Project Planning, Schedule & Control–Chapter 1: An Introduction to Project Management


This blog post is part of a series that summarizes the 5th edition of the classic project manager’s handbook Project Planning, Scheduling & Control by James L. Lewis, Ph.D., the founder of the Lewis Institute, Inc.    I wanted to go through the book and take notes for my own use, but also in the hope that my summary would be of interest to both those already in the project management field or those who want to enter that field.

1.   Scope Creep–A Phenomenon for the Ages

The chapter opens with the tale of Ashahebsed, the architect for Ramses the Great, who had the task of building the toms for the family of the great king.    It was a prestigious job to work on this project, to be sure.   However, Ramses the Great was a pharaoh for nearly 65 years, and so his building project was one that constantly got extended as Ramses the Great went on to have more than 100 sons and daughters.    This extension of the original project is what we would today call scope creep.

I can add another ancient example, related by Joseph Campbell in his series of interviews with Bill Moyers entitled The Power of Myth.    It is the story “Indra and the Ants.”   In this story form ancient Hinduism, the god Indra, the thunder-hurling equivalent of Zeus in the classical mythology of Greece, defeated a monster called Vritra who had bound up the waters and was threatening the earth with drought.    He was elevated to the rank of king of the gods for destroying Vritra with a thunderbolt, and he ordered the Vishvakarma, the architect of the gods, to build him a grand palace.    When he was finished, Indra said it wasn’t good enough for a god as exalted as he, and so he demanded more and more improvements for the palace.     Vishvakarma recognized that he would working on this ever-expanding project for all eternity and he finally ended up asking Brahma the Creator for help.    (For the rest of the story, read the story “Indra and the Ants” in the Wikipedia article on Indra.)    So he again recognized the nature of scope creep.   The modern practice of project management is designed precisely to confront this perennial problem.

2.  What is  a Project?

The definition of a project according to the 5th Edition of the PMBOK Guide is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to produce a unique product, service, or result.”    The architecture project that Ashahebsed or Vishvakarma faced was NOT technically a project because it was not temporary; it had no foreseeable end (especially true in the case of Vishvakarma because of the immortality of Indra).   Dr. Lewis likes the definition that the great quality management evangelist Dr. J. M. Duran gave of a project, as “a problem scheduled for solution.”   This definition emphasizes that a project is geared towards the solution of a problem, and it contains the idea of it being temporary in the sense that there is a schedule for its solution.

3.  What is Project Management?

One of the reasons why Dr. Lewis wrote this book was that the PMBOK® Guide, while defining the processes of project management, did not capture the essence of what project management is.    It is more than using a scheduling tool such as Microsoft Project.     The ability to use tools and processes is important, but you need to be able to deal with people as well.    This means being able to deal with politics, to exercise leadership, and to have expertise in public relations.

4.   The Four Project Constraints

Dr. Lewis wants to expand the traditional definition of the so-called “triple constraints” in a project–performance, time, and cost, as exemplified in the engineer’s maxim, “good, fast, or cheap”–pick two.   To these three, Dr. Lewis adds a fourth constraint of scope, which he defines as “the magnitude or size of the project.”

What is the performance of a project?   It means the performance requirements or specifications of the project.   These consist of

  • functional requirements–what the deliverable (the product, service, or result of a project) is supposed to do
  • technical requirements–the features of the deliverable (dimensions, weight, speed, horsepower, etc.)

These four constraints of performance, cost, time and scope he describes together as the PCTS constraints.    One useful way of thinking of the relationship between them is to think of P, C, and T as the sides of a triangle, and the scope of a project or S as the area within the triangle.    As P, C, and T get larger, so does S.    Likewise, if S is to remain a constant, and either P, C or T change, then the other two constraints must also change in order for S to remain the same size.   This is the classic “trade-off” in project management that must be recognized.

An example is trying to reduce T, or reduce the time it takes to do a project, versus trying to reduce C, or the cost of the project.   Sometimes if try to reduce the time it takes to do a project or crash a project, and to do so you may add extra people on the project to get it done more quickly.    These extra people of course require additional costs or an increase in C.    But each additional person you add will decrease the amount of time you end up saving due to the principle of diminishing returns, or as I like to call it, “the principle of increasing marginal futility”.    Adding a person onto the project may, for example,

  • increase the amount of time it takes to train the additional person
  • increase the amount of errors on a project, increasing the amount of time needed to correct them, also called “rework”

In fact, the rework on a project may end up being from 5 to 40%!

5.  Quality

If you improve quality, you can gets jobs done faster and cheaper, so project management need to improve quality as well as improve processes.    What is quality?    Here are some definitions:

  • Quality is conformance to specifications (definition 1)
  • Quality is meeting customer requirements (definition 2)

Specifications should be written so that if you meet them (definition 1), you meet customer requirements (definition 2).

Here’s a third definition based on the Six Sigma approach to quality developed at Motorola:

  • Quality is a state in which value entitlement is realized for the customer and provider in every aspect of the business relationship (definition 3)

This focuses not only on the customer, as in definitions 1 and 2, but also on the profit motive of the provider.

What is the cost of poor quality?    If you have three sigma level of quality, that means you will have 66,807 errors out of 1,000,000 opportunities.    According to Mikel Harry and Richard Schroeder in Six Sigma: The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations (New York: Currency, 2000), at the three sigma level approximately 25 cents out of every sales dollar earned by the organization is lost because of poor quality!

These costs of poor quality can be broken down into three factors:    prevention, appraisal, and failure.   Prevention prevents errors from happening in the first place, appraisal is the process of detecting errors through inspection, and failure is the cost of errors once the product leaves the plant and reaches the customer (warranty costs, repair costs, and product liability costs).

I like to think of the Christmas Carol story by Charles Dickens, where Ebenezer Scrooge is visited successively by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.    The project manager is similarly haunted by three spirits, the Spirits of Defects Past, Defects Present, and Defects Future.

  • Defects Past are taken care of through rework or repair
  • Defects Present are detected through appraisal, and stopped through corrective actions
  • Defects Future are prevented

In the Christmas Carol, the most powerful of the three Ghosts was the Ghost of Christmas Future, which caused Ebenezer to mend his ways when the first two had failed.    Similarly, the most powerful spirit for project managers should be the Spirit of Defects Future, which should cause him or her to increase the amount of money and attention spent on prevention.    This will in turn reduce the specter of Defects Past and Present by reducing the costs of inspection and failure (rework and repair).

6.   Process Improvement

If you take the analogy of the four constraints PCTS as presented in paragraph 4, then given the sides of a triangle as P, C, and T, the area of the triangle created will be fixed as S.    If you increase scope S, then at least one of the three sides P, C, or T have to increase as well.    But what if the triangle is now placed not on a flat surface, but a sphere like the surface of a balloon?    Then you could increase the area of the triangle S by increasing the curvature of the sphere, without having to increase the lengths of the individual sides P, C, or T.     In this analogy, Dr. Lewis says that the radius of the sphere represents how well the project management process works.    The better it works, the more scope can be accommodated by a given set of constraints P, C, or T.

As an example, Dr. Lewis shows how Alan Mulally at Boeing changed the process of modeling and designing the 777 airplane.    The technical change was to utilize three-dimensional computer design exclusively, but the human change was to tear down the silos around the various teams building the airplane, so that they became interdependent.    Also, representatives from the first customer United Airlines were made part of the design team, with the result being that their own pilots accepted the 777 airplane on the first test!

7.  Facilitation

A project manager does not develop a project plan; he or she facilitates the team to develop the project plan.   This is done because

  • those who do the work will know better how long it will take
  • those who do the work are more likely to think of everything that must be done

Because they develop the project plan, they are also more likely to accept the plan.

For those who are developing the project plan on their own, he suggests

  • have someone else review your plan when you are done
  • or, in the alternative, “sleep on it” for a few days and go back to it

8.  Life-Cycle of Projects

The following represents a generic life-cycle model for a project that Dr. Lewis recommends:

  • CONCEPT:   Marketing Input, Survey of Competition
  • DEFINITION:   Define Problem, Develop Vision, Write Mission Statement
  • PLANNING:  Develop Strategy, Implementation Planning, Risk Management
  • EXECUTION:  Do all Work, Monitor Progress, Corrective Action
  • CLOSEOUT:  Final Reports, Lessons-Learned Review

9.  What is project success?

The only truly successful project is the one that delivers what it is supposed to, gets results, and meets stakeholder expectations.

10.  The Project Management System

This shows the seven components that make up the Projects are People® project management system, with examples of tools that belong to each one listed above the name of each component.

Check Progress, Compare to Plan, Take Corrective Action, Audit Performance

CONTROL

Define project, Pick strategy

Schedule Work

PLANNING

Historical

Current (cost, progress, quality)

INFORMATION

CAD Modeling

Scheduling

METHODS

Values, Beliefs, Attitudes, Behaviors, Traditions

CULTURE

Authority, Responsibility, Accountability

ORGANIZATION

Motivation, Leadership, Negotiation, Team Building, Communication, Decision Making

HUMAN

a.   Note that the HUMAN component is at the base.    These interpersonal skills are essential for project management, and they can all be learned.  

b.  CULTURE is the human component that is the sum or collective expression of the values, attitudes, etc., that exist in an organization.    Awareness of cultural differences is increasingly important as projects become more global.

c.  METHODS are the tools that are used to manage projects.   Dr. Lewis does not find this to be a significant problem for most people to learn.

d.  ORGANIZATION represents the limits of an project manager’s authority.

Authority can mean in the context of project management two different things:

  • authority over people, often called legitimate authority:   to tell people to do something and to expect them to do it
  • authority over action:    the right to act unilaterally without having to get one’s actions approved

With regard to the first type of authority over people, a project manager has to learn to use influence if they have responsibility without sufficient authority.    With regard to the second type of authority over actions, usually as they pertain to the budget, Dr. Lewis does not believe in constraining the project manager with having to approve purchases as long as they are made in accordance with the project plan, which is pre-approved by management.

e.  CONTROL is the act of comparing where you are to where you are supposed to be, so that corrective action can be taken when there is a deviation from the target.

f.   PLANNING and INFORMATION–most organizations have problems with both of these, although most do a good job or providing other types of information.    This is part of a company’s culture, and can be changed.

Information includes historical data from previous projects, which is needed to estimate project time, cost, and resource requirements.   Alternative methods of estimating may be required on more complex projects.

11.   Project Management and ISO 9000

ISO certification requires documenting your processes and procedures so that everyone does them the same way.  ISO certification requires developing a project management methodology (among other things).

12.  Project Management and Six Sigma

Project Management offers tools to help organizations achieve Six Sigma performance targets.   However, the 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide incorporates the possibility of projects to improve Six Sigma performance targets by expanding the definition of a project in Chapter 1 to include those projects which not only create a new product, service, or result but those that improve an existing product, service, or result.

13.  The Lewis Method

The Lewis Method conforms to the five processes defined by the PMBOK® Guide:

  • Initiation (Chapter 5)
  • Planning (Chapter 7)
  • Execution and Control (Chapter 12)
  • Closeout (Chapter 14)

I’m excited about going through the Lewis Method and learning about Dr. Lewis’ take on project management.   I was recommended this book by some of those presenters that I arranged to speak at the Professional Development Day held on November 1st by the Chicagoland Chapter of the Project Management Institute.    I find it an excellent way to segue from the theory as espoused by the PMBOK® Guide to the practice outlined by Dr. Lewis.

 

 

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