Project Planning, Schedule & Control–Chapter 2: PMI and the PMBOK® Guide


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.  Introduction–PMI

The Project Management Institute had 500,000 members in 2010, and continues to grow at 20% a year, an impressive statistic.

2.  PMBOK Guide–Processes and Knowledge Areas

The 5th edition of Dr. Lewis book is based on the 4th edition of the PMBOK® Guide.   I’m updating these notes to reflect the contents of the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide, since I have in effect been reviewing it all year.   There are 47 project processes split into five process groups

  • Initiating–authorization of a project
  • Planning–identification of all the work that must be done; developing policies, procedures, and other documentation that define the project
  • Executing–applying labor and materials to develop the product, service, or a result of the project
  • Controlling–monitoring progress against the plan and taking whatever actions are necessary to keep the project on track (i.e., according to the project plan)
  • Closing–formal acceptance of the product and documentation of activities throughout the life of the project

The 10 knowledge areas of project management are:

  • Integration–ensures that all aspects of the project from the other 9 knowledge areas come together
  • Scope–defines what is to be done in managing the project
  • Time–scheduling the work
  • Cost–estimation of resources needed to do the work
  • Quality–completing the work according to the predetermined technical requirements
  • HR–managing of HR (staffing, evaluating, motivating, etc.)
  • Communications–determination what information needs to be sent to stakeholders
  • Risk–you must manage risks on a project or they will manage you
  • Procurement–materials or services that must be procured from outside sources
  • Stakeholder (new for 5th Edition)–identifying stakeholders needs and expectations, and managing their engagement in the project

He finishes the chapter by mentioning that his Lewis Institute, Inc., is a Registered Education Provider (REP) for getting the PDUs or Professional Development Units you need to maintain your PMP certification once you get it.

That was the 36,000-foot view of the PMBOK® Guide!

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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.

 

 

Essential Integral, Lesson Five: States


1.  Introduction

States refer to temporary and fleeting aspects of all phenomena. This lesson focuses on three types of individual-interior states: natural states, non-ordinary states, and phenomenal states. The Wilber-Combs lattice and horizontal development through state-stages is also investigated.

TO BE CONTINUED

Sacred Communication Workshop–part 2


Yesterday I participated in the last of a series of workshops called Sacred Communication that was put on by Rev. Henrietta Byrd at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Park Forest, IL.   The purpose of this post is to describe the series of workshop in general, because  it has been a very positive force for my spiritual development this year.

1.  Introduction

The purpose of Sacred Communication was to show ways in which we can make our internal communication stronger and more authentic, so that we can then communicate with others in a more authentic way and manifest our abilities in a stronger way.

2.  Sacred Communication–Principles

As Henrietta Boyd explained the workshop, the ideas behind Sacred Communication are as follows:

  • You cannot have authentic communication with others unless you have authentic communication with yourself.
  • You cannot have authentic communication with yourself unless you separate those thoughts and emotions which come from your deepest aspirations, as opposed to those you have been conditioned to assuming by the environment in which you live and the experiences you have encountered in your life.
  • The ethical basis with which you treat other people must be the same basis that you treat yourself.
  • Authentic communication comes from treating yourself with the ethical basis of compassion.

3.  Forms of Spiritual Communication

Some of the people in the workshop came from an Eastern religious perspective, where everyone is imbued with the divine spark.    This is the first-person perspective of divinity, which is a religion of ultimate identity with the divine..    Others came from a Western religious perspective, where you can have a relationship with the divine, but the idea of identity with the divine is the ultimate heresy from that perspective.    This is the second-person perspective of divinity.  And then there were others in the workshop who were agnostic or atheist, where the principles of ethics derive from rational principles:   this can be seen as a third-person perspective of divinity, which doesn’t recognize the traditional idea of a deity at all.    This perspective is just as important in the history of our country as the second-person perspective in the form of Christianity.
Here’s a piece of evidence:   the original wording of the opening to the Declaration of Independence was “we hold these truths to be sacred.”    However, Benjamin Franklin suggested that “sacred” be changed to “self evident” so that those who do not believe in any particular deity could still be included as supporting the principles of the declaration.    So the workshop could have been called “Self Evident Communication” instead of “Sacred Communication.”    I think it is important in the interfaith movement to aware of the different “spiritual languages” of the world and to be able to understand that on the surface, they seem different, but they all have the same “deep structure” which leads to the ethical precept of the same Golden Rule, no matter whether it is stated in the Bible or in the philosophical writings of Immanuel Kant.
4.  Dealing with “the Shadow”
Many traditional forms of spiritual practice deal with harmonizing the body, mind, and spirit.    The Sacred Communication workshop deals with a different component, the psyche, in particular something which Ken Wilber refers to as “the Shadow,” the emotions and desires our conscious minds have refused to recognize and which show up in disguise either in dreams or in projections onto others.    One of the most interesting exercises we did was when Dr. Henrietta Byrd had us answer the following question:    “what is it that irritates you? “
We answered that question by listing those things which bother us about other people.    Notice the question does not specifically mention other people.    But when that question is asked, we answer with regard to other people by default.    When we all looked at our lists of what bothered us in other people, through a series of exploratory discussions, we all realized that what bothered us about other people really was what bothered us about ourselves, but in disguise.
This was a perfect illustration of the shadow principle.    Now it is not always a negative that gets projected onto others.  I found myself always admiring those members of my family that have been in the military, and I wondered why it was I found myself holding them in such high esteem, when I knew that they were, after all, ordinary people like myself.    I found that the reason why was because I assumed that they were disciplined because they were in the military, and I did not have a self-image of myself as being disciplined, so I took what I refused to recognize in myself, namely, that I am indeed a disciplined person, and projected it onto those in the military, albeit in an exaggerated fashion.    Once I recognized the fact that I was also disciplined, my admiration for my military relatives didn’t cease, but it was no longer in an exaggerated form like it was before.
What benefit does reclaiming the “shadow” elements of one’s psyche produce?    First of all, it reclaims the energy which was separated off from your own conscious mind.    That’s probably the biggest benefit.    The second benefit is that your relations with others are more authentic because you are reacting to what is really there in the other people rather than “shadow-boxing” and reacting to what you are projecting from yourself.
This in itself would have been worth the price of admission to the workshop, but additional workshops have gone into other aspects of internal communication, and I will describe these in future posts.
For those in the South Suburbs of Chicago, you should look at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Park Forest website and look up the next Sacred Communication Workshop–it’s a worthwhile investment of your time!

Sustaining Growth in Latin America: 2014 and beyond (an EIU webinar)


1.  Introduction

On Wednesday, December 11th, the Economist Intelligence Unit presented a webinar on the outlook for Latin America in 2014 and beyond.    Irene Mia, the regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, presented the webinar.    She presented the webinar in three sections:   first, a discussion of the global economy, second, a focus on the economy of Latin America, and third, a focus on two of the key regional markets in Latin America, Mexico and Brazil.

2.   The state of the world in 2014 and beyond

The United States

In the United States, better growth is forecast IF another fiscal crisis is avoided.    The forecast for GDP growth is 1.6% in 2014, and 2.6% in 2015.

The limiting factor for global growth is the largest fiscal drag experienced in decades, which the economy is still recovering from.   On the plus side, wages and manufacturing are competitive, and housing is supporting the recovery.   The US has energy supply and cost advantages, which boost industry.   If the budget being proposed passes, this bodes well for the medium term as the deficit is declining.    However, the health care burden in the US remains a long-term problem which the Affordable Care Act addresses, but does not completely solve.

European Union

The recession has officially ended, since the Euro zone as a whole grew in the second quarter of 2013 for the first time in six quarters, led by the German economy.   But growth will be no better than 1% in 2014.   Long-term growth has been constrained by the austerity measures adopted by many countries in the Euro zone.

China

Recent economic data have been mixed.   This year there was 7.7% growth, but the long-term outlook is closer to 6-7% growth per year.    The economy is opening up to the world, as the government wants to encourage domestic consumption in order to lead growth in the coming decades.

3.  Latin American Market

Although the boom years may be over, the outlook remains positive.    In 2013, the region grew 2.7%.    There has been sound macroeconomic management, and there have been competitiveness-enhancing reforms and investment. If strong economic demand continues, it will mean that growth will pick up to an average of 3.6% from 2014-17.

Growth will vary from the low end (Venezuela 1.5%, Jamaica 1.6%, El Salvador 2.0%) to the high end (Panama 5.5%, Paraguay 5.8%, and Peru 5.9%).    There has been a lot of infrastructure investment.

The Latin America market will go from 589,000,000 to 614,000,000 million people by 2017.

The Rise of the Consumer Market

There has been a rise of the middle class through greater economic stability, increases in minimum wages and conditional cash transfer programs.   The GINI index of economic inequality has fallen over the past decade, with 41 million people falling out of poverty and 18 million people falling out of extreme poverty.

The median age is relatively young compared to the rest of the world (in Brazil, the average age is less than 30 years, with 30% of the population being 14 years or younger), but is aging nonetheless.   The urbanization rate is up to 79% for the region (above 85% for Brazil and Chile).

The emergence of the middle class is interesting from a political point of view:  it is politically well-informed, and is demanding greater services from the government.

FDI Continues Upward Trend

Annual average Foreign Direct Investment or FDI inflows (US$bn) have increased whereas it has been decreasing in other areas of the world.

Integrated Regional Market, Diversified Export Markets

Latin American markets have been increasingly integrated by a series of trade agreements (Mercosur, Andean Community, the newly signed Pacific Alliance, Caricom).   And Latin America is stretching out to other regions using its strategic location close to the US and with a Pacific outreach:

–US (NAFTA, CAFTA-DR, trade agreements with Chile, Colombia and Panama)

–Asia (APEC, Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, several bilateral agreements between Mexico, Chile and Peru notably with Asian countries).

China-Latin America:  A Problematic Relationship

China has increased its share in Latin America’s trade from 1% in 1880 to 15% in 2012, becoming the third largest trading partner after the US and the EU.    Trade between Latin America and China has expanded exponentially in recent years (faster than with the EU and the US).   China was the third largest investor in the region in 2010 (mostly extraction and natural resources but also diversifying into infrastructure and manufactures).   China has also been an increasing source of funding:  Chinese banks have lent more than US$75bn in 2005-12 to the region.

However, a few challenges remain … The region has currently a trade deficit with Asia, and would benefit from further trade diversification beyond commodities and towards higher value-added products (especially through business initiatives to promote intra-industry trade between the two regions).   Opportunities for greater cooperation on innovation and development of human capital, and to attract more foreign direct investment based on knowledge.

External Risks

The current account will remain in deficit (2.4% in 2014-2018, from 1.2% in 2012), and this means that capital inflows will continue to affect currencies in the region.    For example, the winding down of QE3 in the US in the 3rd quarter of this year had an effect on many Latin American markets.    But both the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector and stronger internal demand both will end up strengthening regional currencies.

Global growth has gone South in the past few years, but Latin America will grow less than other emerging areas of the world, such as Africa.

Business Enrivonment:  Lagging Behind in Reforms

Among the six various regions of the world (North America, Western Europe, Asia & Australasia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Middle East & Africa), Latin America comes fifth, only ahead of Middle East & Africa.   There is some change expected in 2014-2018, but many problematic areas remain, such as:   poor infrastructure, rigid labor markets, insufficient funding, cumbersome fiscal systems, availability of skilled labor, poor competition, and red tape.

4.   Brazil:  Hitting a BRIC wall?

Economic Challenges

Growth decelerated to 0.9% in 2012 and we expect it to average 3% in 2013-2018, better than the developing world but quite low compared to peers in Latin America.    Inflation is persistently above Brazilian Central Bank’s 4.5% central target.   Itt decelerated to 5.9% in mid-September helped by transitory factors, with higher readings expected in the remainder of the year.   There is weaker investor confidence, affected by uncertainties on macroeconomic policy framework, as well as creeping government interventionism and protectionism.   Brazil’s comparatively large combined current account and fiscal deficit leaves it vulnerable to future tapering of the Fed’s current quantitative easing (QE3 program).   For example, the real was hit particularly hard in July/August after the announcement of an imminent tapering of that program.

Political Challenges

There has been fallout from June mass protests over poor public services.    Corruption will continue to dominate the political scene and shape government agenda.   Social unrest has exposed the wider crisis of political representation and leadership, but also reflects an increasingly assertive middle class and the success of Dilma’s anti-poverty policies.

Although Dilma’s approval rates have partly recovered since the 30% low in July, she remains in a delicate position as she tries to address protesters’ demands amid tensions with political parties in ruling coalition, a tepid economy and fiscal constraints.

There is a need to address issues raised by June protests, including political reforms and initiatives to improve health, education and public transport services.   This will further divert government’s attention from ambitious structural reforms (including fiscal reform) and will have an expansionary effect;  however, they could improve governance and start addressing competitiveness shortcomings.

Political Opportunities

Brazil is blessed with favorable demographics with a growing middle class (48.7m Brazilians have moved into the upper and middle class categories since 2003).    There is an abundance of strategic natural resources (including new oil reserves) and diversified export markets and products.   There are record FDI inflows (US$65.3 bn in 2012, which represents 38% of the FDI going to Latin America).   The unemployment rate is at a record low (5.9% in the 2nd quarter of 2013).    In short, Brazil has a dynamic private sector which is rapidly internationalising.

5.   Mexico:  Structural Changes

A busy agenda

The dynamism of the administration of Pena Nieto since he came into power has been surprising/   The reform agenda has advanced very rapidly after 12 years of legislative gridlock, with the support of the “Pact for Mexico”, which is a political agreement between the PRI and the two main opposition parties on a cross-party reform agenda.

The reform agenda addresses the structural weaknesses in the businsess environment and tries to reinforce the country’s competitiveness.  If fully implemented, it should lead to high growth rates in the medium and long term

After approval of the controversial tax reform, all eyes are on energy reform:  the final form of the reform will be a key test of the seriousness of the government’s structural agenda and essential for attracting foreign direct investment to the country.

There have been reforms on the following:

  • Labor
  • Education
  • Amparo (constitutional reforms)
  • Telecoms
  • Financial reform
  • Energy
  • Fiscal
  • Social security
  • Political

All of these except for the social security reform have been presented to and approved by Congress.

SEE LIST OF REFORMS ON SLIDE

More Growth on the Way

Growth has slowed to 1.2% in 2013, the worst result since 2009.   But we expect an annual growth of 3.7% in 2014-18, based on the impact of the implementation of the recent reforms and the government’s commitment to increase investment levels in the course of its mandate.

An even better performance in 2014-18 is possible if the reform program will manage to eliminate or reduce infrastructure bottlenecks (such as limited competition in key sectors, poor infrastructure and poor education standards).  Reforms could add 1-2 % to annual GDP growth, pushing the rate of structural growth of the country from current level of less than 3.5 to at least 5.4%.

Despite occasional spikes, inflation will remain below the target ceiling of 4% set by the central bank.  Monetary authorities will prioritize growth and the competitiveness of the peso.

Political Outlook:  Complicated

Opposition to structural reforms by segments of the population has been demonstrated in repeated episodes of CNTE protests related to the education reform.  The government will face more protests related to energy reform.  Social mobilization may complicate the government’s agenda in a context of weak growth and the need for an economic program of social inclusion.

The greater willingness of the government to take action against entrenched interest groups has sent a strong signal that it is determined to regain the ability to direct national policy.   While this is positive for the effectiveness of the government, it could lead to a degree of discretion as to how the rule of law applies.

However, poor governance practices continue to reduce the effectiveness of the state.  According to a recent survey conducted by Transparency International, 915 of Mexicans believe the political parties as the most corruption-prone institutions, 79% believe that corruption is a serious problem and 43% believe that government efforts to eradicate it are ineffective.

Economic Outlook:   More Challenges Ahead

2013 will be rough:   there is only 1.2% growth expected.   Social unrest may limit the extent of energy reform.   The stimulus will offset the benefit of fiscal reform in 2014.    The monetary outlook is positive, however:   inflation is near the target, and the peso is competitive.     More FDI is needed to increase growth.   There is moderate exposure to fiscal shocks from abroad.   Poverty is still high; with over 45.5% at the poverty level, it is not yet a middle-class country.    The Pact for Mexico is not expected to last beyond 2014.

In the long term, fiscal and social security reforms may help bring down informality.   The labor market is still inefficient, and reform won’t help much in this area.   There are deficiencies in infrastructure that need to be addressed.    Manufacturing will produce increasing value goods, but Mexico is still dependent on US exports.    There is a gap between effective governance of federal and local governments.   More revenue is needed than what is being offered by fiscal reform.

6.   Conclusion

This was a fascinating look at one of the regions that has turned around in so many ways during the past decade.   The gradual improvement in the global economy will help growth, but not as much as the improvement in the economic and political climate due to internal reforms.

The Global Quality Challenge in the Age of Virtual Teams


1.  Introduction

Janelle Abaoag, the Marketing and Public Relations director from Project Insight.com, gave a webinar entitled “The Global Quality Challenge”.   I have added the phrase “In the Age of Virtual Teams” because her specific subject was how quality is impacted by the use of virtual teams.

This webinar is one of the “Fundamental Series” of webinars given by Diane C. Buckley-Altweis of Core Performance Concepts.   I had the pleasure of working with Diane in conjunction with the PMP/CAPM Exam Prep Workshop put on by the Orange County chapter of PMI.    Her company supplied textbooks and teaching materials to the workshop which I took in the Spring of 2012.    I studied for and passed the CAPM test I took in October 2012, and then I turned around and became a volunteer to help PMI-OC put three workshops (Winter, Spring, Fall) in 2013.

After I moved to Chicago, I decided to stay in touch with Diane Altweis’ company by attending some of her free webinars put on by her company.    That is why I listened to the webinar given Wednesday, December 11th–and I’m glad I did!    Having been part of virtual teams when I worked at a Japanese auto manufacturing firm, I was well aware of some of the issues regarding virtual teams, and was happy that she had as a guest Janelle Abaoag to talk about the impact of virtual teams on quality.

The purpose of the webinar was to describe the quality challenges companies face with virtual teams and to review tips and strategies that can help in delivering quality standards while utilizing virtual teams.

2.  Quality Challenges with Virtual Teams

Janelle started out with a poll:   where does your organization stand in the Global Quality Challenge.   The possible answers were the following (these are followed by the percentage of those who responded)

  • We have not seen any reduction in our project delivery quality in the past few years (18%)
  • We only see quality issues with team members that work from home in our local market (7%)
  • We only see quality issues with those that work from other countries (20%)
  • We have seen quality impacted throughout our organization (50%)
  • Other (7%)

So half those polled saw quality impacts throughout the organization, whereas approximately one-quarter saw those quality impacts limited to either team members that work from home or those that work from other countries.

Then Janelle went into the both the plus side (benefits) and minus side (challenges) of working with virtual teams.

Virtual Team Benefits

Virtual Team Challenges

1.  Lower Office Costs

2.  Greater availability of talent

3.  Increased employee retention

4.  Lower cost of employees

5.  Reduced travel time

6.  Increased productivity

7.  24-hour workday

8.  Greater workforce flexibility

1.  Physical distance

2.  Feeling of instability

3.  Impact of routine tasks on motivation

4.  Personal life and work-life imbalance

5.  Intercultural conflict

 

On the benefit side, this mostly has to do with reduction of infrastructure and travel costs.   The 24-hour workday, although a benefit from the company’s point of view, may be directed related to one of the challenges (personal life and work-life imbalance).

Regarding the effect of routine on motivation in the “challenge” column, that means that tasks that are given remotely are often those that are more routine, so those that work in virtual teams sometimes end up lacking the motivation of doing new things, or being stimulated by other ideas from co-workers with whom they are not in daily contact.

When you take away the face-to-face component of communication, you end up increasing the risk of miscommunications either coming language barriers or cultural differences.    Communication includes communication about quality, and that is how virtual teams end up impacting quality.

In sum, virtual teams may end up increasing work while decreasing quality, the worst of both possible worlds, if not managed correctly.

3.   Tips and Strategies for Effective Virtual Teams

i.   Tip #1:  SLOW DOWN AND DOCUMENT!

Poor documentation of requirements from the beginning of a project often causes increases in rework.    Also keeping track of the configuration of the requirements is important so that everybody is working off of the same version of documents and processes.

Are the requirements and use cases fully documented?   Are they modeled?    You should require that the developer document and prove testing to the use case.    Especially where there are multiple project managers and business analysts involved in a project, the requirements need to be documented and kept track of in their various iterations.  When you ask somebody to do something, don’t be vague and say “fix it!”:   be specific!    The time you take in making your request specific will be time NOT spent in having to rework a problem that somebody misinterpreted because of vague instructions.    Tell the developers the specific scenarios they need to be testing.

b.   Tip #2:  INVEST IN TECHNOLOGY

Technology is not just “equipment”, it is the training that people need in order to USE that equipment.    How many meetings have you had over the phone where somebody has not muted their speaker phone and you can’t hear what somebody is saying because of background noise?

Again, TRAIN people in the best practices involved in using technology, especially when it comes to videoconferences.

c.  Tip #3:   GET ON THE PHONE!

Overreliance on e-mail is one of the most difficult challenges to overcome.   E-mail is easy for the user to send, but especially on a virtual team, you often have NO clue as to whether the person read the e-mail (although some systems do have ways of signaling that the person at least OPENED your e-mail), and if so, whether they understood it.   E-mails can sometimes impede effective communication:   saying “well, I sent you an e-mail” does not absolve you of your responsibility to make sure the person understood.   Does your e-mail send to the receiver the right clues as to its urgency?   If not, then if it gets ignored, then it may not be the recipient’s fault.

Invest in good remote tools so that you are not speaking to the person on the phone in a vacuum, but are referencing some common document.

There are many times of tools to assist in teleconferences:

Tool Type Tool Example
Document co-creation Google Docs (now Google Drive

ConceptBoard

Collaboration tools Teambox

Huddle

PM Tools Project Insight
Document Storage Tools Dropbox

Zoho Docs

Meeting Tools WebEx

GotoMeeting

Conferencing Tools Skype

Join.me

Instant Messaging Tools Google Talk

Jabber

Social Networking Tools Chatter

Yammer

Scheduling Tools Doodle

There may be confidentiality issues that limit the available of tools for your organization.   In any case, you will need to allow for time to train people on the new tools.

d.   Tip #4:   LEARN GOOD TROUBLESHOOTING TECHNIQUES

Telling somebody “it doesn’t work” isn’t good enough.   You need to be more specific and have documented steps.   REQUIRE EVERYONE ELSE TO DO THE SAME.    Sometimes the problems is not with following procedure, however, but rather with unforeseen complexity.

In that case, especially during rapid application development, relying on e-mail is NOT OKAY.   What is the intent of the agile methodology?   It is to more iterative and show results more quickly.    But just because you are working in agile, it doesn’t mean that you don’t document.   E-mail is great for communicating and refining decisions, but not for documenting.    The documentation has to reside in whatever you need for your project (user guide, administration manual, etc.).

e.  Tip #5:   DEFINE THE LEVEL OF QUALITY THE PROJECT REQUIRES

The quality has to be well defined, and you have to be diligent in expressing expectations of people on the other side of the phone in understanding that point.

Define the project success criteria early on.   When issues arise, review against the expected quality level.   Yes, spending time documenting troubleshooting is difficult.   But are you willing to trade that time for increased costs that will come by NOT spending the time?    You need to follow up meetings with virtual team members with one-on-one phone calls to make sure quality is understood from their perspective.

f.   Tip #6:   HAVE EFFECTIVE MEETINGS

Keep everyone who is critical to the decision engaged in the meeting.    Use web tools to have people watch & interact—the meeting isn’t about you.    Ask questions of critical people and gain confirmation.   If people are not participating who are critical to the project, don’t be afraid to call them out.   Silence does not mean agreement,

You may give them a call later on if you don’t want to call out someone who is obviously not just participating, but not paying attention.

g.  Tip #7:   MAKE GOOD USE OF DOCUMENT REPOSITORY

A document repository is not a document graveyard, where documents are buried that are never referenced.    You need to make sure that everyone can access it, and if you use Sharepoint, use it even during meetings.   This will encourage others to actively use it on the project.

These were all great tips from Janelle Abaoag, and it is a very timely topic.   I hope to catch more of the “Fundamental Series” webinars next year from Diane C. Buckley-Altweis of Core Performance Concepts!

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Final Milestone Achieved!


This  year I decided on a major project to go through the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide and it has taken me an entire year’s worth of posts to go through the entire 616-page document according to the following plan:

  • first, I went through the PMBOK® Guide at a macro level, discussing each of the 13 chapters covering general project management topics and then the 10 knowledge areas
  • second, I went through the PMBOK® Guide at a more detailed level covering each of the 47 project management processes spread across the 10 knowledge areas and 5 process groups, and
  • finally, I went through at the micro level by covering each and every single one of the 614 inputs and outputs, tools & techniques belonging to the project management processes.

Yesterday, I completed the last of the cataloging of the inputs and outputs for the last knowledge area of Stakeholder Management.

1.   5 Benefits from the Project

I think this project has been worthwhile from several standpoints, 5 of which I list below:

  1. It has increased my awareness of the different knowledge areas and process groups, especially the ones that seem to intersect even more frequently with a lot of the other knowledge areas (like Integration and Risk).
  2. It has cemented my understanding of the contents of the processes–why are they there, and why are they in the order that they are in?
  3. It has helped my understanding of the ecology of the processes, or how they fit together–by charting all of the ITTOS (inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs) I now have a better understanding of how the processes fit together.    Normally, the processes fit both horizontally across the process groups and vertically within the knowledge areas, but every once and a while there is an output that leaps across the matrix to another process, like change requests that get generated by several monitoring & controlling processes that then get sent over to process 4.5 Perform Integrated Change Control.   These exceptional pathways between processes are important to note, because they always occur with processes that are crucial to project management success.
  4. It has allowed me to understand the PMP exam questions more quickly and more thoroughly.   The simple PMP questions are those which ask you to memorize, the medium level ask you not only to memorize, but to interpret, and the hard level of questions ask you not just to memorize and interpret, but also to analyze a situation that might occur on a typical project in light of that knowledge.    On an PMP exam, your main constraint is TIME, and the faster you can process the easy and medium questions, the more time you will have to spend on the hard questions that ask you to analyze situations.
  5. By essentially turning me from a project management novice when I began this blog in April 2012, the year and a half focus on project management, and in particular on the new 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide, has given me the confidence to market myself as a subject matter expert on the material in the PMBOK® Guide.   That has led directly to a job I am doing now for a company that supplies knowledge tests to companies who are screening applicants, including tests on an applicant’s knowledge of the material in the PMBOK® Guide.   I can take a proposed question and analyze the proposed answers not just for their correctness, but for any potential ambiguity that may cause a test taker to choose the incorrect answer.   I used my blog as part of my “intellectual collateral”, if you will, in order to get the job.

2.   An Unexpected Benefit–Reader Comments

Of course, there are other things I have learned in the course of writing the blog and going through the questions and/or comments from readers.   With now over 100,000 hits from people in over 170 countries around the world, I have been impressed with how universal the language of project management is!     I also am humbled by those who took the time out to notify me of mistakes I made here and there.   Because I spend an hour or more EVERY DAY preparing often very lengthy blog posts, I don’t really have the time to go over the more than 600 posts that I have accumulated in the past year and a half.    But because of readers that are willing to help point out those mistakes, the quality of my blog has increased!

3.  Getting Back to Basics

The most gratifying comments are those from people who say that it has either helped them understand a particular topic they had trouble understanding, or that it has helped them prepare for the PMP exam.    The reason why I undertook this blog in the first place was because I was heading up a study group for the PMP exam when I took the PMP/CAPM exam prep class put on by PMI-OC (Orange County).    Because not everybody could make it to the study group, I put out study notes so that those who missed that week’s study group session could catch up to what we covered.    I did it so that I could understand the material myself, but also so that others who are approaching the material for the first time could understand it as well.

4.   Next Project

My next project is to go through the textbook Project Planning, Scheduling & Control (5th ed.), by James P. Lewis, Ph.D.    By writing about it so that others can understand the material, I am further embedding the material in my own understanding.

So after a few days of posting about a couple of webinars I attended this morning, I will start covering my next project!