The Epigraphic Survey based at Chicago House in Luxor, Egypt

Prof. Raymond Johnson of the Oriental Institute in Chicago gave a talk at the South Suburban Archaeological Society on Thursday, July 18th.    This is a short description of his talk.    For further information, visit the Oriental Institute website at

1.   Oriental Institute and the Chicago House

The Oriental Institute was founded at the University of Chicago in 1919 by James Henry Breasted.   It is considered one of the world’s premier institutes for the study of the history of ancient Near East.    The Chicago House is a research institution founded as an extension of the University of Chicago in Luxor, Egypt in order to study the temple complexes in that city, which used to be the ancient capital Thebes of New Egypt.

2.  The Epigraphic Survey

The Epigraphic Survey in the Chicago House was founded in 1924 with the aim of preserving through photographs and line drawings the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the major temples and tombs.   Prof. Raymond Johnson of the Oriental Institute has worked there for over 30 years, and has seen the technology used to preserve the inscriptions change, but the professionalism has not.    One aspect of the research that has grown over the years is the cooperation between the researchers here in the U.S. and those in Egypt.

3.   Digital Technology

The old method of preserving inscriptions was for epigraphers to copy them meticulously on paper.   With the advent of digital technology, it is possible for the same epigraphers to copy them using a sort-of digital artist’s pad.   One thing that Prof. Johnson said that amazed him was that it was not just the newer, younger researchers that enjoyed using the digital technology, but even the seasoned veterans of the pre-digital age seem to take to it as well.    What matters is the method, or materials, but the accuracy with which whatever medium is used can depict the actual hieroglyphic inscriptions.    In many cases, the accuracy is crucial because the inscriptions are taken from surfaces which may inaccessible in the future, as the blocks on which they are found are assembled together, effectively hiding those surfaces from view.

4.   The Effect of the Revolution on Research

This topic was actually the main reason for his talk, because many people have been aware of the political turmoil in Egypt since the revolution which ousted Hosni Mubarak.    But there has been no ill effect on the Chicago House itself; in fact, the situation there has even somewhat improved, although certainly not by design of the Egyptian government.   The original plans put forward after the Revolution were for the Chicago House and a lot of the other buildings along the Nile to be destroyed in order to put in amenities for tourists.    Although some of the buildings were torn down, the Chicago House itself was spared because the major of Luxor knew well of the reputation of the facility, and more importantly, understood how important it was for the Egyptian researchers who either worked there, or used the extensively library there for their research.

Although many buildings were torn down, the Revolution interrupted many of the development  plans, and so Prof. Johnson says the area is a lot quieter than it was before.    Rather than the banks of the Nile river being thronged with boats for tourists or the corniche, the avenue along the Nile, being crammed with buses for tourists, the area is used by the native Egyptians for picnics on weekends and it gives a great sense of pride to once again “own” their city, with all of its monumental treasures.

It is the collaboration between the American researchers and the Egyptian researchers which has generated enough good will in the local community to protect it from the predations of the central government for the time being.

5.  Conclusion

I sincerely hope that the Chicago House remains standing and continues to do the premier work that it has been producing for close to century.    On a personal note, this talk rekindled one of my lifelong passions, that of archaeology, and it encouraged me to go back and continue my study of Arabic using Rosetta Stone, so that someday I too will be able to visit the historical sites of Egypt and see those amazing inscriptions firsthand.


“The Eagle has Landed”

44 years ago today, I was sitting in the living room with my family watching on television as Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Lunar Excursion Module and became the first person to step on the surface of the Moon.    I was certainly awestruck at the time.   I remember going outside and looking up at the Moon and thinking that there were “people up there.”   It would never be the same Moon again for me.


No matter what mankind will accomplish in the future here on Earth, or even if man decides to create the seeds of his own eventual extinction by not mitigating the effects of climate change, the accomplishment of walking on the surface of the Moon will last as long as the Moon continues to exist in the form of footprints and artifacts left by the 12 men of the Apollo program who lived and worked there.


My source of wonder at the event has not diminished after all of this time, but has rather grown.   How did we accomplish such a technological feat given the relatively primitive computer technology of the time?   There is more computing power in your smartphone than was on the on-board computer of the Command Module of the Apollo 11.   However, it was the confluence of historical forces which caused this country at that moment in time, at the height of its political and economic power of this country vis-a-vis the other countries of the world, to have the confidence and can-do spirit to embark upon something so audacious as to fly to another world.   Now I look back at the astronauts, engineers, and administrators in NASA as giants who were pioneering not just technology, but project management practices that are still improving the fields of manufacturing (among others).


But the political will behind the space program has been replaced in Washington by a can’t-do spirit that makes me long for the days when politicians cast aspirations onto the imagination of the American public, rather than aspersions on the very idea of “good government.”    This is why my personal mission in life is to take those project management practices that were born in that era and use them to create a “can-do” spirit which again echoes those heady days of the space program, for those manufacturing companies that have a vision to utilize them.   But will it be America that recreates that spirit or some other country?


Who knows?   All I know is that, given the present political and economic situation here in the United States, although the last person to walk on the surface of the Moon was an American, the next person will most likely be Chinese.   I don’t begrudge the Chinese for their continued strides in their space program.  Maybe our economic rivalry with China will wake this “sleeping giant” from its slumber; but if it doesn’t, I won’t begrudge the Chinese their success.   I’ll just be grateful that someone, somewhere in the world is still capable of dreaming the big dreams we used to dream of, and occasionally accomplish, here in the United States.    You want proof that we were capable of accomplishing big dreams?   It will exist for eternity, in those footprints on the surface of the Moon.


5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Process 11.1 Plan Risk Management

1.  Introduction

The first five out of six risk-related project management processes are in the Planning Process group.  The first of these planning processes is the one used to define all of the risk management activities on the project, i.e., the contents of all of the other processes in the Risk Management knowledge area.

2.  Inputs

Inputs include the project management plan, in particular the performance baselines from the triple constraints of scope, schedule and cost, which may be impacted by any risks that may occur during the course of the project.  The project charter will contain high-level risks, as well as the high-level project descriptions and requirements that may help in identifying and analyzing risks.  The levels of risk that the organization can tolerate are important Enterprise Environmental Factors.  The lessons learned on other projects, as well as the basic definitions that will affect decisions regarding risks, are important Operational Process Assets.

1. Project Management Plan The performance baseline in the areas of scope, time, and cost may all be affected by risk-related activities.
2. Project Charter High-level risks, high-level project descriptions, and high-level requirements are all inputs from the project charter that may be used in planning risk management.
3. Stakeholder Register Provides an overview of the roles of the various stakeholders on the project.
4. EEFs Risk attitudes, thresholds, and tolerances of the organization.
5. OPAs
  • Risk categories, definitions
  • Risk statement formulas, templates
  • Risk-related roles and responsibilities
  • Authority levels for risk-related decision making
  • Lessons learned
1. Analytical Techniques Used to understand and define the overall risk management context of the project, which is based on a combination of

  • stakeholder risk attitudes and
  • strategic risk exposure of a given project
2. Expert judgment Expertise should be considered from subject matter experts, project stakeholders, and senior management, and lessons learned from previous projects.
3. Meetings Used to develop the risk management plan.
1. Risk Management Plan Describes how risk management activities will be planned and executed.

3.  Tools & Techniques

The main tools & techniques for planning risk management are analytical techniques, which are used with input from expert judgment, at meetings where the risk management plan is developed.

4.  Outputs

The Risk Management Plan is the output of the process 11.1 Plan Risk Management.

After the weekend, I will start next week to discuss in more detail the tools & techniques used in this process.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 11: Risk Management Concepts

1.  Introduction

Chapter 11 of the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide deals with the knowledge area of Risk Management, a subject of increasing importance for project managers.    Before I discuss in detail the six project management processes involved in this knowledge area, I wanted to take some time out to discuss some of the basic concepts of risk management that are discussed at the beginning of this chapter.

2.  The Concept of Risk

One of the first concepts of risk management to understand is the definition of risk.   According to the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide, project risk is “an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on one or more project objectives such as scope, schedule, cost, or quality.”

Okay, let’s discuss this concept with regards to the following question:  “are you at risk of dying?”   If there is no time frame specified, the answer is “no”, in the sense that death is not an uncertain event; it will happen to us all.   As John Maynard Keynes, the famous economist, once said, “in the long run we are all dead.”    Now if you ask the question “are you at risk of dying in the next 10 years,” and put a time frame on the question, then the question can be asked in a meaningful way.   If you tell me how old you are, what your sex is, what country you are living in, and whether you smoke cigarettes or not, I might be able to able to give you a figure based on the actuarial tables compiled by insurance companies in your country.

So, the words uncertain event are key to the definition.   Another set of key words is “positive or negative.”   Technically speaking, the uncertain event can have a positive or negative impact on the project objectives.   This technical use of the word “risk” differs from the ordinary, everyday definition of risk which tends to mean only those events which have a negative impact.    If someone says to me, “Johnny is giving a party tonight,” and I respond, “oh, there might be a risk that I will have a good time,” the person I’m talking to will probably detect that I’m being sarcastic as opposed to just giving a neutral prediction.    That’s using the everyday usage of the word “risk”.    I think PMI recognizes that there is some difference between the technical definition and the ordinary definition of the word “risk”, because in the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide there are a lot of instances where they will use “reduce risks and enhance opportunities”, the opportunities, of course, being the events which impact the project positively and the risks being those which impact it negatively.    They are conceding the everyday usage of the word “risk” in order to emphasize the point being made, that you have to reduce the impact or likelihood or negative events and enhance those of positive events if you are truly doing risk management.

The third key part of the definition is the phrase “if it occurs”.    If a risk that has been forecast actually occurs, it is no longer a risk, it is an issue.

2.  Causes of Risk

The causes of risk can come from various sources, such as:

  • a requirement, such as legal requirement imp0sed by laws or regulations
  • an assumption, such as the conditions in the market (which may change)
  • a constraint, such as number of personnel available to work on any given phase of the project, or
  • a condition, such as the maturity of the organization’s project management practices

3.  Known vs unknown risks

Known risks are those which can be identified and analyzed beforehand in such a way as to be able to a) reduce the likelihood of their occurrence, or b) plan a risk response to reduce their impact in the event that they occur.   These risk responses, as we will shall say, are paid for out of a contingency reserve which is normally under control of the project manager.    An unknown risk, on the other hand, are those that are not identified beforehand.    If they are not identified, they cannot be analyzed, and of course cannot be managed proactively.    If these kind of risks occur, the response is called a workaround and is paid for out of a management reserve which is normally not under control of the project manager, but rather of management (hence the name “management reserve”).

4.  Risk attitude

Remember that risk has two components, the uncertainty of an event, which is measured by its probability, and its potential impact on the project.    The amount of uncertainty that an organization can accept is measured by its risk appetite; the amount of impact the organization can accept is measured by its risk tolerance.

The combination of the uncertainty and the probability can give you the amount that needs to be put aside to handle that risk, sometimes referred to as the reserve, and the amount of reserve that the organization can accept is measured by its risk threshold.    It is this latter concept which will determinate what kind of risk response the organization may take.

5.  Risk response

There are four possible responses to a risk, depending on whether there is low or high probability of its occurring, and whether the financial impact if it does occurs is either high or low.

  • Avoid–for high probability, high impact events
  • Transfer (such as purchasing insurance)–for low probability, high impact events
  • Mitigate–for high probability, low impact events
  • Accept–for low probability, low impact events

These are some of the concepts that are used when planning risk management on a project.   Now that I have given an explanation, I will start with the next post to cover the first project management process involving risk management, process 11.1 Plan Risk Management.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 11: Risk Management Knowledge Area

1.  Introduction

Risk management involves conducting risk management planning, identifying and analyzing risks, developing risk response plans, and controlling risk on an ongoing basis.

2.  Risk Management Processes

There are six project management processes in the Risk Management Knowledge Area.  Five of them are in the Planning Process Group, and the sixth one is in the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group.

The first process, that of Plan Quality Management, creates the Quality Management Plan which is the framework for all of the other processes, including what the quality requirements will be.  The second process, that of Perform Quality Assurance, is where the quality requirements set up in the first process are audited to make sure they are appropriate.  The third process, that of Control Quality, measures the quality of the deliverables and makes sure they conform to the quality requirements.





Process Description
Planning 11.1 Plan Risk Management Defines how to conduct risk management activities on the project.
11.2 Identify Risks Determines what risks may impact the project and documents their characteristics.
11.3 Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis Prioritizes risks for further analysis or action by assessing their probability of occurrence and impact.
11.4 Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis Numerically analyzes the effect of risks on overall project objectives.
11.5 Plan Risk Responses Develops options and actions to enhance opportunities and reduce threats to project objectives.
Monitoring & Controlling 11.6 Control Risks Implements risk response plans, tracks identified risks, monitors residual risks, identifies new risks, and evaluates risk process effectiveness throughout the project.

Before discussing the first of the risk management processes, I will discuss some risk management concepts in general in the next few posts.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Chapter 10: Communications and Change Requests

1.  Introduction

The third communications management process, process 10.3 Manage Communications, may generate change requests as an output.   The purpose of this post is to talk about the kinds of changes that may fall under this category of outputs.

2.  Types of Change Requests

Although the need for changes may become apparent as part of the Control Communications process, the type of change requests may have to do with another knowledge area entirely.   Here’s a list of the types of change requests that may occur as a result of the process, organized by knowledge area to which they pertain.

  Knowledge Area Change request type
1. Integration Adjustment of project management plan
2. Corrective actions
3. Preventive actions
4. Time Activity sequences
5. Cost Schedule dates
6. New or revised cost estimates
7. HR Resource requirements
8. Risk Analysis of risk response alternatives

Most of these are self-explanatory, but I wanted to explain corrective actions and preventive actions in a little more detail.    These types of actions are suggested if the future performance of the project is forecast to be different than the performance baseline.    

Corrective actions are those that change the current situation in order to bring the future performance of the project back in line with the performance baseline in the project management plan.

Preventive actions are those that reduce the probability of future negative performance relative to the performance baseline.

Of course, no matter what knowledge area the change requests pertain to in terms of their content, the process they go through is the same one:  process 4.5 Perform Integrated Change Control in the Integration Knowledge Area.

This concludes my survey of the processes in Communications Management under chapter 10 of the 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide.   Tomorrow I will start my survey of chapter 11, the chapter on Risk Management.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 10: Process 10.3 Control Communications

1.  Introduction

The third out of three communications-related processes is a process in the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group, and it is used to, as its title suggests, to control the communications during the course of the project to make sure that the project stakeholders get the information they need.  This post describes the inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs that belong to this process.

2.  Inputs

Inputs include the communications management plan, and the stakeholder management plan, basically to find out which stakeholder needs access to information when merely reporting status, as opposed to when decisions are made, or when expert opinions are needed.

The issue log monitors ongoing issues on the project, which may be resolved through the course of the process.  Work performance data on the project will be generated by the process into work performance information, a simple definition of which is data which has been put into a format that is both easily usable and relevant to the stakeholders to whom it will be sent.

10.3  Control Communications
1. Project Management Plan This includes stakeholder communication requirements, which answer the questions of  who, what, when, where and why with regards to communications.
2. Project Communications These are communications regarding the status of the project, including the triple constraints of scope, time and cost:

  • Status of deliverables
  • Progress according to schedule
  • Costs incurred
2. Issue log This documents and monitors ongoing issues on the project.  It is an output of process 13.3.
3. Work performance data Compares the performance on the project to the performance baseline.
4. OPAs
  • Policies and guidelines
  • Templates
  • Historical information, lessons learned
1. Information management systems Software packages (e.g., Microsoft Project) for storing and distributing information on the project.
2. Expert judgment This is used for assessing the impact of project communications, and for taking actions based on the contents of those communications.
3. Meetings This means face-to-face communications with the relevant stakeholders.
1. Work performance information Summary of work performance data, giving the progress on the project.
2. Change requests The process may result in requests for changes on the project which are then sent to the process Perform Integrated Change Control.
3. Project Management Plan updates The process may result in changes to the Communications Management Plan, and possibly even the Stakeholders and Human Resources Management Plan.
4. Product documents updates
  • Forecasts
  • Performance reports
  • Issue logs
5. OPAs updates
  • Reporting formats
  • Lessons learned

3.  Tools & Techniques

The software part of the tools used on the project are the Information Management Systems.  These include the project management software as well as e-mail systems and other ways in which information is communicated.

Expert judgment and meetings may be needed to either decide on whether the format of communication needs to be changed, or it may be needed to decide on the impact of that communication, even to the point of suggesting changes to the project itself.

4.  Outputs

The outputs of Plan Communications Management are the communications themselves, the information on the project performance.  Some elements of the Project Management Plan, such as the project baselines, the Communications and Stakeholders Management Plans, may receive updates, as well as many of the project documents and OPAs.

The next post will deal in general with the kinds of changes that may be comprised in the change requests under this process of Managing Communications.

Toastmasters–Scheduling Methods as a VP-Education

One of the key duties of the club officer VP-Education in a Toastmasters Club is to schedule people in advance of the meetings so that the Toastmaster meetings are conducted as effectively and efficiently as possible.    They should be effective in that each person assigned the role is prepared for the role, and they should be efficient in that each person should take only the allotted time given that role.   The end result will be a meeting that will not only be pleasant for those members of the club, but it will be impressive for potential members who come to your club.

1.  Club Scheduler

One method of scheduling uses a Club Scheduler or other software to plan meetings ahead of time.   The advantage of this is that it gives you as VP-Education the ability to schedule roles ahead of time, and it also is an effective back up to the Secretary role in that it can record who actually does the roles in each meeting.

2.   Excel

You can use a simple Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that you pass around to the members beforehand.   This requires SOME computer knowledge, or you can ask people to send you their requests for speaking, evaluator, or support roles and you can fill them in the spreadsheet.

3.  Online Agendas

Most clubs have a website where you can sign up for the roles online beforehand.   More and more clubs are doing this because of the convenience of being able to sign up anytime, and practically anywhere for a role in an upcoming meeting.

Okay, that covers the basics of the MECHANICS of scheduling.   How do these work in general?    Well, there are two basic philosophies of scheduling:

A.    Role Assignment

In reality, the Club Scheduler and Excel spreadsheet methods can be used by the VP-Education to assign roles ahead of time.   That’s what I did in one club as VP-Education.    This ensured that people not only did speeches, but also got a well-rounded experience by also doing evaluations and various support roles.    The VP-Education can judge if the person is a new member and can take relatively simple roles (Timer, Grammarian), or whether they have enough experience to handle a more difficult role (Table Topics Master, General Evaluator, or Toastmaster).    The VP-Education can judge if the person has not spoken in a while and needs to be encouraged to do a speech.

Of course, the other good thing about this method is that it can be used to produce a list of who has done speeches and roles in the various meetings so that the Educational Record of each member can be filled in and verified if necessary.

B.   Laissez-Faire (Self-Assignment)

Signing up online is an example of self-assignment.   This sounds really good in terms of the convenience to the member.  However, in reality I have found that it leads to the following:   everybody wants to sign up for speaking roles, but you find yourself going into a meeting with a lot of support roles left unfilled.

C.    Combination of both

What I have found works the best is a combination of both.    Set out an multiple-meeting agenda asking for volunteers for speaking and support roles for the next 3 or 4 meetings; ask if anybody knows ahead of time that they will be absent for a particular meeting.    Once you get this information, then record the volunteered roles (speaking, evaluation, or support roles) in some sort of spreadsheet or even a text document if you prefer.

The next thing you need to do is find out which roles are missing.    Ask for volunteers for the “missing roles”, and then if there are still any missing roles, then start assigning roles, and confirming with the people involved that it’s okay with them to do the role.

So the multiple-meeting agenda should be sent at least two weeks before the next meeting; then asking for volunteers for the missing  roles should be done one and a half weeks before the next meeting.    You can start assigning the remaining roles one week before  the meeting.   This gives you the week to confirm all the roles, and to be ready to make any changes if necessary.

This combination allows the flexibility of people volunteering for roles, but also makes sure that the agenda is firmed up AT LEAST ONE WEEK before the meeting.   This will ensure a meeting that is smooth flowing, allows for last-minute changes, and impresses guests.

I’ve done the Vice-President Education role twice now and this system works!



5th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Chapter 10: General Considerations about Communications

1.  Introduction

In explaining process 10.2, Manage Communications, the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide not only explains the individual tools & techniques, namely communication technology, communication models, communication methods, information management systems, and performance reporting. 

But it then goes beyond that explains some of the general features of those tools & techniques, and that is the subject of today’s post.

2.  Techniques and considerations of project communications




1. Sender-receiver models Incorporate feedback loops to provide opportunities for interaction and remove barriers to communication
2. Choice of media Considerations that guide the following choice of when

  • to communicate in writing versus orally,
  • to send an informal communication versus a formal one,
  • to meet face-to-face versus via e-mail
3. Writing style Active vs. passive voice, sentence structure, word choice.
4. Meeting management techniques Preparing an agenda, sticking to the agenda, dealing with conflicts.
5. Presentation techniques Impact of body language, visual aids, vocal technique.
6. Facilitation techniques Building consensus, overcoming obstacles.
7. Listening techniques Active listening,which involves

  • acknowledging
  • clarifying
  • confirming understanding

Removal of barriers that adversely impact comprehension.

Let’s discuss these in turn:

1)  Sender-receiver models

Encode →  Transmit Message →  Decode →  Acknowledge →  Feedback/Response

One of the overlooked steps in communication is acknowledge, which means to confirm the receipt of the message.   Here is the point where the person can simply assume they understood the message, and give a feedback or response.  The problem with that is that they may have misunderstood the message.    This engenders a whole cycle of miscommunication, all of which can be avoided by acknowledging receipt of the message.   This is the time where you can clarify and confirm one’s understanding BEFORE you take the trouble to respond.   That extra step can reduce the risk of miscommunication.

Some people have a form of acknowledgement that tells them when an e-mail was OPENED, although it can’t tell you whether it was read, or even better, understood.    That’s another form of feedback loop that is sometimes helpful.

2)  Choice of media

If you have someone on your project team that is not completing his or her project assignments, do you send them a formal letter of reprimand first?   I would hope not; I hope the first time it occurs that you have an informal verbal communication, face-to-face.   If it happens repeatedly, only then would you want to resort to going to a formal verbal and then, if necessary, written communication on the subject.    This is in its own way a form of escalation of the form of communication.

An important e-mail communication might profitably be followed by a telephone call.   “But I sent you an e-mail” does not absolve you of your responsibility to get the message across.   Yes, you may have sent an e-mail, but so did many, many other people on that same day.    How do you know it didn’t get buried, or accidentally sent to the wrong folder, etc.?

PMI may be somewhat old-fashioned in the sense that it prefers face-to-face meeting rather than e-mail communications.   I must admit I fall into that “old-fashioned” category myself, although with today’s busy world, one must accommodate people’s schedules and having a face-to-face meeting at a moment’s notice may not always be possible.

One of the reasons why the “choice of media” is important, because PMI considers e-mail to be an informal method of communication (as opposed to a letter).    The millennial generation considers it formal, with texting being the preferred informal method of communication.   So be aware of the generational differences on your project, not just the cultural ones.

3)  Writing style

The passive voice (“mistakes were made”) removes the agent from the sentence, and is a form of linguistic alienation that is associated with a bureaucracy.   The best writers use the active voice, because it is more direct and includes the reader in the communication by means of addressing him or her.   I tend to use too many words in my effort to get my point across; others may use to few.    In the former case, you risk boring the recipient, in the latter case, you risk confusing them.    Finding the right balance is the key!

4)  Meeting Management Styles

Having an agenda with the items to be discussed, and preferably a schedule of how much time is allotted to each, is essential if you are not to waste everyone’s time.   If someone needs to bring information or documents to the meeting, make sure this is clearly stated.   Once at the meeting, if someone unwittingly tries to sabotage the agenda by taking too long to discuss a point, or inserting another point of discussion into the meeting, then use the firm but polite response of tabling that discussion for later.    Those people whose eyes are glazing over or rolling around will thank you for it!

5)  Presentation Styles

Here I go with another plug for Toastmasters, but you will learn everything you need about how to run effective meetings and effective presentations within those meetings if you join Toastmasters.    No more “Death by Powerpoint” presentations!

6)  Facilitation Techniques

In the project managers’ Toastmasters Club I used to belong to, many times the meeting would warm up with a joke, and many of these had to do with three people:  a software engineer, a hardware engineer, and a project manager.   The joke usually centered around some incompatibility or even hostility between the mindsets of the software engineer and hardware engineer.    Even though these are jokes, people laugh because they recognize the truth on which they are based:   that these engineers often times have different priorities and you as a project manager have to be able to facilitate discussion between the two groups.

7)  Listening Techniques

Active listening takes the feedback loop discussed in section 1) above and extends it to the verbal realm.    You ask a person, “so let me see if I understand what you’re saying” and then summarize their point.   This extra step may save a lot of confusion and misunderstanding.    Knowing how to use objective standards in discussing alternatives, but making sure people know that the opinion you are giving IS an opinion (“I think that …” vs. “it is the case that”) helps to get people’s ego “offline” to be able to discuss the question dispassionately without the perception that you are attacking them personally.

These are just some general observations about communications that I have elaborated on, but I think it was wise for PMI to include them in the 5th Edition because they definitely apply throughout the length of the project, from the kickoff meeting to the closing ceremony.

The next post will be about the contents of “performance reporting”, one of the key outputs of process 10.2 Manage Communications.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 10: Process 10.2 Manage Communications

1.  Introduction

The second out of three communications-related processes is a process in the Executing Process Group, and it is used to, as its title suggests, to manage communications during the course of the project.  This post describes the inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs that belong to this process.

2.  Inputs

Inputs include the communications management plan, which is an output of the last process 10.1 Plan Communications Management.  This will be updated during the process.  EEFs and OPAs, the company culture and the company’s previous experience with similar projects, respectively, are also considered inputs to the process.  Perhaps the most important input is that of work performance reports, the output of process 4.4 Manage and Control Project Work.  This is the information which will be communicated by the process.

10.2 Manage Communications
1. Communications Management Plan This gives guidelines for how communications will be managed.  It is the output of process 10.1 Plan Communications Management
2. Work performance reports Information on the status and performance of the project.
3. EEFs
  • Organizational culture
  • Government and industry standards
  • Project management information system
4. OPAs
  • Policies and guidelines
  • Templates
  • Historical information, lessons learned
1. Communication Technology Choice should be appropriate for information being communicated.  This is also a tool & technique of process 10.1 Plan Communications Management.
2. Communication Models This tool ensures that communications are both efficient and effective.  This is also a tool & technique of process 10.1 Plan Communications Management.
3. Communication Methods This tool ensures the communications have been received and understood, which enables proper response and feedback.  This is also a tool & technique of process 10.1 Plan Communications Management.
4. Information management systems These systems manage the following types of information:

  • Hard-copy documents
  • Electronic communications
  • Electronic project management tools
5. Performance reporting This takes the work performance on the project, including the past (progress reports), present (status), and future (forecasts).
1. Project communications These can include the following:

  • Performance reports
  • Status of deliverables (scope)
  • Schedule progress (time)
  • Costs incurred (cost)
2. Project management plan updates Provides information on the following:

  • Project baselines
  • Communications management
  • Stakeholder management
3. Project documents updates
  • Issue logs
  • Project schedule
  • Project funding requirements
4. OPAs updates Various OPAs can be updated in the course of managing communications.

3.  Tools & Techniques

The information on the project performance is what will be communicated.  How that information will be communicated is determined by an analysis of the methods and technology available to the project manager.  Communication models create a theoretical framework within which all of these other tools & techniques can be made to serve the needs of the project, and to make sure communications are effective and efficient, meaning that only the necessary communication goes to the required stakeholders and only to those stakeholders.  Information management systems, including the project management information system (such as Microsoft Project), are an essential tool in managing communications.

4.  Outputs

The outputs of Plan Communications Management are the communications themselves, the information on the project performance.  Some elements of the Project Management Plan, such as the project baselines, the Communications and Stakeholders Management Plans, may receive updates, as well as many of the project documents and OPAs.

The next post will deal in general with the tools & techniques of Managing Communications.