Archive for July, 2018

Project Control

Posted on: July 19th, 2018 by admin No Comments

Project Control

By Shawn Patrick Quigley

To start our discussion, we need to define some terms and processes. This will ensure that we are starting our discussion with the same or very similar understandings of what we are attempting to talk about.

• Monitoring and Control Phase: “The Monitoring and Controlling Process Group consists of those processes required to track, review, and orchestrate the progress and performance of a project; identify any areas in which changes to the plan are required; and initiate the corresponding changes.” – A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) Fifth Edition.1 (Rupen Sharma, 2013)

Merriam-Webster defines control as:

  • to direct the behavior of (a person or animal): to cause (a person or animal) to do what you want
  • to have power over (something)
  • to direct the actions or function of (something): to cause (something) to act or function in a certain way. 2

Merriam-Webster defines guide as:

  • a person who leads or directs other people on a journey
  • a person who shows and explains the interesting things in a place
  • a person who helps to direct another person’s behavior, life, career, etc. 3

The premise behind Organizational Learning and Development (OL/OD) is that every member of the team and every situation is an opportunity for development and/or learning of some nature. When you really think about the terms “Control” and “Guide” both conjure up different viewpoints, as their definitions suggest. But how does that relate to project management? The answer is based on those definitions we have read and our understanding of OL/OD and Project Management. If I were to ask you to place the two words (control and guide) beside the terms; pro-active, in-active, and re-active, how would you align them? If you feel both would apply put the one which would be predominate first.

When we apply the principle of control to a situation it commonly produces a vision of a ridged or re-active and forced answer to that situation. However, when we apply the principle of guidance to a situation we envision situation avoidance and/or long-term solutions to a situation that avoidance could not be planned for in the beginning of the project. We pay attention to trends and adjust all along the way rather than some command and control mechanism that drives the adapting. The term guidance also infers a team prospective; Shared Vision, whereas control would infer more of an authoritarian environment. Which is not conducive to a learning organization or fostering a high level of motivation in the personnel involved. Even with all these draw backs to “Control” it is sometimes necessary. The key would be knowing when, where, and how to apply it.

Most times when talking in these terms people say, “This is just semantics”. On the surface it would appear to be so, but when you delve into how people perceive things and how that perception affects the reality of the situation, and how people hear what is being said, then these terms become more than semantics. Some of you are probably thinking that what I think of a situation does not change the situation and if no actions or response is taken you are more than likely right. However, if and action is taken or response is elicited then your perception will shape that response. This concept is basic change management: perceives state vs. actual state vs. desired state. The tension between these three states is what drives an action or response. And very few people see the state of a situation or the desire end point identical, therefore the actions taken could be different because the start and end points are not the same. This is why guidance vice control is more aligned with OL/OD. When guiding a group all their perspectives are shared among the team and a more defined actual and desired state can be developed. This more defined actual state and desire state lends itself to a more veneered plan. This better defined plan allows for more effective response issues that arise within the plan/project due to the better understanding.

If you have questions or wish to exchange ideas on the topic, check out the learning organization discussion board.





Posted on: July 12th, 2018 by admin No Comments

Brainstorming and Cost Improvement

The brainstorming technique is attributed to Alex Faickney Osborne as explained in his 1953 book, Applied Imagination. The technique arose from frustration with the inability of employees to develop creative solutions for problems. Personal experience suggests this is a valuable tool when deployed appropriately and the guidelines are followed. If we populate the team with diverse backgrounds we can see ideas build on other ideas very rapidly.

To really find the areas for cost improvement we must let go of our mental impediments to uncovering these opportunities. It is very probable that there are plenty of cost improvement possibilities. However, in our daily work execution we may not find the time to free our minds to consider these possibilities. A brainstorming exercise can go far to fuel the imagination, to open a “space” to think laterally at what may be possible. We have successfully employed this technique to:

  • Reduce costs
  • Generate intellectual property
  • Reduce weight for the vehicle
  • Solve product design constraints

It is not even necessary to have a team with you to accomplish this lateral thinking, creative thinking, or thinking outside the box. Whatever you call it, the objective is to alter the perspective or view of the problem in order to perceive alternative possibilities. We can do this as a solo activity or we can use a group of individuals. If we are doing this as a group exercise we must make certain the event hygiene is managed. Of course, we are not talking about cleanliness of the team but the ability of the team to work together to produce some ideas that may solve the issue (cost) at hand.

Pries, K. H., & Quigley, J. M. (2013). Reducing process costs with lean, six sigma, and value engineering techniques. Boca Raton: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

Estimates are not Law nor Fire and Forget

Posted on: July 10th, 2018 by admin No Comments

by: Jon M Quigley

There has been some twitter-go-round regarding estimates. Estimates are not always guesses, but very frequently these maybe just that. If we chose not to delude ourselves, we know when we have some substance behind our estimates, that is our estimates are based upon some relevant historical data that allows us to see the range of possibilities for this specific type of work as part of deriving the estimates. That is not to say that this is perfect only to say that there is some historical reason for our estimates, the further afield this specific work is from those earlier types of work, the more risk in the estimates.

In many cases estimates should not be point source estimates, that is a single number. This provides the illusion of certainty to those looking at the estimates. I think this is probably one of the reasons why managers and executives seem to treat these numbers as if these are very certain. The level of uncertainty is not articulated when using discrete single point estimates.

Estimates are not there only to establish the amount of time or cost for some set of activities but are also provide us some reference point from which we will compare the actual work. This allows us to adjust the estimates as we progress through the work which provides us with an up to date assessment of what the duration (time) or cost may be ultimately, as we progress through the project.

For things about which we know very little, we can still estimate using whatever mechanism we believe helps us, again estimates are not just to set an immovable business case or to Gantt chart, in fact that is exactly not at all what estimates should be in my humble opinion.  Estimates are compared to the actual rate of accomplishment or expenditure and used to help predict the end result.  We will use earned value management techniques to calculate what is likely to be the final cost, or date of conclusion for the task or indeed the project.  I suggest checking out the Earned Value Management techniques to see how these things can work.  I have reviewed the Wikipedia article and it essentially provides a fairly direct and easy to understand treatment of the EVM. It can be found at:

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