benefits of exercise towards the beginning of the 18-week program is so that, when you drag your body to the gym the first two weeks before the benefits kick in, you’ll have a mental picture of what good you’re actually doing for yourself.

4. US Dept of Health and Human Services Exercise Guidelines

Here are the guidelines set by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ study on the benefits of exercise. The number of minutes per week has been divided by five days, to get the number of minutes of exercise per day.

Aerobics

Strength Training
Moderate Intensity High Intensity
Substantial Health

Benefits

30 minutes/day for 5 days 15 minutes/day for 5 days 2 days a week (all muscle groups)
Extensive Health

Benefits

60 minutes/day for 5 days 30 minutes/day for 5 days 3 days a week (all muscle groups)

High Intensity for aerobics means varying the pace of one’s jogging, cycling, stairclimbing, or whatever form of exercise you use. Use walk, jog, and then run in cycles. It is this “shifting gears’ form of aerobics which really cranks up the metabolism, and allows you get greater health benefits for half the time. For time-conscious people, high intensity exercise is the way to go.

Bill Phillips recommended exercise program is as follows, which he writes in the form of a promise to himself.

I will exercise for a total of 3 hours weekly. I’m going to do 3 intense, 20-minute aerobic workouts each week for a total of 1 hour. On alternating days, 3 times per week, I will do 40 minutes of strength training for a total of 2 hours.

The challenge exercise of the chapter is to search within yourself and find the answers to these questions:

Based on the scientific evidence presented in this chapter, three specific exercise benefits that I am now holding the intention of personally experiencing are:
The amount of time I will make available for exercise each week throughout this 18-week transformation journey is:
Someone I can share my exercise plan with at the beginning of each week so he or she can help keep me accountable to my goals and intentions is:
Someone I can offer support, encouragement and friendly accountability to throughout this 18-week program is:

The point of the first question to is to make sure you understand what benefits you personally will receive from the exercise. The second question makes you write a promise to yourself, as if a doctor had handed you a prescription with the amount of exercise written on it. It’s more important to write down a doable goal, which should be five or six days of exercise. Perhaps you can’t do 40 minutes of strength training: put yourself down for 30 minutes, then, but do SOMETHING and do it CONSISTENTLY. Once you get into the groove, you can adjust the amount of time you are doing strength training and the distribution of which muscle groups you work on which days.

Questions three and four have to do with the Transformation community, either the virtual community on the online program, or your family and friends in the actual world.

Once you do the program for two weeks, however you will start to see the benefits, and it will be easier for you to get up each day and exercise, knowing that the reason why you slept like a baby last night was exactly because of this program.

Maintaining Multilingual Status


I am multilingual, having developed fluency to one degree or another in five languages other than English: Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and Chinese, while working on becoming fluent in two others, namely, Arabic and Portuguese.

My favorite multilingual online personality happens to be Benny Lewis, the author of the website http://www.fluentin3months.com/. He is a globe-trotting polyglot who is trying to show that anyone can use his methods to truly become fluent in a foreign language in three months. He does this by going to the country and immersing himself complete in that language.

Although I admire his exploits, I found that for those of us who for reasons of time and/or monetary constraints, cannot go abroad to enter that immersive environment, that the problem of maintaining one’s status as multilingual takes some sort of system. Also, he becomes fluent in a new language by totally immersing himself in another language at the expense of the other language he knows, which he lets lie fallow during the period he concentrates on the one language he is focusing on.

My challenge is to maintain one’s multilingual status by studying all the languages more or less simultaneously with the added constraints due to my status as a job-seeker that I cannot at this time travel to other countries, let alone live there for extended periods of time.

Here are the methods that I found work best for me:

1. Rosetta Stone: All around language practice

I found that the Rosetta Stone software helps me with a computer program that has an immersive-style learning approach, and it has a component called Rosetta Studio that allows you after completing a unit of language-learning material to speak to an actual native speaker for a 50-minute session. This is included in the price of the software so you can take as many sessions as you like.

I have used this to learn the two languages I am working on, Arabic and Portuguese, and to practice my fluency with Spanish, French, German, and Chinese. The only language I can’t use Rosetta Stone for is Japanese, because the language level they goes only up to 3 out of 5 levels, and I am advanced to the equivalent of level 5.

2. Goal setting: proficiency tests

One of the important things in propelling oneself forward simultaneously in several languages is to have some sort of proficiency goals. For me, I discovered the best way to set goals that are comparable from one language to another is to use the existing testing system used in Europe, the Common European Framework of Reference for languages, which rates one’s proficiency for all four language skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) in a series of six levels, A1 & A2 (beginning), B1 & B2 (intermediate), and C1 &C2 (advanced). I found that the Rosetta Stone language learning levels 1 through 5 correspond roughly to the first five levels of the CEFR. There is no Rosetta Stone equivalent of level 6 or native-level fluency, although there have certainly been requests for it.

In the past year, in order to demonstrate my fluency for my resume, and to use as a tool to spur me on to greater fluency, I took tests in the five languages I am fluent in to one to degree or another and passed all five tests. I started with the level A1 test in Spanish, and planned to take a higher B-level test this spring, but found that it was on the same day as the Chinese test and will have to put it off to the fall. So I am more fluent in Spanish than the level that I tested at, but the rest are reasonably close to my current fluency.

Test Level

A1

A2

B1

B2

C1

C2

Proficiency

Level

Beginning

Intermediate

Advanced

Spanish
French
German
Japanese
Chinese

A word of caution about the proficiency tests is in order: each level covers about twice the amount of vocabulary, etc., as the previously level, so can be considered to roughly double in difficulty as you go up. So if it took you 100 hours of instruction in a classroom or using Rosetta Stone to get you to level A2, for example, you will have to study 200 hours for level B1, 400 for B2, etc.

In order to pass the proficiency tests or to be proficient in the largest, most realistic test of all, i.e., real life, you need to exercise all four language skills of listening, reading, speaking, and reading. To practice all my languages using these techniques, I assign Monday as Spanish Day, Tuesday as French Day, Wednesday as German Day, Thursday as Japanese Day, Friday as Chinese Day, and I use Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday for Arabic and Portuguese, respectively. This puts all of them in either “slow” rotation (the once-a-week group) or “rapid” rotation (the every-other-day group).

3. Listening Practice: Audio magazines, subtitled movies

I love listening to the following audio magazines for my European languages:

Champs d’Elysées—French

Schau ins Land—German

Puerta del Sol—Spanish

I used to get them on cassettes and then CDs years ago, but now they are now available through an iPhone app called Plango. What I find useful about the iPhone app is that you can play it at ½ speed for listening practice if you find it hard to understand at first at normal speed.

Another source I enjoy is watching movies with English subtitles. You can listen to the movie first with English subtitles so you can grasp the plot and the dialogue quickly visually, and then try to listen to the dialogue to pick out the words that you can. If you improve your aural dexterity, you can then listen to the dialogue without the subtitles, especially if you already know the plot of the movie.

A third possibility is listening to the news in French, like France24, but this does not have the flexibility of a “learn-in” mode that the other two possibilities have I have listed.

4. Reading Practice: Magazines

Getting an online subscription, again through your iPhone, of a German news magazine like Der Spiegel, or a French news magazine such as L’Express. Here in LA, I read La Prensa to get the news in Spanish. Read about a story that you have already read in English, so just like the example in paragraph 3 of the movie without subtitles, you already know the “plot” of the story.

5. Speaking Practice: Meetups

If you are in a place with a large minority speaking that language, such as LA for Spanish, you can join a bilingual meetup group filled with those Americans (or those from whatever you native country is) learning that language PLUS those from that country who are trying to learn English. Why does this work? Because both sides have an incentive to speak each other’s language.

Now it seems counterintuitive for say, a Japanese-speaking person to speak English to an American who then answers that person in Japanese, but it actually works well.

6. Writing Practice: Crossword puzzles, Skritter

For European language practice, there are iPhone apps which have crossword puzzles that are moderately easy in the language of your choice. These are a fun way of practicing vocabulary for that language.

For Asian languages using Chinese characters, I recommend the Skritter service, a service which you can use online and now on your iPhone or iPad, which helps you learn the characters are review them so you master them.

These are a few techniques I use to practice my language skills that are relatively easy to do (no classes involved or traveling great distances) and yet fun to do, which keeps you motivated.

I hope those who are younger, and commitment-free take Benny’s more adventurous road of being a “language nomad” and learning a foreign language while traveling the world. For those of us who happen to have more time and money commitments and cannot follow such a path, I recommend the techniques recommended in this post. But above all, set goals for yourself, even if it is not to take proficiency tests like I have.

And then search for motivation to keep yourself constantly going one step forward. You can do it! A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

“World Economy: The Great Deleveraging Race”, an article by Economist Intelligence Unit #EIU


On July 2nd, the Economist Intelligence Unit published an article with the above title, and I thought it significant enough to do a post summarizing its conclusions.   Please note that the information I am quoting is contained within the article, but my commentary below does not reflect the opinions of the Economist Intelligence Unit.

It compares the five countries Ireland, the UK, Iceland, and the United States, and Spain with regards to

  • Amount of household debt incurred between 2000 and 2007
  • Policies taken to reduce household debt
  • Real private consumption growth in the two periods 2008-2011 and 2012-2016 (estimated)

On the basis of these comparisons, the article tries to draw some conclusions.   I reach my own conclusions, as you can see below.

1. Amount of household debt

The countries can be ranked as follows in terms of household debt that was racked up during the period from 2000-2007, with the top country (Ireland) having the most household debt and the bottom country (US) having the least.

Ireland

Spain

UK

US

This raises the question of why Iceland, which bucks the trend of the other four countries when it comes to policies taken to reduce household debt (see section 2 below), was not included in these statistics. Did EIU not have access to the data (hard to imagine), or was it that the data didn’t fit with the others in some fashion. There’s probably a good reason for their non-inclusion of the data, but its having been left out does naturally raise questions.

2. Policies taken to reduce household debt (green if successful, red if unsuccessful)

Country Policies taken to reduce household debt Policy Favors …
Iceland Mortgage write-downs for households in negative equity, voluntary restructuring and payment smoothing Borrower
US Federal home-loan modification program Borrower (in theory …)
UK Quantitative easing to support asset prices Lender
Spain Bank recapitalizations Lender
Ireland Bold debt write-downs unlikely Lender

If you look at the various policies either enacted or proposed, the ones in the UK, Spain and Ireland focus on helping the lenders rather than the borrowers. The policy of making bankruptcy an easier process has been a pro-borrower proposal in Ireland, but it is only a proposal at this point which is why I have not listed it above.

The US has a purportedly borrower-friendly home-loan modification program, but this is only on the surface; only a portion of that money has yet been allocated to the home-loan modifications.  The most positive pro-borrower policy that was attempted in the US was the various lawsuits put forward by state attorneys general against the banks for fraudulent practices such as robo-signing, etc. The aim of these lawsuits was to put pressure on the banks to do mortgage write-downs for households in negative equity (the so-called “underwater” loans). However, the attorneys general caved in to political pressure from the White House, and agreed to a preemptive settlement done on the Federal level, presumably so that their states could partake in the proceeds from the settlement.  However, the amount of money paid by the banks in this settlement ended up being essentially a slap on the wrist compared to the amount of liability they face. Even worse, some of those states that did end up receiving money from the settlement in some cases just put in into the general coffer to help balance their own struggling budgets, rather than give the money to the households it was designed for. The households on average would have received only the equivalent of about one-month’s mortgage, but even that insult would have been better than the empty promises they received instead.

The most pro-borrower set of policies has been taken up Iceland, which managed the mortgage write-downs that the US failed to enact.

3. Real private consumption growth

Now, here’s the kicker:

The five countries of this survey can be ranked in terms of estimated real private consumption growth in terms of % for the years 2012-2016:

Country Real private consumption growth 2012-2016
Iceland

2.6%

United States

2.2%

Britain

0.9%

Spain

0.4%

Ireland

-0.5%

Conclusion:

Those countries whose policies were the most pro-borrower with regards to the reduction of household debt are the countries with the highest projected consumption growth for the next five years? Coincidence? No. The borrowers who have had their debt reduced in such a way that reduces their mortgage on a permanent basis through a write-down will have more money to spend. And guess what? They most likely will, as opposed to those people in countries where the policies almost uniformly favor the lender under the rubric of “austerity”. An austere lifestyle does not “prime the pump.”

These are, of course, my conclusions, but I think they are pretty well substantiated by the information in the article. Even the EIU, while probably not endorsing my conclusion, would have to agree that the austerity measures proposed in the EU at present are not conducive to economic growth in the short- or medium-term future.

Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (Chapter 2—Stakeholders)


Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (Chapter 2—Stakeholders)

  1. Stakeholder definition

The concept of stakeholders consists of three parts in PMBOK® Guide:

Stakeholder Person or organization that is actively involved in the project,

or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by execution or completion of the project.

A stakeholder may also exert influence over the project and its deliverables.

The first idea in our discussion group of a “stakeholder” was the first part of the definition, someone or some organization actively involved in the project.  But the guide goes into detail regarding the second part of the definition, showing that a stakeholder is one who may not necessarily be involved in the project, but whose interests may be affected by the project either positively or negatively.  The third part is the reverse of the second, showing that it is not just who or what can be affected by the project, but who or what can affect the project (either positively or negatively).

 A local environmental group could be considered a negative stakeholder for a new refinery project for example, because they could protest against the project and cause it to be shut down because the bad publicity is something upper management does not want.  A government regulatory authority might also be a negative stakeholder if the new project is found not to conform to governmental regulations.

The key points to remember:

  • stakeholders may be positive or negative, 
  • may be within the organization, outside of the organization but with a business relationship to it, or some organization in society that is somehow affected by the project

Now there is a diagram of all the stakeholders in the PMBOK® Guide page 24. The diagram was complete in that it listed all of the categories of stakeholders; however, it was a bit confusing because it lumped together all of the stakeholders that were external to the project itself, whether they were within the company or outside of it.

So here’s my attempt to make the categories a little bit more understandable.   Here are the categories of stakeholders on a project, starting with the team working on the project itself and the circles of influence stronger (to match the font size) and then weaker as the relationship goes outward.  

Fig. 1. Categories of Stakeholders on a Project

  1. The innermost circle is that of the people actually working on the project, namely the Project Manager, the Project Management Team (the other members of the team that assist with the management of the project), and the Project Team members who actually do the work.
  2. The second circle is that of the Sponsor, the person or group that provides the financial resources for the project and the one who champions the project within the organization when it is first conceived. The Sponsor acts as a spokesperson to higher levels of management within the organization, which is why I placed the Sponsor in the second circle.
  3. The third circle contains those higher-level organizers of projects, such as the program manager, who manages related projects in a coordinated way, and a portfolio manager, who manages a collection of projects or programs which may not be related in content, but which all serve the business model of the organization at large. I put them in this circle because they monitor the performance of the project and can even terminate if the business case for the project no longer holds.
  4. The next circle is still within the organization, but rather than the three inner circles that deal with project work, this circle represents the interests of the ongoing operational work, with the functional managers in charge of areas such as human resources, finance, accounting, and procurement. Depending on the type of organization, project managers will have to negotiate with them to allow their staff with expertise that would assist the project to work on that project for its duration. The operations management people will have to be consulted during the course of the project, because the project when completed is often handed off to them on account of the fact that they take care of normal operations and will provide long term support for the result of the project.
  5. Now we get to the circle which is outside of the organization, but one in which there is a business relationship between the organization and that stakeholder, such as sellers/business partners (vendors and suppliers, for example) in the case of a B2B relationship, and customers/users in the case of a B2C relationship.
  6. The last circle consists of elements of society that may not have any formal relationship to the organization, but which may contain groups that are affected by the project or that can influence the project. The PMBOK® Guide labels this group generically as “Other Stakeholders”, but I have put an example of “Regulatory Agencies” as just one type of entity that could be considered a stakeholder. A non-governmental organization such as an environmental awareness group that is an NGO would also be an example of a stakeholder at this level.

These concentric circles, I believe, show a little more of the different kinds of stakeholders and why some of them have more influence than others. I found this diagram helpful for our group to gain awareness of the different types of stakeholders, and I hope that it is helpful for those studying for the PMP exam as well.

That concludes this series of blog posts on the 2nd chapter of the PMBOK® Guide on the Framework of Project Management.   The 3rd chapter covers the processes of Project management, and I will cover this chapter in a series of blog posts next week.